Colorado Fly Fishing — Best Spots & Tips

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Colorado is blessed with destinations attractive to tourists, from natural landscapes, mountains, museums, and parks. This state is home to a myriad of rivers and streams that flows all throughout the state. 

No doubt, water activities such as fly fishing are one of the most popular activities that locals and tourists enjoy in this state. You would know that a river in Colorado is the best fly fishing spot when it’s listed on the gold medal fishing sections.

Before you go fly fishing in Colorado, here are the best spots that you can go to.

Sections of this post include advice from fly fishing expert Erica Nelson.

Listen to more Colorado fly fishing spots and tips on the Cast & Spear Podcast

Best Colorado Fly Fishing Spots

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Arkansas River 

This 102 miles river is one of those bodies of water in Colorado that received a Gold Medal Listing as a trout site.

The Arkansas River is situated in a high-desert environment with a combination of both warm and dry climates suitable for brown trout, rainbow trout, and other big fishes. 

It’s also a prime location for both kayakers and rafters who is into white-water adventures. Since there’s a large population of trout in this river, fishing throughout the season is permitted.

Gunnison River

The Gunnison River is Colorado’s second-largest river, that’s 78 miles long. It’s renowned as native trout water. This river offers large rainbow trout, brown trout, and even land kokanee salmon.

However, expect to traverse through windy and steep roads, but you’ll surely be amazed by its sceneries, so hiking is also a must-try activity within the area. 

The Gold Medal Trout Water section runs through the Black Canyon National Park. Since it’s a large river, you need to be familiar with the section where you plan to fish because of the changing water current.

South Platte River

This river is known as the gold medal western trout that offers different fly fishing sights, so you can’t go wrong wherever you plan to cast the line. The spring season is the best time to catch trophy spawners in the South Platte River.

What’s good about having fishing activities in this river is that it’s easily accessible. No doubt, it gets crowded at times. 

Its area begins in South Park and flows down through downtown Denver. The South Platte River is also considered a tailwater fishery with seven dams situated on it.

There are some state regulations if you plan to fish near the dams.

North Platte River

The North Platte River is a great destination for wading fishing, where different kinds of big fishes like largemouth bass, bluegill, walleye, yellow perch, and other trophy-sized fish can be captured.

There are various creeks that flow on this wild river where nymphing or the use of artificial flies is one effective way to catch fish.

The Gold Medal Trout Water in the North Platte River is in the North Gate Canyon. It’s accessible by kayak or raft only.

Dry fly fishing is possible in this river from April to October, where big fish can easily be located on the surface of the waters. 

Roaring Fork River

This 70 miles river is described to be a powerful river that’s swift and deep. It features two sections of Gold Medal Waters. The first section is between Aspen and Basalt, Colorado, and the other section is at the intersection of Crystal River up to the Colorado River.

Since Roaring Fork River has deeper waters, fly fishing or float fishing is the best productive fishing method used.

When you fish upstream, rainbow trout and wild brookies are abundant, while moving downstream offers your browns, rainbows, and mountain whitefish.

This river offers year-round hatches, so fishing in winter still gives you abundant catches.

Fryingpan River

This small mountain trout stream is another Gold Medal water located in White River National Forest. The best fly fishing spot where trout are is in the tailwater. It’s 42 miles long, but there are only 9 miles available for public access.

Spring and winter are the popular seasons when you can do fly fishing and other fishing activities on this river. 

Aside from fishing, this Fryingpan River is a hotspot for whitewater rafting and recreational kayaking. If you’re fishing near the dam, they have a catch-and-release policy for all kinds of fish species except for brown trout which still have a large population.

Fishes to Catch

According to research, there are over 100 fish species for fishing in the rivers of Colorado. Even though it has a wide range of fishes, there are still species that are declining in population and are bound for extinction.

These endangered fish species include humpback chub, squawfish, razorback sucker, and bonytail. Since they are already endangered, they’re now being protected by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Anglers must be aware of the fish species that are only available for capturing to avoid fines or penalties.

The different trout species, like the rainbow trout, large brown trout, tiger trout, wild trout, golden trout, brook trout, and native greenback cutthroat trout, can be seen in almost all rivers and various streams in Colorado. 

Fishing Tip! Check out our article on golden trout fly fishing to help you catch that fish!

Other kinds of fish for consumption and trophy-sized fish are available in Colorado Rivers, like the largemouth and smallmouth bass, mountain whitefish, carp, salmon, tiger muskie, and other warm-water species.

Colorado Fly Fishing Tips

To maximize your stay in Colorado, here are some tips that you can consider before your flyfishing adventure:

  • Always stay safe. This is one of the things that every angler must practice. Choosing a safe spot isn’t the only thing that you need to consider, but you should also be equipped with fishing gear, like wearing the right attire and shoes, using polarized sunglasses, using the right kind of fishing vessel, and bringing essentials like sunscreen and bug repellant.
  • Know your bait. The bait that you’ll use will depend on the fish that you’re targeting. Common baits effective in almost all fish species include power baits, worm imitators, swimbaits, critters, tubes, and spinners.
  • Go with a guide. If you’re not familiar with the area where you’re doing fly fishing, opting to have a guide is a must. If you have a guide, they’ll take you to the perfect spots to ensure that you’ll have the best angling experience in the area. If you’re still a beginner, they can also give you tips on how to catch fish efficiently.
  • Know the rules and regulations. There are some spots in Colorado wherein you need to secure a permit for you to have a water activity. To avoid any hassle, make sure to research the area before booking. 

Guided Tours

If you want to do water activities such as flyfishing and are not from Colorado or are not familiar with the different types of bodies of water here, joining a guided tour is the best option.

Guided tours in Colorado ensure that visitors would maximize their stay. Aside from taking you to the best spots, they’ll make sure that you’ll be entertained by sharing with you the history of the places that you’ll pass by upon going to your main destination.

They’ll also help you learn the water and give you some tips and tricks to catch more fish. Before departing on your fly fishing activity, they can even endorse fishing equipment that you haven’t tried before, so you’ll have a chance to use different kinds of rods, reels, etc.

You can check out Erica Nelson at Willowfly Anglers for a guided tour. You can also find a fly shop in the area you’re going to be in and ask them about guided tours.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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