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The Best Public Places to Fly Fish in Colorado: A Personal Perspective

Exploring the South Platte River

Colorado is a paradise for fly fishing enthusiasts, with over 200 rivers teeming with fish. As someone who has been fly fishing in Colorado for almost 15 years, I have had the opportunity to experience some of the best public places to fish in the state. In this article, I will share my personal favorite spots and offer some advice on how to make the most of your fishing experience.

One of the top locations for fly fishing in Colorado is the South Platte River. With its numerous sections of pristine fishing water, it’s challenging to choose just one stretch of river as a favorite. The South Platte River offers over 15 public access points and is home to a variety of fish species, including rainbows, browns, cutthroats, cutbows, suckers, carp, bass, and kokanee salmon.

What makes the South Platte River truly special is the diversity of water it offers for fishing. Whether you prefer the technical water of Cheeseman Canyon with its pocket water behind massive boulders or the meandering valley stream of Dream Stream between two reservoirs, there are opportunities to catch some of the largest trout in the state.

When fishing the South Platte, I recommend using smaller flies, particularly in the tailwater sections. I have caught the majority of my fish on size #22 and #24 midges and baetis patterns. Patience is also key when fishing in this area, as the South Platte River can have up to 3,000 fish per mile in some stretches. Take your time, find a good hole that holds fish, and you will likely be rewarded.

Exploring the Indian Peaks Wilderness

For those seeking a truly pristine and untouched fishing experience, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is a hidden gem in Colorado. With its interconnected streams and numerous lakes, this area is a haven for trout, particularly greenback cutthroat, one of the largest concentrations in the state.

The golden rule of fishing in Indian Peaks Wilderness is that the further you hike in, the bigger the fish you will find. I have had amazing days catching over 100 fish in some of the lakes within this wilderness area. The fish are always hungry and willing to take different presentations, making for a rewarding fishing experience. However, the crystal-clear water in Indian Peaks requires careful presentations and sometimes smaller tippet.

Timing is crucial when fishing in Indian Peaks Wilderness, as many lakes are located above 9,000 feet. The best months to explore this area are from June to October when the weather is warm and comfortable. While nymph fishing can be productive, I highly recommend trying your hand at dry fly fishing. Catching a native greenback cutthroat on a dry fly you tied is a uniquely special experience.

Exploring the Upper Colorado River

Another underrated fly fishing destination in Colorado is the Upper Colorado River. Stretching from near Granby to the Pumphouse stretch near Avon, this section of the Colorado River is dominated by brown and rainbow trout of exceptional quality.

What sets the Upper Colorado River apart is the quality of water and the abundance of fish. The river is so inviting that it’s challenging to throw a bad drift. Stoneflies play a significant role in the trout’s diet in this area, so using stonefly nymphs or dries can be highly effective. Additionally, fishing early in the morning or late in the evening tends to yield the best results in this stretch of the river.

In conclusion, Colorado offers a wealth of public places to fly fish, and these three locations – the South Platte River, Indian Peaks Wilderness, and the Upper Colorado River – are among the best. Whether you’re targeting trophy trout or simply enjoying the beauty of Colorado’s wilderness, these spots are sure to offer unforgettable fishing experiences.

If you’re interested in discovering even more fishing opportunities, consider joining our list for access to premium content. We’ve put together river guides for 125 of Colorado’s best waters, providing all the information you need to fish with success. From hatch charts to top fly recommendations, our guides will help you make the most of your fly fishing adventures in Colorado.

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