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The North Platte - Miracle Mile, Wyoming  at Cabela's

The North Platte - Miracle Mile, Wyoming

Author: Steve Cook

At the turn of the last century, much of the western United States remained empty for want of reliable water for agriculture. To remedy this situation, Congress passed the Reclamation Act of 1902, ushering in the U.S. Reclamation Service, the predecessor to the Bureau of Reclamation.

At the turn of the last century, much of the western United States remained empty for want of reliable water for agriculture. To remedy this situation, Congress passed the Reclamation Act of 1902, ushering in the U.S. Reclamation Service, the predecessor to the Bureau of Reclamation. Among its first projects was Pathfinder Dam on the North Platte, which was completed in 1909. Seminoe Dam was built upstream and completed in 1939, and Kortes Dam was added in 1951 to act as an afterbay dam to Seminoe for power production. The purpose of building these large water projects was to "reclaim" arid lands for human use and to create homes for Americans on family farms. By happy coincidence, the short stretch of river that remained between Kortes Dam and the impounded waters of Pathfinder Reservoir also created an ideal environment for trout.
The upper-end of the Miracle Mile
The tailwater below Kortes now has consistent water temperatures supporting a variety of aquatic foods that allow trout to grow in its rich waters year-round, and the river's resident fish are deep-bodied and thick. As if this weren't good enough, massive Pathfinder Reservoir is also home to a large population of trout that can exceed 10 pounds, and when that insistent urge to reproduce strikes them, they also find their way up into this "Miracle" section of the North Platte. When these migratory trout join the river's year-round residents, it creates the ideal situation, with lots of fish that average 16 inches and have the potential to exceed 10 pounds.

While this may sound like an angler's paradise, there is a price to be paid. The Miracle Mile is in south-central Wyoming on the edge of the Great Plains, and winds are strong and persistent. Some fly fishers joke that you need only stand on the West Bank and let the wind carry out your line. The big spawning fish do not come into the river in the warm summer months, but during the cold and stormy periods of late fall and early spring, and it can take a resolute angler to put in the time necessary to land one of the North Platte's trophy trout.

Special Regulations

North Platte River from Kortes Dam downstream to the confluence with Sage Creek (Miracle Mile) in Carbon County:

  • The creel limit on trout shall be two per day or in possession. Only one trout shall exceed 20 inches.
  • Closed to night fishing (8 p.m. to 6 a.m.) during the month of April.

    Tactics
    Miracle Mile trout have a lot of food available to them under the surface. Pull some moss off the rocks up in the canyon and you will find it full of scuds. The river also has plenty of aquatic worms, mayfly nymphs and midge larvae, along with some caddis. Catch a trout here and it will be immediately apparent that they are well-fed, and they seldom need to risk their safety by feeding on top. Nymphs are the answer, and like many other tailwater fisheries, small patterns are most effective. At higher flows, trout are forced to the bottom or the edges of the river, so be sure you get down to the bottom with your nymphs and concentrate your efforts along the banks and eddy lines.

    Streamer fishing is very productive on this stretch of the North Platte, and the big flies are visible at a greater distance when the river is murky. The yellow and brown Platte River Special is as effective as when it was first created, and you can also use other bright patterns like yellow zonkers or the yellow yummies (yellow woolly buggers with yellow rubber-legs) popular in western Montana. When the river is at lower flows, a heavily weighted fly fished with a floating line is easy to control. It can be worked effectively around the rocks up in the canyon water above the bridge, or you can keep the fly above the thick weeds that grow in the river down toward the lake. If the river is pumping along at higher flows, you may want to use a fairly dense (Type IV or V) sink-tip line to get down to the fish.
  • Hatch Chart/Availability            
    Food ItemsJFMAMJJASOND
    Midges
    Scuds
    Annelid worms
    Blue-winged olives        
    Pale morning duns              
    Tricos                  
    Yellow sallys                  
    Caddisflies            
    Terrestrials                
    InsectsSuggested Fly Patterns
    MidgesGriffith's gnats (#16-22), Adams (#16-22), palamino midges (#18-22), brassies (#16-20), serendipities (#16-22)
    Scudsolive, tan and amber scuds (#14-18), flashback scuds, olive, tan and amber (#14-18)
    Annelid wormsSan Juan Worms, red and wine (#12-16)
    Blue-winged olivesparachute Adams (#16-20), olive comparaduns (#16-20), Quigley cripples, olive (#16-20), CDC emergers, olive (#16-20), pheasant tails (#16-20), hare's ears (#16-20), hare's ears, olive (#16-20), bead-head pheasant tails (#16-20), bead-head hare's ears (#16-20), RS2s (#16-20)
    Pale morning dunscream parachutes (#16-20), cream comparaduns (#16-20), Quigley cripples, cream (#16-20), rusty spinners (#14-16), pheasant tails (#16-20), flashback pheasant tails (#16-20), bead-head pheasant tails (#14-16), bead-head hare's ears (#14-16)
    Tricostrico spinners (#18-22), CDC tricos (#18-22), pheasant tails (#18-22), flashback pheasant tails (#16-22)
    Yellow sallysyellow stimulators (#14-18), yellow sallys (#14-18),red fox squirrel nymphs (#16-18), prince nymphs (#16-18)
    Caddisflieselk-hair caddis (#16-20), partridge caddis (#16-20), Hemingway caddis (#16-20), X-caddis, olive and brown (#16-18), sparkle pupae, olive and brown (#16-20), peeking caddis (#16-18)
    TerrestrialsDave's hoppers (#6-10), Henry's Fork hoppers (#6-10), fur ants, black (#16-20), flying ants (#16-20), deer-hair beetles, black (#16-18), foam beetles, black (#16-18)
    How to Get There
    Casper and Laramie are the two closest airports to the Miracle Mile of the North Platte with regular service. To reach the Miracle Mile from Casper, head southwest 29 miles on SR 220 (Cy Avenue), then go south 10 miles on CR 407 (Cottonwood Road). Turn west on Kortes Road (CR 291) for another 19 miles. Driving time is about 1-1/2 hours.

