Fly Fishing On The South Platte River In
The South Platte River is one of the state of Colorado's
finest trout streams. It is formed by the confluence of the
Middle Fork, a freestone stream, and the South Fork, a
tailwater of Antero Reservoir, which join above Spinney
Reservoir. The river flows though several more lakes and
reservoirs providing several more miles of superb trout
fishing opportunities before it reaches the city of Denver.
Fly Fishing the South Platte River is considered the best
Colorado has to offer by many anglers.
Both rainbow trout and brown trout are found in the
South Platte River in large numbers. The trout average a
large size. It flows through several lakes and reservoirs
presenting all types of fishing challenges from streams to
still waters. Knowing the current regulations of the section
you are fishing is imperative. Several sections have
special regulations. Be sure and check with the state.
The most popular and probably most productive section
of the river is below Cheesman Reservoir and Dam.
Another productive stretch of river is above and below
Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Here, browns and
especially rainbows have been known to reach immense
In it's headwaters, about twenty miles west of Lake
George, the South Platte River's two main prongs form
the main river. You don't necessarily need to ignore the
fly fishing opportunities on its South Fork or Middle Forks
though. Both of these streams have excellent trout
fishing. Fish move in and out of these two branches
throughout the year. Fish from Antero Reservoir move up
into the freestone section. Fish from the mainstem of the
South fork move upstream into both branches at certain
times of the year. Trout move into both of these branches
as far away as Spinney Mountain Reservoir to spawn.
During the spawn, these small streams produce rainbow
trout, cutthroat trout and brown trout up to twenty inches
and better. You can access these headwater streams
from Route 9 and Route 24. U. S. Highway #24 also
provides access. You may have to find some of the many
side roads or even do a little hiking, but it's usually very
rewarding if you fish them at the right times of the
season. These are small streams, less than twenty-five
feet in width
The area below Spinney Reservoir, called the Spinney
Mile, is one of the better sections. This tailwater section is
known for its large trout that migrate upstream from
Eleven Mile Reservoir to spawn. It is one of Colorado's
better tailwater fisheries. It's know as the Spinney Mile.
It's actually three miles long. This short tailwater flows into
the Eleven Mile Reservoir.
The trout in the Spinney Mile are huge. They average
over 16 inches but get much larger. Spawning trout are
both resident trout and fish from the Eleven Mile
Reservoir. There's a spring run of rainbows and a fall run
of brown trout. Trout up to 30 inches have been caught
during the spawn. The stream is rather large in this
section, averaging over 70 feet.. It has deep runs
connected by riffles with nice pools in the mix of water.
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The Spinney Mile can be accessed from
County Road #59. This is wide open country
surrounded by hills and large open areas of
grasslands. Wind can be a problem in this
section because it is very openly exposed with
nothing to block it.
Below the Eleven Mile Reservoir, the river
flows through a canyon that provides excellent
fishing along its course to Lake George. Its
length is actually eleven mile and it is called
the "Eleven Mile Canyon". Good size trout are
found in this longer section of the South
Platte. Many prefer the canyon section over
the Spinney Mile because it's protected from
the harsh wind.
There's yet another short section between
Lake George and Cheesman Reservoir that
also provides good fishing opportunities.
Downstream of Cheesman Reservoir you will
find the most popular section of the South
Platte River. Parts of this section are easily
accessed and other parts aren't easy to
access. The part from the dam to Deckers
requires a good hike into the canyon to reach
the stream. By good hike, we mostly mean a
steep hike to get out of the canyon. This is
classic pocket water. In our opinion, this is one
of the top spots in the state to fish.
The diverse river offers year-round fishing
Trout can be taken in the tailwaters if
Spring can be excellent if the flows are
Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte
The methods and strategies for fly fishing the
South Platte River vary greatly depending on
when and where you fish. The South Platte
River is one of the most diversified trout
streams in the nation. It has just about every
type of water conceivable. You would need to
use just about every fishing method and
technique anyone ever heard of the fish all of
its waters effectively. Much of the water is on
private property, but there is still an ample
amount left for the general public.
