South Platte River – 10/20/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/20/2020 Photo Album

Four for nine is excellent in baseball and calculates to a batting average of .440. When it represents the ratio of fish landed compared to hooked, it is an indicator of my level of frustration on Tuesday, October 20.

With multiple fires raging in the area west of the Front Range, I decided to focus my fishing efforts to the south and completed the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon. The weather forecast was outstanding for late October, and it proved to be accurate, as I fished in low sixty-degree temperatures for much of the day. The water gauge on the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Dam was not functioning for some reason, but fly shop reports pegged the flows at around 60 CFS. As I drove along the river on the way to my parking spot, I confirmed that the river was low; however, it offered adequate deep pools, runs and pockets to provide an enjoyable day of fly fishing.

A gray pickup truck angled across two parking spaces, where I normally park, and I was forced to back into a less desirable spot next to a tunnel. I was extremely cautious given the steep drop off on my left. I quickly climbed into my waders and chose my Sage four weight for the day, although I debated using my stiffer and longer Sage One five weight in the event of tangling with some larger trout. In the end I opted for lighter weight and less arm and shoulder fatigue.

The Area Between the Shoreline and Large Rock Looked Productive

Once I was prepared, I marched down the dirt road for .3 mile and found the gentlest path to descend the steep bank, although even that route demanded small measured side steps for most the way. The first nice pool was occupied by another angler, so I continued along the path to the next deeper slow-moving section, and then I moved to a short stretch of pocket water below the pool.

I read my post of 10/16/2019 and noted that a dry/dropper that featured a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher and salvation nymph translated to a twenty fish day, so guess what I chose to launch my day a year later? Correct. The same lineup occupied my line, and in the early going in the pocket section before lunch I experienced two very brief connections, as I lifted my flies to execute another cast.

Lunch Pool

By noon I was adjacent to the deep pool that I passed on my entry hike, so I paused to down my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. As I munched my baby carrots, I observed several rises in the eddy at the tail of the relatively long pool. By the time I stuffed my empty yogurt cup in my backpack, at least five trout were sipping a miniscule food item in the area twenty-five feet above me. I considered maintaining my three-fly dry/dropper to fish the faster water, where it entered the pool and then switching to a dry fly to pursue the risers; but in the end, I made the switch immediately. Hatch opportunities are rare particularly late in the season, and I needed to take advantage.

While advancing through the large boulders and pocket water stretch, I noticed small sparse swarms of tricos, and I surmised that the surface feeding was a response to the trico spinner fall. The tricos that I spotted were miniscule in size and smaller than the size 24’s, that I carried in a small plastic canister in my wader bib. I decided to hedge my bets and tied a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line and trailed a size 24 trico with gray cdc wings.

I began lobbing casts upstream in order to create a drift along the current seam, where several decent trout were rising. The breeze kicked up and blew my flies back toward me, and that bit of adversity was accompanied by an annoying glare that prevented me from following the two tiny tufts of CDC that were my flies. I tried to set, when a rise materialized, where I approximated my flies to be, but this trick was not effective.

I momentarily surrendered to the choosey eaters and circled around on the left bank, until I was above a large exposed boulder that created the large eddy. I began fluttering downstream drifts from this position, and I had the advantage of a tailwind and much improved lighting. On the third pass a small swirl enveloped the CDC olive, and I responded with a swift lift of the rod tip, and this translated to vibrating weight and wild thrashing, but the thrill only extended for a few seconds, and the trout was gone. I uttered some choice words and noted that I was now zero for three on my fly fishing batting average.

I now turned my attention to the attractive run and shelf pool along the left bank in the upper half of the pool. This water displayed many more swirls and was not as smooth and unforgiving as the eddy, that I recently fished. I experimented with a few casts with the double dry, but the small riffles and glare made following the flies even more difficult than my earlier attempts below the eddy. I paused and not so patiently rigged anew with the dry/dropper approach; however, in this instance I substituted a classic RS2 for the salvation nymph. I had a hunch that blue winged olives might make an appearance, and that trout were opportunistically grabbing active nymphs prior to their emergence.

On the Board

The changeover paid dividends when a muscular rainbow trout that measured fourteen inches snapped up the RS2. After a spirited battle I slid my net beneath the hard charging torpedo, and reveled in my first fish of the day. My average crept upward to .250, with one of four hooked fish landed.

Prime Run Ahead

A Chunk

Prospecting with a dry/dropper consumed the remainder of the day, and I called it quits by 4:00PM with a total of four fish that rested in my net. All were rainbows and all were heavy fish in the fourteen to sixteen-inch range. A sparse blue winged olive hatch commenced in the early afternoon, but it was over by 1:30PM, and I never spotted rising fish to cast to. After a slow period in the 2-3PM time frame I removed the RS2 and tested a salvation nymph for a decent length of time, but the change never produced results.


I covered quite a bit of the river, as I skipped the large smooth pools and concentrated on the fast water, where the river spilled into wide spread out areas. I also focused on deep pockets. In one of the upstream pools I spotted a couple blue winged olives, and this prompted me to revert to a sparkle wing RS2 as the point fly. I stagnated at a fish count of two for an extended length of time, but between three o’clock and four o’clock I enjoyed my best action of the day.

Sparkle Wing RS2

Two fat rainbows snatched the sparkle wing RS2 and another ejected the tiny fly during its attempt to escape only to have the nymph hook into its body toward the tail area. Like the earlier rainbows the two landed late in the afternoon were in prime condition and stretched across the entire net opening.

Let Me Go

Tuesday was a disappointment from a fish count perspective, although I had missed opportunities. For the day I ended up landing four out of nine hooked fish; a .440 average in baseball but subpar among accomplished fly-fishing circles. Nevertheless, I experienced an enjoyably day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday, October 20. The weather was outstanding, and the water level was conducive to fly fishing. The four rainbow trout were above average in size and in excellent condition. I never spotted spawning brown trout, but their absence from my net is probably explained by their preoccupation with reproduction. Based on my history of fishing within Eleven Mile Canyon I estimate that at least sixty percent of the population is brown trout, so I was fishing to only forty percent of the total number of resident fish. Most importantly I was challenged to determine what the fish were eating and how to best present imitations. I am a baseball fan, and the last time a player batted over .400 was Ted Williams in the 1940’s. My .440 average for Tuesday puts me in hall of fame company.

Fish Landed: 4

Another Promising Area

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