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

2 thoughts on “South Platte River – 04/24/2023

  1. Tim Crist

    Hi Dave… Was doing some research on New Zealand for our upcoming trip in 2024 and came acrosss your blog. I would love to pick your brain about your 2018 trip and suggestions for fishing. This is my 2nd trip and my first trip in 2013 looked a lot like yours. This time, we are planning on spending 8 to 10 weeks and focusing on fly fishing and hiking. Feel free to contact me via email and at some point I’d love to talk with you if possible. I’m a fellow Coloradoan too!


    1. wellerfish Post author

      Hi Tim – I’m quite flattered that you wish to pick my brain regarding my 2018 trip, since it sounds like you did essentially the same thing I did and now you are going for 8 – 10 weeks. It sounds like you may have more experience than me! But at any rate send emails my way. I’d love to answer you questions. I’ll send you an email outside of WordPress, so we can correspond privately. Dave

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