Best Fly Fishing in Colorado

Scenic rushing river in Colorado, with rocky terrain lining its banks, showcasing the state's stunning natural beauty.
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Colorado boasts a plethora of stunning sites for fly fishing, offering both the seasoned angler and the enthusiastic beginner diverse opportunities to enjoy this tranquil pastime. Whether you’re casting your line in the gold medal waters of North Delaney Butte Lake, known for its trophy-sized trout, or exploring the bountiful streams and lakes peppered across the state, you’ll find that the mix of picturesque landscapes and abundant fish populations make Colorado a top destination for fly fishing.

Gunnison River

Experience unparalleled fly fishing on Colorado’s second-largest river, the Gunnison River. Revered by anglers globally, this river offers diverse fishing opportunities, from the spirited dry-fly fishing to the challenging deep-water tactics.

When you’re selecting gear, consider a 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line, ideal for dry flies and small nymphs. For larger nymphs and streamers, a 9-foot 6-wt rod with a sink tip line can significantly ease your endeavors. Match your tapered leader, typically around 9 feet, with tippet sizes ranging from 3X to 6X based on the flies you intend to use. For detailed suggestions on fly selections, explore the best flies to fish on the Gunnison River.

Spanning 180 miles and traversing through rugged canyons, the Gunnison is renowned for distinct sections like the remote Black Canyon, offering some of the most secluded fly fishing in the state. Prepare for tougher access points that yield rewarding catches.

Here are essential facts to consider:

StretchRecommended Fly SizesPeak Hatching Times
Black Canyon4, 6, 8 (for Salmon Fly)June 20 to July 1
General River Area14, 16, 18, 20 (for Pale Morning Duns)Varies

Before you head out, it’s wise to check the latest fishing reports for the Gunnison River as conditions change rapidly. Stay informed about the weather, water flow, and insect hatches to ensure your trip is both pleasurable and successful.

Fryingpan River

The Fryingpan River, affectionately known as “the Pan,” is a premier destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. You’ll find an impressive 14-mile Gold Medal stretch running from Ruedi Reservoir to the charming town of Basalt, boasting extensive public access for anglers. The Gold Medal waters, renowned for their quality and quantity of trout, promise a rewarding experience as you cast your line amid the stunning Colorado landscape.

Your rod setup is crucial for Fryingpan River fishing. A 9′ 5-weight fly rod with matching reel and floating line is recommended for these waters, allowing you to handle most situations with ease. The river’s clearer conditions mean you won’t need to go too deep with your flies, so a longer leader with floating line should suffice for your fishing endeavors. For a more versatile option, consider using a moderate-fast action rod.

The river meanders through a picturesque canyon adorned with evergreens and red sandstone, offering 8 to 9 miles of public access. The area near the dam, known as the “Toilet Bowl,” is particularly popular among those seeking trophy-sized trout. Anglers are drawn to the top 1.5 miles of river known as the Holy Water, a catch and release section that’s home to some of the largest fish the Fryingpan has to offer.

When planning your fly fishing trip to the Fryingpan River, bear in mind the river’s recognition as a Gold Medal trout fishery, a testament to its exceptional aquatic environment capable of supporting a large population of trout. Ready your gear and prepare for an unforgettable fishing adventure on one of Colorado’s most iconic rivers.

South Platte River

When you’re planning your next fly fishing adventure in Colorado, the South Platte River should be at the top of your list. Renowned for its challenging yet rewarding fishing experiences, this river offers a range of opportunities to land quality trout.

In the bountiful waters of the South Platte, you’ll need gear that’s up to the task. A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is ideal for casting dry flies and small nymphs, which are prevalent in this area. Equip yourself with a tapered 9-foot leader, and have tippet sizes ranging from 3X to 6X to match the flies in your arsenal.

Equipment Checklist:

  • Fly rod: 9-foot 5-wt
  • Fly line: Floating
  • Leader: 9-foot tapered
  • Tippet: 3X to 6X
  • Waders and boots (for colder months)
  • Polarized sunglasses (for spotting fish)

If fishing in colder weather, don’t forget your waders and boots to stay warm and dry. Moreover, polarized sunglasses are an essential tool for spotting trout.

Amongst the various segments of the river, you should pay special attention to the Elevenmile Canyon, renowned for its opportunity to fish with dry flies year-round. While some sections like the Dream Stream present more of a challenge with dry flies, Elevenmile Canyon is a fantastic place for continuous success.

While fishing the South Platte, remember that smaller flies often yield the best results. Be ready to use considerably smaller hook sizes, such as a size #20, to increase your chances of catching fish.

