Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon
I felt a strong urge to visit a river that could potentially yield larger fish, yet I was apprehensive about placing additional strain on my gradually improving tennis elbow. Larger water and bigger fish generally dictate a heavier and longer rod, and ever since I began physical therapy, I relied exclusively on my Orvis Access four weight.
After physical therapy sessions on Friday and Monday and four straight days of no casting, I decided to put my elbow to the test and made the drive to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Tuesday was cool and cloudy in the morning; however, by the time I strung my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders, the temperature elevated into the upper seventies. I was actually chilled while standing in the shade of the canyon wall next to the Santa Fe, and I considered wearing my raincoat, but once I strolled down the dirt road and dropped down an angled path that descended a steep bank to the river, I was comfortable. Flows of the canyon tailwater were 107 CFS, and this level was actually higher than what I experienced during my spring trips earlier in the 2018 season. I was actually pleased that the water regulators were releasing water in excess of 100 CFS, as higher flows buffer the hot summer temperatures and allow fishing without the risk of stressing the coldwater residents.
I stopped next to a long deep pool that rolled along a vertical rock wall, and I paused to observe, before I addressed the choice of flies for my line. Within minutes I noticed two brown trout, as they hovered a couple feet below the surface, and they periodically swam upward and snatched some form of food. A pair of rises appeared in the current seam two-thirds of the way across the river, and a few tiny bugs fluttered about. I assumed that the minuscule insects were tricos, so I knotted a size 22 black body and poly wing version to my line. Ten casts later I acknowledged that my fly was probably too large, as each of the risers refused my downstream presentation, and the trout nearer to me totally ignored the surface offering.
I pondered the situation and realized that the trico spinner that I drifted through the pool was the smallest imitation in my box. Rather than continue to fuel my frustration, I decided to try another approach. Several times in the past I experimented with a sunken trico with some success, so I decided to follow that route on Tuesday. A size 10 Chernobyl ant assumed the top position in my lineup, and below it I tied a size 22 RS2 and a size 22 sunken trico. The trico contained tiny plastic wings, and they were wrapped around the body in a haphazard manner, just as one would see on a trico after it swirled through tumbling whitewater.
For the next 1.5 hour until I took my lunch break, I tossed the three fly dry/dropper alignment to likely trout holding locations, and I succeeded in landing five representative South Platte River trout. All except one were brown trout, and the feisty morning inhabitants of my net were in the twelve to thirteen inch size range. The other catch was a small rainbow trout. I discovered that the most productive places were deep slots next to large boulders. I suspect that the trout favored the hidden positions afforded by the large rocks, and the deep holes next to fast current provided perfect launch points to grab food items, as they drifted by.
After lunch I noticed fewer tricos, and instead occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. Simultaneously a decent hatch of small blue winged olives appeared, and I responded to the new insect dynamics with another fly change. I exchanged the sunken trico for a salvation nymph and reversed the positions of the nymphs, so that the salvation was the top fly, and the RS2 was on the bottom. The move was somewhat effective as I added two more trout to the fish counter in the after lunch time period.
One of these two netted fish was the highlight of the day. I backhanded a toss to a marginal narrow slot just upstream of an exposed angled boulder, and a fish confidently chomped on the Chernobyl ant. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a hook jawed brown trout with bright orange and yellow coloration on my line, after I executed a swift hook set. When the thrashing prize settled down, I estimated that it measured fifteen inches, and I was quite pleased with my good fortune.
In addition to the two fish landed in the one hour after lunch, I experienced quite a few temporary connections. The blue winged olive hatch was more dense than I expected on August 7, and the fish seemed to tune into the small trailing RS2. During this time frame the heads of relatively shallow pockets provided fairly consistent grabs, but I failed to maintain contact in many cases.
As the afternoon progressed, the clouds disappeared, and the warm rays of the sun had their impact on the air and stream temperatures. Yellow sallies made an appearance and outnumbered the pale morning duns, so I swapped the salvation nymph for a size 16 iron sally. From 1PM until I quit at 3PM I covered a significant amount of water and added two additional trout to the fish count. A brown trout and small rainbow spent time in my net, and both nabbed the RS2, as it swept along exposed rocks.
Two anglers occupied one of my favorite pools on the river, below where the car was parked, so I circled around them and fished the two channels that split around a narrow island. The west channel presented a gorgeous deep shelf pool on the side of the main current away from me, and I could see two very nice trout facing into the eddy. They frequently moved a foot or two to nab underwater food items, and the larger of the two elevated infrequently to sip something from the surface. My dry/dropper rig was totally ignored, so I made the difficult decision to convert to a dry fly. I removed the three flies and placed a cinnamon comparadun on my line. Nothing happened, not even a look. I segued the comparadun with a size 22 blue winged olive, and I was quite optimistic that the tiny match for the prevalent naturals would seduce the pool dwellers. Once again they snubbed my artificial food offering. I remembered the presence of yellow sallies and knotted a size 14 yellow stimulator to my line. The yellow stimmy duped many trout in the early part of the season, but today it was not effective. In a last ditch effort to find a surface fly that would appeal to the eddy trophies, I snatched a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from the fly box. Another rousing round of futile casting ensued, so I saluted the selective residents and moved upstream.
The beetle failed as a solution to the puzzle, so I reverted to the three fly dry/dropper approach. I switched from the Chernobyl ant to a tan pool toy hopper, and below the large buoyant top fly I presented the iron sally and RS2. As I mentioned previously, this set up enabled me to add two fish to the tally to reach nine on the day.
As three o’clock rapidly approached, I was mired in a mild slump. In truth my confidence was low, and I was very warm and weary, as the bright sun beat down on the canyon. I approached a nice wide run, and I spotted a location that fit the recipe for success, that I described earlier. A narrow deep run deflected off a large exposed boulder and created a V-shaped band of slow water. I lobbed the three flies above the boulder, and as it swept by the upstream side of the rock, I caught a glimpse of a fish, as it turned perpendicular to the current. The movement was several feet to the right of the pool toy, and I suspected it grabbed one of the nymphs, so I swept the rod sideways and upstream. The hook penetrated the mouth of the feeder, and a heavy fish shot upstream, and then I angled it ten feet toward me. The brown trout was not happy, and it streaked perpendicular to the current, until it reached the faster water just beyond the site of the hook set.
Boing! The line rebounded toward me and went limp, and I instantly went into grieving mode. I suspected that perhaps the fish was foul hooked, but when I reeled up the line, I discovered that it snapped off all three flies. A telltale curly end on my line suggested that I tied a faulty knot on the line to pool toy connection. Needless to say I beat myself up for a bit, and then in a fit of disgust I found a path and scrambled up the steep bank to the car. It was close to 3PM, and I was not about to endure the task of knotting three more flies to my line.
Fish Landed: 9