Category Archives: South Platte River

South Platte River – 04/19/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 3:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2024 Photo Album

Brutal. Brutal is the word that comes to mind to describe my day of fly fishing on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Friday, April 19, 2024. The trout that I landed on Friday were some of the hardest earned fish of my fly fishing life.

After a challenging but productive day on Monday, I reviewed my schedule and the weather forecast for another opportunity to visit Colorado rivers and streams. I had to take my new/used car into the dealer on Tuesday for a warranty repair, and the work lingered into Wednesday and thus eliminated two weekdays from my fishing plans. Thursday was grandson care day, so that left Friday. I launched Weather Underground, and I noticed that a storm system was moving in on Friday afternoon. The predicted conditions looked very similar to Monday, however, the temperatures were forecast to be a bit colder, and the storm arrived a bit earlier in the day. I decided to roll the dice, and I made the drive to Eleven Mile.

My decision was immediately fraught with adversity, as the traffic south through Denver was heavy and slow. The weather was very foreboding with dense clouds, drizzle and a temperature reading around freezing. I expected the cloud cover to lift by Colorado Springs, but that was not the case; however, as I moved west of Woodland Park, blue skies appeared in the western sky. The dashboard temperature climbed marginally to 34 degrees. Much to my amazement the temperature blasted from 34 degrees to 45 degrees by the time I reached the small town of Divide at the top of Ute Pass. Normally increases in elevation cause the temperature to plummet, but apparently the radiant energy from the clear sky and sun more than offset the elevation gain.

I arrived at my chosen destination in Eleven Mile Canyon by 11:00AM, and the temperature there was 47 degrees. My trust in Weather Underground was momentarily renewed. I busied myself preparing for a day of fishing in the canyon. I already wore my Under Armour long-sleeved undershirt, and I layered up with my fishing shirt, fleece hoodie, North Face light down and rain shell. I felt like Michelin Man. For headgear I snugged on my billed hat with earflaps, and with an eye toward the rain and temperature plunge in the afternoon, I stuffed my fingerless wool gloves in my pockets and placed my handwarmer packets in my wader bib muff. I pulled my blue hand towel from my waders and stuffed it inside my wader tops for easy access. For casting I chose my Sage One five weight in  case I lucked into a larger fish or had to fight the wind.

I marched up the dirt road and cut down directly opposite the long pool with the large vertical boulders along the western bank, and I began my fly fishing day with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, an emerald caddis pupa and a size 22 sparkle wing RS2. I began in the midsection of the long pool and worked my way up to the head of the pool. When I cast along the current seam of the left most entering braid, the fat Albert plunged, and I reacted with a swift hook set. The trout on my line fought like a trophy, but fairly quickly I determined that I foul hooked a thirteen inch brown. Disappointment reigned, as I was forced to get my hands wet to release a foul hooked fish. The breeze quickly evaporated my wet hand, and I felt the dreaded stinging sensation of numbing cold. This was just the beginning. I reentered the pool between the head and midsection, and I began lobbing longer casts toward the faster and deeper main, entering current seam, and on one of these longer casts, a fish grabbed the trailing sparkle wing, as it began to swing. This fish was attached to my line briefly, before it turned its head and managed to spring free from the tiny size 22 hook.

Two other anglers arrived, while this action transpired, and they stopped to fish in the pockets just above the pool I occupied. I decided to move to the super big bend pool ahead of them, but when I entered the river to wade along the east bank to the flat rock casting platform, I spotted a flurry of subtle rises in the medium size pool just below the super version. I made some casts with the dry/dropper and activated jigs, jerks, and swings; but the trout were not interested in my subsurface offerings. I could not resist dry fly fishing, so I disassembled my dry/dropper rig, and I converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a CDC blue wing olive. For the next thirty minutes, while the sky darkened, and the wind accelerated, and I skipped lunch, I made a generous number of casts, and I managed to land the first two trout of the day. One was a brown trout, and one was a rainbow, and they resisted netting quite well. I also experienced a copious number of refusals and a few very brief connections. I switched to a soft hackle emerger for a bit hoping it would outperform the CDC BWO, but that was not the case.

The hatch was rather intense, but my fly was largely ignored except for the two outliers that I mentioned, so I seined the water with my stretch net. After an adequate time period of seining, I examined the results, and I found several small nymphs and a newly emerged adult. I snapped some photos, and this now confirmed that the impetus for the steady feeding was a baetis hatch.

As this scene unfolded, the two hopscotching anglers moved past me to the super pool, and I rued my decision to linger in the lower pool, but much to my surprise, they bypassed the main pool and progressed to the two braids above the bend. By the time I decided to move up the river, they departed and climbed the steep bank to the road. Based on the change in weather that was forthcoming, they may have made a wise decision.

I took advantage of my good fortune, and I advanced to the super bend pool, however, I crossed at the tail and approached from the northwest bank. During this time I paused to eat my sandwich and carrots, but I was so cold that I saved my yogurt cup for when I returned to the car. Once again the sky darkened and the wind gusted, and the trout on my side of the river began a gluttonous feeding spree. By now my hands were gnarled, and my feet and legs were developing rigor mortis, as the temperature began its downward spiral. Once again I succeeded in duping one very nice rainbow trout, but this success story was accompanied by three very brief hook ups. My fly was a close but not exact imitation, and, in fact, the rainbow grabbed the CDC BWO, as I twitched it before lifting to cast. Movement was clearly a trigger, but it was difficult to consistently emulate the fluttering of the tiny naturals.

I was curious to check out the other side of the pool, so I crossed at the tail and assumed my advantageous position on the flat rock. This offered the advantage of keeping my feet and legs out of the water. Unfortunately this move coincided with a brief break in the clouds, and although my comfort level zoomed, the fish paused their feeding.

After ten minutes of fruitless casting, I moved on to the narrow island and proceeded to the upstream tip. I paused to observe the flats below the steep bank, and in short order I noticed a small pod of trout sipping toward the middle of the area. I cautiously waded my half frozen feet to a position just below the sipping rises, and I began to cast upstream and then across. I did not experience any luck, but after a few minutes I created a minor tangle, and once I was free to resume, I noticed another angler above me along the left bank. I was not sure whether he arrived after me, or whether he was there first, so I exited and crossed and walked the opposite bank to a position above him, where his side of the river was bordered by a huge vertical rock. I was unable to spot rising fish, where I normally find them. Meanwhile the other young angler moved upstream away from the flats, and he shouted to me. I was unable to hear him at first, but eventually I comprehended that he was asking, if he could “throw” below me. I replied, “sure”. and I moved on.

I intended to check out the nice wide smooth pool above the next two bends, but when I moved to a spot, where I could see the pool, I found another fisherman claiming the pool. I decided to reverse to the super bend pool before that got claimed, but as I passed the flats I noted a nice pod of feeding fish. Since the other angler had moved upstream, I felt that I was sufficiently below him, and I also was now fairly certain that he arrived after me. I stopped to fish the flats.

For the next hour plus I executed a huge quantity of casts. There was a definite ebb and flow to the feeding. The sky was consistently dark, but it became even nastier from time to time, and during these periods the feeding frenzy became quite intense. My fly was largely ignored, but I did coax three momentary connections, and I hooked and landed three very respectable trout to raise my fish count to six. One of these fish was a very fine fourteen inch brown trout with large and vivid black spots. The last trout was a hard charging rainbow trout also in the fourteen inch range.

This time of angling success coincided with very adverse conditions for the human angler. My feet and hands ached. I pulled my coat zipper as high as it would go and tipped my raincoat hood around my hat. I alternated putting my hands in my wader bib muff to grasp the hand warmers, and I used the blue hand towel to absorb as much water from my skin as possible. In spite of these measures, my core sank to new levels of chill. At one point small snow pellets descended from the dark sky, and this coincided with the most ravenous feeding of the day. I fished on while pellets glanced off my head and hands and fly rod.

