Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the River: Dream Stream, South Platte, Hartsel, CO

October 2, 2010

Theories, all just theories ...

In my quest to understand the Dream Stream section of the South Platte I have yet to reach the end. My experience tells me that it is primarily a Salmon/Steelhead river. Sure, you wouldn't call the rainbows steelhead, but essentially, they don't live in the river, they live in the lake. Same with the browns. My hunch is that the cutthroats do live in the river. I think that at best you can have rainbows and browns coming up river at anytime during the year if the food source is there, but they are most likely migrating up the river for a short period of time to feed.

Having said that, I really do believe you can hit the river just about anytime of the year and get rewarded by a ton of large fish, or stymied by the lack of any fish. While you can hedge your bets by hitting the two spawning seasons (fall for the browns, spring for the rainbows/cutts). Ben and I were met by the reality that in this river, it's anything but a safe bet.

As it turns out, Ben and I had a pretty fun day, but we lacked the large quantities of fish that we've run into in the past. The sun was shining, the wind was relatively calm and we even started out the morning with a pretty heavy cloud of trico's (which seemed pretty late in the year to me, but whatever!) I picked up a few fish on trico's, but none would top the 4" mark so we quickly decided to switch to nymphs and move on upstream.

I had never fished all the way to the upper boundary, so it was my goal to cover some water and see what there was. The morning proved to be fairly uneventful. We spotted one monster, 23" cutthroat that we fished to for a while and I eventually hooked on a gammarus scud, only to pull out within 10 seconds of fighting the fish. In another location I hooked a 15" cutthroat that came to the net, but I fumbled before the photo could be taken. Ben landed a nice brown trout at the upper boundary (no photo again) and I spotted a 20"+ brown that scooted after about 10 casts to it.

All in all we were surprised by the "lack" of fish in the upper stretch.

And so, we found ourselves taking a late lunch and heading down to the lower stretch around 2 PM. With ominous clouds rolling in we didn't have much time in the afternoon. This proved to be sad, because it wasn't too long before we found our magic stride. Ben I and were both hooked up with steady fish on the blacktail baetis. We only ended up with this one photo from the day, mostly because all the fish were around this size and not too camera worthy.

The day ended with smiles, because most of the fish were coming out of shallower riffles, which is always a favorite haunt of mine.

We also had one curious event take place ... as the dark clouds rolled in the flashes of lightning in the distance let us know it was time to go. Ben made his way upstream to my location where I was making just "one or two last casts". As I reached for my line to begin stripping in the slack my finger came within an inch of my hook keeper. The combination of standing in the water on a dry plain composed mostly of metallic soil sent a beam of energy, arcing to my finger that lasted about 3 seconds, accompanied by sound. Needless to say, I immediately bit off my leader above my indicator and we broke down our rods and kept a low profile on our way back to the car.

I don't mind admitting ... it was pretty scary.

Nothing like a brush with death to make you appreciate life!



  1. Really Good read Jeff, sounds like you may have been a victim of the static charge in the air arking through your rod, due to the storm, a mini lightning experiment.
    I have felt it myself and it's scary as hell.

  2. Let me know when you figure that river out. I need some help up there. We missed you at the FF show this weekend!

  3. Yeah, it was exciting and scary at the same time! There was another guy downstream of us ... we never saw him in the parking lot ... I hope he didn't die!

    Rory: Well, if you show up and there are fish in the river then I've got it pretty figured out! We should hit it up sometime. Let me know when you're going down there next and I'll try and meet you.

    Yeah, couldn't make it to the Denver show. Allen Brothers didn't have the money :(
    $1000 is pretty steep! (for us anyway)