Of the four of us who traveled to Colorado to fish the legendary stretches of the South Platte River, I was the most senior of the group, and Doover2 was the youngest. Doover1 and Waymore were much closer to my age than Doover2’s. But not only was there a generational gap between D2 and the rest of us, there was also a technology gap.
I’m not exactly helpless with technology, and neither is Doover1 nor Waymore. But Doover2 is in a whole different league, which may be why he is a research scientist at MIT. When we committed to our trip in Colorado, Doover2 went into full research mode. He studied all the rivers in Colorado, made maps of the ones that looked most promising, calculated distances, and reported his findings with charts and graphs. He also watched hundreds of YouTube videos of people catching large quantities of massive trout in Colorado rivers. He read every fishing report that was available and knew all the fly recommendations of the local guides.
D2 was as giddy as a kid who looks into his parent’s closet the week before Christmas and sees evidence of everything he’d ever hoped for. Having visited a few destination rivers and having had my hopes popped like a balloon at all of them, I felt it was my role to help re-set Doover2’s expectations. “Not everyone has the same success as the guys on the videos.” “We can’t fish every river. You can’t catch fish while you are driving your car.” “These trout have seen it all; we will be lucky to catch a few.”
Doover2 does not deflate easily. But he also didn’t hold my Donnie-Downer, old-man-pessimism against me. I guess after a couple of years of fishing with me, he’s used to it.
We had a bit of a tug of war when it came to deciding where to fish. I had fished portions of the river before, and I had friends who were giving me tips and advice. D2 had his research.
The location of our lodging also dictated where it was practical to fish and where it wasn’t. After hashing it out a few times before we left Boston, we were pretty much in agreement on which sections of the river to fish. I think it helped Doover2 that he was going to stay a few extra days in Colorado and could fish anywhere he wanted to on those days.
Having figured out the big picture of where we wanted to fish, we left it up to Doover2 and his research to work out the details. He became the lead driver since he had pinpointed all the key access points and the best routes with his GPS. It was relaxing just to follow him and not worry too much about where we were going. He would research the restaurants to find out which ones had the gluten-free options. He would look at the ratings for the three fly shops in Woodland Park before deciding which one to go to.
Sometimes his research really paid off, and sometimes it was maddening. For instance, one night we were starving, and he took us to three successive Mexican restaurants based on their ratings. All three were closed on Monday nights. We drove past the very visibly open Taco Bell four times before D2 relented and we stopped there.
On the third day, we followed Doover2 to the Dream Stream portion of the South Platte. On the map, the Dream Stream is located between Spinney Mountain Reservoir and Eleven Mile Reservoir. I imagined it to be in a lush mountain canyon, somewhat like Cheesman. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As we were following Doover2’s car west on Hwy 24 through a mountainous area, we passed through Wilkerson Pass at 9507 ft. of elevation. None of us was prepared for the beautiful vista before us.
On the other side of the pass, a vast, beautiful high mountain basin opened up. It was about 40 miles wide: a grassland flat filled the middle with mountains surrounding it. I later found out that this incredible geological feature was formed by glaciers and was known as South Park. Yes, the very same South Park as the animated TV show was named after.
The reservoirs and the Dream Stream cut through the middle of South Park. As we drove up to an empty parking lot near the river, I started looking around for some bushes that might offer a little privacy with which to relieve myself. The nearest tree or bush was about 10 miles away. So much for modesty.
We walked about 40 yards to the river, following a well-worn trail. Looking in either direction, the river snaked back and forth through the flat terrain and looked to be about 18” deep all the way across with high grass on both banks. There was a scarcity of structure and rocks in the river, but we later found that the river bed varied in depth and got deep in some of the bends.
I was the first one to the river and decided to begin casting above a solitary rock that was situated out in the middle. From what I had heard from my friends, we’d be lucky to catch any of the wary trout in the Dream Stream, so I was quite surprised when a 10-incher came up and took my X-Caddis dry fly on the first cast. It managed to extricate itself from my hook before it got to my net, but I was excited to relay the info to my buddies as they were tying on their flies.
I thought that was all the excitement I would have for the day, but not long after, I caught another similar-sized trout from the same spot. Soon the other guys were getting takes quite regularly too, but all the trout were about 10”. This is not what I was expecting.
Waymore and Doover1 decided to go considerably upstream to try their luck up there. Doover2 was getting lots of action on his X-Caddis. He has a knack for spotting trout that are rising. He had an X-Caddis pattern that the trout loved. I had an X-Caddis that was slightly different from his, and the trout were largely indifferent to it.
D2 showed me a pod of rising trout that I hadn’t noticed and let me have first dibs on them. I had several rises and refusals, but I could see that they were all relatively small. Meanwhile, he was working a deep outside bend and getting some consistent rises on his dry fly. I began fishing behind him with a dry dropper and started catching a few in the deep water on a Juju Baetis dropper that were a size larger than we had been seeing before.
