Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM
Location: Wildcat Canyon
Fish Landed: 2
Several months ago Rob Costantini, and friend and former co-worker at Air Products, informed me that he and his family were vacationing at a dude ranch in Colorado and then doing some sightseeing. He asked for suggestions and I described a loop that started in Estes Park and ended in Colorado Springs as their departure flight was from the Springs. Rob asked if I’d mind guiding them for a day of fishing, and I agreed to join them on Tuesday, August 30 after I returned from Oregon and the last day before they returned to Pennsylvania.
I gave Rob a few options and despite the caveat of a three mile hike in and out, he selected the South Platte River in Wildcat Canyon. I agreed to meet the four Costantini’s at the Embassy Suites in Colorado Springs where they were staying at 7:30AM on Tuesday. Vanessa, Rob’s wife, was accompanying but not fishing and Tim (15) and Rachel (13) would fish along with Rob. Unfortunately when I spoke with Rob on Monday, he revealed that he fractured a shoulder bone on the first day of their vacation at a dude ranch. This meant Rob would be able to hike with us, but he would not be able to fish.
Rob and Vanessa purchased sandwiches and we took off in my Santa Fe. I provided rods and waders and wading boots for Rachel, as Rob told me that Rachel wore a size 7 women’s shoe. We stopped in Woodland Park at a fly shop and rented waders and boots for Tim. Tim and Rachel were fortunately under the age where a fishing license is required. We continued on route 24 to Lake George and crossed the river and made a right and drove to the Platte River trailhead. After applying sunscreen and stuffing all our gear in backpacks we were off on the trail. It was a pretty warm day but we hiked to the river without stopping.
When Tim and Rachel put on their waders and boots we discovered that Rachel wore size 9 women’s shoes and her feet plus waders would not fit inside the boots. I had a spare pair of socks, so we improvised and Rachel wore socks and wading boots and waded wet in her shorts. Once we were set with our gear, Tim and Rachel and I hiked down the path along the river to an attractive starting point. The flow was 131 cfs and actually quite ideal for late August.
Before we began fishing I provided some casting instruction to Tim and Rachel. Tim looked quite competent for a novice caster, and Rachel improved as I stressed waiting on the backcast, not moving the rod too far, and keeping the wrist straight. Once we waded into the river, I worked with Tim first to get him going. I started him with a yellow Letort hopper, but that wasn’t attracting interest so I added a beadhead hares ear nymph as a dropper. It wasn’t long before Tim hooked and landed a small brown trout on the BHHE.
Once I felt Tim could fish upstream by himself, I worked with Rachel. I tied on a Chernobyl ant and dropped a beadhead pheasant tail below. Rather than using the dry fly false casting technique I’d taught her, I showed her how to do a roll cast as it was simpler and the foam fly did not require drying. The transition was difficult as I’d taught Rachel too well to stop her cast high, and now I wanted her to follow through and almost touch the water with her rod tip. In spite of the change up, Rachel began putting some nice casts upstream and in a nice riffle of moderate depth the Chernobyl dipped. Rachel also didn’t quite understand the concept of hook set, but it didn’t matter as the small brown inhaled the pheasant tail, and Rachel eventually stripped the little guy in for a photo.
We continued moving up the left bank, and in somewhat deeper water another somewhat larger brown hooked itself and Rachel was on the scoreboard for a second time. I left Rachel below a sweet pocket where we could observe some fish and returned to help Tim. I swapped out Tim’s hopper for a Chernobyl ant as well and helped him cover some water, but it was now close to 12:30PM, and I was feeling pretty hungry so we climbed the bank and hiked back to the home base where we feasted on our sandwiches.
While we ate our lunches some gray clouds appeared to the west, so I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack before we hiked back down the path to a point approximately where we’d ended before lunch. After lunch Rachel worked the left bank and Tim the right. At one point I was with Rachel and she cast into the juicy pool across from our home base. A nice 12 inch brown gobbled her fly and took off when Rachel realized she had a fish attached to her line. But alas she failed to maintain tension on the line, and this in combination with a lack of hook set enabled the fish to free itself. I left Rachel in a great position and returned to help Tim fish the right side of the large pool.
We picked up a couple fish on the beadhead dropper and then we reached the attractive pool next to our base of operations. Rob was on the shore taking copious amounts of photos and spotting fish for Tim. We worked part way up the pool with the dry/dropper, and I began to see small blue wing olive mayflies slowly rising from the pool. I decided to set Tim up with a pair of nymphs including a small beadhead RS2. Rachel was getting a bit weary of the fishing, so she returned to the log and rested and that left me one on one with Tim.
I tied on a bright green caddis pupa and beadhead RS2 with a split shot and strike indicator and instructed Tim on how to work the top of the pool. In the next hour or so Tim landed four nice brown trout each progressively larger with the last one being around 11 inches in length. The trout were hitting the small RS2 rather aggressively and Tim was doing a great job of setting the hook and landing fish. Tim told me that seven was the most fish he’d ever caught in one outing, and in fact more fish than he’d caught cumulatively in his life. Rachel had never fished before let alone caught anything.
In the course of demonstrating line control and casting to Tim, I landed two small browns earlier in the afternoon.