By 3:15PM I became concerned for my for my well being, so I stripped in my line and carefully waded back downstream to a crossing point and then climbed the hazardous steep and icy bank and returned to the car. It was a rare instance, when this devoted angler left the river, while plentiful bugs continued to hatch, and fish continued to gorge. That gives the reader some indication of how cold I was.

Although six fish in three and a half hours of fishing seems like a poor catch rate, I was quite pleased. The quality and size of the fish was exceptional, and I worked extremely hard for these fish. I am perplexed, however, with the lack of acceptance of my flies. I am giving serious thought to tying some new baetis flies including a parachute CDC dry fly and a nymph with an olive body and a more narrow profile. The photo of the nymph in this post is a good example of the lean form I intend to copy. The bugs and trout loved the nasty weather, but this angler did not. Hopefully I can find a warmer day with decent cloud cover for my next baetis hatch adventure.

Fish Landed: 6

For the next hour I fi,


South Platte River – 04/15/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/15/2024 Photo Album

The hallmark of outstanding blue wing olive action is nasty weather, and Monday, April 15 was one of those days. I wrapped up our federal and state taxes on Saturday, and I decided to reward myself with a day of fly fishing. I was disgusted with my last visit to Eleven Mile Canyon on 04/03/2024, so I decided to seek redemption. There was some risk to this decision, however, as the weather app forecast wind speeds of 14 to 17 MPH during most of the time I expected to be on the water. The high temperature was projected in the mid fifties, and cloudy skies were predicted to roll in during the afternoon. The cloud cover clinched it, and I accepted the wind risk and made the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile.

When I reviewed the dashboard thermometer upon my arrival, the temperature registered 54 degrees, and dried grass and riverside vegetation flapped in the regular gusts. I bypassed my long sleeve Brooks undershirt, but I slipped on my North Face light down and covered it with my gray rain shell as a windbreaker. With the possibility of larger than average fish, I assembled my Sage One five weight, and I departed along the dirt road that borders the river in the canyon. After .2 mile I found a reasonably negotiable trail over hard packed snow and descended to the river. I began my day with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, 20 incher, and a supernova baetis nymph. After a solid test period with no action, I exchanged the supernova for a sparkle wing RS2. I covered some very attractive water in the thirty minutes before lunch as well as the first hour afterward with no evidence of trout other than a couple very sporadic slashing rises near my starting point. I was convinced that I was on track for a repeat of April 04/03/2024.

Between 1:00 and 1:30PM I fished the long pool next to the high rock wall on the western bank. I ate lunch next to this section and carefully scanned the water for signs of a blue wing olive hatch, but none appeared. I probed the seams along the deep entering runs and then covered the midsection by dead drifting the nymphs with a sweeping swing at the end. Nothing. I was actually surprised to have the entire pool to myself, but the lack of action may have explained that circumstance.

I moved on and tossed a few casts into some marginal deep pockets along the left bank with no success, and then I skipped another deep run and pool and approached the super big bend pool. I was certain that there were abundant fish in the pool, so a lack of action could only be explained by fly choice or lack of appetite among the fish.

I perched on the nice flat rock that serves as a convenient casting platform along the left bank, and sure enough, I spotted many trout (and suckers) finning in the slow moving deep pool above and next to my position. I observed for a bit, and as I did so, several of the trout that hovered within the upper two feet rose and sipped something small from the surface. I began casting my dry/dropper, and I imparted various types of movements to my drifts including jigging, lifting and swinging; but the targets ignored my efforts and continued to occasionally feed. As time transpired, the frequency of surface rises increased, and I finally decided to commit to a dry fly presentation.

I removed the dry/dropper configuration and added a two foot extension of 5X tippet to my leader, and then I knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my line. The tiny wisp of a fly was difficult to track, but I managed to land three nice trout, two rainbows and a brown in the twelve to thirteen inch range, on the CDC BWO. This was by no means an easy achievement, as I experienced twenty unproductive drifts for each instance, where a fish ate my fly.

The fish in my vicinity seemed to grow wise to my presence, so I moved upstream to another large exposed rock right below the entry of the eastern braid of the river. A large eddy swirled the entering current, and several fish were facing downstream to intercept natural morsels as they swirled by an exposed rock. I switched from the CDC BWO to a soft hackle emerger, and I applied a heavy dose of floatant to the body of the emerger. This change in tactics paid dividends, when I hooked and landed a nice rainbow trout from the area where the current from the east braid met the main river current. As I rested my rod on the large rock to release my catch, I noticed that the slow water along the bank was blanketed with small blue wing olive cripples.

I pursued the super pool for a bit longer, but the sun came out and the rising fish ceased to appear, so I decided to advance up the river beyond the small narrow island that split the river into the east and west branches. When I reached the tip of the island, I slowly waded through the shallow water in the middle of the river and scanned the smooth left channel for signs of feeding fish. After a cautious approach, I was next to the faster moving upper section that fanned out into a nice smooth pool, and a few rises manifested themselves.

I returned to a size 22 CDC blue wing olive, and I began fluttering casts to the middle and far side of the river, but the fish ignored my olive tuft. After quite a few casts, I finally induced a take and landed a nice twelve inch brown trout. I remained in this area from 2:00PM, until I quit at 4:00 PM, and I added three more spunky fighters to my fish count. A fourteen inch brown trout with dark black ink spots was the prize of this time period. During this two hour window the sky darkened and the wind kicked up for long stretches, and these bits of nasty weather provoked some fairly intense feeding from the river residents. I executed hundreds of casts and toggled between the CDC olive and the soft hackle emerger, as I attempted to discover the fly that would induce confident takes. I never really found it, but I did experience six temporary connections, when the trout was barely pricked by my hook point. This indicated to me that my fly was very close to the natural, but something was slightly off. I should add that I added a hippie stomper as the forward fly in a two dry fly arrangement near the outset of the 2-4 hour time frame. Perhaps the one foot leader from the stomper to the baetis imitation was restricting movement a bit, and thus the timid takes and refusals?

As this madness unfolded, I became a very chilled human being. My feet were the worst, and they morphed into icy stumps. The wind blasted frequently, and I pulled my buff up over my ears, and that helped, but the stiffness and cold of my feet and legs progressed upward to my core. Fortunately the sight of ravenously feeding fish allowed me to focus my mind away from discomfort and on to the task of fooling fish.

Finally by 3:45PM I could no longer withstand the cold and wind, so I stripped in my line and hooked the CDC BWO to my rod guide. I traversed the narrow island, crossed to the east bank and climbed a treacherous steep bank to return to the Telluride. The temperature on the dashboard, as I drove north on the access road was 51 degrees. What happened to the high in the mid fifties? It actually got colder as the afternoon progressed, and that does not even address the wind chill.

When the sky darkened and the wind accelerated, the fish feasted. I endured the weather, and my reward was the most intense dry fly fishing of the season thus far. I admit that I was disappointed with the high number of drop offs, but I cannot complain about the long and steady hatch and the hot action between 1:30 and 4:00PM. A longer 5X leader from the indicator dry to the baetis imitation may be the answer to more consistent takes. Hopefully I will get another near term opportunity to test this theory.

Fish Landed: 8



South Platte River – 04/03/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/03/2024 Photo Album

Highs in the upper 60’s in Denver, CO prompted me to search for a fishing destination on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. After some blue winged olive action on the Arkansas River on my last trip, I decided to investigate the presence of olives on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Historically I experienced some fabulous days in early April on that tailwater river. I invited my young fishing companion, Nate, to join me on his weekday off; and he accepted.

We met at a park and ride along I25, and we arrived in Eleven Mile by 10:30AM. We had to stop in Florissant at a convenience store to break a ten dollar bill in order to have the $4.50 in cash to pay the senior day use fee. The temperature upon our arrival was around 45 degrees with a moderate breeze, so I layered up with my Columbia long sleeved undershirt, fleece hoodie, North Face light down and rain shell along with my billed hat with ear flaps. I felt like a stuffed sausage, as I assembled my Sage One five weight for a day on the river.

