Colorado Dreaming, Part 1

After a couple of good outings on the Deerfield, Farmington, or Swift, it’s tempting to think that one’s fly fishing expertise has risen to the next level. When catching a few skittish trout, one begins to think, “I bet George Daniel or Pat Dorsey couldn’t have caught those trout.” After posting a few nice trout pics on Instagram, one might consider moving to Montana to become a guide.

The four amigos at Deckers, from left to right – Doover2, Doover1, Waymore, Bill

Every golf enthusiast would love to try their game at The Masters or Pebble Beach. Every backyard barbecue chef wants to beat Bobbly Flay. Every fly fisherman wants to know how he would do on the most challenging rivers. We all want to see how our game matches up against the best. There’s only one way to find out.

When the necessity for a short trip in late August to Colorado Springs arose, I immediately began thinking of how to extend the trip so that I could take my skills to some of the Gold Medal stretches of the South Platte River.

I also convinced three fly fishing buddies to join me: Doover1, Doover2, and Waymore. We leased a three-bedroom VRBO for four nights that was a 30 to 60 minute drive from the premier fishing spots along the South Platte: Deckers, Cheesman Canyon, Dream Stream, Eleven Mile Canyon, and Tomahawk.

Early efforts at tying size 24 JuJu Baetis

Even with the vast amount of collective expertise and wizard-like instincts amongst us, everyone but Waymore studied maps, read Colorado fishing blogs and reports, and tied up oversized Chubby Chernobyls and undersized midges before leaving on our trip. We were determined to be ready for anything the persnickety and monstrous Colorado trout were eating. We were going to catch big ones by the dozens. We were dreaming.

Our first stop on Saturday after we flew into Colorado was at Deckers, a section of the South Platte that was relatively close to the Denver airport. The highway follows the river for about six miles north of town. We parked our rental cars at a random, fishy-looking spot and began pulling our gear out of our suitcases. Within a half hour, the four of us had spread out along the river.

All of us but Waymore were following the advice of the fishing report gurus and using dry/dropper combos, with Chubby Chernobyls on the top and tiny midges below.

First South Platte rainbow to fall for a Chubby Chernobyl on our trip.

Things started out well for me as I caught a nine-inch brown trout on the fourth cast. It took a size 24 Juju Baetis. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “These Colorado trout aren’t so tough.” Over the course of the next hour, I landed another on the Juju Baetis and one on the Chubby. Both were in the 10” range. I figured that the bigger fish were yet to come. I was dreaming.

Actually, very few fish after that were yet to come. I fished the river hard for a couple of hours with no more bites. Doover1 was fishing near me and had caught only one small brown.  Doover2 signaled from way upstream that he had caught three and that Waymore had caught five and lost quite a few more. Eventually, I caught up with Waymore and asked what he’d been having success with.

The problem was that Waymore couldn’t tell me what he was catching them on. He doesn’t know the name of the flies. He is the best fisherman among us, but he dropped out of fly fishing school in kindergarten.

Doover1 with his first trout of the trip

“I caught four on a brown and black thingy and three on a little grayish-brown thing with shiny ribbing on it.” After I looked at his flies, I realized he was using what I would have used were I fishing this same type of stream in New England: a Pat’s Rubber Legs and a Sexy Walt’s Worm. I’m not sure how Waymore chooses what fly to use, but he is almost always right. I’m thinking he has a little wizard in him.

After discovering what Waymore was catching trout on, we all shifted to traditional nymph fishing and caught a few more fish before a thunderstorm chased us away. After the storm ended, we stopped at a couple of other spots along the road, but the trout had lost their appetites. And we were fading too, after having gotten up very early for our morning flights from the east coast.

We totaled 20 fish for the day; all were small except for Doover2’s 15” brown and a couple of big ones that got away.  The lesson for the day was not to confine myself to the advice of the gurus.  Let my vast experience and uncanny instincts, along with the guru’s tips, be my guide.

Doover2’s big trout of the day that he caught on an X-Caddis.

We grabbed a bite at Jimmy John’s in Woodland Park before finding our way to our VRBO lodge, which was as nice as advertised. Three large bedrooms and a fourth bed in a nook on the second floor.

We nestled our heads with thoughts of catching copious, large trout in Cheesman Canyon and on the Dream Stream the next day. We were definitely dreaming.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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13 thoughts on “Colorado Dreaming, Part 1

  1. wow…the bucket list… lambs in the wilderness…. only one thing missing.. Pat Dorsey off your
    Left shoulder pointing out fish you can’t see and oh ya… me…. the Georgia boy netting your fish for you!

  2. Have fished there three times and never, ever done well. Maddening, but of course if I was invited this afternoon to go again, I’d be there in a hot second.

  3. Years ago when I fished Eleven Mile Canyon I hired a guide for 1/2day. When he went up to the car I cut off the trico and put on a Usual. Even out there that fly works! Really surprised the guide as it was an unknown pattern to him (and I suppose those educated trout too)!

    1. We hit the Eleven Mile Canyon the next day. Stay tuned for my afternoon of misery there. Should have tried the Usual.

  4. Bill should have pointed out there were gale force winds when we fished the South Platte at Deckers on Saturday. Likely why I only caught two trout. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Even though I did not land many trout, the trip and company were great! Thanks Bill for organizing the outing.

    1. Actually, I had forgotten about the strong winds. Thanks for the reminder, D1. About half the time at the end of a drift, my chubby chernobyl would lift off the water with the 6x tippet and start flying like a kite.

  5. While Elevenmile and Tomahawk area are pretty and nice looking water, I’ve found the Dreamstream to be the best with bigger fish. The best game in town. I also experienced gale force winds on the South Platte on the plain above Spinney. I looked like the guys on the Weather Channel leaning into the wind covering a hurricane. Tough to cast, tough to walk.

      1. The last time I was there I caught one 10″er with near perfect conditions. Go figure. It happens to us all. Keep dreaming.

  6. Sweet dreams, nonetheless. Sometimes fishing is a lot like golf; you can have the worst round ever, but it only takes one good swing or one dumb trout in a beautiful location to make it all worth while. Gorgeous scenery, good friends, cold water, and rod in hand sounds like a dream I’d take any day. I think I’ll have to stow away in your bag next time and hitch a ride out west!

    1. Chris, as you know, there’s always a spot for you on any trip I’m on, fishing or otherwise. We need to take a road trip to one of these challenging rivers together sometime. Surely, we can find at least one trout that will fall for a Pats.

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