10 Best Fly Fishing Rivers in Colorado – Where to Fish CO

Do you want to know absolutely everything there is to know about the best fly fishing in the great state of Colorado? Then look no further! Here is your ultimate guide for the best fly fishing Colorado has to offer.

fly fishing in colorado

You’ll find everything you need in this article from the best fly fishing waters in Colorado, to which flies will get the northern pike, rainbow and brown trout, and other species taking your fly.

There are so many trout in Colorado, so whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’re going to catch some fish. In fact, many CO trout streams and lakes are Gold Medal Waters, renowned all around the world, drawing in visitors from other states and even other countries.

Here are the top 10 fly fishing destinations in Denver and beyond that you should hit on your fly fishing trip to Colorado.

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Best Fly Fishing in Colorado: Best Spots

Many of the rivers and trout lakes in Colorado have been awarded a Gold Medal and offer Gold Medal Fishing, meaning that these Gold Medal waters are packed full of trout and are thus a fly angler’s dream. Here are the best fishing spots in Colorado:

Gore Creek

Gore Greek

If you’re looking for Gold Medal Stream that will get you away from anglers and into the mountains, then head to Gore Creek in Central Colorado just outside of Vail.

This central Colorado wild trout river is more of a mountain stream and being a Gold Medal Stream, it of course offers, some Gold Medal Fishing.

You’ll find good fishing all the way up this stream, all season with early summer being the best time to be there.

It is home to brook trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow, and brown trout. Why not challenge yourself to see if you can catch one of each type in a single day?!

If secluded trout fishing with magical mountain views is what you’re looking for, then Gore is the spot to head to. The best thing about this stream is that you can catch trout on dry flies most of the time and it’s all wade fishing.

Where To Fish On Gore Creek

The best sections of the river for fishing are Lower Gore Creek, south of Vail, and Upper Gore Creek, north of Vail.

The section detailed in the map below has easy access, parking and it’s outside of any developed areas so the big trout should be a little less picky.

Recommended Flies For Gore Creek

South Platte River

South Platte River

One of the most popular CO river fly-fishing destinations is without doubt the South Platte River. You may have to contend with the crowds here in certain sections, but it’s still worth a visit as the South Platte offers some of the best trout fishing in Colorado.

This river is home to kokanee salmon, cutthroat trout, brown and rainbow trout. You can also find some huge trout in the ‘Dream Stream’ section near Elevenmile Reservoir at the right time of year, spring and fall.

If you want to avoid the crowds, make sure to skip the Deckers near Denver as it sees more anglers than anywhere else. If you want the river to yourself then hiking into Cheesman Canyon is your best bet as you’ll find excellent trout water without many other anglers in sight.

The river is easy to fly fish as it’s wadable and offers easy casting thanks to the prairie surroundings – you won’t have to worry about untangling your flies from thick undergrowth here.

You can cast a fly rod on this river all season long but if you want to fly fish with dries then the summer’s early morning tricos can have you fooling some large brown trout.

Where To Fish On The South Platte River

As I already mentioned, you have a ton of different access options on the South Platte but if you’re looking for a trophy fish, head to the Dream Stream section detailed in the map below.

Recommended Flies For The South Platte River

Frying Pan River

Frying- Pan River

The Frying Pan River is a Gold Medal Water but it’s nothing but a small mountain stream above the Reudi Reservoir dam. However, the Fryingpan River tailwater that flows out of the reservoir offers some of the best fly fishing in the country

The large brown trout and rainbow trout that sit in the tailwater stuff themselves full of Mysis shrimp that flow out of the reservoir into the river. You can also tempt the brown and rainbow trout with dries as the river sees some excellent green drake and pale morning dun hatches.

Being a tailwater, this part of the river sees an incredible amount of midge hatches which the native fish will rise to all year round.

There are around 14 miles of river to fish until it joins the Roaring Fork River further down so you can always find the perfect spot without feeling crowded by other anglers.

Where To Fish On The Fryingpan River

The best fly fishing spot on the Fryingpan is, of course, below the reservoir. You’ll find easy access and stunning deep pools to drift your flies over.

Recommended Flies For Fryingpan River

  • White/Translucent Mysis Shrimp imitations
  • Pink/Tan Pale Morning Duns
  • Green Drakes
  • Small midge imitations

North Delaney Lake

North Delaney Lake

North Delaney Lake is another of Colorado’s Gold Medal Waters and you’ll find it in the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park, so the view, while you fish this lake, is nothing less than spectacular.

While fly fishing on this lake you will have the chance to catch some big brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroats, and cutbows too. There is a lot of fish in this like so your chances of catching a solid fish or two are high.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife actually harvests the trout eggs from this lake to boost the state’s stocks, so you know it’s worth a visit.

The best way to fly fish in this lake is by float fishing or on a boat with sinking lines in the summer. You can also walk the banks looking for big brown trout in the spring and fall. Ice fishing is also an option in winter too.

