south-platte-middle-fork-swa-1The Middle Fork of the South Platte River starts up by Alma and fishes well for brook trout.  As it gets into Fairplay and below browns take over with some rainbows present as well.  Tomahawk and Spinney SWA are the primary sections to fish, though much of the middle fork is public on the south platte if you’re willing to drive and find the water.  This is a great area to explore and find the spots for yourself.  Many small fish are up here making it good for beginners.  Most intermediate anglers will find this section to be fun but will quickly want to find bigger fish and migrate to the tailwater sections where larger fish can be found.

The river begins up in South Park and the Middle Fork of the South Platte River and South Fork run through the South Park area.  This river is a meandering meadow stream until it gets into the first canyon below Eleven Mile Reservoir.  Granite rocks make for some scenic views and excellent runs, holes and riffles to find eager trout.  The river continues the granite formations until it enters Denver from Chatfield Reservoir.  As it enters several reservoirs downstream, it provides excellent tailwater fishing for some of the largest trout in the state.  After moving through several of the best places to fish in Colorado, it enters into Denver and provides anglers an opportunity to catch carp and small mouth bass on the fly.

The South Platte is Colorado’s primary river for fly fisherman.  There is more river access, tailwaters and fish on this river than you could explore in a year.  There is a ton of variety on this river.  Whether you want to catch high mountain brook trout in solitude, or hunt large trophy bows on tailwaters you can find it on the platte.  You can even chase carp and smallmouth bass in the heart of Denver.  Much of the water is protected and catch and release is almost always preferred and regulated.  It’s important to preserve this river and let fish go so they can grow.

Reservoirs of the South Platte

There are 6 reservoirs that dam the south platte.  Every reservoir except Antero provides a tailwater section below that is public and accessible  See the list below and their related tailwater sections.  These make up the majority of the fishable sections on the South Platte.

  • Antero Reservoir – Badger Basin (Low Flows)
  • Spinney Mountain Reservoir – Dream Stream Tailwater
  • Eleven Mile Reservoir – Eleven Mile Canyon Tailwater
  • Cheeseman Reservoir – Cheeseman Tailwater Canyon and Deckers Tailwater Section
  • Strontia Springs Reservoir – Waterton Canyon Tailwater
  • Chatfield Reservoir – Denver South Platte or DSP

South Fork of the South Platte

The South Fork is nearly identical in characteristics as the middle fork, but has a little more access.  The best waters are on the 63 ranch and Knight/Ilmer SWA but they can be crowded on the weekends.  Lots of small fish are located here as well and provide a fun day fishing a meandering stream. Carefully approach the river and you’ll catch more fish, there are no trees or structure to hide behind so the fish get wary if you get too close to the water.  The upper headwaters area holds some brook trout fishing and camping.

Dream Stream Tailwater

Some of the biggest fish each year are caught here.  Fish over 30” have been landed during the spring and fall as the fish spawn and come out of eleven mile reservoir.  Large resident fish stay here as well and are tough but rewarding to catch.  There are a lot of fish in this section and though it can get crowded, it’s a rewarding place to fish.  Nearly 3 miles of public fishing are available from the tailwater below spinney mountain reservoir to the inlet of eleven mile reservoir.  During the fall Kokanee run up the river as well giving you a chance to catch them on the fly.  Though there is some good dry fly fishing from time to time, it is sporadic and this section is most commonly a nymph fishery.

Eleven Mile Canyon Tailwater

Eleven Mile Canyon has one of the highest fish per mile counts on the south platte and holds rainbows, browns, cutbows and cutthroat.  Fish are gorgeous in this section and you can experience some excellent dry fly fishing during hatches.  Fishable year round, you can often sight fish to many of the trout in this section.  Some very large fish are caught here every year to the angler who gets lucky or works hard to find them.