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