Hot Winter Fisheries

South Platte River, Colorado

Location: Central Colorado, southwest of Denver about an hour and a half.

Species: Rainbow and brown trout (finicky and usually big).

Tackle: 8 1/2- to 9-foot rod for 3- to 5-weight line (5-weight to combat the park winds). Neoprene waders, felt-soled boots. Layer for warmth.

Notes: This tailwater runs through canyon and open park. The Platte is best known for the South Park area, especially its three-mile stretch below Spinney Mountain Reservoir, and the 11 miles below Cheesman Dam, but the entire river has excellent fishing for rainbow and brown trout, many reaching over 20 inches long. The main attraction of the South Platte is that if you intend to travel through Denver, you can easily make a side trip to the South Platte River. You might find yourself sharing a pool in the canyon or fighting a wicked winter wind whipping through the park, but after all, it's the dead of winter and you will be fishing to large trout.


The only thing wrong with the South Platte River is that so many other fly fishers are in on it. This is one fine river, full of big trout. In the winter, the South Platte is less crowded (only an hour and a half from Denver) and if you are inclined to hike, scenic Cheesman Canyon provides excellent angling to trout holding in pocket water and big pools.

A two-fisted rainbow trout

The South Platte from Deckers and below lies in a wide open park, subject to cold winter winds. Finding your own turf is easier than in Cheesman. Both in the canyon and in the park, the fish are both hefty and discerning.

Beginning anglers will probably not fare as well as seasoned fishermen. The river has tricky currents and clear water, and the trout, while not skittish, rise and refuse patterns with regularity. Any kind of drag, even on nymphs, will put the trout off. Fish small midge larva patterns on long leaders for the best results.

Article © Mark D. Willliams, 2000.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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