Home » Bucket List Achievement: Fly Fishing the South Platte River
Colorado's South Platte River is a legendary gold medal river for trout enthusiasts and I was finally able to cross this picturesque river off my bucket list. You should too.

Bucket List Achievement: Fly Fishing the South Platte River

by Jeremy B

Colorado’s South Platte River is a legendary gold medal river for trout enthusiasts and I was finally able to cross this picturesque river off my bucket list. You should too, because, the “Tug is the Drug.”

I am new to the sport of fly fishing. Although a long-time fisherman with an affinity for trout, I’ve only recently picked up fly fishing, and it’s been both fun and frustrating. For someone like me who works in a corporate setting, replete with office drama, bosses, zoom calls, and lots of sitting (both on planes and at my home office), the mountains and rivers are spiritual for me. It’s where I go to get away from it all. No cell coverage. Just me, running water, and the tug.

As my dad says (and he’s quoting someone, I’m sure), the “tug is the drug” and the feeling of having a fish on your line, that initial tug, is exhilarating. Having long fished for trout in streams and rivers with worms and salmon eggs (and experienced tremendous success), I decided to take a run at fly fishing a year or so ago.

In my family, we are blue-collar fishermen, and fly fishing was (and is) seen as a bit more of a snooty activity. We want to catch fish and fly fishing is hard. Much harder. And more expensive.

However, I also enjoy a challenge, and the simple fact is that many of the best (and most beautiful) rivers in the world are “lures only” – meaning I’d need to tackle (pun intended) fly fishing if I wanted to experience them.

Image of Owens River, CA
The Owens River in CA. Pretty river!

After buying a starter kit on Amazon, a few books, and consuming far too many YouTube videos, I’ve been out a handful of times over the last year or so. It’s been intoxicating and frustrating. And although I really ought to have sought out a guide, I am the kind of person who likes to “figure it out” on my own and so I have. I’ve cursed the river more than once and contemplated snapping my pole in half at least twice (seeing fish everywhere, but unable to land one…and knowing that a worm would haul it one in effortlessly has been a strain on my patience).

But, I’ve kept going. Kept researching. Learning. Experimenting.

This summer, in particular, I’ve gone at the sport pretty hard, fishing the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs (no success…maddening), the Owens River (again, no fish…although I caught several on worms and eggs on the nearby Bishop Creek), and on this trip, the South Platte River in Colorado, a bucket list river for many, including me.

After sneaking into Denver Airport on Sunday morning, I made my trek up to the South Platte River, which is about an hour to an hour and half outside of Denver. The picturesque river gurgled as I tied my fly rig up at my first stop. It was a dry dropper setup that features a caddis dry fly (doubling as my indicator) with a Pheasant Hare nymph as the dropper.

5 casts later I landed a wild brown trout (see pic below) and I was in love.

Image of South Platte River
First hole I stopped at, 5th cast. Fish on! A native brown trout

The South Platte River is one of the premier fly fishing streams in the country. The best fishing stretch is located southwest of Denver near Deckers and runs along Highway 67 for several miles. The South Platte is one of the two tributaries that eventually join to form the Platte River and the stretch I fished is stunning. Canyons, pools, meadows, and mountains in the background, and easy to access means a decent amount of fishing pressure, but there’s enough room.

After fishing for several more hours (in the rain) with no further luck, I headed down to my hotel, feeling on top of the world. I could never catch another fish again and I’d have been happy with my life! But, obviously, I wanted to catch more fish and so the next morning, early, I went at it again, and although I found a lovely pool teeming with fish, they didn’t what I had to offer (despite putting 10 different flys in front of them).

That’s fishing. And while I also enjoy catching, I love being in the mountains. Being in the water. It’s a spiritual thing for me and anyone who loves the sport of fishing (fly or otherwise) knows what I am talking about.

I can’t wait to go back again and probably will later this summer…with my dad.

I’ve also booked my next fly fishing bucket list trip: the Soca River in Slovenia. Indeed, the turquoise waters with the lure of the elusive Marble Trout, are calling my name. But, I booked a guide for this one. It’s high time I get a pro to help me, because I intend to master this sport.

And I can’t wait for the tug.

You may also like


Chris L July 28, 2022 - 9:26 am

Thanks for the post. Two of my passions – fly fishing and points & miles! Yes, spend a little bit of time with a good guide (knowledgeable, patient, etc), or take a one or two day class from Orvis, etc. I was in the same spot as you ~7 years ago. Big backpacker but only spinner fishing (lures, eggs, etc). My buddy and I decided to get into fly fishing – took a 2 day Orvis class in MT (thanks to miles and points) and never looked back. Good luck – tight lines!

The C Boarding Group July 28, 2022 - 9:38 am

Thanks for the comment. This sport is intoxicating and bewitching that’s for sure. Great suggestion…I think I am finally going to have to break down and have someone teach me the finer points. In particular fly presentation has been a challenge both *what* to use, and how to present it in the most effective manner. Getting there, but have a ways to go.

Chris L July 28, 2022 - 9:44 am

Well, keep at it. And this is one of those sports that you’ll never master, but the learning keeps it interesting! Can’t tell you how many times I still ball up my leader or snag a tree on a bad cast!


Leave a Comment