Searching For Fish And Solitude In South Park: The Likeable Lilliputians Of Lost Creek

June 2020

For my earlier articles about seeking fish and solitude in South Park, see my blog from October 2019 and May 2020: https://hooknfly.com/2020/06/07/on-the-road-to-riches-finding-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park/ and https://hooknfly.com/2019/10/07/mission-impossible-searching-for-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park/

Undaunted, I continue my quest for fish and solitude in South Park, Colorado, a vast National Heritage Area whose waters like the South Platte’s Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon attract hordes of anglers like moths to the proverbial flame.  Now admittedly they do catch some trophies, but also find at times six-foot social distancing is a real challenge to achieve.  Not exactly my cup of tea. 

For over twenty years now I have traveled from my cabin near Salida to Denver and back for work and now more often to see my #1 sweetheart granddaughter Aly.  Every time I whizzed by a sign on U.S. Highway 285 near Kenosha Pass beckoning me to the Lost Creek Wilderness. 

Lost Creek Campground–Gateway To Lost Creek Fishing

The preserve, a vast 120,000-acre sanctuary, was created in 1980 in Pike National Forest by the 1980 Colorado Wilderness Act.  Parts of it had been set aside as early as 1963 as a protected scenic area.  It takes its name from the small stream that flows for miles in a wide valley then mysteriously disappears into a jumble of rocks and boulders, only to reappear miles downstream as Goose Creek.    This is not your typical Colorado high-mountain wilderness with jagged peaks covered with snow well into summer.  Instead the more gentle landscape, most of it below treeline, is marked with random knobs, domes, pinnacles, and arches. 

The Gentle Wilderness

There was never much mining or logging here, again in contrast to many other wilderness areas, just mostly grazing.  In the late 1800s there was a uniquely western half-baked reservoir scheme to dam Lost Creek underground where it intersects Reservoir Gulch.  Not surprisingly, the enterprise failed, a few remaining structures testifying to the folly.

Fortunately before it disappears, Lost Creek seems to offer the prospect of over five miles of fishing in a picture-perfect setting.  I figure it’s high time to explore the creek.  My on-line sleuthing finds a lot of information about hiking in the miles of trails in the wilderness, but very little about fishing the creek.  A couple of posts do mention eager brook trout, and that’s enough to tip the scales in favor of some additional on-the-water piscatorial research.

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On The Road To Riches: Finding Fish And Solitude In South Park

For other articles on finding fish and solitude in South Park see my blogs from October 2019: https://hooknfly.com/2019/10/07/mission-impossible-searching-for-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park/amp/ and June 2020: https://hooknfly.com/2020/06/25/searching-for-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park-the-likeable-lilliputians-of-lost-creek/

May 2020

With the Arkansas and Gunnison Rivers and other waters in my neck of the woods like Tomichi Creek blown out with runoff, I decided to resume my quixotic quest for solitude and fish in South Park.  The big broad valley that is Colorado’s South Park, home to the old mining town of Fairplay, is known mainly for two things—its eponymous TV cartoon show and great fishing on the South Platte River and its tributaries.  Problem is, just over an hour away looms the booming Denver metro area with its millions of residents, not to mention Colorado’s second largest city Colorado Springs.  That means the famous stretches of the South Platte in South Park like the Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon are often wall-to-wall with anglers. 

Now my friends and readers know that crowds on the water are not my cup of tea, consequently I have been keeping my eyes and ears open for streams in South Park that the madding crowds have overlooked or forsaken in search of lunker fish in the aforementioned popular stretches of the South Platte.  The South Fork of the South Platte has become my haven with productive fishing with lots of elbow room, just off US Highway 285 south of Fairplay. 

Public Access Areas On South Fork Of The South Platte

Last fall I had a wonderful day on a stretch of public water a few miles above Antero Reservoir.  The weather man says it’s going to be a balmy 70 degrees this week—very warm for this time of year in the perennially frigid valley—and equally important, the winds won’t be howling across the wide-open prairie.  Let’s go!!

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Mission Impossible? Searching For Fish And Solitude In South Park

For the second and third acts of Mission Impossible in South Park see my May and June 2020 articles: https://hooknfly.com/2020/06/07/on-the-road-to-riches-finding-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park/  and https://hooknfly.com/2020/06/25/searching-for-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park-the-likeable-lilliputians-of-lost-creek/

Late September 2019

The big broad valley that is Colorado’s South Park is known mainly for two things—its eponymous TV cartoon show and great fishing on the South Platte river and its tributaries.  Problem is, just over an hour away looms the booming Denver metro area with its millions of residents, not to mention Colorado’s second largest city, Colorado Springs.  The result is evident every day on two Colorado fishing groups I belong to on Facebook.  While anglers show photos of nice browns and rainbows on famous stretches of the South Platte like the Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon, more and more they rail about the crowds and report increasing incidents of near-fisticuffs over prime fishing spots.  To make matters worse, access to private waters that were formerly open to the public for a modest fee, through programs like the now-defunct county sponsored South Park Flyfishers, is shrinking.

Crowds are not my cup of tea when it comes to fishing.  However, when I drive from my home near Salida to Denver through Fairplay to see my sweetheart granddaughter Aly, I see miles of water just off U.S. Highway 285 on the South Fork of the South Platte that look inviting.  I fished some of this area several years ago on the 63 Ranch State Wildlife area, public water just above Antero Reservoir.  A friend and I got there early in the morning one summer day and caught some nice rainbows and browns, but by 11 a.m., the hordes descended—we could see eight other anglers, several of whom had no clue that you are not supposed to jump into the water right ahead of other anglers already fishing just below who are working upstream.  We flew the white flag and beat a hasty retreat.

Still, I was intrigued when I tooled down Hwy. 285 and saw few anglers upstream of Antero on the miles of public water between the main public access points located on the 63 Ranch and Knight-Imler State Wildlife Areas. (Caveat:  Anglers must stay within 25 feet of the river when fishing the Knight-Imler SWA–see maps below for boundaries of both areas.)

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Public Access And Parking Areas On 63 Ranch SWA And State Trust Lands

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Knight-Imler SWA Public Fishing Easements A Few Miles North Of The 63 Ranch SWA

To further whet my angling appetite, I have heard tales of huge spawning browns migrating out of Antero Reservoir up the South Fork in the fall.  As I drive, I cook up a strategy in my mind:  Pinpoint the several designated public access parking areas along this stretch and then avoid them like the plague.  So on my next several trips I keep a hawkeye out for alternatives and discover several possible walk-in access points from service vehicle-only gates.  The next step is to find a day when the wind isn’t blowing like a banshee in South Park, an all-too-often condition.

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