I drove down early to avoid the crowds - and there really weren’t any. The first two hours were completely unproductive, and I changed my rig 3 times before I started getting fish (first, a beaded pheasant tail and red zebra midge; next, a copper john and trico spinner; then, a black bead-head woolly bugger).

At about noon the BWO hatch seemed to stir up, as there were fish sipping the surface. I tied on a dry dropper rig (BWO emerger and black zebra midge) with a small white thingamabobber. It quickly turned into a feeding frenzy with the small browns, and I hooked in to a number of them including some I didn’t set the hook on. I lengthened the bobber a bit and tossed into a deep hole with a bit of a dead drift and pulled out two nice bows nearly on back-to-back casts. I was on the water for about 5 hours and had a stretch of about 100 yards of water to myself the entire time. Overall, it was a wonderful day with lots of sunshine, bug activity, and fish.

Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River
Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River.

Where to Start

I drove down to the Two Tunnels area, which is the second tunnel “area” you drive through (there are actually two tunnels that are within about 30 yards of each other at this spot, so it’s really the third tunnel to be precise). I pulled a u-turn and parked directly in front of the third tunnel facing east out of the park. There is space for one car here, which is perfect for the Outback, and it has a clear view of the entire pool and run I like to fish. If that spot is taken, you can always park about 20 yards back east between the second and third tunnels - there is a pull-off that can maybe fit 2-3 cars snuggly.

To enter the water, you have to descend a pretty hairy looking embankment. The easiest way down that I’ve found is to walk east down the road from the parking spot, pass through the tunnel, and descend a relatively minor decline into some evergreen trees. This puts you out into a very slow piece of water that I haven’t yet fished. You can then traverse the left bank until you see a shallow (but fast) river crossing. Depending on the flow, you can fish this section, or the section just north of the island there, however in slower flows the algae and vegetation is troublesome.

The Spots

Low and Slow

The section of water on the fisherman’s left (facing upstream) is pretty slow and varies in depth. The browns here spooked easily when the line hit the water, so you had to crouch in the water while approaching and casting. I had better luck once they all starting hitting the top, and when the wind would blow and ripple the surface.

The Bubbles

The section of water in the middle of the river runs through a series of large and small boulders, creating some short fast drifts. I had mild luck with some long runs through this section, but also picked up a ton of crap on my hooks when I hit the algae.

Deep Pool One

There is a wide, deep pool as you make your way up river and approach some large boulders on the right bank. There were some very large bows and browns at the bottom of the run, but they didn’t move for me. Also, with the really high wind gusts shooting down the canyon, it was nearly impossible to cast normally. What I ended up doing was walking up the bank, crouching down low, and roll casting as far upstream as I could. I didn’t let much - if any - line out, and instead used a 9 foot tippet. This was because the wind was pushing my line faster than the drift.

Deep Pool Two

Just past the first boulder on the right, there is a huge run that flows between a second boulder and the left cliff/wall. There were definitely some fish activity in this pool, but given the exposure to the wind, I didn’t have any luck here.

The Flats

The first fish I caught was actually in a section of the river just north of the main run. I fished here before one other time and had seen some fish. At this time of year, the flow is very light and the water is only one or two feet deep. The easiest way to get a good approach here is to exit the water on the right bank near the large boulders, walk into the opening below the foothills, and head west. The river snakes a bit and widens, which is what slows down the flow. The best approach here is to stick to pools behind some of the submerged boulders, and work some long runs. Right before this section pours off into “Deep Pool Two”, there is a great section of water that always holds small bows and browns.

Final Thoughts

Get to this spot early in the morning in the springtime and enjoy a cup of coffee and some breakfast (I didn’t bring any, which was a mistake). Take your time gearing up and stick to the “Bubbles” and “Deep Pool One” for most of the day. Be careful on sunny days not to move fast, and be delicate with your casts - the fish here spook crazy easy, and those first few “loud” casts make the next hour difficult. Lastly, stick to a dry-dropper rig with a small bobber. If you don’t see anything on the surface, you can try switching to a copper-dropper, but be sure you are adjusting the float height for each pool you fish.

Updated:

Drive time: 2 hrs

Take I-25 S towards Colorado Springs. Take the exit for US-24 W and follow it towards Lake George. Take a left onto County Road 96 and follow signs for canyon road.

Parking: plenty of pulloffs on Co Rd 96

Other: $6 park entry fee (cash only)