Nate and I hiked up the road a bit and then found a steep and snowy quasi-path to the river. I took extremely small steps and attempted to dig in my studded wading boots to avoid injury at the outset of our day. When we arrived at the river, we post-holed a bit in order to enter the water. The flows were tumbling along at 135 CFS, which is a bit higher than I favor, but the clarity was excellent, and I was certain that a blue winged olive hatch would eventually bring the trout to the surface.

To start my day I rigged with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, but during the one hour morning session I was only able to generate a momentary hook up with a rainbow trout, as I lifted my flies above a depression in slow water. I could see two decent trout finning in the hole over a light sand bottom, so I was sight fishing, when the connection occurred.

Two anglers occupied one of our favorite large pools, so after lunch on a sunny rock we skipped around them and proceeded up the river. Ultimately we hoped to occupy the productive bend pool below the split braids, but a fisherman jumped in ahead of us, so we prospected the pool below that with no positive results.

Injured Bird

The fisherman above us departed after a short amount of time, and he politely waved us on, so we complied with his suggestion and moved to one of our favorite spots in Eleven Mile Canyon. Nate waded across the river and commandeered the same rock that was recently the perch of the departing angler, and I moved up along the west bank to the riffles at the top of the pool.

We pounded this area for an hour and a half, and Nate enjoyed success with an olive body RS2. He landed a fifteen inch rainbow near the entry point of the eastern most braid above the pool, and he landed a second fish, when he returned to his favorite rock perch.

I, meanwhile, experienced nothing but frustration. My chartreuse strike indicator disappeared at one point, and this forced me to devote time to replacing it. Apparently the transparent plastic sleeve that locks the wool tuft in the loop split and fell off during casting. At a later point Nate asked if my strike indicator was on the bank below me, and sure enough I was able to recover the wool clump for future use.

For flies I cycled through quite an array of favorites. I tested my olive perdigon, classic RS2, sparkle wing RS2, soft hackle emerger, ultra zug bug, salvation nymph, and emerald caddis pupa. When Nate reported success with the olive RS2, I experimented with three small green and olive colored nymphs in my fleece wallet, but none of them produced. I did manage another split second connection, as the nymphs swept across the center of the pool, and I suspect the attractor was the classic RS2 that was on my line at the time along with one of the larger nymphs.

By 2:30 my frustration reached a new level, and Nate was catching a few fish on the dry/dropper, so I transitioned from indicator nymphing to dry/dropper. I used a yellow size 8 fat Albert, and I trailed a salvation nymph and a sparkle wing RS2, as I progressed upstream from the big bend pool, while Nate remained on his large rock perch below the pod of trout and suckers.

I quickly covered the north channel with no sign of trout, until I approached the glassy, smooth pool along the steep bank that drops from the access road. I paused to observe, and while a large cloud blocked the sun, I spotted three rises in the slow moving water along the far bank, so I decided to commit to a double dry approach that entailed a hippie stomper trailing a CDC blue winged olive. By the time I completed my transition, the sun reappeared, and the feeding fish were reduced to one hungry trout directly across from me. A glare made identifying the landing spot of the flies difficult, but I covered the far edge with a barrage of casts. It was very difficult to achieve a dead drift for more than three or four feet, but I did manage a swirl to the one of the flies, as it began to drag across the current. After fifteen minutes of futility, the surface feeding halted, so I once again migrated upstream, but without rising fish, my double dry set up seemed futile.

We needed to depart by 3:30PM, so at 3:00PM we reversed our direction back to the large bend pool. I stole Nate’s favorite rock, and I could see the large swarm of nice fish in the depression nearby, but the trout were not rising and probably feeding near the bottom. My double dry was not the correct offering; however, I gave it an honest effort, before I called it quits at 3:15PM and climbed the steep and icy path back to the road.

I suspect this was my first skunking at Eleven Mile amongst many very productive visits, so I will not allow a tough day to deter me from future trips. I experienced two very brief hook ups in 3.5 hours of fishing. I observed only a handful of naturals on the water, and I suspect that explains the lack of action. Nate’s success with the olive RS2 will motivate me to tie some for future consumption. Intermittent sun raised the afternoon temperature to the low fifties, so I was relatively comfortable on an early spring day on the South Platte River. I was outdoors in Colorado, and that alone, made the day a success.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 06/14/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 4:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/14/2023 Photo Album

My new friend, Nate, expressed an interest in wrangling with a fish that put a significant bend in his rod, and I suggested the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. During the run off season, the South Platte River was a rarity, with flows running at 47 CFS, so we made plans for a day on the tailwater west of Colorado Springs on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Unbeknownst to both of us, the day held several surprises.

We arrived at my favorite roadside pullout a bit before 10:00AM, and this allowed us to be on the river by 10:15AM. I chose my Sage One five weight, and Nate went with a five weight as well, as his reel that held a four weight line was out of commission. We walked up the road for .3 mile, and then we dropped down an angled bank to the river across from some huge exposed boulders and deep surrounding pocket water. We both began our days with dry/dropper rigs, and in my case I chose a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. Between 10:15 and noon, Nate and I pushed our fish counters to two. Both my trout were fine brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and one nipped the salvation nymph and the other crushed the pool toy hopper. I was standing to the side and slightly above a small but deep hole in front of an exposed boulder, and I spotted a fish, as it darted to the surface to grab a small food item. I dropped a very short cast to the pocket, and almost immediately the same fish aggressively smashed the hopper. What a start to my day!

Home of First Brown Trout

Gorgeous Brown Trout

We quickly discovered that the most productive water was deep pockets and runs around large rocks, such as the area where we began. The popular pools seemed devoid of fish, and we quickly lost confidence in these spots. As we approached the next extensive section of pocket water, we encountered a group of three anglers, so we decided to circle around them. At the time we were on the west side of the river, and we normally travel on the east side to navigate our way upstream. I could see a large vertical rock wall ahead, but I assumed that we could sneak by in the river with flows at their low levels. Wrong. As we grew near, we realized that we had to do some rock climbing, if we stayed on our side of the river, or backtrack and cross. We chose the first option, and we endured the first surprise of the day. We clambered up a fairly steep rock face for sixty feet using crevices to gain footing and handholds. However, upon reaching a more level area, we followed the contour of the rock to a position that we hoped would allow us to descend back to the river. Nate went ahead to scout the situation, and he announced that the drop off was too steep, so we resumed our ascent for a distance that more than doubled our initial climb. We were now perched high above the river, so we cut in a southern direction. but once again we encountered an impediment to our progress. The drop off remained more than either of us were willing to risk, so we angled away from the river. At one point I was faced with maneuvering my aging body around a large protruding rock, but I was unable to find good hand grips, even though I handed my rod off to the much younger fishing companion in order to free up two hands. Instead of risking the dicey balancing workaround, I followed a large deadfall, and eventually I found a line that allowed a more gradual descent. Whew! Nate and I were both relieved to return to the river, but we were also pleased with our ability to overcome the rock climbing obstacle.

Wild Iris

When we approached the river again, we were just downstream from one of my favorite pools, the one that I named big bend pool. The river splits around a narrow island and then merges into the pool where the western braid curls around a large ninety degree bend. We noticed a few sporadic rises, but for the most part the pool was dead. Nate chose the upstream portion of the pool, where a nice wide riffle section extended for fifteen yards before the river spread out into the middle section of the slow moving pool. I waded to a position opposite the mid-section, and I began lobbing long casts to a deep trough between two large boulders. One of the boulders was subsurface, and the other peeked above the waterline. I allotted ten minutes to my prospecting, but my confidence was low, and I moved around Nate to some small pockets just above the entering run on the western braid. Nate was focused on a massive tangle that consumed twenty minutes (his estimate), but he announced that he would continue fishing the riffles once the snarl was rectified.

