South Platte River above Spinney Reservoir

A fisherman wades into the South Platte with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

Current Conditions

The cover of Landon Mayer's headwater guides book Colorado's Best Fly Fishing

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The South Platte

From Landon’s book Colorado’s Best Fly Fishing.

The South Plate River starts above Spinney Mtn. Reservoir where the South Fork and the Middle Fork meet 15 miles southeast of Fairplay CO. The forks rise above the Mosquito Range, on the western side of South Park CO. This section of the river also known as “Badger Basin” is the start of the South Platte’ 50-mile journey before entering Spinney Mtn. Res. This two-mile beginning stretch of the river is subject to rapidly fluctuating flows throughout the year from run off, and weather. Making it a prime location for migratory fish in the spring and fall when water levels rise or fall to become stable and clear water. This also makes it difficult in early summer for productive fishing when the rainy season begins and the river swells.

In the spring the run of Rainbows, Cutthroats, and Cuttbows produces high numbers of quality trout ranging in sizes 15-25 inches, with runs that at times can hold huge pods of fish in runs and pools throughout this section of water. One of the best ways to be successful in this area is to concentrate on the pools, foam line, and bend in the river. Because the flows are typically low when fishing conditions are right, the trout are concentrated in these areas. Even when the clarity of the river is bad if your timing is right, the fish will be there. In the late summer and fall months as the trout run up the river to the joining forks, rainbows, cutthroat, cuttbows, and browns can be found in good numbers with the larger pre spawn browns becoming the main attraction. These aggressive feeders have been known to reach the 8lb mark plus. With a lack of insect life, and holding water, structure was introduced to the river the South Platte River from the mouth of Spinney res. up one mile to the flow gagging station for the Platte.

With the new holding areas in place, some fish are starting to call these sections of the river home to escape the aggressive pike lurking in the shallow reservoir of Spinney. While there are some hatches in this short stretch of river eggs, streamers, and attractor patterns like the Copper John work well. Even if the water is dirty from run off or rain chartreuse green can be the color cure to still trigger a strike. Patterns within the size range of #14-20 work well with #16-18 becoming more common. In addition, scuds are a very important food supply that the trout are use to eating in the Reservoir. This makes them a familiar food source in the river. The two main colors are orange and Olive in sizes #16-18.

When venturing up further to fish the middle fork such as Tomahawk SWA on CR 9 or Badger Basin off CR 9 and Hwy 24. This is hopper dropper country in late summer and fall producing good numbers of fish, and a nice break from crowds with big dry action. Access is easy with multiple pull offs along the road and green signs indicating Badger Basin on Hwy 24, and Tomahawk State Wildlife area on CR 9.

This completely public catch and release tail watershed is three linear miles long, with five and a half miles of a classic winding open meadow river. Some of the largest trout on earth for every season of the year reside here. With Rainbows, Cutthroats, and cuttbows known to tip the scale at the largest I have seen 17lbs. Followed by browns that exceed 30 inches every year. The two often forgotten seasons summer and winter produce on average trout from 18-25 inches that will eat a dry, nymph, and streamer when presented correctly. This has now given the well-earned name of “The Dream Stream” where on any given day the trout you dream about can become reality in your own hands.