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Exploring the Best Fly Fishing Rivers in Colorado


Colorado is widely regarded as one of the finest fly fishing destinations in the United States. With its breathtaking mountainous landscapes and abundant rivers, it offers a haven for anglers seeking both beauty and plentiful fishing opportunities. In this article, we will delve into the best fly fishing rivers in the state and provide some valuable tips to help you make the most of your fishing experience.

Northeastern Colorado

Upper Colorado River

The Upper Colorado River, running from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Fraser River, is renowned as one of the most legendary rivers in the country. This stretch is designated as gold medal water, meaning that anglers can expect not only ample but also sizable fish. One particular highlight is Gore Canyon, which offers a stunning setting with abundant native fish. Whether you prefer wading or floating, the entire Colorado River is an outstanding fishery.

Blue River

The Blue River, a tributary of the Colorado River, is another gem for fly fishing enthusiasts. Located downstream of the Dillon Reservoir, this river boasts a designated gold water stretch that is both easily accessible and highly productive. Here you can find large rainbows and an abundance of fish. Its central location in the state makes it suitable for inclusion in any section of our article.

South Platte River

The South Platte River in northeastern Colorado is teeming with fish, estimated to have around 3,000 fish per mile of river. While the upper section, known as Cheeseman Canyon, receives a lot of fishing pressure, the stretch before it also holds plenty of less finicky fish. The river offers ample opportunities for sight fishing, and the winter season is a great time to avoid crowds while enjoying the stunning scenery.

North Platte River

Considered one of the best wading rivers in the country, the North Platte River offers a captivating wild trout fishery. Stretching from Routt National Forest to the Wyoming border, this river is designated as gold medal water and provides excellent access to abundant fishing locations. If you’re looking for an added adventure, crossing over into Wyoming offers highly productive waters worth exploring.

Southeastern Colorado

Arkansas River

The Arkansas River, flowing over 150 miles from the headwaters in Leadville to the Colorado plains, is a haven for anglers. While it may not produce state record-sized fish, the population is abundant. With fantastic wading opportunities in the upper stretches and the opportunity to float downstream, this river provides a variety of fishing experiences. Its spring season is particularly noteworthy due to the unique environment and high elevation snowpack that make the fishery exceptionally productive.

Northwestern Colorado

Yampa River

Both stunningly picturesque and home to an incredible fishery, the Yampa River is a destination known for its trophy-sized rainbow trout. With public access points near the town of Yampa and various other locations, you can enjoy great fishing along any stretch of this river year-round, making it an ideal choice for fishing enthusiasts.

Fryingpan River

For year-round productive fishing, head to the Fryingpan River, located in the White River National Forest. This gold medal water boasts abundant wild trout and breathtaking scenery. The section from Ruedi Reservoir to the Roaring Fork in Basalt offers around 9 miles of public access waters, with winter midge hatches leading to highly productive fishing experiences.

Roaring Fork River

Flowing from the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness to the confluence with the Colorado River, the Roaring Fork River provides ample opportunities for anglers. Two sections of this river are designated as gold medal waters, ensuring a high concentration of fish. Whether you prefer the stretch between Aspen and Basalt or the area near Carbondale, float fishing is particularly productive for landing larger fish.

Southwestern Colorado

Gunnison River

Renowned as one of the top fisheries in the United States, the Gunnison River offers year-round opportunities for anglers. With its stunning landscapes and the presence of large brown and rainbow trout, this river is a must-visit for fly fishing enthusiasts. Whether you choose to fish the upper sections with its gold medal waters or explore the expansive 78-mile length, proper research and choosing the right fishing method, such as a drift boat, will ensure a memorable experience.

Animas River

Flowing through Silverton and Durango into New Mexico, the Animas River offers an extensive 126-mile stretch of gold medal fishing water. The surrounding areas of Durango provide easy access to seven miles of easily reachable public access areas, suitable for both wading and launching boats. While accessing the river without a boat may be challenging outside of Durango, the fantastic fishing and large brown trout make it worth the effort.

Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River in southwestern Colorado is known for its ample wading opportunities and abundant fish population. The more southern sections are easier to access due to public access points, but even these areas can provide highly productive fishing experiences. Heading further south towards Del Norte, the river becomes larger, making float fishing the most effective method for catching trout. Taking advantage of the caddis fly hatches can yield exceptional results on this stunning river.


Colorado’s fly fishing rivers offer anglers a diverse range of experiences and opportunities. Whether you explore the legendary Upper Colorado River, seek out the trophy-sized rainbow trout in the Yampa River, or indulge in the abundant fish population of the Gunnison River, Colorado’s scenic beauty and productive waters will make your fly fishing journey unforgettable. Remember to check fishing regulations, choose the appropriate fishing method for each river, and come prepared for a memorable adventure in the heart of nature.

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