Waterton Canyon
Rob Herrmann Photography

South Platte: Waterton Canyon (Lite Report)

Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate
Ideal Days To Fish NA

Weekly Report

Report DateAug. 19, 2021

Note: This report is a part of the FlyCast Lite reporting program and is updated seasonally or in the event of substantial changes that alter fly fishing tactics. FlyCast Lite reports are intended to give anglers a high level overview on seasonal conditions and general fishing tactics.

Due to healthy flows through Deckers and on the North Fork of the South Platte, flows through Waterton Canyon are up and sitting at 210 cfs. With Strontia Springs Reservoir sitting at 85% capacity, it’s unclear how long these flows will last but we’ll take it while we can. With elevated flows, we aren’t as concerned about afternoon water temps, which will allow anglers to enjoy a full day on the river. Dry fly and dry dropper setups are highly effective right now and will continue to produce results as we move into fall. Midge, mayfly, caddis and stonefly hatches will encourage trout to feed on the surface, so keep an eye out for hatch activity and rising trout. These trout are eager to feed this time of year and aren’t overly selective. If you can’t tell what trout are rising for or if trout are sporadically rising, rig up a dry dropper. Elk Hair Caddis, Amy’s Ants and Hippy Stompers are buoyant dry flies that are capable of trailing 1-2 nymphs and even some split shot. Copper Johns, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Rainbow Warriors and other bead head nymphs are productive dropper patterns. If you go the nymphing route, lead with a larger attractor pattern such as the patterns listed above and trail a midge pupa, baetis emerger, caddis pupa or Rainbow Warrior. Trout are spread out in slower sections but will favor softer water in faster moving sections.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region

Detailed River Info

Background

The Waterton Canyon stretch of the South Platte is a fun and convenient option for anglers living in the Denver Metro Area. The South Platte River merges with the North Fork of the South Platte above Strontia Springs Reservoir. Below Strontia Springs Reservoir is the Waterton Canyon stretch of the South Platte. This section of river flows 6.5 miles northeast from the reservoir through Waterton Canyon before spilling into Chatfield Reservoir. Waterton Canyon is unique in that it’s only accessible by foot or bike. As a result, Waterton Canyon receives far less angling pressure than the other sections of the South Platte, but it does experience heavy hiking and biking traffic, so keep that in mind while casting. Waterton Canyon is technically fishable year around but due to high canyon walls, the banks and shaded sections tend to freeze during the winter. Anglers will find a healthy population of rainbow and brown trout in the 6 – 12 inch range. With that said, don’t be surprised if you come across a large brown or rainbow that has migrated from Chatfield Reservoir.

Angling

Waterton Canyon is a fantastic stretch for anglers of all skill levels. The lower part of the canyon contains slow runs and deeper pools that are ideal for new anglers working on their presentation skills. Higher in the canyon, you’ll find faster pocket water that will test the skills of more experienced anglers. With the exception of a few deep pools and runs, the river is relatively shallow, making a dry dropper setup our preferred strategy most of the year. Fishing a dry dropper will attract trout feeding on the surface and those feeding sub-surface on nymphs. Hopper and caddis patterns are productive dry fly options for a dry dropper setup. Waterton Canyon experiences a number of hatches throughout the year (midge, baetis, caddis and stonefly) so don’t be surprised if you see trout aggressively feeding on the surface during a hatch. Unless you’re matching the hatch and casting to rising trout, fly selection isn’t overly complicated in this river. Standard searcher patterns (Pheasant Tails, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs etc.), San Juan Worms and midge patterns are consistent year around. During the warm months, caddis, stonefly and baetis patterns are highly productive.

River Access

With a primary parking lot and one trail into the canyon, access to Waterton Canyon is straightforward. From the parking lot, anglers can either walk or bike up the canyon on a 6.5-mile-long, dirt road (cars are prohibited). If you have the ability, we highly recommend biking as it will allow you to cover more ground. If biking isn’t an option, don’t worry, there is plenty of good water in the bottom half of the canyon. Keep in mind, dogs aren’t allowed in the canyon, so you’ll need to leave your furry fishing buddy at home.