Fishing the North Fork of the South Platte River near Bailey, Colorado, during winter can be challenging, but certain fly patterns tend to be effective:
Midges: These insects are a primary food source in winter. Patterns like Zebra Midges, RS2s (Rim's Semblance 2), Mercury Midges, or Disco Midges in sizes ranging from #18 to #24 are often successful.
Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs): If there's a hatch, patterns like Parachute Adams, Sparkle Duns, or Pheasant Tails in sizes #18 to #22 can imitate BWOs.
Scuds and Sowbugs: These aquatic insects are prevalent and active year-round. Using patterns like Scud patterns, RS2s, or Hare's Ear Nymphs in smaller sizes (#16 to #20) can mimic them effectively.
Egg Patterns: Trout might focus on drifting eggs. Carrying egg patterns in various colors (#12 to #18) can be productive.
Streamers: Although less common in winter, larger fish might respond to streamers. Woolly Buggers, leech patterns, or small articulated streamers in natural colors can be worth a try.
Given the North Fork's conditions in winter and potential fishing pressure, it's often beneficial to focus on smaller, more natural-looking flies and to present them in a subtle and realistic manner. Patience and persistence can pay off when fishing in colder temperatures.
The North Fork of the South Platte River offers yet another opportunity to sample the South Platte River system. The vast majority of this swift, fast flowing stem of the South Platte River is within an hour’s reach of metropolitan Denver, nevertheless, this branch gets over-shadowed by the renowned South Fork. The headwaters of the North Fork, as it is referred to, commence on the eastern side of legendary Kenosha Pass. The North Fork is extremely small and expeditious for the first several miles until it joins forces with diverted water from the bottom of Dillon Reservoir via the Roberts Tunnel. Another tributary—Geneva Creek—further adds a substantial quantity of water to the North Fork near the small town of Grant. This creek is especially influential during run-off as the North Fork swells and becomes high and roily. Several other smaller side-streams also enter the river but are not the magnitude of the two previously mentioned sources of water.
The North Fork is comprised of shallow riffles, runs, and an abundance of pocket water. Deep holes are uncommon throughout this section of river. The water is gin clear, and standard sight nymphing tactics work best on a day-to-day basis. Short-line nymphing is the most effective technique with the heavy brush, small pockets, and quick seams—all of which are key holding areas for the trout. Typically if it looks “fishy”, it generally is, and of course it’s always lucrative to find fish positioned where you think they should be.
Public access is limited, but trophy trout await you on many of our private leases on the North Fork of the South Platte. To book a day at Shawnee Meadows, or Rawhide Fly Fisher's call the Blue Quill Angler (303-674-4700, Option2) and we'll gladly assist you.