The Fishiest Destination in the West
Fly Fishing in North Park
Off the beaten path in a quiet valley along the Continental Divide in northern Colorado lies one of the fishiest destinations in the west. Anglers that are familiar with this place generally keep it to themselves and for good reason. This pristine fishing destination is North Park, one of 4 major parks in Colorado, and is home to the headwaters of the famed North Platte River. The North Platte River system is freestone, meaning there are no dams blocking the waters natural flow, and is completely dependent on winter’s snowpack as to how much water will be in the system every year. The Park is rimmed by 5 mountain ranges and it is those mountains that collect snow each winter and flood the valley with nutrient rich water providing the perfect ingredient for a trout fishing paradise. North Park is known for big, wild Brown Trout. The Browns are ferocious, hearty, and get big, but it was not always this way. There were not any known native trout in North Park and until ranchers started growing hay with the use of flood irrigation. There was not enough water left in the streams and rivers by the late summer to harbor any trout. Irrigation practices began holding water back by flooding meadows which slowly released water back into the system. By doing this, ranchers unknowingly were creating one of the best fisheries in the west.
Each spring when the weather warms and the snow begins to melt, the water flows off the mountain into the valley creating a series of high mountain meadow streams which together are the true headwaters of the North Platte River. These wandering meadow streams wind effortlessly through lush fields providing endless fishing opportunities for anglers. Each of these streams are loaded with wild Brown, Brook, and Rainbow Trout. The true beginning of the North Platte lies at the confluence of Grizzly and Little Grizzly creeks 10 miles west of the town of Walden. Soon after this confluence the remaining tributaries successfully join the Platte, each bringing more nutrient rich water into the system. Twenty miles north of the Grizzly and Little Grizzly confluence, the North Platte leaves North Park and Colorado through North Gate Canyon working its way downstream into Wyoming.
North Gate Canyon is a wild stretch of river that provides a lifetime of fishing all in its own. This section runs through the Platte River Wilderness which is managed by Colorado and Wyoming as a Gold Medal/ Blue Ribbon trophy fishery. The river through the wilderness is 18 miles long and has a nice trail following the river giving anglers access to fish. This canyon has not been stocked with fish since the 70’s and is full of non-native but wild Brown, Rainbow, Brook, and Cutthroat trout. There are trailheads that take you into this amazing canyon where you’ll find fish feeding on an abundance of hatches throughout the season. Early in the summer boaters run rafts through the canyon and when the water gets too low to float, the wade fishing access is wonderful until it freezes in the late fall.
While the streams and rivers are truly spectacular in North Park, the amount of lakes to fish here is astonishing as well. Starting in the mountains where the adventure-some angler can find trailheads to over 35 different high country lakes, all of which are loaded with hard fighting Cutthroats and Brook trout, down to the many lakes located along the valley floor. These include Delaney Buttes, Lake Cowdrey, and Lake John which are widely known as some of the best still water fisheries for trout in the nation. Included also are Big Creek Lakes, in which lower Big Creek is the 2nd largest natural lake in Colorado and provides opportunities for Rainbows, Brook and Brown trout as well as Lake Trout and Tiger Muskie. There are tons of lakes of all shapes and sizes in North Park adding to the incredible diversity this fishery has to offer.
Whether you are a river rat, a lake aficionado, or just plain like to catch fish, North Park is one of the last amazing places in the lower 48. There are not many fishing destinations that offer an angler this amount of diversity, all located in one valley. Many anglers have said that North Park is much like a small version of Alaska. There is less than one person per square mile in the county (Jackson) and by government standards it is considered a frontier. If you are looking for a true western fly fishing experience like it was laid out in the movie “A River Runs Through it”, North Park is the place you need to visit.
North Park is also home to one of the best fly shops in Colorado, North Park Anglers, recently named “Orvis Endorsed Outfitter of the Year”, located right on Main Street. They can get you dialed in with the ins-and-outs of fishing this valley. Not only are they the most friendly fly shop you will visit, but they offer guided fishing trips, lodging, and one of the largest fly selections in the country. Check them out at www.northparkanglers.com.
Get up here! You will absolutely need to see this place!!!
The crew at the North Park Anglers in unsurpassed. Besides being incredibly knowledgeable and committed to customer service, they run the classiest fishing operation in the county. To top it off, they are just real nice people! They are committed to helping their community as well by volunteering, being mentors in the NPHS Senior Project and contributing to community programs such as the NPHS Career Fair and the North Park Never Summer Rodeo. This story could easily be in so many of our showcases: ADVENTURE, BUSINESS and HIDDEN GEM! A fishing trip with the North Park Anglers will yield you a great time in some beautiful country, but also life long friends upon your departure.