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While ice fishing is also a thing in Colorado, fly fishing seems to be gaining popularity season after season. Ice begins to break in the waters here in February and opens the fly fishing season.
Thanks to the gentle snow runoffs, the waters aren’t difficult to fish in. In most areas of Colorado, February and March are exciting times for trout fishing on the 9000 miles.
So what can you catch in Colorado? You can’t expect the ‘big’ water fly fishing experience in the Centennial State. It isn’t where to expect the steelhead catches of the northwest.
Neither are the river sprawling nor having wide mouths like what you see in the Big Sky area.
Most if not all the rivers and streams have their sources at the top part of the Continental Divide.
Thanks to their flow and temperatures of snowmelt, you can go after a variety of trout.
The major trout species here are brook, cutthroat, lake, and brown trout.
Others that can make you have a good time are mountain whitefish, kokanee salmon, wiper, northern pike, and largemouth bass.
Colorado has gone a step further to identify 322 miles that are set aside as Gold Medal Waters.
What do you think Gold Medal Waters are?
These are rivers, streams, and lakes that have trout thriving to over 60 pounds of these fish per acre.
They include Steamboat Lake, Spinney Mountain Reservoir, South Platte River, Roaring Fork River, Rio Grande, North Platte River, North Delaney Lake, Gunnison River, Gore Creek, Fryingpan River, Colorado River, Blue River, Arkansas River, and Animas River.
The pristine opportunities in this state put Colorado in its own league.
You can explore the Front Range and the Rocky Mountains and not miss a spot to wet your lines.
Such an area is home to rivers and reservoirs that harbor large fish that love to hide in the underwater structures.
Here is a scoop of the best areas to fly fish in Colorado.
There is no particular order of mention so don’t assume that the last on the list isn’t the best.
Nearest Tackle Shops: Duranglers Flies and Supplies, The San Juan Angler
Cache La Poudre River
The Cache La Poudre River is among the few rivers that boast plenty of fish.
Some enthusiastic explorers got stuck in a snowstorm here many years ago as they combed the region to find out the goodness that it harbored.
The meaning of Cache la Poudre is hiding the powder.
These men carried huge powder kegs that they stored near this river.
There are lots of access points on this river.
Most anglers love to use the one outside Fort Collins.
Once the river reaches this point, it continues to flow through the corner of the town.
This river flows along Highway 14.
It creates another bonus to accessibility since you can take a short walk from the road and meet the river.
However, there are private properties surrounding the river.
Ensure to watch out for signboards indicating this.
There are a few open stretches on the river that allow for free entry to the public all year.
It might experience pressure but not as much because of the nearby reservoirs that attract so many anglers.
Main Species: Brown trout
Fly Patterns: Midges, caddis
Nearest Towns: Evans, Johnstown, Loveland, Greeley, Fort Collins,
Nearest Tackle Shops: Spring Creek Fly Fishing Nets, St. Peter’s Fly Shop, Gander Valley Custom Calls, Garretson’s Sports Center, Pyramid Fly Co, Elkhorn Fly Shop, St. Peter’s Fly Shop – South, Laughing Grizzly Fly Shop, SCHEELS ALL SPORTS
More Fly Fishing Spots in Colorado
Yampa River State Park is another prolific fishery in this state.
Its eastern section is famous for fostering large brown, brook, and cutthroat trout while the western part has warm waters and homes catfish, northern pike, and smallmouth bass.
The Wolford Mountain Reservoir in the Colorado Plateau has a good number of rainbow trout.
You can launch a boat at the ramp area and try catching a 16 to 20 inch rainbow on your fly rod.
Trappers Lake though in the wilderness, is easily accessible.
There is plenty of native cutthroat trout that you can try to catch.
Since it is the state’s second-largest natural lake, you have more waters to yourself even in the peak season.
Try fishing later in the evening when the insect life begins to emerge from their hideout.
A drift boat is crucial for accessing the furthest and deepest sections of the Steamboat Lake State Park.
It is a haven of active brook, browns, cutthroat, and rainbows that will not hesitate to play a hide and seek game with you.
However, it is easy to access the shoreline and those without boats can take advantage of this.
Visit the Grand Mesa Lakes that comprise over 100 reservoirs and natural lakes.
They harbor a wide variety of trout. Some lakes allow boat fishing while others don’t.
You can enjoy solace here as you catch brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.
Nothing beats a fishing experience in the high country pocket water.
It doesn’t have trophies so don’t expect any here.
But, more small wild trout live here.
There are plenty of alpine streams with more offerings for anglers craving adventure and solitude.
The Rio Grande National Forest is where the Rio Grande River starts from.
As it enters the South Fork Town, it owns its Gold Medal status for the 17 miles.
Huge rainbow and brown trout are common here.
You can catch cutthroat in its headwaters.
Find time for the Roaring Fork River which offers world-class fishing opportunities that no anglers should miss.
As a designated Gold Medal fishery, you know that there is more to expect in terms of fish sizes.
The Arkansas River has almost a third of its total miles flowing through this state.
The section from above Royal Gorge to Leadville is referred to as Gold Medal Waters.