Nice Colors

Tiny Bucket Produced the Rainbow

First I dropped a few casts in a marginal shallow run, but then I fired a cast to a very short but deep pocket above the shallow run. I was just killing time, but almost immediately a hot rainbow trout grabbed the salvation nymph, and the game was on. I battled the cantankerous trout for a few minutes and then landed it for some beauty poses. I love extracting nice trout from obscure areas, and this was a classic example. I continued working my way around the bend and along the west channel, and suddenly I heard Nate cry, “Come here, Dave”. I quickly reeled up my line and hooked my fly to the rod guide, and then I stepped down a worn path on the narrow island, until I was across from Nate. He was enmeshed in the second surprise of the day, as he valiantly battled a very large trout. I whipped out my camera and videotaped three sequences, as the long, fighting cold water species made four or five determined runs away from Nate’s net. Nate performed like a pro, and each time the trout stressed the situation with a bold streak, Nate released line and allowed the combatant its space. Eventually the behemoth tired enough that Nate was able to hoist it over his Fishpond net. I waded across the channel to get some closer photos, and when I approached, I peered down at a twenty inch cutbow. Nate beamed from ear to ear, and why wouldn’t he? I snapped some fin and grins, and then Nate allowed the prize to recover before he nudged the beast back in the river. Nate’s day was already compete at noon, and so was mine.

What a Fish

Cutbow Magic

There Is a Smile

Big Boy Took the Fly Below the Bright Green Bottom

I returned to my exit point and fished my way up to the tunnel pools. By now my watch displayed 12:30PM, so I found a comfortable spot on a grassy bank to eat, and I was joined by Nate within a few minutes. He reported that his legs and arms were still shaking from the adrenalin rush initiated by the largest fish of his young life. As we chomped our snacks, we observed the pool, and we were entertained by a smattering of rises. I also spotted a handful of small mayflies, and we surmised that a very sparse mayfly hatch was in progress. We debated switching to dries to focus on the risers, but I was reluctant to remove my dry/dropper configuration, and I was not certain that the rises were steady enough to create reasonable success or just a tease that would lead to frustration.

Lunch View

We moved on to some faster entering currents, and at this spot Nate bumped into his third surprise. His three fly rig snagged near the vertical rock wall on the far side of the river, and in his effort to disengage, he snapped off all three flies. He undertook the laborious task of reconfiguring his flies with three new versions, and when he cast near the same spot as the snag, his drift was once again interrupted. Upon lifting the flies to free them, he realized that he was connected to the three flies he just broke off. In this instance, however, he waded through some moderately deep water, freed his active flies and recovered the ones that he broke off!

Nate Scanning the Pool

With this bit of good fortune in hand, we decided to vacate the troublesome hook grabbing environment, and we advanced around two ninety degree bends to a wide slow moving pool. A couple was perched on the bank eating lunch, so we circled around them and progressed to a long stretch of pocket water that I targeted early on. I continued fishing the dry/dropper for the next hour, and I covered some gorgeous deep pools and pockets, but only had some refusals to the hopper to show for my efforts. I cycled through a number of nymphs including an emerald caddis pupa, a bright green go2 caddis pupa, an RS2, and an iron sally. I concluded that the fish were not in tune with nymphs, but the refusals to the hopper suggested that surface food was on their menu. I removed the three fly dry/dropper offerings and moved to a double dry set up. The front fly was a peacock body hippie stomper, and it trailed a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis.

Great Colors

Although the last two hours of fly fishing would not be characterized as hot fishing, I did increase the fish count to six with three fish netted while deploying the double dry approach. One of the afternoon trout hammered the hippie stomper, and the other two nabbed the trailing caddis. Two of these fish were quite nice including a fourteen inch rainbow and a thirteen inch brown trout. I made a large quantity of fruitless casts for these trout, so the catch rate remained subpar. Nate mostly stuck with the dry/dropper approach, and he advanced his fish count to five, although the monster cutbow made his day, and everything else was gravy.


Six fish in five plus hours of fishing is quite slow, but I managed to land some very fine rainbows and browns. Stream productivity in the middle of June is always welcome. Of course, the highlight of the day was Nate’s cutbow, and the euphoria extended into the next day, when I saw him at physical therapy. We already discussed some future trips. His goal of putting a significant bend in his rod was easily surpassed.

Fish Landed: 6

South Platte River – 06/06/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/06/2023 Photo Album

I reviewed and tracked the flows on roughly thirty streams in Colorado during the 2023 snow melt season, and only a few tailwaters were available for reasonable fly fishing on June 6. One of them was the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and the graph depicted flows of 42 CFS. 42 CFS is actually below the ideal range, and low levels suggested difficult fishing. I debated a trip to the South Platte vs. a trip to one of my favorite lakes, and I chose the moving water option.

I arrived at a dirt parking lot by 10:00AM, and this enabled me to be on the water fly fishing by 10:30AM. The temperature was sixty degrees, so I wore only my fishing shirt, but I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack, and I assured myself that I could always return to the car, should I need to add layers. The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms all afternoon, and I knew from the previous Wednesday that a storm produced wind and a temperature drop.

My Playground on June 6

I began my fly fishing effort with a peacock hippie stomper and a beadhead hares ear nymph, and in the one hour and fifteen minutes, before I stopped for lunch, I landed four brown trout. Two of the eager eaters grabbed the hares ear nymph, and the others favored the surface hippie stomper. All the morning fish were in the eight to ten inch range, but I was nevertheless pleased with the early action on a stream in the first week of June.

A Bit Larger

After my quick lunch I resumed my progress upstream, but I abandoned the dry/dropper approach; and I, instead, replaced the hares ear with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. During this time frame the caddis was the productive fly, but the hippie stomper was attracting an annoying number of refusals, so I replaced it with a size 8 Chernobyl ant. The double dry combination enabled me to boost the fish count to seven, before I noticed another angler twenty yards above me. I was disappointed to get high holed, but there was another stretch I was anxious to test, so I stripped in my flies and made a move .5 mile upriver. During the morning session I noted that most of the trout did not come from the obvious attractive areas such as deep runs and pools, but instead materialized in more obscure lies such as the very top of a riffle or a deep slot tight to a boulder. The three fish landed after lunch ate the trailing caddis, and the size of these fish was moderately larger than the morning catches.


Pocket Water Ahead

When I pulled into the pullout at my second location, I replaced my short sleeved shirt with a long sleeved thermal undershirt, and then I added my fleece hoodie and my billed hat with earflaps, I kept the earflaps turned up, but I was prepared for the predicted afternoon storms. When I began fly fishing at my second stretch of river, I applied the knowledge I gained from the morning, and I focused on similar types of water, and the strategy paid off. In the first location I spotted a handful of aggressive rises, but my Chernboyl and caddis were ignored, so I swapped the Chernobyl for a size 12 stimulator with a light yellow body. Voila! The stimulator and caddis combination was quite popular, and I incremented the fish count from seven to nineteen, before I called it a day at 3:30PM. I fished through a forty yard section of pocketwater, and the majority of the trout came from this area. Two of the final twelve trout were rainbows, and the remainder were brown trout. Four of the afternoon twelve attacked the stimulator, and the others favored the caddis. At one point I swapped the olive-brown caddis for one with a gray body, and this change seemed to improve the catch rate a bit. Toward the end of my time in the second section, I snagged my flies on a backcast, and when I tried to rescue the flies by pulling down the branch, I snapped them both off. I spent five minutes scanning the branches for my flies and dangling monofilament, but I finally accepted the loss and moved on. I replaced the yellow stimulator with a gray version. and this fly along with a gray caddis accounted for the last two trout.

