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South Platte River

With all the water in the South Platte River drainage, anglers can find plenty to explore.

In fact, there is enough fishable water on the South Platte that anglers could keep busy for decades before they’ve fished it all. There are several main sections however where anglers should concentrate their efforts.

The Middle Fork of the South Platte River, The South Fork including the Dream Stream, Elevenmile Canyon, Cheesman Canyon, Deckers, Waterton Canyon and last but not least the North Fork of The South Platte.

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South Platte River Tomahawk
THE MIDDLE FORK

The Middle Fork of the South Platte River is a maze of water meandering through lush meadows surrounded by the Mosquito Mountain Range. The river here is small but perfect for wade fishing. Don’t let the river size fool you, many trout over 20” have been caught here. It’s typically not fishable during the winter however, it comes alive in the spring. In April the river ices off and the fish start to feed. Hatches of midges and Blue Winged Olives become their main source of food in the spring. 

As summer approaches the bug life improves and diversifies, offering and anglers a smorgasbord of hatches. Be prepared with caddis, stoneflies, Pale Morning Duns, Green Drakes and Terrestrials. Dry fly fishing is fun on this section of the South Platte River and is usually a sure bet when it comes to fooling small to medium sized brown trout. 

Fall is a special time of year on the Middle Fork as giant brown trout come out of Spinney Mountain Reservoir. It’s no secret so expect big crowds and sometimes difficulty finding a good place to fish. The best methods for ethically catching these fish are to fish the normal runs and pools. Fish are on the reds to spawn so be mindful of where you step and do not fish to actively spawning trout on the red. After the fall brown trout spawn, winter starts to set in. Expect the river to freeze sometime in November and not be an option until the following spring.

THE DREAM STREAM

The Dream Stream is a 3 mile stretch of river located in South Park Colorado. It is situated between Spinney Mountain and Elevenmile Reservoirs which hold water for the cities of Denver and Aurora. The fishery between the two bodies of water is well known and busy. Both public anglers and Colorado guided fly fishing trips can be found fishing this river 365 days a year. The river here winds its way through lush meadows creating perfect trout habitat. With gravel bars, riffles, runs and undercut banks, trout have a wide variety of hiding and feeding areas.

During the spring and after a long harsh South Park winter, fish become more active. Anytime between February and March, huge rainbows and cuttbows swim into the Dream Stream from Elevenmile Reservoir. They use the river for spawning and anglers have learned to target them here. Sight fishing is key and covering lots of water plays an important role in finding these big trout. Since these fish are spawning, be sure to avoid walking on spawning reds and don’t fish to actively spawning trout on the red.

As spring turns to summer and the weather warms, the Dream Stream comes alive with bug life, feeding fish and fly fisherman. The river can be crowded so practicing good river etiquette is essential. Dry fly fishing improves as plenty of mayflies, caddis flies and terrestrial are present. In August, the famed trico hatch can cause groups of big fish to congregate in slow deep pools and sip on the spinners.

The transition from summer to fall is a welcomed change as the daytime temperatures cool off. The fishing however tends to heat up. The Dream Stream in the fall is a fly fishing destination sought by many anglers. Good numbers of huge brown trout up to 30” come out of Elevenmile Reservoir to spawn. This also brings hoards of public anglers and Colorado guided fly fishing trips. Sometimes the parking lots are full even before the sun is on the horizon. Proper river etiquette is a challenge during this fish migration however it’s never more important.

Late in the fall, Kokanee salmon move from Elevenmile Reservoir into the river. The Dream Stream is one of the few locations in Colorado which allows anglers to catch Kokanee salmon. The salmon are not feeding during this time however they bite flies out of aggression. Fishing attractor nymphs provides success during this time.

CHEESMAN CANYON

Cheesman canyon is one of the most difficult fisheries in the west. Primarily a nymphing river, it is one of the best places to sight fish in the world. You haven't been fly fishing in Colorado until you have fished Cheesman Canyon. Because it is a tailwater, Cheesman Canyon is a great year round-fishery. 

We guide on the Denver Water section of Cheesman Canyon which is located at the top end just below the dam. The trout in the upper end of the canyon receive less pressure than the rest of the canyon and are at times more willing to take a fly. This guide trip is not for the faint of heart as the trail is straight up and down. The river here is very difficult to access and requires a great deal of hiking.

If you are young, fit and up for a challenge, the upper end of Cheesman Canyon is an incredible place to fish.

Springtime in the Canyon is when the best hatches begin. From the end of February through the end of March the Canyon produces incredible midge hatches. As the weather warms, the midges get bigger. By bigger we mean a size 18. In April, Blue Winged Olives dominate the trout’s diet. As spring flows begin to rise, fish start moving into the riffles looking for the emerging insect. Worms also become a major part of their diet. Fishing a rig with a worm and Baetis nymph or emerger is a great way to go. As we move into the Summer, flows typically increase and can range from 500 and 1200 CFS. During summer, Cheesman Canyon sees good numbers of bug hatches including Caddis, Stoneflies, Pale Morning Duns, Tricos and Terrestrials.

Typically smaller is better in Chessman Canyon however the savvy angler knows there are other options. An angler wanting to fish big dry flies can get their fair share too. An Amy’s Ant is a great attractor dry that will move plenty of fish. Be sure to fish these in the faster water over dark bottom. Fish gorge at times on Crane Fly larva, especially in higher flows. Good numbers of scuds are also available when releases from the reservoir are higher. Both olive and orange scuds work well. 

During the fall, blue winged olives once again become the main insect of choice. There are still tricos around through about the end of October however the best trico hatches occur from mid August through September. Streamer fishing is also good at times and often overlooked in the Canyon.

A guided fly fishing trip to Cheesman Canyon should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is perhaps the most challenging fishery in the state and definitely one of the most beautiful. Hiring a professional guide for your Colorado fly fishing trip is the best way to learn how to fish the Canyon. Give us a call to book a trip. (303) 324-1854

DECKERS

The river at Deckers has reputation for being a difficult fishery. Brown Trout thrive in this caddis, mayfly and stonefly filled fishery however we are seeing more and more rainbows every year. Fly fishing the South Platte River at Deckers with a Colorado fly fishing guide is a great way to get introduced to the sport of fly fishing in Colorado. This stretch lends itself to beginners and first time anglers. The South Platte River at Deckers is very easy to wade and there is ample parking along the river. Our Mile High Angler Denver fly fishing guides can show you a great and educational approach to fly fishing.

The South Platte River at Deckers is a unique fishery all on its own. It’s easy access and close proximity to Denver makes it an obvious choice for anglers coming out of the metro area.

Crowding at times can make this river less desirable for some. For others, it’s so close to Denver that it’s a quick and easy escape. The river has changed over the years and has finally made a comeback since the 2001 Hayman fire.

Many anglers make the decision to try out fly fishing on their own at Deckers and eventually end up hiring a Denver fly fishing guide service. Hiring a professional Colorado fly fishing guide is the best way to learn the sport. Our guides at Mile High Angler have spent countless hours fishing this section of river and can help shorten the learning curve.

We teach anglers how to sight fish, search for fish “blindly” in likely holding spots and help breakdown the often confusing and complicate aspects of aquatic etymology. Knowing what goes on under the water is just as important as knowing how to cast and present a fly. Once the basics are acquired, the fun of learning through fishing lasts a lifetime. Give us a call to book a trip with one of our Denver Fly Fishing Guides. (303) 324-1854

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We are located only 50 minutes west of Denver, conveniently the closest and best fishing from the Mile High City!
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