Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is an apropos saying for Friday, April 14, 2023. After a very enjoyable outing on 04/10/2023, during which I encountered a decent blue winged olive hatch, I was on the lookout for another opportunity. When I reviewed my calendar for the remainder of the week of April 10, I was disappointed to realize that I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday and tickets to the Cardinals vs. Rockies game on Wednesday followed by Theo Thursday, when my wife and I babysit for our grandson. All that remained was Friday, but a quick review of the weather created reservations that this senior fly fisherman could tolerate the wintry conditions. The high in Lake George was predicted to peak at 49 degrees, and the probability of rain during the afternoon was 50% or greater. Wind in the low teens suggested another adverse factor to a day of fishing in the narrow canyon. On the other hand these conditions were the very same ones that prompt heavy blue winged olive hatches. I decided to make the trip, as I rationalized that I could always quit and return home, if the conditions were too wet and cold.
I departed the house by 8:00AM and arrived at my favorite pullout along the South Platte River by 10:30AM. I was pleasantly surprised to encounter partly sunny skies, and the dashboard temperature registered 44 degrees. With the prospect of rain in the afternoon, I bundled up in my fleece hoodie and North Face light down, and I snugged my billed cap with earflaps tight over my head. I stuffed fingerless wool gloves in my pockets and added my rain shell and lunch to my backpack. I was ready for the worst.
I hiked up the dirt road for .3 mile and dropped down a path to the edge of the river next to some pocket water and immediately rigged with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and size 18 crystal stone. A short stint of prospecting the pockets failed to produce any interaction with the trout, so I exchanged the crystal stone for a size 20 sparkle wing RS2. I worked my way up the river to a normally productive pool, and on a cast to the entering run next to the left bank, I saw the fat Albert plunge, and I instantly reacted with a connection to a very fine fifteen inch brown trout. Needless to say I was thrilled with this early action on Friday. The run and riffles failed to generate additional action, so I waded up the river to the long and wide pool with a vertical wall on the west bank. This was the location, where I landed most of my trout on April 10. No surface action appeared, and I found a large slanted rock and downed my small lunch, while I observed the pool and entering run and riffles. At this point the sky was mostly cloudy with occasional patches of blue sky, and the wind gusted on a periodic basis.
After lunch I resumed my dry/dropper prospecting, but I replaced the hares ear with a weighted 20 incher to gain deeper drifts, and I swapped the sparkle wing RS2 for one with a longer wing. I launched fifteen to twenty casts to the top of the run, and I succeeded in hooking another brown trout in the twelve inch range on the RS2. Another shift in location was in order, so I moved to the small run and pool situated midway between the long pool and the large bend pool by the tunnel. Here I experienced a momentary hook up, before I once again waded upstream to the location just below the large bend pool. I ran some drifts along the current seam and through the troughs on either side with no luck, and then I once again moved to the bend pool. I had it to myself, and I was quite pleased with this circumstance. Since a dry/dropper was my current set up, I began at the entering riffles, and a small brown grabbed the RS2 on a twitch in the area, where the riffles fanned out to become a slower moving pool.
At this point I observed three or four dimples on the surface near the midsection of the pool. I continued with the dry/dropper and swung it through the area of the surface rises, but the ploy did not yield favorable results, so I stripped my flies in and converted to a single dry fly, and that choice was a size 22 CDC blue wing olive. While this changeover was in progress, the sky darkened, and suddenly snow pelted the river and me. Instead of snowflakes the frozen precipitation took the form of small white pellets, and the downpour became so dense, that I was unable to see my fly on the surface through the dense curtain of descending tiny white snowballs. I paused and waited for the heavy snowfall to wane.
After five minutes the snow abated enough for me to track my fly, and I began covering the seams in the wide riffle section at the top of the run. The trout were tuned in, and I ratcheted up the fish count from three to seven, and quite a few of these fish were very respectable browns and rainbows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. If I were forced to leave due to the arctic conditions at this point, the day would have been a resounding success. But I persisted, and Friday transformed into a sensational early season outing.
Between 1:30PM and 4:30PM I continued fishing the large bend pool with downstream drifts to the gluttonous feeders. The snowfall came in several waves, but the olives emerged consistently from 1:00PM until I quit at 4:30PM. In fact, rising fish remained at the time of my departure; but my feet, hands and core were so chilled, that I feared for my health. My catch rate stalled at seven, so I decided to test my new found technique of using a soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. I plucked one from my fly box and dabbed floatant to the underside and primped up the wing and tails. It was a stroke of luck, as the fish count soared to twenty, before I quit. After a few landed fish, I was having great difficulty tracking the low floating emerger or cripple, so I placed an olive size 14 hippie stomper on my line and then added an eight inch tippet section to the bend and placed the soft hackle emerger on the point. I could now track the hippie stomper with ease, and I focused my attention on the eight inch radius around the lead fly. In some cases with the downstream cast, the emerger swung around and drifted below the stomper. The technique worked very well and produced thirteen eager eaters that visited my net. There was a period when the soft hackle emerger seemed to fall out of favor, and I switched back to a CDC BWO to catch a few, but eventually I returned to the double dry with the emerger to move the count from fifteen to twenty.
What an afternoon! In addition to experiencing steady dry fly action for three and a half hours, the size of the fish was above average. The ratio of browns to rainbows was around 50/50, and quite a few chunky fish in the thirteen to fifteen inch range graced my net. The skies brightened a bit around 3PM, and the sun even poked through, so that I could shed my wool fingerless gloves for a period, but then more gray arrived, and the wind kicked up thus creating another chill. By the time I quit at 4:30 my body was so stiff that I struggled to step off an exposed rock, and my feet were stumps, while my hands were gnarled claws. In spite of this discomfort I was ecstatic over a twenty fish day landing fish of above average size predominantly on dry flies. In this case I risked a venture during adverse weather and gained one of the best days of the year. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Fish Landed: 20