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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