FireI had heard only rave reports about the 11-Mile Canyon section of the S. Platte River before I made my way down Hwy 67 to Manitou Springs through the burned out areas of the Hayman fire ten years ago. I thought the forests would have recovered more from that devastating fire, but the few rebuilt homes had to be satisfied with some large sticks surrounding them instead of the former thick pine forests.

Rock TunnelI drove to the upper reaches of this section of the river, which falls between Elevenmile Dam and Lake George. The landscape reminded me of the famous Cheesman Canyon that I fished in February with Pat Dorsey, author of the seminal book on the South Platte, A Fly-Fishing Guide to the South Platte River. This area consists of “Pikes Peak Granite,” part of an ancient batholith about a billion years old according to Roadside Geology of Colorado. The magnificent boulders made for spectacular scenery and great pocket-water fishing.

Fish OnEtiquette in the fly-fishing world requires (rightfully so) that you give another angler plenty of room to fish. Unfortunately on the days I visited the canyon, there were few places left to claim where fish would be hanging out. After several attempts at some less than promising looking spots, I ended up at slight riffle that followed a river bend where I was able to land a small number of small fish – not what I had expected from this premier class fishery.

And so it goes. Did I choose the wrong location? The wrong flies? Not enough weight? Had that location already been fished earlier that day? Was my drift unacceptable?

As Albert Schweitzer said, “In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.” I ended up watching the flowers this day.

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