One of the Better Fish

Slow Areas Along the Boulders Are Prime

The two rainbow trout were in the twelve inch range, and at least four of the brown trout stretched the tape to twelve and thirteen inches. I do not actually measure them, but based on experience, I am fairly accurate at assessing length. The larger browns all came from fairly obscure lies next to large exposed boulders. In one case (click on the photo album link to view a video of this spot), I thought I spied a very subtle rise in a narrow two foot wide band of water between two large exposed rocks. I made some casts to the  lower part of the run right above my position, and then I targeted the small area, where a fish possibly rose. The first cast landed on the bankside rock and then tumbled into the river below the target area. The next cast, however, was on the mark, and instantly a thirteen inch brown trout smashed the caddis. How gratifying! This was one of my favorite scenarios of the season thus far.

Green Algae Kept Clinging to My Line and Flies

Narrow Space Between the Smallest Exposed Boulder and the One Below Produced

I was very pleased to land nineteen trout on June 6, 2023. While most of the state experienced dangerous river and stream levels, I enjoyed a pleasant day on a clear river in flows that were actually on the low side. The action was not torrid, but the successes were frequent enough to keep me focused for my entire time on the river. While I was fishing, I observed dark clouds to the north and then to the south, but my location was luckily spared. I was prepared with layers, but unlike June 1; wind, chill, and precipitation never developed.

Fish Landed: 19

South Platte River – 05/10/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/10/2023 Photo Album

When I first considered a day of fishing on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, the weather forecast was very encouraging. The high temperature at Lake George was anticipated to be in the upper sixties with partly cloudy skies and wind speeds in the ten to eleven mile range. The hour by hour forecast predicted a thirty to forty percent probability of rain after 3PM. In retrospect after experiencing the day, the weather was very adverse. Heavy clouds were present all day with only thirty minutes, at most, of sunshine. In the early afternoon my fishing companion, Nate, and I heard rumbling in the western sky, so we found a large rock overhang and huddled there, until the lightning and thunder abated. After resuming our fishing, another storm cell rolled in, and in this case we absorbed heavy rain showers and small hail pellets. The remainder of the afternoon reflected the forecast with periods of rain, wind and overcast for the last 1.5 hours. Fortunately I packed a fleece hoodie and my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps, or our quitting time may have been munch sooner than 4PM.

Once again my young fishing partner, Nate, accompanied me on this adventure. Nate is an experienced spin and bait fisherman, but a relatively novice fly angler, and I really wanted to introduce him to a productive piece of water, that would position him to set new standards for quantity of fish landed. The good news is that he accomplished that goal. The bad news is that he suffered through the same adverse weather conditions that tested me throughout the day.

I chose the South Platte River at Eleven Mile Canyon because the flows were in the 77 CFS range, and the major freestones in Colorado were already demonstrating the impact of seasonal run off with high and murky conditions. In addition, I visited the South Platte quite a few times in 2023 in the area, and I had yet to be disappointed. Nate and I met at a convenient park and ride, and we continued our trip to the river, so that we were positioned to begin fishing by 11:30AM. The river displayed a slight tinge, but the flows were as advertised in the upper 70 to low 80 range. I chose to fish the left bank, and Nate moved along the right shoreline, which was closest to the fisherman path.


In the early going I featured a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph, and before we broke for lunch, I managed to net three brown trout in the eight to ten inch range. All three munched on the hares ear. Nate, meanwhile, offered a foam hopper, and then knotted an emerald caddis pupa below followed by a chartreuse copper john. Eventually the copper john was swapped for a beadhead hares ear.

Early Going

Sure Bet

After lunch, Nate began to register trout at a regular pace. I noticed a series of rises, and not wanting to consume the time necessary to make a full conversion to a dry fly, I exchanged the salvation nymph for a RS2. The RS2 produced a fish or two, but the rises stopped, and that signaled an end to the subsurface action as well. I knew from surveying the quality of the water, that I was skipping fish, so I reconfigured with a prince nymph on top and the hares ear on the bottom. This move paid strong dividends, as the fish count began to climb at a steady pace. There was a streak when the prince was on fire, but eventually the hares ear resumed its status as the top producer.

Big Smile

On Display

Protected from the Elements

During this time period the first thunderstorm forced us to seek shelter under a small rock ledge overhead. When we returned, I made an excessive hook set with no resistance and hurled my flies into an evergreen branch behind me. I had swapped the fat Albert for a tan pool toy hopper, and I could see the hopper relatively close to the trailing nymphs. I acknowledged that retrieval was unlikely, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off the three flies. I was not a happy camper. I replaced the prince and hares ear with like flies, but for the surface fly I returned to a fat Albert.

Cast Over White Water?

For the remainder of the afternoon Nate and I worked our way up the river along opposite banks, and we raised our fish counters significantly. Nate tallied eleven landed trout, before we adjourned at 4PM, and I elevated my count to twenty-six. Most of Nate’s success came from the hares ear, but he also notched two feeders on the emerald caddis pupa and one eager trout that gobbled the hopper pattern. In my case I estimate that sixty percent of my catch was attributable to the hares ear and forty percent to the prince. I believe that the larger prince helped sink my flies, and this aided in my strong afternoon showing. Nate achieved double digits on flies for the first time, and he also netted the fish of the day, a fine wild fourteen inch brown trout.

Long and Lean

Most of my fish were in the eight to eleven inch range with a pair of twelve inchers topping the measuring tape. There was one period during the second thunderstorm, when both of us were pelted by heavy rain and then slanted ice pellets, but this lasted for ten minutes and then moved on. My top locations were deep runs along fast moving current and long and deep pockets. The trout seemed to favor positions at the tail of the soft water, where currents merged and concentrated food. Slow moving pools were not productive, although the sections that we fished did not offer much in the way of deep slow moving water. The size of my fish was somewhat understated, but I had a blast moving quickly and prospecting upstream and landing trout at a steady pace. Nate, of course, was euphoric after his record day, and he was the proud owner of the largest fish landed.

Fish Landed: 26

South Platte River – 05/08/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/08/2023 Photo Album

I reviewed the flows on Colorado streams, and it was apparent that many of the freestones were already impacted by the developing snow melt on May 8, so I turned my attention to tailwaters. When I noticed that the flows on the South Platte River at Lake George were 77 CFS, I immediately turned my attention to that popular tailwater. The weather forecast suggested high temperatures in the upper sixties with wind speeds peaking in the low double digits.

I began my drive at 7:30AM, and this placed me at a favorite pullout along the river by 10:00AM. The air temperature, as I prepared to fish by my tailgate was in the low fifties, so I tugged on my fleece hoodie and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack. I was properly attired for the entire day, although from 3PM to 4PM some dark clouds rolled in, and this development in turn caused constant cold gusting winds. I was close to the end of the day, so I never took the necessary steps to remove my frontpack and backpack to access my raincoat as a windbreaker. I paid the price for this laziness, as I was quite chilled, while I walked back to the car.

Started Here

I fitted together my four piece Sage R8 four weight, and I decided to walk down the dirt road for .3 mile to a section of pocket water that I love. I passed an SUV with Texas plates along the way, and as I was about to reach my chosen starting point, I encountered another angler next to his Jeep Wrangler preparing to fish. Not wishing to invade his space, I reversed direction and went upstream to the bend next to the road and fished up the river from there through a wide section with numerous pockets and runs of moderate to shallow depth. I began with an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl, a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph, and I probed all the pockets and runs that displayed adequate depth to harbor trout. During this phase of my day I landed four small trout. One smashed the chubby, and two nipped the hares ear, and the fourth trout nabbed an RS2, that I substituted for the salvation nymph.

A Bit Larger Rainbow

At 11:45PM I exhausted the pocket water section, and I was concerned that I would invade the space of the Texan, so I climbed the bank to the road and hiked upstream, until I was a good distance above the Texas couple. The female of the pair was entertaining herself by walking two dogs, as her partner fished the river. I crossed the river and then hiked along the far bank for thirty yards, at which point I fished back up the river through a fast and deep section with a narrow bank of soft water between the heavy main flow and the banks. I was certain that an opportunistic trout would grab the RS2, as I swung it along the bank; but, alas, that was not the case.

