|Fly Fishing The
South Platte River in
The North Fork
Description of the North Fork of The South Platte River:
The North Fork of the South Platte River is a tributary of the South Platte River,
approximately 50 miles (80 km) long, in central Colorado in the United States. The river
is located near the headwaters of the South Platte in the Rocky Mountains southwest of
It begins at the continental divide near Webster Pass in northwestern Park County, and
flows to the southeast, where water flows in from the Roberts Tunnel, joined by Geneva
Creek at the town of Grant. Downstream from Grant it is followed by U.S. Highway 285
until Bailey, where it cuts through a remote section of the foothills. The lower part of the
river is flanked by several small mountain communities, including Buffalo Creek and
Foxton. It merges with the South Fork of the South Platte River and together they
become a major water supply for Denver,Colorado and the Eastern Colorado Plains.
The Robers Tunnel-beginning of a new age of fly fishing on The South Platte
The Roberts Tunnel was created to carry water from Lake Dillon (on the Western side
of the continental divide) to Denver. The Denver Water Board planned to build the
longest major underground tunnel of its kind in the world. Construction began on Sept.
17, 1942. After a brief pause during World War II, work resumed on June 24, 1946. It
was officially named the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel for a Denver Water Board attorney
who was instrumental in buying water rights on the Blue River and gaining
Congressional approval of the project.
With an inside diameter of 10 feet 3 inches, the Roberts Tunnel can carry 1,000 cubic
feet per second (680 million per day). The first water flowed through the tunnel on July
17, 1964. The cost of the tunnel averaged $25 per inch.
The North Fork of the South Platte River is born.
Fly Fishing South Platte River Today:
The best fly fishing on the North Fork of The South Platte River occurs in the first 15
miles below the outlet from the Roberts Tunnel. At one time this section of river was
thought to be almost sterile from mineral deposits and mine tailings washed down from
the headwaters of the North Fork of the South Platte and Geneva Creek. Years later a
viable trout fishery has been established and several species of trout including rainbow,
brown, brook, and cutthroat trout thrive in the waters of the North Fork of The South
The good news for fly fisherman is that the trout population is very strong and seems to
be getting stronger. The bad news for the angling public is that most of the prime area
of the South Platte River is private property, limiting public fishing to several small
slivers along highway 285.
Several private fly fishing operations have emerged as the fishing has improved over
the years. Here anglers have the opportunity to "reserve" a private section of river for
a user fee paid to the landowner. Here's how the process works: The large landowners
on the North Fork of the South Platte allow anglers to "reserve" a day on the ranch
through one of their recognized guide services. The guide ensures that the client
respects landowner rules, closes gates, properly handles and releases fish with care.
Knowledgeable guides can help ensure a memorable experience on the property,
prompting repeat business for the ranches.
The South Platte River Fly Fishing Ranches:
We will start with the fly fishing ranch that is farthest upstream on the South Platte,
nearest the Roberts Tunnel. This is Longmeadow Ranch. As the name suggests, this
ranch is one of the longer properties available to fly fishing on the South Platte due to
the river channel splitting around a hay meadow, where mule deer often feed, this
essentially doubles the amount of water that can be fished over 2 miles. Trout typically
range 14-22 inches although bigger fish do lurk in the depths.
Directly below Longmeadow Ranch is Boxwood Gulch. Owned and operated by Daniel
Moritz, this is the oldest and probably the most well known fly fishing destination on the
North Fork. Known for big fish and great holding water, Boxwood Gulch is also the most
expensive destination ranch on the South Platte River with a very nice enclosed club
house for fly fishing guests.
Just downstream anglers fly fishing the South Platte will find the North Fork Guest
Ranch. This 3/4 mile section of the North Fork has great structure and lots of big fish.
A working dude ranch in the summer, anglers fishing at North Fork can expect some
great western cooking at lunch and incredible Colorado hospitality. While horses look
on, anglers can catch trout that can literally be as long as their arm!
The property below the North Fork Ranch is known simply as The Meadows. Fly fishing
this open stretch of river can result in some big fish and easy accessibility, making it a
fun choice. It is a truly beautiful stretch of The South Platte surrounded by lush hay
Continuing down stream toward Bailey, Colorado, the South Platte River is broken by
small sections of public mixed with private landowners. Just below Bailey, fisherman will
find Farmers Union and several other private ranches closed to the public.
As one continues down the North Fork of The South Platte River ,the river becomes
unaccessible except by kayak at high water until the town of Pine. Here there is public
fishing at Pine Valley Open Space, although there are no special regulations on this
water so big fish are few and far between. Anglers looking to join a private fly fishing
club on the South Platte River can check out the Perfect Drift in Pine. Farther
downstream in the Foxton area of The North Fork of the South Platte, fisherman have
good access. Due to the lack of regulations on this section and easy access, anglers
often keep the larger fish. There are plenty of fish just mostly small compared to their
The North Fork of the South Platte is easily accessible from Denver with fly fishing
opportunities about an hour from the city. Fly fishing the South Platte in this area
varies depending on the season. Nymph fishing is normally productive with good to
exceptional dry fly opportunities during late summer. Streamer fishing can also be
effective on the South Platte.
Whether fly fishing The South Platte River on public or private areas, please take care
of this resource so future generations can experience the same--if not better
fishing--than we have today.
Rainbow trout caught fly fishing the South Platte River.
Fly fishing South Platte River below the Robers Tunnel .
Morning light on the South Platte River fishing
Trout caught fly fishing the South Platte below Roberts Tunnel.
Brook trout on the North Fork of The South Platte River Colorado.