Don't forget that there are several different
special regulations areas on different
sections of the South Platte River. These
regulations vary. Although the most popular
area to fish the South Platte River is below
the Cheesman Reservoir and dam, keep in
mind the river flows through several lakes
and reservoirs and has several sections of
the river that provides excellent fishing. The
section of the river below Spinney Mountain
Reservoir is also very popular because of the
size of its trout.
If it is the right season, don't forget about the
spawning trout that move out of Spinney
Mountain Reservoir up into the river to
spawn. This includes the brown trout that
spawn during the fall months and rainbow
and cutthroat trout that spawn during the
spring months. These fish are usually very
large and provide some excellent
opportunities for anglers that enjoy catching
big fish. In this area the river is fairly small in
width, averaging only fifteen to twenty feet
wide in most places. It is a beautiful stream
with some big fish during the spawning runs.
It is also an excellent place to fish any other
time of the year.
The Spinney Mile, or tailwater section located
below Spinney Mountain Reservoir, also has
some big trout. Spawning trout move out of
the Eleven Mile Reservoir to spawn. It is
called the Eleven Mile Reservoir but it is only
about five and a half miles below Spinney
Mountain dam. This water is much wider in
this section, averaging probably eighty feet
and wider in most places. This section, called
the "Dream Stream", is included within the
popular South Park area. It is mostly a wide
open area where strong winds are normal.
The water releases in this section of the river
are controlled by the Aurora Water Board
and are often very low. Stalking huge trout in
this section is very popular.
The section below the Eleven Mile Reservoir,
called the Eleven Mile Canyon, is also a good
fishery with quality size trout. It flows for nine
miles into Lake George. The big advantage
of this section is that you can avoid most of
the high wind that prevails in the other
sections, especially the South Park area that
is surrounded with open land.
You have just the opposite type of access
at Deckers. Little effort is required to reach
the water but it's far best to get away from
the easy road access. This is also a
popular section to fish due to the easy
access. Although it is easy to reach, it too
provides some very fine fly fishing.
Several more miles of productive fishing lies
downstream of Deckers before the stream
flows into the Strontis Spring Reservoir,
Platte Canyon Reservoir and the city of
Denver. The last section below Platte
Canyon Reservoir and above Denver has
fewer trout and less fishing opportunities.
As you may well suspect, a large variety of
fishing methods can be successfully used
for fly fishing the South Platte River. It
strictly depends on the section of water
your fishing. Be sure and read our "Hatches
and Trout Flies" section of this site.
This section has a lot of pocket water
created by some huge boulders. Areas in
the canyon can be difficult to navigate and
access. Below Lake George, down to
Cheesman Reservoir, is also good, but not
near as popular as the other sections.
The not so easy hike into the Cheesman
Canyon between Cheesman Reservoir and
Deckers doesn't seem to steer many
anglers away because it can be just as
crowded as any area on the South Platte
River. I guess that just attest to the fact it is
a great location to fish. Even so, it is one
of the most difficult to fish areas on the
South Platte River. It has huge boulders,
rough pocket water and highly trained
trout. It is a beautiful canyon about three
miles long. This is a Gold Metal
Designated section with trout that probably
average 16 inches.
The area around Deckers is easy to
access and also popular. It consist mostly
of riffles but there are some sections of
pocket water. It too, sees a lot of fishing
pressure, but it often give up some very
The closest tailwater section to Denver is
the five mile long Watertown Canyon
section. The upper section of this canyon
is probably the best section to fish. There
is no vehicle access to this part of the
South Platte, so you must hike in to fish it.
There are two different sets of special
regulations within Watertown Canyon.
