Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

I spent 2 and a half days fishing Colorado’s South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I made it up in time to secure the last campsite for the weekend—on a Thursday, no less—at Spillway Campground up at the top of the canyon. Then I hit the river in time for an evening caddis hatch. Fish were jumping out of the water as I walked down to the river. An Elk Hair Caddis took quite a few fish, mostly rainbows with a sprinkling of small browns, and a tan worm below a Stimulator accounted for a larger rainbow just before dark.
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Flows were below average but inching up steadily. The water seemed great to me, and I think less water might make fishing a bit difficult. It’s not large water. The next day dawned warm and sunny and I started it off by landing a 16-inch rainbow on a Stimulator in the campground water. I was surprised the fish fell for that fly in that glassy, heavily pressured water, but I was just fishing what was tied on from the night before—sans worm—and it worked. After breakfast I headed downstream to find less company. Most everywhere, there was plenty of company. Sight fishing from the road with the EHC worked, and then went I went deeper. I caught so many fish on sparkly caddis pupae under an indicator (the tan worm accounted for a few as well) that by the time I took an afternoon nap, I pledged dry fly only for the rest of the day.
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On the third day I headed to Lake George for breakfast and ran into a local who told me to check out the nearby Happy Meadows section of the South Platte. The river here was generally a bit more wider, flatter, and open, and didn’t seem to have the numbers of fish as the canyon. I raised a few fish to a yellow sally pattern and landed a little brown on a PMD (I saw naturals of both on the water), and then headed back to the canyon. It was another warm day and a bit breezy so I put on a hopper dropper. The hopper took a couple browns and the caddis nymph still worked. The evening caddis hatch was excellent, again. This time it was accompanied by a spinner fall as well—probably those PMD’s from earlier in the day.
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The next morning I took a little hike up out of the campground that wasn’t too strenuous but really got my sea-level blood pumping. It was worth it for the sunrise view, the bird sounds, and the peace and quiet. The campground in general was a bit noisy and not a great experience. I was lucky to get a spot though as it seems they generally always book up, though there are just a few that are first-come first-served only, which is what I got. The numbers of fish in the canyon seemed really high to this Washington angler, and there’s any type of water you want to fish in there. Want really snooty big fish to sight fish to? There’s lots of that up in the Catch-and-Release water by Spillway Campground. Rapid-filled canyon stretches? Check. Boulder-strewn pocket water and runs? Got that, too. There’s something for everyone. Compared to your average Deschutes redside, or Western Washington resident bow, these Colorado rainbows don’t hold a candle. Almost all the larger fish were pretty beat-up looking from being caught so many times, and often came in without much protest, almost as if they knew the drill. The brown trout, however, were quite a bit warier and generally better looking. I didn’t catch any truly large browns, or even any over 14 or 15 inches. They remain a challenging part of a fun fishery. Oh, and I rented a Dodge Caravan...this thing was a fishing/camping machine. The way the seats folded down inside made it perfect for sleeping in, the side doors both opened for easy access, and I only used one tank of gas all weekend. :thumb:
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Just Another Bubba
do I just copy and paste from here or are you sending me something special?

I love that canyon always a good diversion. There's actually some good fishing in the catch and kill section if you focus on "junk water" that isn't standard bait and hardware locale. Not too far from my cabin.

Yes, I found good fishing in the kill section as well. And not just in the "junk water." I hooked some nice ones in the run just above the pedestrian bridge at that one picnic spot that gets hammered all the time. I think those fish just don't see as many flies--they see more hardware--and thus are perhaps more apt to be fooled by fly fishing tactics. Also I forgot you had a cabin in Colorado. You'll have to tell me about it sometime. And yeah, just cut-n-paste from here if you want to put something up on the Northwest Fly Anglers page and let me know if you need any more pics...you can probably just "Save As" from here.

Thanks to all those whom I consulted...Derek included. Robert from Angler's Covey in CO Springs gave me good fly advice on my way up.


Active Member
Great report and thanks for the beautiful pictures. I am preparing for my Montana trip that is supposed to begin next Sunday but I may not be as lucky as you to fine low enough water levels to play in :(


Active Member
Matt, glad to see you got some fishing in after all. Run-off has been rough this year, even Cheesman has been high.

Eleven Mile can be a fun fishery on occasion but it does get slammed. I prefer it in the winter when it only gets lightly hammered . Your description of the fish there is accurate though. Over caught and light on the fight. The only tailwater fish I have found here that are comparable to the wild rainbows I have caught in MT, WY and even WA from a “fight perspective” were in the Williams Fork (probably run up from the CO River and the Dream Stream (lake run most likely). I have found that the big tailwaters here provide more mass than fight in the fish they produce. I have caught more 20+ inch fish in the last two years here in CO than I had in the 25 or so years I had been fishing previously. However, none of them have fought like the 14-18 rainbows I used to catch in the Clark Fork or Bitterroot when I was in college. Those are still the only freshwater fish that have burned my hand from the fly line going through my fingers when they made a run. Man, I really miss the Trico hatch on the Bitterroot!
Great report and pictures! The canyon fishing looks like some really fun fishing! I just got back from CO myself. Report to be posted soon.
Matt, glad to see you got some fishing in after all. Run-off has been rough this year, even Cheesman has been high.
J- It was never a question of IF I was going to fish, more a question of WHERE and WILL IT BE ANY GOOD? "I came to fish, so by God, I'm going to fish."
Grew up in C. Springs. Usually get at least one trip back and usually it includes some days in 11 Mile Canyon. Spend most of my time up in the catch and release area fishing small patterns...there are some very nice fish to be caught. Your view pics of South Park were nice...spent a ton of time fishing the middle fork and south fork of the Platte. Glad you enjoyed it...beatiful scenery and thanks for sharing.