Where To Fish On North Delaney

If you’re fishing from the bank, then heading to the lake fork below is a great place to start. If you’re float fishing, then find a good ledge to focus on.

Recommended Flies For North Delaney

  • Crawdad patterns
  • Damselfly nymphs
  • Midges
  • Fry imitations

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Another scenic setting in Rocky Mountain National Park for fly fishing is Spinney Mountain Reservoir, which the South Platte flows through.

This reservoir is an incredible place to set up for some trout, and some big trout too. You’ll find huge rainbows and cutbows as well as some average-sized brown trout and cutthroats too. This lake is also home to northern pike which can be caught with large streamers.

The fishing is good and the shoreline is easy to access and cast from but it’s best fished from a boat in the summer when the fish go deep.

Where To Fish On Spinney Mountain Reservoir

If you are fishing from the shore try to focus on areas like a lake fork detailed in the map below as the fish will be more accessible. If you’re on a boat be sure to fish depth changes well.

Recommended Flies For Spinney Mountain Reservoir

  • Midges
  • Callibaetis
  • Damselflies
  • Streamers

Arkansas River

Arkansas River

With over 102 miles of Gold Medal Waters, this Southern Colorado river is one of the best fly fishing spots you’ll find in Colorado. The combination of sparkling clear water, cascades, and deep pools make the perfect habitat for trout and for us fly fishermen too.

The Arkansas River Gold Medal Waters runs for miles so you can always find a secluded spot away from other anglers with ease. The Arkansas River is home to a huge amount of brown trout and rainbows are starting to creep in too.

The river is quite famous for its huge caddis hatch that happens on Mothers Day and being full of brown trout, the streamer fishing is also excellent on this river too.

You can also fish all year round on this river, as the tailwater below the reservoir at Pueblo keeps the trout fishing going when the ice comes on the upper river.

Do take care during the summer, as the Arkansas River is a popular destination for kayakers and white-water rafters. Many fly fishers report that it’s best to avoid the midday kayak rush and fish earlier or later in the day.

Where To Fish On The Arkansas River

Recommended Flies For The Arkansas River

Rio Grande

Rio Grande

Another one of the great Colorado fly fishing spots is the Rio Grande River. The Rio Grande travels through the Rio Grande National Park and towards South Fork as it flows for miles through numerous Colorado Parks.

The upper sections of the Rio Grande are home to more technical fishing and also a unique type of cutthroat trout. You can spend weeks exploring the upper reaches and if you have the time, it’s certainly recommended.

If you’re looking to fish one of the world-famous parts of the river, head to the Gold Medal Waters that is found between Del Norte and the town of South Fork. This Gold Medal Water is home to more brown trout and it is best fished via a drift boat.

It is especially good in the summer during the stonefly and mayfly hatching season of June-July, you’ll have excellent chances of landing yourself some big fish.

Wading the Gold Medal Water isn’t really possible but it is worth spending the money for a day of floating down the river.

Where To Fish

The map below features the Gold Medal waters of the Rio Grande, head here for some of the top fly fishing you might find in Colorado.

Recommended Flies For

  • Hoppers
  • Stoneflies
  • Streamers
  • Adams
  • Midges
  • Various nymphs

Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

One of the popular local spots, the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins draws in many anglers from the surrounding area and from further afield too.

You won’t need to worry about how to access the river, as there is open public access all along the 14-mile stretch, but that does mean that your fellow anglers may be numerous too.

Make sure you pack your waders, as you’ll get the most bites if you venture off the shore and out into the deeper waters.

Consider waiting out the other anglers and staying on into the evening, as there’s something about this river at dusk that is eerily magical – and the fish respond really well to dry and wet flies at this time too. Take a look for yourself at this beautiful setting.

Where To Fish On The Cache la Poudre River

A great spot to access the Cache la Poudre River is detailed on the map below. It’s a bit into the wilderness, you can park your car there, and enjoy some secluded fly fishing.

Recommended Flies For Cache la Poudre River

  • Pheasant tail nymphs
  • Cooper John
  • Prince Nymph
  • Adams
  • Elk hair caddis
  • Midge patterns

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Don’t miss out on the largest body of water in the state of Colorado. The Blue Mesa Reservoir, part of the Grand Mesa Lakes, has plenty to attract fly fishers to its shores, which stretch out to a total of 96 miles.

There are loads of fishing opportunities and enough space for everyone to find a calm, quiet area to spend a day fishing.

This reservoir has the famous Gunnison river flowing through it too and you should also fish the Gunnison river tailwaters while you’re fishing this lake too.

During early spring and late fall you can fish the shorelines for brown and rainbow trout but it’s best to get deeper into the lake during the summer.

Your best bet for this trout lake when wading is to fish for where the streams and Gunnison river join the reservoir – the trout just love these areas of deep, cool water, especially those elusive brook trout. You’ll also find large populations of rainbow trout, both in the rivers and the reservoir.

Where To Fish On Blue Mesa Reservoir

It’s key to fish where the Gunnison river enters and exits this reservoir as the fish will find lots of food in these areas. You should also take a stroll down the Gunnison river with your fly rod while you’re there.