It has plenty of trout in the deep pockets.
The river ceases to be a tailwater is early summer and spring because of the many kayakers and rafters.
Carry nymphs and streamers to the high waters.
The tailwater fishing experiences on the Blue River are super.
Although it a section of it stopped being a Gold Medal water in 2016, it led to better measures that have seen the fishery rise to what it is now.
The trout populations are impressive and you can still land trophies here with excellent skills.
The Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest water body in Colorado and a playground for fishermen and women.
It boasts a shoreline of 96 miles with plenty of fishing opportunities.
As the rivers and streams join the reservoir, they create excellent spots for anglers.
Trout love these deeper areas with cooler waters. Rainbow and brook trout are in plenty in this river.
Check out the Spinney Mountain Reservoir for its scenic nature and plenty cutthroat, browns, and rainbow trout in huge populations and trophy sizes.
Accessibility is great and you can fish from the shoreline.
Gore Creek boats excellent prospects throughout the year and its solitude and seclusions are what makes anglers desiring these aspects run to it.
All the four trout species in Colorado cruise in this creek. Get to the Lower Gore Creek and the Upper Gore Creek if looking for the best opportunities.
The Dream Stream or the Charlie Meyers Recreation Area is frequented by anglers because of its trophy size brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout.
You can cast with ease thanks to the desert prairie.
For a more remote fishing experience, the Indian Peak Wilderness is the place to be.
There are lots of Greenback cutthroat trout that are native to this area.
They are huge and in plenty. As you fish, enjoy the alpine views.
You need to prepare for hiking though.
Other areas that anglers can try are Big Thompson, Conejos River, Eagle River, Elk River, East River, Juan Juan River, Taylor River, and Williams Fork River among others
Tips for Successful Fly Fishing in Colorado
Colorado has plenty of large water bodies. You will need the best reel whose drag is smooth and strong.
This is very crucial to ensure that you can battle a fish tactfully even as it pulls off a lot of line.
One with a large arbor will be the best as you can reel in really fast.
Carry floating weight forward lines.
However, if you are targeting still waters, an intermediate line or sinking lines will be perfect.
Streamer fishing for large trout needs a 6 to a 7-weight fly rod with sink tip lines whether you intend to wade of fish from a boat.
These rods are relatively light.
A heavy rod of about 8 to 10 weight is necessary for pike fishing in Spinney Mountain Reservoir.
Pair it with big fly patterns imitating trout.
Have heavy fluorocarbon or steel leaders as a bite guard.
Fishing in small streams in the mountains needs a 2 to a 3-weight rod. Gold Medal Waters will have you packing a 5 to a 6-weight rod to allow you to cast through the wind.
Long leaders with 6x tippets will be ideal for technical fishing here.
Anyone who wants to access Colorado water bodies and is 16 years and above should obtain a valid fishing license.
This applies to both residents and non-residents.
However, persons between 16 and 17 years will only pay $8 according to the recent changes in the licensing costs by the state department.
We cannot fail to insist on anglers checking the fishing reports in the state to know the nature of the water, the behavior of fish, the hatches happening, and other basics that an angler needs to be aware of before leaving for your desired spot.
It is not everywhere in Colorado where you find signs put up by private landowners to notify oncoming anglers.
Research prior to your visit the legal places to fly fish to avoid trespassing and its repercussions.
Also, educate yourself on the fishing regulations in Colorado as they aren’t similar to other states.
Know the bag limits, catch and release zones, and types of lures and flies to use.
FAQ’s – Questions on Fly Fishing in Colorado
Q) What is the bag limit for trout in Colorado?
A) The possession and bag limit for trout in Colorado is four fish. None of them should exceed 16 inches. However, each area in the state has its own regulations that you should adhere to.
Q) Which trout species are native to Colorado?
A) There are three cutthroat trout species that are native to Colorado. The Rio Grande, Greenback, and Colorado.
Q) What are some of the trout flies that I shouldn’t leave behind when coming to Colorado?
A) Pack terrestrials, midges, damsels, crayfish, shrimp, stoneflies, mayflies, sculpins, and caddis.
Q) Where are some of the places that I can fish salmon in Colorado?
A) Head to Williams Fork Reservoir, Lake Granby, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Green Mountain Reservoir, and Wolford Mountain Reservoir for kokanee salmon.
Q) Can one use live bait to fish in Colorado?
A) You are forbidden from using live bait at elevations above 7,000 feet in all waterways west and east of the Continental Divide apart from the Navajo Reservoir.
Wrap Up on the Best Fly Fishing in Colorado
Colorado boasts prized waters with world-class fishing experiences.
We have put up this informative article describing a few areas and listing others that you can explore and have a fantastic time fishing.
After applying for your fishing license and grabbing a collection of flies that we have recommended, get your tackle gear together.
This can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to choose.
We have a special section with buyer’s guides of gear, equipment, and apparel that will suit your needs.
You can now head out and explore Colorado all set.
We haven’t exhausted the waterways in this state but mentioned the best that we can recommend.
If we missed your favorite and others, share with us in the comments.
Let us also know where in Colorado you have fished, what gear you packed, and your overall experience.