I desperately want the South Platte River, through its urban corridor of Denver, to be a consistent, high quality fishery. I want to have the best of both worlds – the concerts, museums, sporting events, and culture of a city like Denver, with a trout river that flows through it. But in this instance, what I want and reality are still a ways off.
I’ve lived a few years in Arizona and New Mexico, and in the southwest there are mountain chains that rise to over 9,000 and 10,000 feet, commonly referred to as sky islands. They contain vastly different terrain than the surrounding desert, and above a certain elevation the desert flora and fauna are replaced by pine trees and mountain mammals. These mountains are pockets of uniquely different habitat surrounded by a vast, arid desert.
Fishing the urban South Platte in Denver is a lot like traveling between the sky islands of the desert southwest. In other words, there are some incredibly beautiful, high quality rapids, riffles, and runs, but they’re all at least a quarter mile apart. These little pockets of high quality water look as good as anywhere I’ve fished. I’ve seen caddis, tricos, and PMD’s in great numbers in these stretches. Take this one, for instance:
But the next hole upstream that looks anything like this is about a half mile; downstream it’s about a quarter mile. As a result of the distance one has to cover, I always take my longboard with me. I have to admit, I absolutely LOVE the looks I get when I’m skateboarding with fly rod in hand. It seriously blows people’s minds – it’s just so incongruous for most folks: “That’s impossible – people who fly fish don’t skateboard! Harumph!”
Some interesting facts about the urban South Platte:
• Since June, at least 3 dead bodies have been discovered in the South Platte
• The river holds carp, catfish, smallmouth, some walleye closer to Chatfield, and, yes, even trout
• I have caught some VERY large trout in Denver city limits, but I will NEVER tell you where
• The Denver chapter of Trout Unlimited puts on a tournament every year called the Carp Slam; money made from the event goes toward river restoration
• If Denver Water ever got its sh%t together and agreed to minimum flows out of Chatfield, Denver would have a legitimate tailwater fishery
I want to catch a carp so bad I can hardly stand it. Every time I fish the urban South Platte, I’m trying like hell (in vain) to catch a carp, but inevitably catch trout or smallmouth instead. I picked up this smallie, and two more like him, stripping a crayfish pattern through the riffles at the top of a couple different pools.
I will keep going back to this river, and I think I’ll join the Denver TU also. The urban South Platte has so much potential. Right now, where the habitat is best, it is a tremendous grab bag and you never know what might be on the end of your line until you see it. One day, I hope it’s finally a carp, but I’ll take an occasional trout or smallmouth until then.