Friday, March 19, 2010


For the past 15 years Platte River Fly Shop guides and clients alike have experienced some of the best trout fishing offered in the lower 48 states. You will never see more bent rods, fighting bigger rainbows than on the miles and miles of trout heaven below Grey Reef Dam. But while we have watched this tailwater continue to improve over the years, I believe we have forgotten the miles of river above us that help create this paradise we fish all spring, summer, and fall. In the decades prior to the turn of the century, Wyoming enjoyed many years of big run-off in the spring, filling the reservoirs and reserving water for the numerous tailwaters that we are blessed to fish. During this time the 5.5 mile stretch we all know as "The Miracle Mile" was one of the premier destinations for fly fishing in the Mountain West. This well-known section of the North Platte, located in the Seminoe Mountain Range, flows downstream of Black Canyon, a 1000-foot gorge, home to Kortes Reservoir, whose dam feeds the Mile. Holding the lower end of the mile stretch is Pathfinder Reservoir. And believe it or not, with the exception of the Medicine Bow National Forest , this measly 5.5 mile tailwater is the longest continual stretch of public water on the Platte! And that is only part of what makes it so special. Upstream of the canyon, Seminoe Reservoir acts as a settling pond, controlling water levels, water temperatures, and even controlling the silt. On the other end, Pathfinder acts as a virtual fish hatchery. Beyond the 12 to 20-inch resident trout, feeding on the blanket hatches of caddis, baetis, and midges, the spawning seasons welcome larger rainbows and browns to run up from the reservoir, typically in the 24 to 30-inch range. These fish, satisfied with their deep water feeding habitats, are nothing short of carnivores, ready and willing to chase down streamers "Why haven't you been guiding there all along?" you might ask. Well, at the turn of the century mother nature started a vicious cycle of drought years, dropping the flows and enticing fewer and fewer of these lake-run trout into the Mile, while at the same time, negatively affecting the spawning habitat of the resident fish. The good news is that since 2004 our runoff has increased each year, refilling Pathfinder and restoring big spring flows to the Platte. Additionally, since 2004 the Game and Fish has put huge efforts into the restoration of the spawning habitat, and continues to devote numerous hours of research into the Mile's current and much improved condition. The result of all this came to fruition in 2009, with counts coming in at over 3600 fish per mile, Game and Fish shocking several rainbows and browns among them in the 6 to 10 pound range. Also, Pathfinder peaked at nearly 80% of capacity and the Mile held flows near 2500 cfs clear into August. That's an increase of nearly 140% on a 30-year average.

So, what am I getting at? I'm saying that 2010 is the year of the Miracle Mile's return, and a fantastic opportunity to branch out. Don't get me wrong, we still love floating you down the Reef and slamming fish; it's hard to beat. But why don't we take that second trip and huck streamers in search of that 10-pound rainbow or brown. Or we can drop anchor and throw a dry or a nymph in one of the hundreds of pockets, riffles, and seams along the five-and-a-half miles of fresh scenery. Either way, you know where I'll be on my day off, so why don't you join us in proving the MIRACLE is still in the MILE.

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