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11 Mile Canyon survey
Surveying some pools in 11 Mile Canyon

Report of the Memorial Weekend Dream Stream Trip

By David Morse

Six TU members made it to the South Park area on Memorial Day weekend. We fished at the Tomahawk access on the Middle Fork of the South Platte, the “Dream Stream” between Spinney and Eleven Mile Reservoirs, and the Eleven Mile Canyon below Eleven Mile Reservoir. Bruce Rosenthal graciously put us up at his cabin located at 11,000 feet elevation, west of Hoosier Pass, above Alma. Dennis Cook organized the trip, and, in addition to Bruce, was joined by Paul Wehr, Ben Zomer, Gil Coleman and me.

Tomahawk proved to have high roily water that was off-color from the Spring runoff. No fish were caught. Ben assured us that at the right time of year, this area holds good fish that migrate out of Spinney in the Spring and Fall. We fished at a small reservoir above Alma after dinner. Picky fish, here, dimpled on the lake but refused most of our offerings. The outlet was more productive on midge nymphs, especially for Ben.

Fish eye view
The next day we headed to the Dream Stream, which lived up to its reputation as a technical fishing location. Water flows were very low at about 45 cfs and the water was very clear, which put fish on high alert. This minimal release was created as most of the upstream flow was retained at Spinney Reservoir.

Resident fish up to 18" were caught, sparingly, on small flies like midge nymphs, scuds and BWO's. Sight fishing from the bank helped to locate fish, although deeper holding structures and runs were also productive. Ben Zomer had the best day with hook-ups on both small nymphs and dries, though the others managed a couple of fish. After a long day of casting and a lot of walking to search for fish, we called it a day. We ate at a forgettable BBQ joint in Fairplay.

Fish in hand
A fish in hand is worth…
Sunday, we headed to the Eleven Mile Reservoir dam tailwaters in Eleven Mile Canyon. The scenery was spectacular with huge granite cliffs and rounded blocks, bigger than a Volkswagen. The water was crystal clear and the flow was modest. When we arrived, fish were rising in all the flat water areas. Visible fish in the pools and riffles were abundant, but proved to be picky for some of us. Gil figured out how to catch them with his orange scud and midge emerger combinations, ending up with over a dozen fish brought to hand. Some women opposite him on a productive riffle gave us all a good lesson as they pulled fish after fish out at the head of the pool just below the riffle, using a #20 or #22 Snowshoe Rabbit emerger. They gave Gil a sample fly, which worked for him as well. The rest of us dug into our fly boxes for something similar, but did not have the success of Gil. We all caught fish here, out best day. We celebrated at the Fairplay Steak House and had the best meal of the trip.
At dinner, Bruce entertained us with a story, we called “Trout at the Sand Bar, a tale from a Trout's Viewpoint”. It was so funny we almost split a gut. Bruce recreated the ad lib story as follows, but the enjoyment was more in the live telling of the tale.

Have you ever wondered what a Trout thinks about after a hard day of “Fishing”?? Trout were hanging out at the Sand Bar swapping fish tales: “What a great day I had. Spotted this fisherman on the bank; had to go 250 pounds or more. I saw his fly and bumped it a couple of times. He pulled so hard that he yanked the fly completely out of the water. I jumped out of the water to watch the fisherman flailing his fly rod as if he was trying to lasso a steer. The fly somehow landed, again, several yards from me. I grabbed the fly: GAME ON!!

“I took off upriver, with the fisherman in hot pursuit, ducking under fly rods and tripping over dogs, stepping on toddlers. I jumped to hear him yell “I got ”em, I got ’em.” I just love to hear an Orvis fly Reel sing. Once I knew I had him well into his backing I ducked under some logs, while I let him rest. As he tried to reel me in, I headed out to fast water. I swam like a torpedo down stream, with the fisherman reeling in slack as fast as I stripped it off.

“As he chased me down stream, I jumped again and thought that this guy was going to have a heart attack; so I decided to break him off. He was pulling so hard that I saw him fall backward on his @$$. I would have laughed, but then I’d get water up my nose. It’s so much fun to “hook up” with humans; I only wish I could keep one.

“At least I got to keep his fly.”

A lovely cutthroat
Thanks, Bruce, we often wonder what trout are thinking as we fools attempt to chase them down, catch and then release them at considerable expense in time, energy and bucks. Monday we packed up after Bruce cooked a delicious breakfast. We headed back to Eleven Mile Canyon because of the great scenery and abundant fish. Paul and Dennis fished the lower canyon and had some success. Gil and I went back to the tail water below the dam. Gil’s success continued. He even had a hook-up while eating a snack when his rod was on the ground and the fly was dangling downstream. Now that is luck! I struggled for my fish, a beautiful cut-bow. We headed home in the mid-afternoon, expecting huge traffic delays from the returning weekenders. Colorado Springs was congested, but once north of town, we flew home with no trouble getting through Denver.

11 Mile Canyon
A section of 11 Mile Canyon
It was a great trip for all of us. We made new friends, fished new waters (for some of us), caught some beautiful fish, learned a few new flies to tie, and had cozy evenings of banter, fly tying, and star gazing at Bruce’s cabin. Thanks TU for a memorable trip. See you next time.
See future Fishing Trips.

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Last updated on 16 Jun, 2013