Above the narrow chute I encountered a long deep slow moving pool, and a pod of fish began to rise to something quite miniscule. I observed the surface for a bit in hopes of identifying the food source, but I never saw anything on the water or above the surface. I decided to fish on top, and I removed the dry/dropper components and tied on a peacock hippie stomper and size 22 CDC blue wing olive. For the next fifteen minutes I fluttered the double dry to the pod of risers, but they fed around my fly but never ate my fake. The rising activity waned, so I adjourned to the bank and ate my lunch. After lunch a few rises resumed upstream from my position, and after quite a few fruitless casts, a ten inch rainbow trout crushed the hippie stomper for fish number five.

I released the small rainbow and continued my progression, however, the nature of the river changed to another section of fast flows and attractive pocket water. I decided to once again modify my approach, and I converted back to a dry/dropper. For this dry/dropper pass through the pocket water I resorted to a yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and I retained the classic RS2. A small brown rewarded me in one of the short pockets, and the fish count rested on six, as I approached a very long pool section.

Next to the Exposed Rock on Right Produced

I was not generating much action in the deep slow moving sections of the river, but I decided to cover the water with a few casts, before I moved to the generally more productive entering riffles to the pool. A strong run flowed along the far bank, so I placed a cast along the seam and allowed my flies to slowly drift downstream. On the third such pass, the fat Albert made a dive, and I immediately set the hook. I was shocked to hear a loud suction sound, as a large fish swirled, upon feeling the hook penetrate. I instantly knew that this fish was larger than the ten to twelve inchers that occupied my net thus far in the day. Sure enough, after several heart pounding dives and spurts, I caught a glimpse of my catch, and it was a huge rainbow trout. The underwater behemoth shot downstream several times, and I responded by releasing line. I maintained steady pressure and coaxed the elongated football upstream. When it reached the middle of the river across and below me, it executed an aerial leap, and then crashed back down with a thunderous splash. In a stroke of unusual fish fighting acumen I lowered my rod tip to avoid tippet shock from the heavy weight landing. I had a great view of my river foe, and it was a rainbow trout in excess of twenty inches with a torpedo shaped body. The fight continued, and I applied steady pressure and coaxed the heavy resistance upstream very gradually. Clearly this trout was larger than my net, so I began slowly wading up the river toward a place, where there was a shallow gravel shoreline. I hoped to guide the beast up onto the beach in case the net would not encompass the entire body. I was almost there, when the rainbow caught a second wind, and it flapped its tail and slid back to the middle to heavier current. Somehow in the process of doing this, it rolled over the line, and I noticed that the hares ear and fat Albert were now wrapped around and behind the head. At this point there was not much I could do other than swear, as the valiant foe turned and snapped off all three flies at a surgeons knot above the fat Albert. I could see the large yellow foam fly move downstream for ten feet, and then it disappeared. The reader can imagine my state of mind after this physical battle on the South Platte River.


Slack Water Was Ideal

I paused to gather my senses, and I waited for my body to stop shaking from the adrenalin rush, and I replaced the lost flies. I pulled out another yellow fat Albert, and did the same for the hares ear and RS2 and continued prospecting. In a short amount of time I landed a twelve inch rainbow on the RS2, but it was small consolation for the prize fish that escaped my capture. The catch rate slowed to a halt, and I considered my next move. The RS2 seemed ineffective, and I saw no evidence of BWO’s, although I never actually saw them during the surface feeding time frame, so I decided to replace the RS2 with an emerald caddis pupa. Why? I have no idea other than the fact that caddis season on the South Platte was approaching, and the emerald colored pupa has historically been effective during tough fishing periods.

Best Brown of the Day

The move worked, and I fished the three fly dry/dropper combination for the remainder of the afternoon, as I boosted the fish count from seven to fourteen. Most of the afternoon fish were in the nine to eleven inch range, but I also managed a pair of thirteen inch browns and a similar sized rainbow. The emerald caddis was the food of choice for all the afternoon fish, and the first pupa unraveled, so I replaced it with a fresh version.

A fourteen fish day in May is a respectable accomplishment, but I never felt the confidence that accompanies finding a fly that consistently produces trout. The emerald caddis was close, but I cast to many very attractive spots with no response, so I was not totally dialed in. Of course the story of the day was the one that got away. I will remember that battle for quite a while. I actually feel like I did quite well to maintain contact for five to ten minutes with a size 20 RS2 on a 4X tippet.

Fish Landed: 14

South Platte River – 05/01/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/01/2023 Photo Album

With a string of nice spring weather days in the forecast, I was anxious to take advantage. I managed to land ten trout on Sunday, but they were small and very discerning. I worked hard for ten fish, and I was ready for some new scenery for a day, when the weather was forecast to peak in the low seventies in Denver, CO. I checked all the front range flows, and when I noticed that South Boulder Creek below Gross Dam was rolling along at 40 CFS, I was fairly convinced that a hike into the canyon was my Monday destination. But wait a minute. The ongoing dam expansion project needed to be considered. I brought up the Denver Water construction web page, and the verbiage on the Fisherman Parking lot was confusing and vague. Not wishing to risk another thwarted trip, I decided to shift my attention elsewhere, until I had a chance to call the Denver Water phone number that was provided.

I turned my attention to the old reliable South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and the DWR water graph displayed a steady flow in the 50 – 60 CFS range. Perfect. I decided to make the drive once again, but I planned to fish a different section. I departed my house in Denver at 8:15AM, and this enabled me to park and be ready to fish by 11:00AM. The air temperature was around 60 degrees, so I skipped wearing an extra layer and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack just in case. After lunch a series of dark clouds rolled in from the west, and I took advantage of the rain shell to hold in body warmth. For my rod I grabbed my new Sage R8 four weight, and I was off to the river’s edge.

Probably Home to Trout

Morning Prize

My outstanding day can be divided into three discrete periods. At the start near the parking lot I opted for a size 14 peacock hippie stomper, ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear nymph. This three fly combination was moderately effective, as I built the fish count to five before I paused for a quick lunch at noon. Two fish crushed the hippie stomper, and the other three nabbed the hares ear, but I covered a fair amount of very attractive water with no interest, so I did not feel locked in.

Honey Hole

Actually a Cutbow

Muscular Torpedo

After lunch I noticed a couple sporadic rises, so I decided to exchange the hares ear nymph for a size 20 classic RS2. What a move it turned out to be! I stood to the side and just below a fifty foot long deep run, and I began firing casts to the entering riffle. After a few fruitless long casts, the hippie stomper disappeared, and I found myself attached to a spunky and hard fighting rainbow trout. This scenario repeated itself eight more times, as I apparently stumbled into a rainbow trout party. The last of this rainbow trout windfall was a very thick fourteen inch rainbow, and it put up a heroic fight before surrendering to my net. Fourteen inches does that seem that remarkable, but this trout exhibited excessive girth for its length. This angler was quite pleased. From the same position I shot some casts to another shorter run where the river curled between some exposed boulders, and this redirection yielded two additional rainbows. Finally the action ceased, as I executed five or six fruitless casts, so I ended my second phase of Monday’s fishing and moved upstream to the next section, which was characterized by a narrow streambed and an abundant quantity of deep pockets and short deep runs.

Slick Look Promising

Brief Display

I never observed more than a couple blue winged olive adults earlier, but by now they were totally absent, and the fish were not displaying surface feeding, so I decided to revisit the dry/dropper approach albeit with some larger flies to enable deeper and faster drifts through the deep pockets. I knotted a yellow Amy’s ant with a gray body to my line and trailed a size 14 prince nymph and size 16 salvation nymph. This configuration signified the start of my third period of the day, and once again my change in approach paid huge dividends. I continued working up the river at a steady pace and incremented the fish count from fifteen to twenty-seven, before I stripped in my line and quit for the day. This segment of my day was the type of fly fishing that I thrive on. It was fast paced, as I dumped short casts into likely pockets and deep runs, and I held my rod high to keep the fly line off the water. Three to five casts were sufficient for each target location, and quite often a hungry trout snatched the trailing nymph and quickly found itself languishing in my net. All of the fish during this middle to late afternoon session fell victim to the salvation nymph, and the first normally indestructible fly actually unraveled a bit forcing me to make a change. Several of the deep nymph biters were very healthy brown trout, and I was quite proud to fool these normally wary feeders.

