The North Platte is considered to be something of a local legend among the anglers of Colorado and Wyoming.
Once a primary throughway for pioneers exploring the west and a prime hunting ground for buffalo, the North Platte also carries a reputation for being one of the best wading rivers for fly fishing in the western United States.
Not only does it have a designated Gold Medal stretch of water, but it also carries the distinction of being a Wild Trout river as well.
Few other rivers in Colorado can match the North Platte for its overall diversity of fishing, and the scenery is positively breathtaking.
Fly Fishing the North Platte River in North Park Colorado
The headwaters of the North Platte are found in North Park, resulting from the combined flows of the many creeks and streams that make their way down the slopes of the Rabbit Ears and Park mountain ranges.
From here, they make their way through Northgate Canyon, where the Gold Medal/Wild Trout water can be found on a 4.5 mile section of the river that runs from the edge of Routt National Forest to the Wyoming border.
An aerial view of the North Platte river valley in North Park Colorado
Anglers flock to the North Platte each year primarily for brown trout, and many find success even during runoff season when the waters are normally too muddy to fish.
Head out from Walden to the north, following Highway 125. When you reach the H125/H127 junction, follow the left fork and stay north on 125. There is a well marked parking area adjacent to the Northgate Canyon entrance, and there are numerous nearby places that are ideal for rafts and other boats.
Anglers can hike the river on the western bank to access the waters of the canyon, but the trail becomes treacherous the further you go. Make sure to bring whatever supplies you need from your vehicle with you, as the trip back to the parking lot from the canyon can take some time to make given the terrain.
Should you decide to visit the Gold Medal waters on the Wyoming side of the border, you can actually find parking and river access at 6-Mile Gap, which is located 6 miles north of the Colorado border.
There are plenty of signs for public parking here, and there are numerous access points for boats and anglers to get on the water. While you’re in the area, you may also want to pay a visit to North Delaney Buttes Lake, which is a short drive west from Delaney. It’s not only a State Wildlife Area, but the northernmost lake is actually a designated Gold Medal fishing area as well.
Trout can be caught pretty much year round on the North Platte, but most experts agree that prime trout season is between the beginning of April until mid-November.
The major hatches of the year are BWO’s, Caddis, Midges, and Stoneflies on the North Platte, and it’s usually a good idea to check when these flies are emerging in their highest populations before planning your trip. Generally BWOs are the spring hatch, caddis in the summer, midges in the fall and winter, and stoneflies in the late spring and early summer.
Effective fly patterns for the North Platte River include:
- RS2 (grey #18-22)
- Elk Wing Caddis (tan #160
- Bead Head Prince (natural #12-16)
- TH 20 Incher (natural #10-16)
- Holy Grail (olive #6-10)
- Bead Head Woolly Bugger Streamer (black#6-8)
- Cone Head Zuddler (white #4-6)
- Pat's Rubberleg (black #8-12)
- HAD FAD Jigged Nymph (hare's ear #14-16)
- Gold Ribbed Bead Head Hares Ear (hares ear #14-20)
If you plan to fish the Gold Medal section of the North Platte, you are more than likely going to find the greatest success by wading, though if you visit in the spring or early summer you may find that the current is a bit strong for wading.
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the North Platte River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish North Platte River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Normal Colorado Division of Wildlife rules apply to the majority of the North Platte, but the Gold Medal/Wild Trout waters are artificial flies/lures only with a 2 fish limit. The same rules apply at nearby North Delaney Butte Lake as well, and any brown measuring 14”-20” has to be returned to the water immediately.
If you plan on flying in close to the North Platte, the two closest airports are Jackson County in Walden and Hayden near Steamboat Springs, CO. There are a fair number of outfitters and accommodations in both areas, but you will want to be sure to book in advance if you plan on visiting during peak fly fishing season.
If you prefer camping and roughing it out in the woods, there are numerous state run campgrounds and cabins in the area that can be reserved and rented for your stay, too.
Last but not least, always check out local listings for vacation spots that are usually empty when skiing is out of season, as many of these homes offer tremendous comfort and convenience for a lot less than you’d pay for a week in a hotel.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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