North Park Also Offers Great Stillwater Fishing
The area known as North Park is just north of South Park. North Park is home to the upper portions of the North Platte River and its tributaries, but the primary stillwater fisheries are supplied with water by a system of canals; the rivers and streams do not actually pass through them. Several smaller lakes may be productive at times, but the primary stillwater fisheries in North Park are Lake John Reservoir and Delaney Buttes Lakes (North, South, and East).
Lake John is by far the largest lake and probably receives the least attention from fly fishers; it’s just too big. Large lakes often intimidate fly fishers, but Lake John has good trout populations that feed on damselflies, scuds, Callibaetis, leeches, and crayfish around inshore shelves covered with rich weedbeds.
The Delaney Buttes Lakes are not far from Lake John, and they are all very close together, sharing a common road system and camping areas. None of the Delaney Buttes Lakes are as large as Lake John. In the past, each lake had its own personality related to the fish put into it. East Delaney typically had smaller rainbow and cutthroat trout, South Delaney had larger rainbows, and North Delaney contained almost exclusively brown trout. The fish populations in each lake are not so distinctive as they once were, but they do retain some of those features. Brown trout are still netted in North Delaney, for example, to supply state hatcheries with eggs.
The North Park lakes are shallow and occasionally suffer from winterkill, but the area is very windy, which helps keep snow off the ice. Also, the weedbeds are not as prolific as in Antero, so winterkill does not seem to be as common or severe.
It may sound like a broken record, but the fish feed heavily on chironomids, leeches, minnows, scuds, annelids, eggs (seasonally), Callibaetis, damselflies, and caddisflies. And the smaller lakes in North Park have significant populations of beetles, ants, and grasshoppers that are blown onto the water and attract cruising trout.
Laramie Plains Is Our Third Option
Still farther north, west of Laramie, Wyoming, is a concentration of lakes in an area known as Laramie Plains. This region has the most lakes, all of which are fed by irrigation canals. Lake Hattie is the biggest. It is very large and deep, and contains rainbow trout, lake trout, kokanee salmon, and yellow perch. Fly fishers focus on the rainbows. Lake trout typically stay in deep water and are too difficult to reach with fly gear, but they will come into the shallows, where they are caught on streamers and crayfish patterns in the spring and fall. Kokanees are also openwater fish inhabiting the deeper portions of the lake. In the fall, you might find them staged in bays where they can be caught with nymph and egg imitations.
Hattie does not have as many shallow weedbeds as the other fisheries; the bottom is more rock, rubble, gravel, and sand. In my experience, the food sources are less dependent on weedbeds and I see fewer damsels, caddises, or Callibaetis, and more scuds, baitfish, crayfish, and annelids. The waters of the Laramie Plains lakes, which are very high in alkali content, produce these invertebrates, and the fish grow large and fat on scuds and crayfish.
Twin Buttes Lake is probably the next largest of the Laramie Plains lakes. It has more weedbeds than Hattie, but is not so deep and fishes much more like the lakes in North and South Park. Formerly known for its brown trout, it has recently developed a reputation for large spring rainbows.
Depending upon exactly where you choose to draw the boundaries of Laramie Plains, there are quite a few other lakes in this system. They all share the same high alkali content and are rich in invertebrates that support large, fat trout. These lakes differ in size, but are smaller than Twin Buttes. Meeboer, Alsop, Gelatt, Diamond, and other lakes all pump out fish for angling using damsel, scud, leech, crayfish, baitfish, caddis, annelid, Callibaetis, and chironomid imitations.
These productive still waters provide numerous quality fishing opportunities if your favorite stream is blown out from runoff or too crowded with fellow anglers, or if you just want to target some of the best populations of the largest fish in the Rockies.
Al Ritt has written many great articles for this magazine. In addition to working for Peak Vise, he hosts trips to some of the very best fishing in North America. To learn more, go to his website, www.alrittflies.com.