Stay informed about the latest river conditions and updates by checking dynamic forecasting models like FlyCast. This will help ensure that you’re well-prepared for whatever the South Platte River has in store on the day of your trip.

Arkansas River

When you’re searching for premier fly fishing locations in Colorado, the Arkansas River is a top contender. Renowned for its rich biodiversity, this river boasts an impressive array of trout, particularly the brown trout which are beloved by anglers.

Key Attributes:

  • Location: Runs through central Colorado, including notable passages near Leadville and Salida.
  • Fish Species: Predominantly brown trout, with populations of rainbow trout.
  • Prime Seasons: While fishing can be year-round, the spring and fall months offer some of the best conditions.

Gear Recommendations:

  • Rod: A 9-foot, 5-wt fly rod is ideal for most situations on the Arkansas.
  • Line: Floating line for dry flies and small nymphs; a sink tip line for larger nymphs and streamers.
  • Leader and Tippet: A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size ranging from 3X to 6X, will serve you well.

The river’s flowing waters across various landscapes provide numerous fishing conditions. From the freestone sections to the gentler tailwaters, you’ll find diverse spots suitable for different techniques and preferences. Fly fishers often find success with both dry flies and subsurface nymphs, adapting to the conditions presented by the river’s different sections.

Remember that water levels can greatly impact your fly fishing experience, so checking the Arkansas River, Colorado Fly Fishing Report – February 27, 2024 before your trip can give you a good indication of what to expect.

Access Points:

  • Upper River: Near Leadville offers high-altitude fishing experiences.
  • Middle River: Salida area is popular for its accessibility and abundant fish.
  • Lower River: Near Canon City can provide quieter fishing spots with less competition.

Roaring Fork River

When you’re planning a fly fishing excursion in Colorado, the Roaring Fork River should be high on your list. This river, stretching from Aspen through Basalt and ending in Glenwood Springs, offers a diverse fly fishing experience. You’ll find easy access along the river, enhancing your opportunity for a successful day of fishing.

Recommended Gear

Your ideal setup for the Roaring Fork River is a 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line, which is perfect for the prevalent fishing conditions. When it comes to leaders and tippets, aim for a tapered 9-foot leader, combined with a tippet size ranging from 3X to 6X depending on the flies you’re using.

Current Conditions

  • Water Flows: Check the latest readings here as conditions can vary.
  • Hatches: Expect hatches of light green midges and Winter Stoneflies.

Fishing Report

As of February 27, 2024, the stream conditions are reported to be good with normal water levels. Fly fishing reports show successful catches with current hatches.

Insects and Flies

Keep an eye out for midges, Blue Winged Olives, and Sculpins to match the hatch. Afternoons are prime time for dry flies, so be prepared with Winter Stones, BWOs and midges for the best experience.

Your fly fishing journey along the Roaring Fork River promises to be memorable with its consistent conditions and diverse fish population. Whether you’re wading or enjoying a float, the river caters to anglers of all levels looking for the quintessential Colorado fishing experience.

Animas River

When you’re seeking a premiere fly fishing experience in Colorado, the Animas River is a destination worth considering. Boasting Gold Medal Waters, it offers both challenges and rewards for anglers. The river flows through the heart of Durango, providing easy access for those looking to cast their lines in serene settings.

Your gear is crucial for success on the Animas. A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is ideal for casting dry flies and small nymphs. If you’re aiming to land larger nymphs and streamers, consider using a 9-foot 6-wt rod with a sink tip fly line.

When prepping your tackle box, include:

  • Tapered 9-foot leader
  • Tippet size 3X to 6X, matching the flies you intend to use

The Animas River is not only accessible but also diverse in its fishing spots. You have the opportunity to fish from the banks or wade into the waters, which can be over 100 feet wide in certain stretches.

HatchRecommended Flies
Midge HatchesLight green and red midges
StonefliesWinter patterns

For up-to-date conditions and hatch information, always check the latest Animas River fishing report.

With the Animas River’s free-flowing nature, every trip can yield a unique experience. Whether you’re seeking solitude or the thrill of the catch, the beauty and variety of the Animas River are sure to be a highlight of your Colorado fly fishing adventures.

Colorado River

When fly fishing in Colorado, the Colorado River is an iconic location that you can’t miss. This river begins as a small stream in the Rocky Mountains and becomes a crucial water source for the Western United States. Your fly fishing experience here will be as picturesque as it is rewarding.

Where to Fly Fish:

  • Upper Colorado River: Ideal for wading and home to wild brown and rainbow trout.
  • Middle Colorado River: Best accessed by boat, offers thrilling float trips and productive banks.
  • Lower Colorado River: Larger and more diverse, you may find larger fish here.


