As an angler, winter time on the Denver Front Range is purgatory for me
I spend the majority of my time thinking about throwing dry flies at Deckers but am met with a day of staring at bobbers when I make the long trek down there. The drive for me is seldom worth the reward so I find myself exploring other waters in closer proximity to me. This winter has been dedicated almost exclusively to carp fishing the South Platte River in Denver.
Winter day light, air temps and cold water push the carp into the deep holes. Most are stacked in the slow water in the tailout of riffles. The easiest way to find fish is to find a good feature in the South Platte like a small water fall. Depth is key to finding a hole that actually holds carp. As you’re scouting water you will notice a lot of features as you walk down the river. A lot of these holes look promising but are too shallow to hold fish in the winter. After finding a deep enough hole for carp to be stacked up, rigging up is the next step. Fishing deep is the only way to get to these fish in the winter. Long leaders, generally tapered to 1x. For tippet I would never recommend using less than 3x. Essentially all you will be doing is nymphing. Long, strong double fly rigs work best. Cast into the fast part of the riffle, mend to give your flies time to sink and then let your drift play out. Takes are very subtle so being alert is key. The difference between catching one of these fish in the mouth and hooking them in the side or losing them all together is often just a matter of a spit second. Flies that have been productive in the past few weeks have been black Backstabbers, Headstands in rust color, Hybrid Worms as well as an array of big trout nymphs like Hares Ear Nymphs, 20 Inchers, and Pheasant Tail Nymphs in sizes ranging from 12 to 6.
If you are having trouble hooking up with fish it is more likely than not a problem with your depth; so experiment with that before tearing through every fly in your box. A lot of the fun with fishing downtown comes with the fact that people are surprised to see your fishing a relatively industrial area and even more surprised to see you catching big carp. The off-catch is another thing that plays into the fun of it. While fishing these flies for carp I have caught bass and trout as well. Winter is the time to check out the South Platte River in Denver so stop by the shop here in Parker (Denver metro area) to grab some bugs and get recommendations.