South Platte, Cutbow Phat

I’d been in Colorado for a few years before I took my first trip to the “Dream Stream” but had heard plenty about it. The vista is stunning. Hurricane force winds can and will appear out of nowhere. That section of the South Platte River is full of huge, wary fish. And the folks I talked to were right. The scenery is wildly breathtaking – the river winds through a valley surrounded by perpetually snowcapped peaks, most of which you don’t notice until you pass the herds of grazing antelope, dodge moose-sized elk in the roads, share a few quiet pools with curious, resident muskrats and the occasional pair of geese, or have a standoff with a jack-rabbit. Then there’s the wind – it whips up after noon and can and will cause your flies to smack you in the back of the head. As for the fish…

Until now I hadn’t had a lot of experience with them. My first couple of trips had produced little to talk about (with the exception of one feisty brown that pounded a streamer minutes before quitting time). I chalked it up to getting the water “dialed in” and my lack thereof. Yesterday made me feel lucky.

cutthroat-19 rainbow-20 chunky-cutbow

We hooked up on more than a dozen sizable fish, and size seemed to be the only thing biting (no complaint here). There were no dinks this day, but there were plenty of cutbows (and a lone rainbow) that looked guilty of eating them. We were run downsteam on several occasions, including two mad scrambles through sections of split stream full of rocks, and one fish that took me around two bends and through two human occupied pools (apologies were sincere, if frenetic) after swallowing the trailing fly and snagging the lead on her underbelly.

berg-and-cutbowThe Australian, fresh off his first catch ever, shook a few more bad habits and picked up an even worse one – stepping into holes just vacated by other fishermen and hooking up immediately. As if his head couldn’t get any bigger, we wound up impressing the authorities to boot. A park ranger ambled by, checking licenses – out of the ten or so anglers within eyeshot, for some reason he picked us last. As it turned out, his conversations with the others produced a consistent response…“We’re not having much luck, but those guys over there are on fire.” After the license request, he quizzed us on fly selection – he was also donning waders, which made us think he was soon headed back to his vehicle for a rod.

Last but certainly not least, we ran into a father and son team who were friendly as could be. They noted some success, which made me quite happy. Reason: I figured they must be good folks because they had two of the most adorable dogs in tow. These twin pups seemed to be having the time of their lives, bounding through the stream with their owners, and taking intermittent breaks lying in the tall grass. As much as I love the sight of fish in my net and good friends with fish in their hands, watching those dogs frolic really made my day.

fisherman-and-his-dogs
The real South Park – sportsman and best friends