Just when the action was starting to heat up, I heard Doover2 yell, “I’ve lost my cell phone.”
I thought to myself, “I hope he finds it,” as I kept fishing. Then I started feeling a little guilty for not helping him look for it, and I said, “Do you need some help?” as I kept fishing. I couldn’t hear what D2 responded, but I’m pretty sure he was saying he didn’t need any help, so I kept fishing.
Eventually, I put down my rod and walked along the trail, looking for his phone. He said the last time he remembered having it was when he stopped to take a picture of a nearby mule deer. Amazingly, even though we were in the middle of nowhere, we had cell phone coverage. I began calling his phone, but it was to no avail because he had his ringer off.
Then Doover2 did something that blew my mind. I can only explain what he did, but I can’t explain how he did it. He got in his rental car and drove 45 miles back to our lodge. Somehow, on his computer at the lodge, he calls me up. He sends me a text message with a map on it which shows the location of his cell phone. He guides D1, Waymore, and myself through some thick, waist-high vegetation to where his cellphone was patiently waiting on us.
Much rejoicing followed. We never would have found it in a year of searching without the GPS guidance. And as for Waymore, D1, and myself, we had a whole new respect for Doover2 and his technological savvy.
While Doover2 was driving back to the lodge to do his magic with his computer, Doover1, Waymore, and I got together to have lunch and exchange notes. D1 and Waymore had been catching dozens of rising trout on a small parachute Adams.
After lunch, we went back to see if we could duplicate their success with the Adams, but the trout had closed shop for the day. Maybe it was getting too warm. It’s still a mystery why we caught so many small trout in a stretch that’s supposed to feature large and wary trout. Maybe the larger trout were further upstream. Who knows?
After finding Doover2’s cell phone, we decided to fish that afternoon in a section of the river called “Tomahawk.” It was about 20 miles from the Dream Stream and might as well have been on a different planet. It was much smaller. At places, one could have jumped over the whole stream without getting one’s feet wet. It wound back and forth through a flat meadow, and my guess is that it would only hold small trout. Wrong again.
D2 was still driving back from the lodge when the rest of us arrived at Tomahawk. Since I was a little worn out from all our fishing, and since it was a fairly hot afternoon, I decided to wet wade the Tomahawk. I left my cell phone in the car, but I wish I hadn’t.
Because I can be an idiot sometimes, I decide to take my tightline nymphing rod instead of my dry fly rod with me down the long, steep hill from the parking lot to the river. D2 and Waymore decided to fish downstream while I started fishing upstream.
I tried some of the deeper runs in the stream but wasn’t getting any action with the small nymphs I was fishing. I switched out the upper nymph for a beetle dry pattern and immediately began catching small browns and rainbows on the beetle.
I cast into a spot where some shallow riffles spilled into a three-foot-deep run. I saw a large trout come up and inspect my beetle and disappear down into the deep water. It’d been my experience that once trout inspect a fly and refuse it, they don’t bother with it anymore. I caught a small trout in the same spot and was getting ready to move to the next run.
On my third last cast into that run, the large trout shot up from the bottom and attacked the beetle with a vengeance. I would like to have a picture of that 18″+ trout because it was a beauty, but my iPhone was back in the car.
I continued to have success with the beetle. Waymore, D1, and D2 eventually joined me, and we found that every bend had at least one trout in it. After a while, I was ready to call it a day. As I was fishing my way back to the car, I noticed several large fish rising in an area just below where I had begun fishing. I had an LDR, but aside from that, my beetle was ignored by the trout as they were busily feeding on something else.
I tried several different dry flies and eventually had a large trout rise to a Mole fly. It put up a good fight and spooked all the other fish in the run. Then I felt something give and I thought I had lost it, only to find that now it was foul-hooked in the tail.
There are three things that are almost impossible to do: climb a ladder that’s leaning towards you, kiss a woman who’s leaning away from you, and net a large trout that’s foul-hooked in the tail. Eventually, I corralled it and realized it was my first ever cutthroat. It took some of the sense of accomplishment out of it, knowing that it was foul-hooked.
As we gathered in the parking lot, we all felt like it’d been a great day. We’d seen some beautiful country. We had all been successful catching trout at both places we fished. We had found Doover2’s cell phone. And now, we were starved, and thank goodness, Doover2 was going to quickly guide us to the best Mexican restaurant in town.
I never expected this account of our Colorado trip to expand to four parts. Originally, I was planning to make it a one-and-done, like Jo’s epic Montana article. But I got carried away with the first one, and after that I lost all self-control. If you have read all four parts, you are long-suffering indeed. We actually had another day-and-a-half of fishing after the Tomahawk. But I think I’ve stretched this out far enough already and tested the patience of the blog’s readers.
I’ll probably write the rest of it up so us old guys will be able to remember what happened in a few years. If you want to read the final episode, Part 5, let me know.