The South Platte River is one of the most productive rivers to fish in the entire United States. If you are in eastern Colorado, you don’t want to miss out on this absolute gem. In this article, we will go over the river system, recommended flies, a map of the river, nearby guides, regulations and more. You’ll have everything you need to get fly fishing on South Platte River. This river is heavily fished by other anglers, therefore you may come across some finicky fish, but there is a lot of them, and they tend to be of a rather large size.
River Map & Access
Below you will find all major points of South Platte River. Message us if you want more added! This doesn’t have the best fishing holes in it, just general points and public access. You’ll notice that the southern and western end of this map have way more points. That is because the river from Cheesman Canyon, through Deckers, and Waterton Canyon are by far the most popular fishing destinations. We have points taking you all the way to the North Platte River convergence in Wyoming.
The Gill trail goes along Cheesman Canyon which provides anglers great walking access to all of the best sections of the river. You can see the map below.
You’ll also see great access to the river in Deckers, and Waterton Canyon.
We also have a map here: Cheesman Canyon Fishing Map
The River System
The South Platte River flows 308 or so miles through Colorado and converges with the North Platte river after exiting in northeastern Colorado. The headwaters of the South Platte begins in Park County, where the South Fork and the Middle Fork of the South Platte converge near Fairplay. From here, the river flows southeast towards Spinney Mountain Park. The section between Spinney Mountain Park and Eleven Mile State Park is known as the dream stream.
After Eleven Mile Reservoir, the river flows through Eleven Mile canyon towards Lake George.
The river continues northeast towards Cheesman reservoir, into Cheesman canyon, and then into the town of Deckers.
Flowing northeast, the river goes through Waterton Canyon, and eventually straight through Denver, continues northeast, and has other rivers drain into it before they eventually exit Colorado and enter Wyoming.
What Fish Are In The South Platte River?
The South Platte River is known for the extremely well off population of brown and rainbow trout. With fish more than 20 inches, and tons between 14-20 inches, a lot of the fish are on the larger size. You may find the very occasional cutthroat in here as well. This is the case in just about every section of the South Platte.
Best Places to Fish The South Platte River
This river has so many incredible sections. Each of these sections deserve their own complete guide, we will be adding them eventually! The most known and best sections are as follows:
The Dream Stream
As you can imagine, the dream stream has an incredible reputation. This section of the South Platte is between Spinney Reservoir and Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir. This is a 3.8 mile stretch of water with incredible fishing. The only downside is that it can be extremely busy with other anglers. This section of river contains lots of big fish, but are generally quite picky. It also can get windy and is susceptible to quickly changing weather. This is a bucket list section of stream for many anglers.
Read our full guide to fishing the dream stream here.
Dream Stream Rules And Regulations: https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/SpinneyMountain/Pages/Fishing.aspx
After the Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir lies the elevenmile canyon stretch of the South Platte. From the Dam to Springer Gulch Bridge is a fly fishing only section which studies suggest holds around 3,500 fish per mile in that 2 mile stretch of river. You’ll find lots of anglers in spring and early spring here.
Eleven Mile Canyon Stream Rules And Regulations: https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ElevenMile/Pages/Fishing.aspx
Cheesman canyon is known for big boulders, big fish, and picky fish. It is packed with anglers, but has incredible fishing. Check out our complete guide to fishing Cheesman Canyon.
The stretch of the South Platte through deckers is also very heavily fished. Here you will find a ton of easily accessible water filled with high volumes of fish, and the occasional very large fish. Some stretches of river are picky, while others are less picky. Tons of anglers here, but tons of water to fish. A top destination for many.
Waterton Canyon is incredible because of the awesome access. Anglers can take bikes up the canyon or walk along a nice trail. You’ll encounter many other anglers and also just others enjoying time outside. The fishing is fantastic, the canyon is beautiful, the fish are plentiful, and the access can’t be beat.
River Rules & Regulations
The sections of these rivers have different rules, so it is essential that you look up the rules for exactly where you are going. The above links for each main section should help you. In addition, you should check out the CO rules and regulations information.
Here is the CO fishing rules and regulations book: https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/RulesRegs/Brochure/fishing.pdf
The South Platte is fishable year round. Each season is unique, but fish are possible year round, and anglers will be around at all times of the year. Spring and summer bring hatches that anglers flock to, while winter fishing has the crowds subside, yet big fish are still available.
Best Flies for The South Platte River
In all seasons for this river, you likely will want to go small, with small tippet. These are heavily fished, and picky fish.
Winter & Fall
Go small midges. Sized 18-22. RS2s (18-24), zebra midges, griffiths gnats, copper johns, and others. Emergers, ants & more.
Spring & Summer
South Platte River Fishing Guides
If you are looking for a guide in the canyon, be sure to check out the following, or reach out to us.
Check out all of the South Platte River Fishing Guides in our adventure guide directory.
Current Waterflows For The South Platte River, CO
Waterflows vary substantially by area of the river due to dams. Here is the link to view all of the locations that have waterflow data: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/co/nwis/current/?type=flow
Here is the forecast for the deckers area. Keep in mind that the weather on the South Platte can be very different depending upon what part you will be fishing.
A chance of snow before 2pm. Mostly sunny. High near 47, with temperatures falling to around 36 in the afternoon. West southwest wind 16 to 32 mph, with gusts as high as 52 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Mostly clear. Low around 20, with temperatures rising to around 22 overnight. Southwest wind 12 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph.
Mostly sunny. High near 51, with temperatures falling to around 43 in the afternoon. Southwest wind 12 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 27. Southwest wind around 13 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph.
A slight chance of snow after 5am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 32. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
A slight chance of snow before noon, then a slight chance of rain between noon and 3pm, then a slight chance of snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 52. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Directions & Parking
We can’t give directions to every parking spot, but our map highlights the river, meaning you can pinpoint your destination on Google Maps and get directions to that spot. We also highlighted major parking areas in some key sections.
South Platte River Fishing Photos
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about