Recommended Flies For

  • BWO
  • Salmon flies (Gunnison River)
  • Streamers
  • Wooly bugger
  • Damselfly nymphs

Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork River is not as famous or popular as some of the other fly fishing spots in CO, but don’t let this put you off. The Roaring Fork is truly a fly fishing gem, and all the better it’s not too popular because you won’t have to contend with the crowds.

The Roaring Fork starts up in the White River National Forest and works its way down until it eventually flows into the Upper Colorado river picking up tributaries as it goes and ending into the Mighty Colorado River.

The pure, fast-flowing mountain waters of the Roaring Fork are a great environment for healthy trout and they are of a good size too. We’d definitely recommend it as some of the best Colorado fishing.

You’ll find brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout in this river and some prolific hatches to catch them on dry flies, the Green Drake hatch being the most famous.

Where To Fish On Roaring Fork River

If you want to wade focus on the upper river between Aspen and Basalt along the Rio Grande Trail detailed on the map below. The lower waters will need to be fished by boat.

Recommended Flies For

  • Green Drake
  • Midges
  • Adams
  • Elk hair caddis
  • Small nymphs

Colorado Fishing License

Before you set out to fish Colorado’s waters, you’ll need to buy the appropriate license. You can buy one for daily, weekly or annual fishing, with options for residents and also non-residents.

The State Department has just increased the license prices, so an annual resident license now costs $33, raised from $25. From a resident one-day license, you’ll need to pay $12. Youths aged 16-17 do benefit though, as they only have to pay $8, compared to the previous $25 fee.

If you’re coming in from out of state, the fishing license costs are significantly higher. Expect to pay $95 for an annual license, $30 for 5 days, and $15 for one day.

Find out more online here at the Parks and Wildlife website.

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Colorado Fishing Regulations

As well as having your license, there are a few other things you’ll need to keep in mind when you fish Colorado’s waters.

Firstly, be mindful that landowners do not have to put up signs to let you know when you’re on private land. The onus is on you to inform yourself of where you can legally fish so that you don’t trespass.

Anyone standing on the stream bed of a river that is privately owned is classed as trespassing, and if one bank is public, make sure you don’t cross too far over onto the other side.

Check the daily bag limit before you set out in Colorado. The Gold Medal Waters and the Wild Trout areas are two specially designated areas that are controlled to provide healthy trout populations, and so the limits and regulations may differ here.

Be aware that any fish that you catch and keep in a live-well, stringer or other containment/storage device count towards your daily bag limit too, even if you later release them back into the water.

Take a closer look at the full regulations for fishing here.

trout fishing colorado

Colorado Fishing Report

Before going fishing in Colorado, it’s always a good idea to take a look at a fishing report. That way, you’ll get a better idea of how the fish are behaving and also the conditions of the water at the particular river or lake you’re heading to.

Avid anglers are kind enough to give frequent updates so you can know in advance how high, clear, or otherwise the water is, what fish have been seen and whether they’re biting.

This way, you’ll be prepared when you’re fishing Colorado waters. Check the latest fishing reports here and here.

Best Flies For Colorado

You’ll want to use the best flies for the state of CO rather than just a generic fly. The easiest way to tell which fly to use is to find out which insects are hatching right when you’ll be making your flyfishing trip. Or you could rely on the advice of more experienced fly fishermen and women who have worked it out for you!

The Gray RS2 is a great all-rounder when fishing Colorado lakes and rivers. It works well on all species of trout, by resembling an emerging mayfly nymph or midge.

Other handy flies to have on all your trout fishing excursions include the black wooly bugger in a size 8, a parachute Adams from size 16-22, and an elk hair caddis pattern.

See also our post here on Oklahoma fly fishing if you’re ever planning on visiting Oklahoma for your next fly fishing adventure.

Good Fly Shops In Colorado 

It always pays to get some local flies and advice when fishing in a new place and there is nowhere better than a local fly fishing shop.

Colorado Fishing Guides

It’s always a good idea to hire a fishing guide in a new place as they will get you fishing correctly, after which you can continue in the right direction for the rest of your trip.

colorado trout hunters

Colorado Trout Hunters

Phone: 303-325-5515 | Website

5280 angler

5280 Angler Guided Trips

Phone: 720-450-7291 | Website

Rawah Ranch

Rawah Ranch | Western Dude Ranch

Phone: 800-510-7071 | Website

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Wrap Up

So there you have our guide to the best spots for fishing in Colorado. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it informative and helpful. So what are you waiting for? Go fish the best spots for yourself! All you need to do is:

  • Apply for that fishing license
  • Grab some of the flies recommended above
  • Get your fishing gear together
  • And then get out there

Whether you’re looking for those prized gold waters, a quiet trickling trout stream, or a deep, fast-flowing river, you’ll find it in amongst all the Colorado fishing spots.

Even if it’ll be your first time to fly fish, with Colorado’s beautifully clear waters and the abundant trout population, you have a good chance of making a catch.

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