Love the Markings

By 3:30 I reached the top of the fast water section, so I hoofed it back to the car and drove up the road another .4 mile to a new pullout. I quickly tromped down to the river and spent thirty minutes fishing through another pocketwater section, where I secured a couple more rainbows to bring my total to twenty-seven. A lot more attractive water remained upstream, but it was 4:00PM, and I was tired and ready for my return drive.

Monday was easily my best day of the season so far from a numbers perspective, but a previous twenty fish day in Eleven Mile was probably at the top of the list from a quantity and quality perspective. Nevertheless, I relished the fast action and challenge of adjusting to the ever shifting tastes of the wild stream residents of the South Platte. Hopefully I can get quite a few additional successful days in before permanent run off and a trip planned to Iceland.

Fish Landed: 27

South Platte River – 04/24/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/23/2023 Photo Album

Monday, April 24 was almost a carbon copy of my trip last Wednesday with Nate. The flows were essentially the same, and the weather was very similar. The temperature was around 46 degrees, when I began at 11AM, and then it climbed to around 50 degrees by 1PM, before massive dark clouds rolled in. The onset of heavy clouds caused the air temperature to gradually fall into the mid-forties, but the blue winged olives relished the low light and wind, as they emerged continuously from 12:15PM, until I quit at 4:00PM. Unlike April 19, however, I wore my hat with earflaps and carried my fingerless wool gloves; therefore, I was prepared for the adverse conditions in the afternoon.

I arrived at my favorite parking space along the river by 10:45AM, and this enabled me to be on the river fly fishing by 11:00AM. I wore my light down coat and rain shell as a windbreaker, and I assembled my Sage One five weight for a day on the tailwater. When I was prepared, I hiked up the road for .3 mile and then slid down a gravel path to the edge of the river. During the course of my day on the South Platte I encountered only one other angler. I was quite pleased with this circumstance, but I am unable to produce a viable explanation. Perhaps the weather forecast scared off the fly fishermen?

Site of First Trout of the Day


Entry Run Produced

Between 11AM and noon I prospected the pockets and the faster entering riffles of three pools. My offerings were the yellow fat Albert, a size 12 20 incher and three different bottom flies. I began with an ultra zug bug and then switched to an emerald caddis pupa and finished with a classic RS2. The dry/dropper approach yielded one very nice cutbow that grabbed the 20 incher at the head of the long pool, where Nate and I ate our lunch on the previous Wednesday.

Poised to Release

I timed my progression, so that I arrived at the large bend pool by noon, and after I covered the wide entering riffle with the dry/dropper configuration, I retreated to the bank to eat my lunch. As I observed, small rings began to appear in the center section of the pool, and by the time I stuffed my lunch wrappers back in my backpack, the surface feeding advanced to the top of the pool and the faster current seams. I took the necessary time to remove the dry/dropper flies, and I replaced the last section of tippet with material from the new 5X spool that I purchased the previous week. My first choice for fishing the big bend pool was a soft hackle emerger, and I applied floatant and fished it in the surface film.

Initially the soft hackle emerger approach delivered positive results, and I netted two fine rainbow trout, but then the low floating emerger was rudely ignored. I spent quite a bit of time making fruitless casts, and then I converted to a CDC BWO, but that move caused no change, and the trout binged on naturals and paid no attention to my fly. The sun appeared for a brief time, and the hatch dwindled, so I decided to advance up the river to some additional favorite sections.

Dozens of Fish Feeding in This Area

The next spot was extremely smooth, and the rises were very sporadic, I made some casts from the side as well as downstream, but I was unable to initiate interest from the four or five active fish in technical water next to the steep bank below the road. After fifteen minutes I abandoned the smooth pool and moved upstream to the upper section, where a deep slow moving pool bordered a vertical rock wall {see photo above). The trout were going crazy in this spot, and I selected a CDC blue winged olive for this duty. I must have made between fifty and one hundred futile casts in this area, but two downstream drifts connected with spunky wild trout, and I elevated the fish count to five. My puff olives that I tied on Sunday were not setting the world on fire, but I was duping the occasional fish.

Love the Speckles

I carefully watched naturals, as they drifted next to my artificial, and it was obvious that movement was a key distinguishing characteristic. The upright wings of the naturals were fluttering, and the legs of the mayfly were skittering on the surface. I tried to flutter and twitch my dead drifted naturals, and one of the landed trout actually attacked my fly, when I made a quick back mend and jerked the fly, but imitating the natural movement of the mayflies was quite a challenge. Eventually I decided that I flogged this area excessively, and the fish were wise to my presence, so I climbed back on the path and circled around the only other angler that I saw on Monday.

Pleased With This Hard Fighter

I crossed the river and carefully waded to the next wide pool, where the river sluiced around several large exposed boulders at the top. Fish were rising steadily along the deep center run, as well as in the area, where the current fanned out into the slow moving bottom pool. I spent the remainder of my time on the river in this area and ratcheted the fish count up from five to ten. Several of these trout were very strong fighters, including a fourteen inch brown that put up some very stiff resistance with an unending series of dives and twists on the leader. During this period I exchanged the CDC BWO for one of my newly tied puffs that also contained three or four wraps of dun hackle behind and in front of the wing. This wing was not as dense as several others that I tied on Sunday, but it was taller and thicker than most of the CDC BWO’s in my fly box. I also added a hippie stomper as the front fly to improve my ability to track the tiny puffs. The double dry combination with the newly tied puff wing worked fairly well as evidenced by the five trout that mistook it for a natural, but this was by no means easy pickings. I made numerous fruitless casts in order to connect with five trout.

BWO Puffs

Lovely Colors

Throughout the afternoon the dark clouds blocked the sun, and the wind whipped across the canyon, while the temperature dropped to uncomfortable levels. On two occasions small ice crystals descended and bounced off my raincoat, but the precipitation never approached the levels of April 19. Without my earflaps I probably would have called it quits sooner, but my hat and hood and buff provided minimal comfort; and, of course, my thoughts were diverted by the presence of rising trout. By 3:45PM the sky brightened a bit, and this change in weather brought an end to the surface feeding. Sporadic rises continued, but without regular feeding, it was quite difficult to create interest in my fly.

I stripped in my line, hooked my fly to the lower rod guide and hiked back to the car. On Monday I once again endured adverse weather and enjoyed a lengthy session with wild trout rising to baetis mayflies. I managed to land ten trout, and all were in the twelve to fifteen inch size range. Several rainbows and one brown measured at the high end of this range, and most were very strong fighters. The remainder of this week is predicted to be wintry conditions in Denver, so I suspect I will avoid additional trips to the higher elevation locales that offer fly fishing opportunities. When it comes to fly fishing, I am not very patient, but the continuation of winter in Colorado will force me to wait.

Fish Landed: 10

South Platte River – 04/19/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2023 Photo Album

Quite a few themes jump out at me, as I look back on my fly fishing adventure on the South Platte River on April 19, 2023. The weather was a prominent factor, as the temperature peaked at 50 degrees around 1PM, and then dark gray clouds dominated the sky resulting in diving temperatures and high winds. Wednesday was not a comfortable day to be fly fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon. The overcast conditions, however, were a critical element that precipitated waves of hatching baetis mayflies throughout the afternoon. The sky darkened, and then the wind picked up, and then the fish began to rise, and eventually another window of sunshine briefly shutdown the surface feeding frenzy. This cycle repeated itself from 1PM until closing time around 4:00PM. A third major negative component of our day on the river was the loss of five hippie stomper flies, but I will expand on that later.

