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Subscriber Jim Aylsworth fished the middle fork of the South Platte River in Colorado this past July, and he came away with an important tip: it’s worth paying an extra $100 access fee to get on some privately maintained water there. He writes:
“We booked a one-day trip to the South Platte River this past summer through a local outfitter, Mountain Angler (www.mountainangler.com), in Breckenridge, Colorado. In one day, I caught 18 trout, mostly browns in the 12- to 15-inch range, with two just over 19 inches (one was a cutthroat and the other a rainbow). My son caught a nice 16-inch brook trout. This is small water (at the time about 106 cfs) so we could cross at almost any spot. It was a walk/ wade trip, which is routine fishing for a large creek. We caught a few of our fish on nymphs, but almost all were taken on top-water flies since we lucked into a nice green drake hatch. We also paid ex¬tra to gain access to some private water, which I will elaborate on in a moment.
“I fished with a Winston 4 wt. rod with Rio floating line and a rig known locally as a two-bit hooker. Most of my casts were less than 20 feet. This trip re¬minded me of the salmon fly hatches on the Madison back in my youth. We used a #14 or #12 Green Drake, and cast it in slow water, fast water, pocket water, and got strikes all around. The weather for this trip was partly cloudy, with the morning starting in the 40s and rising into the 70s in the afternoon. The water was in the 50s.
“I wish I had had more Green Drake flies in my box, but even a Cher¬nobyl Ant worked until I got restocked on Green Drakes by my guide, Matt. The water is located right along High¬way 9, south of Fairplay, Colorado. The traffic was very light, so we did not have a lot of road noise. The highlight of the trip was catching big trout on pri¬vate land, maintained and protected by the landowner to assure quality fly fish¬ing. The owner even puts up small flags to show spots where he is restoring the banks so anglers don’t walk through them. I would definitely recommend this trip to a friend.
“Be sure you ask for access to the Holmstead Ranch on Highway 9. It is for sale ($2.9 million asking price), so it may go away. But right now, the owner maintains the water and surroundings to create an almost perfect environment for trout. The public-access water is about five miles downstream, but the two locations are as different as night and day. There are far fewer fish in the public water, and they are much, much smaller. So pay the extra money and fish on the private water. It is well worth it.”
Postscript: Aylsworth gives the cost of his day of fishing as $360, plus $100 for access to the private water, plus tip. There are activities for non-angling companions in the area, he says.