Thursday, May 19, 2016

South Platte River, Big Wind and Nick's Swanky

Rewind back a week to the only fishing I've been able to squeeze in since leaving Texas in March. This is after all a fly fishing blog and some of you may be getting tired of reading about traveling.
Our Traveling Companion Dominic

Since we started our journey around the country last May I don't usually try to go fishing when we're in Colorado Springs. The goal is usually to get in, get our business done and get back on the road as quickly as possible. This trip through took a little twist and we ended up sitting for a week.

We took care of our normal business with the added chore of getting Dominic, our cat, to the vet for a dental cleaning that turned into multiple extractions. Not wanting to hit the road until he recovered from the anesthesia we added a week to our stay. Not only did that week give me a chance to do a few extra chores around town it also afforded me a chance to hit one of my favorite stretches of the South Platte.

I didn't exactly choose the perfect day to go up to The Charlie Meyers Wildlife Area formerly known as Spinney Mountain Ranch or maybe those signs have always been there I can't say because I have always gone in through the state park.

Midge Larvae From the Guadalupe River
The wind was howling from the moment I arrived. I's not unusual for the wind to be blowing up at South Park but this was more than normal.  So much for my plan to fish a spring dry fly. Up here the river is one of those rivers that on any given day there will be some risers that will take a dry. The addendum to that is you have to be able to make good casts and get good drifts. These trout get fished over very hard throughout the year and won't fall for a bad drift with a dry fly 95% of the time. I say 95% because even I can catch a trout on a dry fly here from time to time.

A Bunch of Nick's Swanky Midges

Not to be thwarted by the gale force winds I took a different approach and went with a dry/dropper rig from the beginning. I'm not much of a nympher or maybe I should say haven't been in the past. This winter I had the opportunity to spend some time with Nick of Nick Fly Fishing. During that time he taught me a thing or two about nymph fishing. For the most part in the past I've avoided nymphing techniques in favor of dries making my own excuses just to keep a dry fly on the water. Though Nick helped me to break that way of thinking -somewhat- I would still much rather see a trout take a fly from the surface: it's a visual thing. That said I'm starting to feel the thrill of suddenly having weight at the end of my line with no other indication of a take. That's a discussion for another time after much more on the water research.

In homage to Nick helping me along on the nymphing trail I opted for the fly he introduced me to on the Guadalupe this winter. One evening Nick texted me a photo of  the overly abundant midge larvae in the Guadalupe River along with the fly he was working on to imitate it. After some collaborative discussion he sent me a photo of the fly that we would eventually call Nick's Swanky Midge. It's a long story how the name came about but it stems from the glass bead head and the sparkling UV collar.

I figured it to be a good place to start given the number of midges in the river. It didn't take long for that decision to pay off but not without some work due to the wind. My first trout, a small cutbow came within 15 minutes of getting started. I can't say the action was fast and furious but it was definite enough to let me know the Swanky Midge was working. In total I was able to land five rainbows and cutbows all about the same size.

The wind was relentless gusting to, I would guess, around 25 mph with a sustain velocity of around 15-18 mph. It didn't take long for the novelty to start wearing off. I had encountered a pod of good size trout feeding on emergers but couldn't get them to take the Swanky deep. I tried it dropped shallow with only one refusal look. Netting the flow showed me exactly what fly they would take but the wind was too brutal to use it. Cast were going awry and the couple that did land well dragged horribly. I was left contemplating going home for the first time ever from this stretch of the South Platte without at least hooking a really good trout.

I started back to the parking lot walking upstream along the bank forcing short casts into the wind rolling off the Spinney Reservoir dam. The sun was approaching the horizon giving some hope of a lull in the wind's velocity but instead it just kept coming. As I rounded what would be my last bend in the river I turned and fired a cast at a favorite large rock in the river close to the far bank. The wind caught my line and catapulted it across dropping my flies just far enough upstream for the Swanky Midge to sink and drift along the back edge of the rock undoubtedly my best cast of the day thanks to the wind. When the Turk's Tarantula stopped and disappeared I lifted the rod thinking the midge was on the rock. Instead of dead weight I felt life, heavy life and it was moving fast downstream on 6X and a size 20 hook.

The trout in the South Platte like to jump when hooked putting on a show and this one did not disappoint. Though not as acrobatic as the browns I've taken here this one completely cleared the water  three times before diving deep into the current and holding there.With the light starting to fade I forced it as much as I dared eventually dragging all 22" of it into the net.

A couple times during the day I thought about calling it in due to the big winds. I'm sure glad I didn't because a fish like this makes it all worth it.

This is definitely one of my favorite stretches of river, anywhere. Nick and I are making plans to hit it in the fall when the browns cruise up from the lower reservoir. Hopefully we'll have some luck, plenty of Swanky Midges and just a little less wind.

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