Fly Fishing The South Platte River, perhaps one of the most famous and iconic rivers of the west will educate, challenge and humble both new and experienced anglers alike. As the saying goes, “If you can catch trout in Colorado’s Cheesman Canyon, you can catch them anywhere in the world. Heavy fishing pressure, gin clear water and diverse bug life makes the South Platte one of the most technical fisheries in the world. Originating approximately 20 miles west of the town of Lake George the main South Platte is formed from the junction of the South and Middle Forks. From here the river flows through central Denver, eventually joining the North Platte near the town of North Platte, Nebraska. The river itself is a major river of the American Midwest and the American Southwest/Mountain West.
Eleven Mile Canyon
Eleven Mile Canyon is perhaps one of the most fun and unique canyon stretches you'll encounter fly fishing the South Platte river. The canyon is known to be one of the better dry fly fishing areas on the river with good hatches of mayflies, midges and caddis. Like most sections of the South Platte a good nymph fisherman will catch the vast majority of the fish. The water is usually running gin clear; requiring precise presentations, micro sized fly patterns and fine leaders and tippets. Red thread midges were once pioneered on this infamous stretch.
As the name suggests, Colorado’s Dream Stream gives anglers the opportunity to hook and land true trophy trout. In the spring and fall, huge migrations of lake run rainbows, browns, and cut bows enter the stream to spawn and lay their eggs. Sight fishing and quality polarized lenses are the name of the game for hooking these monstrous trout. However, the legendary lake runs are no secret and crowds can be heavy if not shoulder to shoulder during the fish migration. Fly Fishing The South Platte River with nymphs and streamers is a guide favorite for hooking the lake run fish.
In addition to large lake run fish, anglers can expect to find Kokanee Salmon entering the river during the fall months. These fish range anywhere from one to five pounds and are a ton of fun on fly tackle! The Dream Stream supports a healthy population of resident browns, rainbows and cut throats. Long slick runs and riffles make for some challenging fly fishing. The Dream Stream sees prolific hatches of midges, tricos, pale morning duns, blue winged olives and a wide variety of caddis and smaller stoneflies. Be ready to battle the wind and cold on this historically desolate area.
Cheesman Canyon is the most sought after and routinely visited section of water you will find while fly fishing the South Platte River. This is one of the most technical tail water fisheries in the world, demanding that anglers sight fish with small tail water flies and fine tippet. The Canyon is accessed from the Gil Trail, requiring a short hike to get into the canyon. Fish are seldom seen rising in Cheesman but good dry fly fishing can still be had, especially during hopper season where the canyon’s rainbows and browns just can’t resist a foam hopper bounced off a canyon wall. Plus hatches of small stoneflies and caddis make for some great summer surface action but as a general rule of thumb a good nymph fisherman will catch most of the fish. Ideal flows for Cheesman are when the water is up, around 200-400 CFS. When the flows are high the fish in Cheesman go crazy for worms and scuds and nymph fishing with a variety of San Juan Worms and scud patterns makes for some outstanding fly fishing. Below Cheesman is the famous Deckers section of the South Platte, primarily a technical nymph fishery. Lots of right off the road public access makes this a popular and sometimes crowded Waterton Canyon
Waterton Canyon is a great option for fly fishing close to Denver. This tail water section of the South Platte flows out of Stronia Dam and can be accessed by foot or bicycle. The brown trout tend to be a little smaller on this section, with bigger fish caught closer to the dam. Caddis hatches on this stretch can be epic during the summer!
If mud, dirt, heckling homeless people and potentially toxic chemicals don’t bother you then check out the South Platte through Denver for a little down and dirty carp fishing on the fly. Carp all the way up to thirty pounds can be found swimming through these slimy sections of the South Platte and can provide a great challenge for fly fisherman looking for something a little different…