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