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

fly fishing colorado

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If you’re looking to experience the thrill of fly fishing in the beautiful state of Colorado, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you need to know to plan a successful and memorable fly fishing trip in the Rockies. Colorado is famous for its Gold Medal Waters, which are known worldwide for their abundance of trout and other fish species. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned angler, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to cast your line and reel in a catch.

In this article, we’ll cover the top fly fishing destinations in and around Denver and beyond. We’ll also discuss important factors such as obtaining a Colorado fishing license, following the fishing regulations to ensure good fishing practices, and utilizing the most effective flies for catching fish such as northern pike, rainbow trout, and brown trout. Additionally, we’ll provide information on fly shops, fishing guides, and frequently asked questions related to fly fishing in Colorado.

Key Takeaways

  • Discover the top fly fishing destinations in Colorado for a memorable and rewarding experience.
  • Learn about essential regulations, license requirements, and best practices for fly fishing in the state.
  • Get expert advice on effective flies, local fly shops, and experienced fishing guides to enhance your trip.

Best Fly Fishing Colorado: Top Locations

Gore Creek

Gore Greek

Gore Creek, located just outside of Vail, is a great getaway for fly fishing enthusiasts who appreciate Gold Medal Stream mountain streams surrounded by breathtaking scenery. It offers exceptional trout fishing for brook, cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout. Most of the time, you’ll catch trout on dry flies, offering a stunning wade-fishing experience. The prime sections for fishing on Gore Creek are Lower Gore Creek, south of Vail, and Upper Gore Creek, north of Vail.

Some recommended flies for Gore Creek include Parachute Adams, Klinkhammer, Elk Hair Caddis, Midges, Copper John, Pheasant Tail, and Prince Nymph.

South Platte River

South Platte River

The South Platte River is undoubtedly a popular fly-fishing spot in Colorado, housing kokanee salmon, cutthroat trout, brown, and rainbow trout. To catch some sizable trout, visit the “Dream Stream” section near Elevenmile Reservoir during spring and fall. For a more secluded experience and less crowded location, consider Cheesman Canyon.

Flies recommended for the South Platte River include small midges, WD40, RS2, Zebra Midge, and Griffiths Gnat.

Frying Pan River

Frying- Pan River

After the Reudi Reservoir dam, the Frying Pan River transforms into a Gold Medal Water tailwater, offering some of the best fly fishing experiences in the country. Large brown and rainbow trout feed on Mysis shrimp that flow from the reservoir to the river. The river is also abundant with green drake and pale morning dun hatches.

Flies recommended for the Frying Pan River include white/translucent Mysis shrimp imitations, pink/tan pale morning duns, green drakes, and small midge imitations.

North Delaney Lake

North Delaney Lake

North Delaney Lake, located in the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, offers breathtaking views and Gold Medal Waters. Anglers can catch substantial brown, rainbow, cutthroat trout and cutbows while fishing in this lake. The best way to fly fish is by float fishing or boating during summer. Spring and fall are ideal for fishing from the banks, whereas ice fishing is popular during winter.

Recommended flies for North Delaney Lake include crawdad patterns, damselfly nymphs, midges, and fry imitations.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir, situated in Rocky Mountain National Park, offers a picturesque spot for fly fishing, where the South Platte River flows through. The reservoir holds vast rainbows, cutbows, brown trout, cutthroats, and northern pikes, which can be caught with large streamers.

Flies recommended for Spinney Mountain Reservoir include midges, Callibaetis, damselflies, and streamers.

Arkansas River

Arkansas River

The Arkansas River boasts over 102 miles of Gold Medal Waters in Southern Colorado, providing an excellent habitat for brown trout and rainbows. The river is known for its massive caddis hatch on Mother’s Day and is perfect for streamer fishing. Anglers can fish all year round, as the tailwater below Pueblo Reservoir keeps the trout fishing season going during winter.

Flies recommended for the Arkansas River include Wooly bugger, olive streamer, sculpin, caddis, prince nymphs, pheasant tail nymphs, and Copper Johns.

Rio Grande

Rio Grande

The Rio Grande River flows through the Rio Grande National Park and offers an incredible fly-fishing experience. Its upper sections have more technical fishing, home to a unique type of cutthroat trout. One can spend weeks exploring the upper reaches of the Rio Grande.

Whatever spot you choose, Colorado’s rich fishing grounds and beautiful landscapes will not disappoint. Just remember to pack the right flies and gear, and you’re in for an unforgettable fly-fishing adventure.

Colorado Fishing License

Before heading out for a fishing adventure in Colorado’s beautiful waters, it’s essential to obtain the appropriate fishing license. Licenses are available for daily, weekly, or annual use and cater to both residents and non-residents.

Recently, the license prices experienced an increase. Now, an annual resident license costs $33, up from $25. A resident one-day license is priced at $12. However, there is a reduced fee for youths aged 16-17, as they only need to pay $8, a significant drop from the previous $25 fee.

