Gazette Article - How To Properly Handle Trout!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Breath Of Fresh Water Part 1

Photo by Kristen Patrocky
 The South Platte River is an amazing fishery with great variety and abundant challenges that keep anglers coming back.  One particular stretch of this river was devastated by a massive fire in 2002.  The Hayman fire was the largest and most destructive fire ever recorded in Colorado history. The debris and sediment from the fire that washed into the South Platte from Cheesman Reservoir down past the town of Deckers laid waste to what was once a healthy trout population that called this stretch home.  After the fire came flooding which added insult to injury by spilling tons more sediment into the river from Deckers down stream and fishermen of all types began to wonder if the once legendary fishing in this region would ever recover. 

Ask anybody fortunate enough to fish Deckers before all that destruction and they will tell you about the glory days when abundant plant life produced great beatis and trico hatches and the fishing was epic. Most experienced guides and fishermen like Colorado Springs resident and professional guide Rick Murphy who has seen Deckers in its prime agree that quote "it will never be the same river".  Anglers Covey shop manager Steve Gossage told me that he talked to a fishery biologist that said it would take at least 25 years for Decker's to make a complete recovery.  

Photo by Kristen Patrocky
 Every single person that said Deckers will never be the same is still right.  Years later it isn't the same river but It has made some semblance of a recovery.  The water is a lot cleaner than it used to be and a lot of the vegetation and bug life that was prevalent before the Hayman fire has been replaced by gravel and wood debris.  The same gravel and wood debris that several different caddis flies use to make cases. 

In-fact the caddis hatch has become so thick above the town of Deckers in the spring that it rivals the famous "Mother's Day" hatch on the Arkansas River.  If your fishing a nymph rig and you hit bottom you have my 100 percent guarantee that you will come up with a caddis case every time... Just kidding.  Never trust a fishermen that claims he is good with numbers.  Especially when it comes to the measurement of inches and pounds.   You will notice that a good portion of the times your rig scrapes bottom you'll have either an empty or full caddis case attached to your hook.  In other words there is still great dry fly fishing to be had here if you fish in the spring or during a calm late summer/fall evening.

There are still sparse beatis hatches as well, however I haven't seen a single trico hatch anywhere lower than the family hole in lower Cheesman Canyon which is a few miles up river from Deckers past the Wigwam club.  The Wigwam club owns a private stretch of the S. Platte which is located between Decker's and Cheesman and is known for holding large browns and rainbows that will occasionally stray down or up river where there is public access.  Fish like this lit up rainbow landed is a common occurrence!

Photo by Jon Kleis


Jon Easdon owner of Blindside Ski and
Snowboards taking a break from the
Slopes to play in slightly less frozen
I recently went on a winter trip to Deckers and found beatis and midges with eager and respectable trout.  It was a gorgeous 45 degree day with no wind and lots of sun.  The kind of day most winter warriors dream of.  We put in at the first parking area above the bridge and worked our way up stream while throwing a combination of either a red SanJuan worm or an apricot Bling Bug followed by small red midges or a gray RS-2. 

Jon E. and I are not the only people aware of the fact that this place is still fishing great and due to it's close proximity to Denver Deckers receives a lot of pressure from anglers, and even though there is a lot of fishable water most of these trout have first and last names and zip codes.  One of the things I have never minded as long as other anglers demonstrate proper fishing etiquette is the crowds.  Pressure on the fish means they will be tougher to catch and I enjoy the challenge.  As Jon Easdon said when I met up with him soon after he released a fish "I forgot how much fricken fun this is!".

A client of mine with a nice rainbow that fell for a red midge.

It is common practice by guides and fishermen that live within reasonable driving distance during the peak of summer to not take trips or fish in the area if flows are low and water temps are high so as to give the trout the best possible chance for survival.  If the flows and temps are adequate casting a nymph rig with some form of PMD (like a pheasant tail nymph) with a midge dropper behind it (such as Murphy's Bubbleback midge) in faster pocket water can be deadly.  If your one of those guys that just wants to throw big beefy streamers looking for bigger fish then the summer months can be a great time for that as well.
Murphy's Bubbleback Midge

To be continued...

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