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Western Colorado Fly-Fishing Spots: A Haven for Trout Enthusiasts


Colorado is a dream destination for fly-fishers, with its abundance of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs teeming with quick-darting and hard-fighting trout. In this article, we explore ten fly-fishing spots in Western Colorado that are sure to fill your creel.

1. Upper Arkansas River (Gold Medal)

The Upper Arkansas River stretches over 102 miles, passing through diverse landscapes and offering a variety of fishing experiences. From sub-alpine meadows to bouldered canyons and irrigated hayfields, this river is a haven for brown trout and rainbow trout. Bighorn Sheep Canyon, with its warm and dry climate and nearly 40 miles of public fishing access, is a prime fly-fishing destination. The canyon supports wade fishing throughout the year, and float fishing has gained popularity in recent times.

2. Blue Mesa Reservoir

Created by damming the Gunnison River, Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water and a paradise for fly-fishers. With over 96 miles of shoreline, finding a shady spot to cast a line is a breeze. Lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout can be found in these waters, with rainbow trout being the most abundant. The deep-water areas are ideal for landing lake trout and brown trout, while brook trout can be found near the mouths of rivers and streams that flow into the reservoir.

3. Animas River (Gold Medal)

The Animas River, flowing from Durango to the New Mexico border, is classified as gold medal water due to its ability to support populations of rainbow and brown trout. Prime spots for fly-fishing include bends, log jams, boulders, and eddies. It is important to note that special permits are required to fish the section of the river that runs through the Southern Ute Indian Reservation land.

4. Grand Mesa Lakes

With over 100 natural lakes and reservoirs, the Grand Mesa Lakes offer a wide variety of trout species. Boating is allowed on some of the lakes, so it is essential to read posted signs before setting sail. Additionally, the area is crisscrossed by fish-laden streams, making it a perfect place to enjoy solitude while angling for your next big catch.

5. Gunnison River (Gold Medal)

The Gunnison River, within the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, is home to trophy-worthy trout. Nymphs are particularly effective in these waters, and well-placed casts behind boulders and in eddies can yield 16-inch trout. This stretch of the river, between Crystal Dam and its confluence with the North Fork of the Gunnison River, is known for exceptionally large fish. The river can be accessed through four wilderness trails or the South River Road.

6. Steamboat Lake State Park (Gold Medal)

Steamboat Lake is a scenic destination characterized by the majestic Hahn’s Peak towering over its northeastern shore. This 1,050-acre body of water is home to hard-fighting rainbow trout. Fishing from drift boats allows access to the deeper sections of the lake, while miles of easily accessible shoreline provide an effective option for those without flotation.

7. Trappers Lake

Located just off the Flat Tops Trail Scenic and Historic Byway, Trappers Lake is an easily accessible wilderness with abundant cutthroat trout. Non-motorized floats are recommended on this serene lake, and casting a gnat-shaped fly during the late-day sun can yield excellent results.

8. Wolford Mountain Reservoir

Wolford Mountain Reservoir offers breathtaking views and abundant rainbow trout. The manicured boat ramp provides easy access to the lake, and over 66,000 surface acres are available for exploration. For those looking to extend their stay, the reservoir has 48 full-service campsites with various amenities.

9. Yampa River State Park

Yampa River State Park is renowned for its prolific trout fisheries, particularly upstream of the park. The eastern portion, from Hayden to Craig, offers excellent opportunities to catch various species of trout. The western end, from Craig to Maybell, is a haven for warm-water fish such as small-mouth bass, northern pike, and catfish. Anglers can switch to bottom trolling for catfish in this stretch.

10. Fryingpan (Gold Medal), Roaring Fork (Gold Medal), Crystal Rivers

The Roaring Fork Valley boasts over 40 miles of catch-and-release gold medal waters on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers, making it a paradise for fly-fishing enthusiasts. The Crystal River and the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs also offer excellent fishing opportunities. Each of these rivers presents unique casting challenges and opportunities to catch rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and brown trout.


Western Colorado is a fly-fishing haven, with its abundance of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs filled with trout. From the Upper Arkansas River’s bouldered canyons to the serene Trappers Lake, each location offers a unique fishing experience. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a novice, these fly-fishing spots are sure to satisfy your craving for adventure and trout. Book your fishing license and pack your gear – an unforgettable fly-fishing experience awaits you in Western Colorado.

Learn More

To learn more about Colorado lakes and plan your fishing trip, visit our website for additional resources and information.

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