100 Best: South Platte River

Location: Central Colorado, south of Denver

Type of stream: Canyon tailwater

Angling methods Fly, spin

Species: Browns, rainbows, few cutthroat

Access Moderate

Season: Year-round Supporting

Services: Denver

Short take: Many miles, many fish, many anglers but who cares

Handicapped access: None

Closest TU Chapter: Evergreen, Cheyenne Mountain

Just across the Continental Divide from Roaring Fork and Aspen, the South Platte forms in a high semi-arid grassland. Four sections of the river—the Dream Stream, Elevenmile Canyon, Cheesman Canyon, and the run from Deckers through Waterton Canyon—get the lion’s share of attention. And justly so. When it comes to quality trout and access, these tailwaters are very hard to beat.

Perhaps the tailwater below Cheesman Reservoir is the most famous stretch of the South Platte. For about three miles down to private land owned by the Wigwam Club, this reach has become a mecca for fly fishers suffering from wintertime cabin fever. In warmer months it’s prone to be packed. Still the chance to cast for rising browns and rainbows of really good size, or to work tiny nymphs through runs and pockets behind boulders in this stunning canyon is simply too good to pass up.

Often overlooked though are the 16 miles of the Middle Fork of the South Platte above Hartsel and the roughly eight miles of the South Fork upstream from Antero Reservoir. These are Gold Medal waters where only artificials can be used. Fans of western small stream fishing will love the browns and rainbows these runs. 


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