Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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