Non-residents can also fish in Colorado, but the license fees are higher. An annual license is priced at $95, a 5-day license costs $30, and a one-day license comes in at $15. For more information, visit the Parks and Wildlife website.

colorado rivers

Colorado Fishing Regulations

When fishing in Colorado, it is important to be aware of certain rules and regulations. One crucial aspect to remember is that landowners are not required to post signs indicating private property. As a result, anglers must be knowledgeable about where they can legally fish to avoid trespassing. Standing on a privately-owned stream bed is considered trespassing, and if one bank is public, be cautious not to accidentally cross onto private land.

Additionally, be familiar with the daily bag limit in Colorado. Specific areas, such as Gold Medal Waters and Wild Trout areas, have distinct regulations to maintain robust trout populations. These locations might have different rules and limits than other areas.

It is crucial to note that any fish kept in a live-well, stringer, or other storage device counts toward the daily bag limit, even if they are later released. To ensure compliance with all rules and regulations, take time to thoroughly review the official Colorado fishing regulations before setting out on a fishing adventure.

trout fishing colorado

Colorado Fishing Report

When planning a fishing trip in Colorado, reviewing a fishing report can provide valuable insights about fish behavior and water conditions in specific rivers or lakes. Enthusiastic anglers frequently share updates on water clarity, water levels, and fish sightings, facilitating the decision-making process prior to fishing.

Being aware of these factors ensures a successful Colorado fishing experience and increases the chances of catch fish. For up-to-date information, you can refer to these websites for the latest fishing reports and conditions.

Best Flies for Colorado

In Colorado, selecting the right flies is crucial for a successful fly fishing experience. It’s essential to use flies that match the local insect hatchings or rely on seasoned fly fishers’ recommendations to increase your chances of catching fish.

One versatile fly to consider is the Gray RS2. This fly effectively mimics emerging mayfly nymphs or midges, making it an excellent choice when targeting various trout species in Colorado’s lakes and rivers.

Some other essential flies to include in your tackle box for trout fishing in Colorado are:

  • Black Wooly Bugger (size 8): A time-tested pattern, ideal for attracting different trout types.
  • Parachute Adams (size 16-22): Effective in various situations, this dry fly is a popular choice when imitating mayflies.
  • Elk Hair Caddis: Perfect for imitating caddis hatches, a crucial food source for trout.

By equipping yourself with these suggested flies, you’ll be well-prepared for a successful day of fly fishing in Colorado, targeting brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout, and even kokanee salmon.

Good Fly Shops in Colorado

Visiting a local fly fishing shop offers valuable insights into regional flies and tackle advice. Some recommended shops near Leadville and Parshall include:

  • Duranglers Flies and Supplies
  • South Platte Fly Shop
  • Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Laughing Grizzly Fly Shop

These shops provide quality gear and knowledgeable staff to help ensure a successful fly fishing experience in Colorado.

Colorado Fishing Guides

Hiring a fishing guide can greatly enhance your experience, particularly in unfamiliar locations. In Colorado, there are several reputable services providing top-notch guidance. Check out Colorado Trout Hunters (303-325-5515), offering a range of guided fly fishing trips. You may also consider 5280 Angler Guided Trips (720-450-7291) for customizable adventures in various locations. Lastly, Rawah Ranch (800-510-7071) provides an immersive Western Dude Ranch experience, combining excellent fishing opportunities with authentic ranch living.

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

rainbow trout colorado


Best Fly Fishing Season in Colorado

The optimal time for fly fishing in Colorado depends on the fish species you’re targeting. Generally, late spring and early summer are the best times, as water temperatures are warmer, leading to increased fish activity.

Colorado Fly Fishing Quality

Fly fishing in Colorado is highly popular due to the state’s diverse fisheries. With abundant opportunities for catching various species of trout, bass, pike, and more, Colorado is considered one of the top destinations for trout fishing in the US.

Which Flies to Use in Colorado

The ideal flies for Colorado depend on your target fish. Common choices include dry flies like Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Parachute Adams; nymphs such as Hare’s Ear, Stoneflies, and Pheasant Tail; and streamers like Marabou Muddler, Zonker, and Woolly Bugger.

Fly Fishing Availability in Colorado

Although fly fishing in Colorado is possible year-round, the prime times are typically late spring and early summer. Colorado’s rivers and lakes are open for fishing throughout the year, but optimal conditions prevail in the warmer months.

Fish Species to Catch while Fly Fishing in Colorado

Fly fishing enthusiasts in Colorado have the opportunity to catch a wide range of fish, including various trout species (rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and brook), bass (smallmouth, largemouth, and rock bass), pike, walleye, among others. Colorado’s rivers and lakes are renowned for offering exceptional fly fishing opportunities, especially for trout fishing.

Wrap Up

In this section, we covered some of the top fly fishing locations in Colorado and provided tips for a successful fishing experience. In summary, here’s what to do before heading out to the waters:

  • Obtain a fishing license
  • Acquire the recommended flies for the region
  • Gather necessary fishing equipment
  • Embark on your fishing adventure

Colorado offers various fly fishing opportunities, from its prized Gold Medal Waters to tranquil trout streams and rugged, fast-moving rivers. The state is known for its crystal-clear waters and abundant trout, making it an excellent destination for both experienced anglers and newcomers alike. Follow the concise tips shared in this article, and you will be well-equipped to make the most of your fly fishing experience in beautiful Colorado.

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