North Park fly-fish­ing gains as wa­ter re­cedes

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Wick­strom

Fly-fish­ing in Colorado’s high coun­try has been ex­cep­tional as the runoff has re­ceded and the rivers have cleared. The North Park area has been no ex­cep­tion.

Matt Jimenez, from North Park An­glers in Walden, joined me on my ra­dio show last Satur­day to up­date us on river con­di­tions. Jimenez com­mented that the flows on the North Platte River have just come down and cleared, and the walk/ wade fish­ing is re­ally com­ing on. The trib­u­taries that run through the mead­ows in the area have seen enough rain to keep them cool and pro­duc­tive. Dry drop­pers like a hop­per with a hairs ear or pheas­ant tail nymph have been do­ing well.

One of the great things about this area is the va­ri­ety of trout avail­able. On one day, while fish­ing with the crew from North Park An­glers. I al­most had a grand slam. I had al­ready caught brook trout, sev­eral large rain­bows and cut­throat trout. All I needed was a brown trout, which can be your most com­mon catch at times in the area. To­ward the end of the day, I fi­nally hooked up with a small brown, maybe 5 inches, but while I was land­ing it a 5-pound rain­bow ate it. It was hard to be dis­ap­pointed.

I asked Jimenez how the area lakes were fish­ing. He said an­glers are hav­ing very good suc­cess fish­ing nymphs 10 to 20 feet deep un­der in­di­ca­tors early and late in the day. The De­laney Buttes reser­voirs in par­tic­u­lar were pro­duc­ing some very large fish.

Com­monly known as “North Park,” Jack­son County is a high, iso­lated, in­ter-moun­tain basin that lies in the north­ern­most tier of Colorado. North Park is one of the four ma­jor “parks” in Colorado and these ma­jor in­ter­moun­tain re­gions com­prise some of the high­est el­e­vated, large ar­eas of year-round agri­cul­tural set­tle­ments in North Amer­ica.

North Park en­com­passes about 1,600 square miles; more than one mil­lion acres, and the el­e­va­tion ranges from 7,800 feet in the val­ley floor to nearly 13,000 feet on sur­round­ing peaks.

This pic­turesque val­ley is sur­rounded by five des­ig­nated wilder­ness ar­eas and plen­ti­ful Na­tional For­est lands that are speck­led with high alpine lakes and streams. These wa­ters team with na­tive cut­throats and brook trout that are ea­ger to take a fly and are un­ac­cus­tomed to the pres­ence of hu­mans.

Long, cold win­ters bring above av­er­age snow­pack, which en­sures am­ple wa­ter through­out the sea­son to the wa­ters be­low.

The smaller high coun­try streams com­bine to cre­ate the meadow streams or trib­u­tary streams that flow out of the foothills and into the mead­ows. As the gra­di­ent re­duces, wa­ter slows, and be­gins me­an­der­ing through wil­low-lined hay mead­ows. Once the meadow streams com­bine, a world-class fish­ery is born, the North Platte. Two dis­tinct sec­tions within miles of each other make this river unique.

In the val­ley, the river char­ac­ter­is­tics con­sist of a slow me­an­der­ing meadow river with clas­sic wide rif­fles, deep runs and braids.

On the rivers jour­ney north­ward it tum­bles into the spec­tac­u­lar North­gate Canyon near the Wy­oming/Colorado state line where steep canyon walls, boul­der fields, and dreamy dry fly flats are loaded with wild pop­u­la­tions of wily browns and rain­bows. Within the val­ley nu­mer­ous still wa­ters re­ferred to as “sage­brush” lakes at­tract an­glers in pur­suit of trout grow­ing to true tro­phy po­ten­tial.

In par­tic­u­lar the De­laney Buttes, des­ig­nated as Gold Medal wa­ters by the state of Colorado, are the quin­tes­sen­tial trout fac­to­ries where fish can grow up to one inch per month due to the abun­dance of food.

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