    If you are driving up from Laramie, it will take almost three hours. The simplest route is to go west about 90 miles on I-80. Take exit 219 at Sinclair, then go north on Seminoe Road and follow the signs to the Miracle Mile and Kortes Dam, reaching the river in about 37 miles. The stretch of Seminoe Road from the Reservoir to Kortes Dam is gravel surfaced with steep grades and tight turns as it traverses the Seminoe Mountains. It is not recommended for large RVs and may require snow tires and tire chains to drive it safely in winter months.

    Accessibility
    Once you reach the river, access is very easy with public lands on both sides of the river. Moore Road (3108) follows the river's West Bank and Sage Creek, and Kortes Road gives anglers access to the east bank. There are 11 access areas with primitive camping and/or picnicking. These are fairly evenly spread up and down both sides of the river, except for the steep canyon just below Kortes Dam. Unlike many rivers, anglers are able to camp on the banks of the North Platte.
    Miracle Mile rainbow
    There are two concrete handicap-accessible fishing platforms with concrete access trails. But both platforms are quite small and not well-placed for mobility- challenged fly fishers.

    Water releases from Kortes Dam can vary from a mandated low of 500 cfs to a high of 3,000 cfs. Dam operators are required to ramp flows up and down so changes should not be extremely sudden, but they do vary quite a bit with power demands. There is no boat ramp available on this section of the North Platte due to frequent water surges from Seminoe Dam. When wading, always pay attention to water levels and don't get trapped by rising water.

    The Miracle Mile actually consists of about 5-1/2 miles of river, and the bridge over the river divides it neatly in half. Upstream the riverbed is steeper with some rocky rapids that provide holding areas for trout. As you go farther up into the canyon below Kortes Dam, the road hems in the river and it is a scramble down jumbled rocks to the river. Wading or just walking the banks here is difficult to dangerous, and some of the rock is well-polished and very slippery. Below the bridge, the river exhibits a more gentle gradient and spreads out around several islands as it make its way across the Sage Brush Flat down to Pathfinder Reservoir.

    Check river flows on the web http://www.gp.usbr.gov/htbin/hydromet_arcplt30?KORR&QD

    When To Go
    The Miracle Mile of the North Platte is a year-round fishery and can be productive during any month, but you may have trouble driving to the river after winter storms. During November and December, large brown trout move up into the river from Pathfinder Reservoir. Add these big migratory fish to the river's good population of resident trout and things can get interesting. Streamflows from Kortes Dam are normally low and clear at this time. Streamer fishing comes on strong, and the yellow and brown Platte River Special is one of the most popular patterns.

    Rainbow and cutthroat trout get that spawning urge in the spring and begin to move up from Pathfinder in February. Spawning continues through April, and this late winter, early spring period is probably the best time of year to fish the Miracle Mile. Be sure to pack warm clothes and expect high winds.

    The summer months can provide good fishing on this section of the North Platte, even though the lake-run trout are absent. The river's resident fish don't often feed on top, so concentrate on nymphing. Summer flows will typically be quite high, around 3,000 cfs, and water can often be quite murky.

    Resources
    Rawlins and Casper are both a one-hour drive from the river and offer a wide variety of amenities. The Miracle Mile Ranch offers the only lodging on the river and has cabins and a store. There are many primitive campsites on both sides of the river.

    Seminoe State Park is only about 12 miles from the Miracle Mile, but you will have to drive up over the mountain on the steep and twisting gravel road to reach the river. Limited services and facilities are available during the winter months. Tire chains and/or four-wheel-drive vehicles only are recommended during winter weather from Seminoe State Park north to the Miracle Mile. Overnight camping permits are $4 for residents and $9 for nonresidents.

    Campgrounds

    Casper
    Casper KOA Kampgrounds
    2800 E. Yellowstone Highway
    Casper, WY 82604
    Phone number: (307) 237-5155

    Hanna
    Miracle Mile Ranch
    Hanna, WY 82327
    Phone number: (307) 325-6710

    Rawlins
    Rawlins KOA Kampgrounds
    205 E. SR 71
    Rawlins, WY 82301
    Phone number: (307) 328-2021

    Western Hills Campground
    2500 Wagon Circle St.
    Rawlins, WY 82301
    Phone number: (307) 324-2592

    Lodging

    Casper
    Best Western Inn
    2325 E. Yellowstone Highway
    Casper, WY 82604
    Phone number: (307) 234-3541

    Days Inn
    301 E. "E" St.
    Casper, WY 82609
    Phone number: (307) 234-1159

    Rawlins
    Best Western Inn
    23rd & W. Spruce St.
    Rawlins, WY 82301
    Phone number: (307) 324-2737

    Hanna
    Miracle Mile Ranch
    Hanna, WY 82327
    Phone number: (307) 325-6710

    Rawlins
    Days Inn
    2222 E. Cedar St.
    Rawlins, WY 82301
    Phone number: (307) 324-6615

    Taken from Rocky Mountain Fly-Fishing by Steve Cook
    Steve Cook's new guidebook is filled with practical information about how to fish the blue ribbon waters of the American West. Complete with maps and hatch charts, the book focuses on the best of the best - the classic waters around Yellowstone and the quality waters throughout Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Utah. The author is a professional guide who has spent years helping people learn to catch fish on these very rivers and lakes.





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