Small Stream Solitude: The Poudre’s Lonely North Fork
A roadless river canyon near Colorado’s Front Range that’s almost devoid of people? Yes, it exists. Perhaps it is the lack of any prominent peaks, landmarks or other attractions that allows this small stream to lie outside the radar of many outdoor enthusiasts. The effort required to reach this rugged canyon may also dissuade some. But for whatever reason, the North Fork of the Poudre River is a little gem that receives very little fishing pressure.
At little more than 6,000 feet in elevation, this location makes for an ideal spring jaunt. Try and catch it just before or just after runoff hits a peak. This little stream actually benefits from a little extra water. Later in the summer, hot temperatures and low water can make for difficult conditions. But again in the fall, this becomes an excellent fishing destination.
Access to the river requires a willingness to hike. But for adventurous anglers, getting there isn’t all that bad. The North Fork of the Poudre can be accessed from the middle unit of Cherokee State Wildlife Area. There is a well-marked parking area along Larimer County Road 80C and, typically between May 1 and Sept. 1, the gate is open to motor vehicles. However, please check current regulations for specific road closures. When this gate is open, head west along the two-track road (a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary) to the next parking area. From there, anglers can expect about a 2-mile hike downhill to the river. If the outer gate is closed, this will add another two miles each way.
For those willing to backpack to the river, this makes a beautiful place for an early season camping trip. Please pay attention to current fishing and camping regulations, and be aware that if you explore upstream or downstream from the state wildlife area, there are sections of private land. It is your responsibility to know where those boundaries are located.
When conditions are good, fishing along the Pourdre’s North Fork can be excellent. Anglers can expect to find mostly brook trout and brown trout in the 8- to 12-inch range, with an occasional rainbow. Early in the season, Copper Johns, baetis nymphs and caddis pupa patterns can be effective. During mayfly hatches, look to small Parachute Adams and blue wing olive patterns for great dry fly fishing.
As the weather warms, expect caddis hatches in the afternoons. Elk hair caddis, Missing Link Caddis and Mini Hots are all great patterns here. Additionally, terrestrials like beetles and grasshoppers will become effective as summer approaches. Be sure to bring a few stimulators, Hippie Stompers and other small terrestrial patterns.
Best of all, visitors to this stretch of water will find it totally isolated from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Front Range cities. Due to the hike-in access, it’s uncommon to see more than a few people fishing here at a time.
There’s something special about exploring remote waters with light tackle and dry flies. Fortunately, Colorado is full of them. In fact, no matter where you are in Colorado, chances are you can find one of these relatively undisturbed trout waters. If you haven’t visited one lately, we encourage you to grab your favorite 3-weight rod, and get out there and explore.
Written by Ryan McSparran. McSparran is a fly fishing guide and the in-house writer for Anglers All in Littleton, where he manages a weekly blog and newsletter. For more information visit: www.anglersall.com