fly fishing colorado

Fly Fishing Colorado (The 2019 guide!)

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

You’ll learn everything from what you need to fish in CO, to which flies will get you the most success and, of course, the best rivers and lakes in Colorado that you just have to hit.

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there are some gorgeous spots for Colorado fly fishing. In fact, many the Colorado trout streams and lakes are renowned all around the world, drawing in visitors from other states and even other countries.

If you’re tempted to give fly fishing – Colorado style a try, check out the top 10 fly destinations in Colorado, listed below, and see which one appeals to you most! Read on to find out more.

fly fishing Colorado

Colorado Fishing License

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

The State Department have just increased the fishing license prices, so an annual resident fishing 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 fishing license, $30 for a 5 day fishing license and $15 for a one day license.

Find out more and buy your license at online here at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Colorado Fishing Regulations

As well as having your fishing 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 which 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 livewell, 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 fishing regulations for fly fishing Colorado here.

trout fishing colorado

Fly Fishing – 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 too.

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. That 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 Colorado 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 fly fishing excursions in Colorado include the black Woolly Bugger in a size 8, a Parachute Adams from size 16-22, and an Elk Hair Caddis.

You can find some more inspiration for which flies to use in the Colorado rivers and lakes in this video.

Best Trout Rivers and the Best Lakes in Colorado

Now that we’ve discussed all the ins and outs of the regulations and what you’ll need for flyfishing in CO, let’s explore those amazing fishing spots that you do not want to miss.

Many of the rivers and trout lakes Colorado have been awarded a Medal, the Gold Medal, showing that these waters have plentiful trout populations which offer great fly fish opportunities. Here are the top 10 fly angling locations in Colorado, including the top rivers and the best lakes in Colorado:

Gore Creek

If you’re looking for a Colorado fly-fishing destination which offers good prospects all year round, Gore Creek is certainly a good pick.

A quiet, secluded trout stream, but don’t underestimate the potential here: You could easily catch all four of the trout species to be found in Colorado here – brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout have all been seen in Gore Creek. Why not challenge yourself to see if you can catch one of each type in a single day?!

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

South Platte River

One of the most popular Colorado fly-fishing destinations, you may have to contend with the crowds here, but it’s still worth a visit.

You don’t have to be selective about which section of the river you fish, as your chances are good wherever you choose. In particular, head to the ‘Dream Stream’ near Elevenmile Reservoir for excellent fly fishing opportunities with easy casting thanks to the prairie surroundings – you won’t have to worry about untangling your flies from thick undergrowth here.

A great tip is to aim to visit the South Platte River during the spring, when the trout are migrating, as you could just snag yourself a lunker. However, the fly fishing in generally good here all year round.

Frying Pan River

The Frying Pan River boasts Gold Trout Medal water between the Reudi Reservoir dam and the Roaring Fork River confluence. If you want to try your hand at brown and rainbow trout fly fishing, the Frying Pan is a great spot to have a go.

You’ll find pools of deep, cold water which the trout just love, and there’s 14 miles of river to fish, so you can always find the perfect spot without feeling crowded by other anglers.

North Delaney Lake

North Delaney Lake is a Gold Medal lake found in the stunning Colorado mountains, so if you fish in this trout lake Colorado, you’ll be guaranteed a breath-taking backdrop.

Even more importantly, you’ll find abundant brown trout, so you’re sure to catch a few healthy-sized trout here. The Colorade Division of Wildlife actually harvest the trout eggs from this lake to boost the state’s stocks, so you know it’s worth a visit.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Another scenic setting in the Colorado Mountains, Spinney Mountain Reservoir is a good place to set up for some trout fly-fishing.

You can find browns, rainbow and cutthroat trout right up to trophy-worthy specimens. The fishing is good and the shoreline is easy to access and cast from.

Arkansas River

With over 102 miles of Gold Medal trout waters, the Arkansas River is one of the best rivers in Colorado for fly-fishing. The combination of sparkling clear water, cascades and deep pools make the perfect habitat for trout.

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.

You’ll have the most success with nymphs and streamers here when the water is at its deepest.

Rio Grande

Another of the great rivers in Colorado, the Rio Grande travels through the Rio Grande National Park and towards South Fork.

If you’re looking to fish one of Colorado’s world-famous trout rivers, head to the Gold Medal section that is to be found between Del Norte and the town of South Fork.

Especially good in the summer during the stone fly and mayfly hatching season of June-July, you’ll have excellent chances of landing yourself some brown or rainbow trout.

Cache la Poudre River

One of the popular local fishing spots in Colorado, 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.

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.

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Don’t miss out on the largest body of water in the state of Colorado. The Blue Mesa Reservoir has plenty to attract fly fishers to its shores, which stretch out to a total of 96 miles – loads of fly fishing opportunities and enough space for everyone to find a calm, quiet area to spend a day fly fishing.

Your best bet for this trout lake Colorado is to head for where the streams and rivers 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.

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. It truly is a flyfishing gem, and all the better because you won’t have to contend with the crowds.

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

rainbow trout colorado

Wrap Up

So there you have our guide to the best fly fishing in Colorado. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it informative and helpful. So what are you waiting for? Go find the best fishing in Colorado 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, exploring the local fishing spots amongst the brilliant lakes and rivers in Colorado!

Whether you’re looking for those prized gold waters, a quiet trickling trout stream or a deep, fast-flowing river, you’ll have your pick of the Colorado fly fishing spots. You won’t be disappointed! 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.