Most of the stream, and especially the
tailwater sections, require longer, accurate
cast. You must get a good drift to catch
trout, especially where there is a lot of
fishing pressure. It's one of Colorado's and
for that matter, the Western United States,
best trout streams. Even though it is very
close to Denver and many people, and
even though it is dammed from one end to
the other, it is still a great location to fish
for trout. It offers such a wide variety of
water, you have a good chance to catch
trout on any day of the year.
Hatches and Trout Flies for the South
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods at
the particular time you are fishing. Unlike the
generic fly shop trout flies, we have specific
imitations of all the insects in the South Platte
River and in all stages of life that are
applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a much
higher degree of success, give us a call. We
not only will help you with selections, you will
learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of
the thousands of our customers will use
nothing else. 1-800-594-4726.
Since this river is both a freestone stream
and several tailwater streams all in one, it is
difficult to identify specific hatch times for
some of the insects without doing several
individual hatch charts for each section.
However, that said, you will find that the
hatch times usually come within the time slots
we provide. Remember that the time a
specific hatch occurs may change with the
weather and water conditions, but order in
which the insects hatch shouldn't change.
You will find midges hatching most everyday
of the year. Midge fishing is most popular
during the winter months when there are no
other hatches occurring, but it is actually
The first mayfly to hatch on the South Platte
River is the Blue-winged Olive. The hatches
start about the middle of March and last
through the month of May at various points
along the river. This is a bi-brooded hatch
that occurs again from September through
the month of November. It consist of several
different baetis species.
Pale Morning Duns or PMDs begin to hatch
around the middle of June. The hatch can
last into the middle of August depending on
the location. It is heavy in areas and don't
exist in other areas.
The little Trico mayfly is another important
hatch that takes place in some locations
where the water flows slow to moderately.
They hatch from about the first of August
through the middle of October.
Golden Stoneflies hatch from about the
middle of May through the middle of July.
Little Yellow Stoneflies, called Yellow Sallies,
hatch from about the first of June through
September depending on the particular
There are several species of caddisflies
that hatch on the South Platte River. The
first major hatch are Little Black Caddis or
species of Brachycentrus caddisflies. They
start hatching around the first of May and
last on until the first week or two of June
depending on the particular location along
Probably the most important or plentiful
caddisflies are the Spotted Sedges. These
caddisflies can hatch from June through
September, depending on the particular
species. There is also a hatch of their Little
Sisters that takes place in late June and
July. Green Sedges are fairly plentiful in
parts of the stream. Imitations of their
larvae, called Rock Worms, are effective
flies to use. They hatch from around the
first of May through June, depending on the
Terrestrials are very important in the
meadow sections of the South Platte River,
however, they can be found anywhere on
any section of the stream. Ants, beetles and
grasshoppers, are all important terrestrials
to imitate. They become available from
about the middle of June through
Scuds are available for the trout to eat
through the year. They are plentiful and a
major source of food for the trout in some
areas of the river.
Streamers are always effective flies to use,
but especially during the times the water is
high or slightly off color from rain. The river
has plenty of sculpin and various species of
minnows and baitfish. They are also
important flies to have with you when trout
are moving out of any of the many lakes
and reservoirs up into the river to spawn.
If you haven't done so already, we hope you
will give our "Perfect Fly" line of trout flies a
try. They are the most realistic and effective
trout flies you can purchase. Several of our
patterns have proven effective at catching
trout on the South Platte River. We believe
in them so strongly, we guarantee your
Summer provides the most productive
Big spawning browns can be caught in
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|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Headlines: Stream levels are high
and still rising in most sections.
Runoff is underway and most
places are not safe to wade. Now is
the time to get your flies and gear
in order.Send us an email and let
us help you. Keep up with the
latest information by clicking on the
fishing report link just above.
We have Perfect Fly
website pages on
each of these other
fine trout streams.
descriptions of the
location, species of
fish, a fly fishing
guide, a fly fishing
report, hatches and
flies, fly fishing gear
USGS stream data,
much, much more
Map of South Platte River
Copyright 2019 James Marsh