  • Spring: Melting snow can cause high and murky water conditions, but you can enjoy good hatches.
  • Summer: Peak time with better water clarity and abundant insect hatches.
  • Fall: Experience less crowded banks and hungry trout prepping for winter.
  • Winter: Fishing slows down but can still be productive on warmer days.

Techniques and Flies:

  • Dry Flies: Use patterns like the Parachute Adams in sizes #14-#18 for surface feeding trout.
  • Nymphs: Getting deep is crucial, as nymphing is extremely productive with patterns like the PMD.
  • Streamers: Post-Kokanee fry release, streamers like the Royal Wulff in sizes #16-#20 are effective.

For tackle, gear, and local knowledge, consider visiting full-service fly shops like Vail Valley Anglers. They not only offer equipment and flies but also provide guiding services to enhance your Colorado River fly fishing adventure. Whether you prefer wading or floating, fly fishing in the Colorado River caters to all preferences with its miles of fishable waters, varied terrain, and abundant trout populations.

Taylor River

The Taylor River offers a premier fly fishing experience in Colorado. Situated near Gunnison and making its descent from the Rocky Mountains, this river is renowned for its Gold Medal waters.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Location: The river flows from the Taylor Reservoir, through rugged terrains, for a length of approximately 48 miles before joining with the East River to form the Gunnison River.
  • Fish Species: You’re most likely to catch brown and rainbow trout. These fish thrive in the river’s consistent mid-40°F temperatures.
  • Hatches: When planning your trip, expect to find hatches of light green and red midges.

Before you go, it’s essential to check current conditions, as weather and seasons can affect the fishing experience. As of the latest update, the stream is reported to be at normal levels with clear water, making conditions favorable for fishing.

For optimal fly fishing strategies and local insights, consider reaching out to local experts such as those at Willowfly Anglers at Three Rivers Resort.

Recommended Equipment:

  • Fly rod and reel
  • Selection of flies (matching the prevalent midge hatches)
  • Waders for comfort and ease of access

Remember, part of the joy of fly fishing is being in nature, so ensure to follow the Leave No Trace principles to preserve the Taylor River’s beauty and health.

San Juan River

The San Juan River boasts some of the finest fly fishing in Colorado, offering year-round opportunities. When you’re targeting trout on the San Juan, you’ll find the upper river provides an excellent backdrop for dry flies and small nymphs. A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is typically perfect for the main stem San Juan River, while a 3- or 4-wt rod will suffice for the smaller East and West Forks.

For those just starting out, consider the San Juan River near Durango for a chance to land trophy trout. Not only is it world-renowned, but its accessibility makes it ideal for newcomers. Your setup should include a tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X, matching the flies you choose to use.

Seasoned anglers and beginners alike can appreciate the San Juan’s merit. Here’s a simple gear checklist for your trip:

  • Fly Rod: 9-foot 5-wt (main stem), 3-4 wt (East/West Forks)
  • Leaders: Tapered, 9-foot
  • Tippet: 3X to 5X
  • Flies: Match to current hatches

Remember, the San Juan is a tailwater fishery, particularly below Navajo Dam. This creates consistent conditions and exceptional habitats year-round for trout. Always check current streamflows and temperature conditions to optimize your experience. This is a fishery known not just for its abundance, but also for the quality of its trout — an adventure worth every cast.

Blue River

The Blue River in Colorado is a premier destination for fly-fishing enthusiasts like yourself, offering a chance to catch impressive trout amidst breathtaking scenery. During your visit, you aim to experience the crystal-clear waters which are most visible during the summer months, especially in June and July. The renowned Green Drake hatches elevate the fishing here to legendary status.

You may want to plan your fishing time between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to maximize your chances. Begin your adventure at the Blue River Campground off of Highway 9, 10 miles north of Silverthorne, where you will find diverse fishing opportunities:

  • Wider sections of water favoring streamers, nymphs, and dries
  • Boulders in the river creating ideal trout habitats

When fishing, focusing on slower runs and pools is essential for a successful outing, ensuring precise dead drifts for the best results. Moreover, you may want to explore the area directly below the Dillon Reservoir dam, located in Silverthorne, renowned for its year-round catches and substantial trout, courtesy of the Mysis shrimp from the reservoir.

For current conditions and hatches, it’s advisable to keep abreast with updates, such as those provided by Pat Dorsey’s stream reports, which deliver forecasts and valuable tips for the Blue River. Always remember to check for the latest fly-fishing report before you set out, to ensure the best possible fishing experience.

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