The most significant story line of the day, however, involved having a companion angler along on April 19. I met Nate at the physical therapy center, where I am undergoing treatment for several physical maladies. Nate moved to Colorado last year in August and decided to embrace the sport of fly fishing after years of spin fishing in Pennsylvania. I learned about his new found obsession in one of my early visits to the local PT office, and as the winter evolved, he told me of his frequent trips to Colorado streams during the cold winter months. Most of these river visits resulted in outdoor exercise but minimal success, and I eagerly anticipated inviting him to join me on an excursion, once the weather warmed up. His off day during the week was Wednesday, so April 19 became our first joint fly fishing adventure.

As I tied my workhorse flies through the winter months, I made a point of tying an extra one for Nate, and I provided these to him with each visit. Nate hit me with an abundant quantity of questions, as he attempted to advance his knowledge in the fly fishing game, and after several very successful trips to Eleven Mile Canyon, I decided that the spectacular stretch of the South Platte River would be a great introduction to amazing scenery, high fish density, and a fabulous mayfly hatch.

Nate and I met near Castle Rock, and we transferred his gear to my car, and I made the remaining two hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon. We parked at my favorite roadside pullout and proceeded to gear up for a day on the river. I pulled on my light down North Face coat and added my rain shell as a windbreaker, however, I made the mistake of ignoring my fingerless woolen gloves and billed hat with earflaps. During our afternoon on the river I would regret this uncharacteristic neglect. The temperature, when we began our hike up the dirt road, was around 45 degrees, but the wind was already gusting with great frequency.

Entry Point to Long Pool

After a short hike we cut down to the river on a steep path. I planned to begin in some attractive pocket water, but a man and woman stopped there before us, so we adjusted and advanced upstream a short distance to a nice pool with a deep run along the western shoreline. Nate rigged with a yellow fat Albert and prince nymph, and I copied his offerings, but I added a third fly in the form of a sparkle wing RS2. We covered the pool and the entering riffles and run thoroughly over the next twenty minutes, but the fish were inattentive. As this scene transpired, the fly fishing couple below us abandoned the pockets and moved past us toward the terrific long pool that I had my eyes on for lunch and the early stages of an anticipated blue winged olive hatch. I decided to move downstream to the pocket water to introduce Nate to some dry/dropper prospecting in faster structure. We spent another twenty minutes casting our rigs in deep runs and pockets among large exposed boulders, and Nate temporarily hooked a small rainbow on the prince, but our efforts were otherwise fruitless. During this time I attempted to act as a guide and directed Nate’s casts to certain areas and explained the logic of why these locations were likely trout homes. Also a head wind made casting a challenge, and I suggested that Nate pause longer on his backcast to load his rod, and this small adjustment greatly improved his casting distance and accuracy.

After completing our exploration of the pocket water, we progressed up the river to the long pool which had by now been abandoned by the man and woman that began below us. We found a large round rock and downed our lunches at noon, and we observed the pool expectantly. Sure enough toward the end of lunch, we noticed a smattering of rises toward the upper and midsection of the pool. After lunch we both removed our dry/dropper configurations, and we both tied on CDC blue winged olive dry flies to hopefully dupe the residents of the long pool. Our lunch time was probably the nicest weather of the day, as the sun broke through, and the temperature spiked around fifty degrees. From 12:30PM until 4PM, the weather followed a steady downward trajectory from the standpoint of human comfort, but a significant upswing for the bad weather-loving mayflies that prompted gluttonous feeding from the trout.

Early Success

Between 12:30 and 2:00 Nate and I feverishly cast to rising trout in the long pool. I managed to land four respectable trout, and Nate brought a rainbow to his net after quite a few temporary connections. This period of fishing was by no means a walk in the park, as I probably made twenty-five fruitless casts for every successful take. I toggled back and forth between the CDC BWO and a Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film as a dry fly, but each fly was consistently ignored with only an intermittent favorable response. During this time we both struggled to track our tiny CDC BWO flies, so we each added a hippie stomper as the front fly and trailed the small BWO imitation on an eight inch dropper, and this improved our ability to track our flies immeasurably. This ploy remained in effect for the remainder of the day, but unfortunately there was a heavy price to pay in lost flies, as five hippie stompers were left behind in the mouths of trout or in bankside bushes. In my case two stompers parted ways, when I set the hook on feeding fish. I only had myself to blame, as I was being cheap and using 5X tippet that a salesman gave me at the Fly Fishing Show two years ago. I failed to abide by the axiom to replace monofilament every season, and using an off brand that I never tested was probably another big mistake. One of the first things I did on Thursday was to buy a new spool of Scientific Anglers 5X.


Lots of Fish in This Area

Another Take

By 2:00PM a lull in surface feeding prompted us to explore new water, so we hiked up the river for fifty yards until we reached another favorite pool just below the huge bend pool. Two fishermen were perched along the north bank of the bend pool, so we paused in the lower water and observed for a few minutes. As expected, we began to note rises in the lower section and along the eastern shoreline, so we spaced ourselves apart and began lobbing casts to our targeted feeders. I managed a fine brown trout from the gut of the pool just before the main current deflected off some large boulders, and Nate once again tallied some temporary connections. I also set the hook on a sip on a downstream drift, but the fish turned immediately, as I lifted, and both flies parted from my line. Needless to say, I was not pleased with this turn of events.

A Second Pool to Explore

Long and Slender

By 2:30PM we had flogged the lower pool mercilessly, and the fish were in a rest period, so we once again waded up the river to the large bend pool. The two anglers had by now departed, so we had the entire honey hole to ourselves. For the last 1.5 hours we fired cast after cast to the upper and middle sections of the pool. By now the weather had transformed from intermittent periods of nastiness to constant misery. The wind gusted relentlessly and snow squalls pelted the surface and our beings with small white pellets. Our feet and hands quickly morphed into stumps and claws, and tying knots became an exercise in manipulating stiff fingers. Of course, the worse the weather, the happier the fish. Wave after wave of baetis mayflies emerged and tumbled across the surface, and the trout were completely tuned in. Once again my conversion rate was pathetic, as I probably executed twenty-five empty drifts for every take, but the effort was worthwhile, when shimmering wild trout rested in my net.


Big Smile

I moved my fish count from five to ten, and several of the netted fish were gorgeous ink spotted brown trout in the thirteen inch range. Nate, meanwhile exhibited the characteristics of a newly addicted fly fisherman, as he persevered through the inclement weather to land a magnificent brown trout in the fifteen inch range. In addition, he reported quite a few temporary hook ups, so the numbers could have easily doubled or tripled with a higher conversion rate. The look of pride on Nate’s face, as he cradled the appreciated brown trout said it all.

Midsection of the Big Bend Pool

Dave Displays a Catch

At one point we attempted to abandon the bend pool to explore another favorite area upstream, but when we rounded the bend, we discovered another angler stationed in our desired destination. We quickly retreated to the bend pool to resume our pursuit of trout. By 4PM the cadence of rises waned to sporadic rises, and our feet and hands were screaming for relief. We agreed that the prospect of heated seats and warm hands outweighed the  expectation of landing more trout, so we reversed our direction and eventually returned to the car.

Centered in the Net

My success rate on Wednesday was not as high as that which I experienced on my previous two trips to Eleven Mile Canyon, but I was more than pleased with the results. Being able to observe Nate’s introduction to the canyon and a heavy mayfly hatch was very rewarding, and I am certain that he is a confirmed fly fishing addict. The wind and cold were more adverse than the conditions I faced on Friday, April 14, yet we persisted and enjoyed a successful day. For some reason strong wind always seems to impact my ability to fool trout on tiny blue winged olive imitations, and I suspect movement plays a significant role in this letdown. Perhaps Nate can help me solve the challenge of catching trout during windy conditions with blue winged olive imitations.

Fish Landed: 10