Waterton canyon is a great tailwater that is less than 30 minutes from Denver.  It requires a hike to get into and can get crowded.  The trail is easy and you can bike in making it easier to access the upper reaches which sees less pressure.  Brown and rainbow trout hang out here and can get to be over 20” though most are in the 12” – 18” range.  fishing is similar to Deckers with the exception of different fly selection.  Scuds and sowbugs play a good importance on this section of the river on top of the standard caddis, midges, mayflies and stoneflies.  This area makes a great day trip or even something you can access in the evening for a few hours after work.

About The South Platte River

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.

The river begins up in South Park and the Middle Fork 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.

You can catch Rainbows, Browns, Cutthroat, Cutbows, Brook Trout, Tiger Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Common Carp and more in this river and the fish are all different sizes.  The real difficulty to the south platte is learning each section.  The difference in fishing techniques and flies is drastic from section to section.  See the list below and use our river explorer app to find the section that is right for you.

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 publically 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

Cheeseman Canyon Tailwater

Let me start by saying, no matter what, you can’t have a bad day in the canyon.  That said, it is one of the hardest places to fish in the world.  Many say it is the most techinal fishery in the country and for good reason.  It’s a steep canyon so access is tricky.  Once you get to the clear water, the fish are spooky and require perfect drag free drifts through the multi and cross currents that the large granite boulder create.  Mainly a nymph fishery these fish are indicator and split shot shy and require small flies to have success.  Pretty much all the tough aspects of a river are rolled up into one on the Canyon (or as I like to call it, the Chedda).  Cheeseman canyon is popular but requires a hike to access keeping the less adventurous out.  There are some days in the canyon that are lights out and even if you spend your whole day not cathing a fish, the water is gorgeous and you’ll see more fish than you do in most other rivers.  The canyon gives you a birds eye view to the fish and I often spend half the day just watching the trout feed from the big boulders above.  Fish range 12-18” in this section and can get much bigger than that if you know where to look.

Deckers Tailwater

On the other side of the wigwam club private water below cheeseman, Deckers section begins and continues to the confluence with the north fork of the south platte.  This section has a ton of fish and is only an 60-90 minutes from the front range.  The proximity to denver makes this place often pretty crowded, but with some driving, you can find open water.  There are miles of fishable water and the fish are plentiful.  There are more fish above the bridge in deckers most times, but there are also 3x the amount of crowds.  Fishing downstream of the bridge often yields more fish.  I’ve seen some real beasts down there too, so don’t overlook these sections.  There are a lot of 18”+ fish in the river that are worthy of a picture or two.  Practice good catch and release here as the fish get pressured hard.  It’s a fun and challenging place to fish for the day.

Denver South Platte DSP

During the winter, when the water cools, you can catch a few trout in town and they can get to some good size as well.  There aren’t many however, and usually fishing waterton or deckers will provide better results for the day.  During the spring to fall however, this place is an excellent carp fishery.  If you like to chase carp on the fly, you can find tons of access through town and carp well over 30” hang out in this river.  Bring some streamers too, you may just find a chance to catch small mouth or the random trout in the river as well.