"Every prudent man acts out of knowledge,
but a fool exposes his folly.." Proverbs 13:16
Fun with Rapids
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado
I had observed how the sprightly patrician of
the South Platte had been able to catch many fish and
I had waited patiently to hear his secrets. I had
fished waters on the South Platte the gentleman so
apply described, but never saw any sign of fish. What
was his secret? Was he poking fun at me because he
observed my fishing technique, a technique so filled
with impatience, irreverence, and irresponsibility?
Was I one of those he referred to as 'uninformed',
'inept', and 'uneducated'? I yearned to hear how
he was able to catch fish. Yet, I realized, he was
not about catching fish. Was he more concerned with
out-smarting fish and rival fishermen?...
"I saw a large rock piercing the surface of the rapid
water just 15 feet upstream and to my right. I worked
into a position where I could reach the exposed rock
with precise casts. My first cast on the upstream side
of the rock dropped the white marabou streamer within
inches of the rock but attracted nothing. On the next
cast, I gently dropped the streamer within inches of
the downstream side of the boulder. The streamer
washed downstream only seconds when the red middle
stripe of a rainbow turned and hammered the furred
and feathered hook. After a short battle, I unhooked
and released the fifteen-inch rainbow trout. There
are many treasures sitting in the rapids of the South
Platte, the rapids where any fisherman can have lots
The most fun I have with fishing is exploring, and I
don't just mean finding different sections of the
South Platte to fish. I like to explore in terms of
using different fishing techniques, using different
casting styles, and fishing water where few fishermen
have the courage to traverse - rapid water. Frequently
I see fishermen, both novice and seasoned, skip water
that holds trout, many trout. The water these anglers
avoid, ignore, or just plain miss is the fast-moving
water, the rapids. Since most fishermen avoid rapids,
there is less fishing pressure, and fewer fishermen.
I always like to go where there are fewer fishermen.
Fishing rapids involves techniques different from
those used in slower waters. For example, I can be
sloppy at casting. The faster water is more forgiving
to those who do not cast well, an excellent place to
train the novice. Along with training the novice in
the faster water, you occasionally get to see the diving
event of a novice swimming meet. Novices are usually not
very good waders, and I get to see some very acrobatic
dives in the cold onrushing water.
The fast water of the South Platte will have lots of
cover for the trout, most notably, rocks. Large rocks
and small rocks, exposed rocks and submerged rocks
strewn through the width of the river are excellent
sources of protection for the fish against the current.
The current is also a means of transporting food to the
fish. Unsuspecting sources of food wash around the base
of rocks. Trout will dart out, consume the food, and
just as easily dart back into the cover of the rock.
This darting action will result in very noticeable
tugs on the fly line, again a good reason to take
novices to the rapid water for instruction.
One of our favorite haunts for fishing trout is the
stretch of the South Platte River at Happy Meadows
Campground. The campground brings in all sorts of
fishermen, spin casters, bait soakers, and of course
fly fishermen. The river at Happy Meadows is easy
for all fishermen to navigate from the shore,
allowing access to most of the fishing holes. There
are some places rarely touched by the uneducated.
One such stretch of fast water is a favorite of mine.
It has large and small rocks, fast water, deep undercuts,
grassy banks, and bushy banks. Rarely do I see people
fishing this stretch. This is perfectly fine with me.
I get to fish some challenging and productive water.
The technique most successful with this stretch
involves moving upstream as I fish. Fishing
downstream is acceptable also, but I have a theory
about the fact that fish face upstream. If the fish
are facing upstream, then I can get closer to the
fish without spooking them when I approach from
downstream. I have no idea if the theory is valid,
but over the years, I have had better success fishing
upstream than downstream.
Depending on the width of the river and the amount
of midstream cover, I may fish the water in different
ways. I may cast both above and below the rock cover.
I will work my way into a position where I can reach
one side of a rock, then move to a position where I
can reach the other side. I may even just settle in
the middle of the river and cast to both my left and
right. Whatever I do, I concentrate on fishing around
all rock cover and backwashes.
By using these techniques, I have been able to bag
many trout. Little pools behind rocks will hold an
occasional good fish. These little pools are the
places most overlooked by the uninformed. I have
often followed other fishermen through rock-infested
rapid water, and caught fish where the naive failed
to even coax a strike. The key to fishing the rapids
is patience, patience not only in the sense of fishing
the holes, but patience in navigating the rock-cluttered
Often I have seen fishermen stumble through holes
where I have caught fourteen and fifteen inch trout.
I have seen fishermen trip on submerged rocks and
spoil the possibility of catching fish and enjoying
the hunt. I have seen fisherman totally ignore
places where the fish are patiently waiting for
food to drift their way. I just resign myself
to a patient wait of fifteen to twenty minutes,
a time in which the novice moves to the next hole
where he will disturb the fish again. I just follow
in the footsteps of the imprudent, always with a
sufficient time lag, to enjoy the hunt of the fish
others so ineptly disregarded.
To be continued... ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado
The South Platte Chronicles Archive