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An Angler’s Paradise: Fly-Fishing in Western Colorado

Exploring the Best Fly-Fishing Spots in Western Colorado

When it comes to fly-fishing, few places in the United States can compare to the abundance and beauty of western Colorado. With its picturesque lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, this region has become a lure for avid fly-fishers in search of quick-darting and hard-fighting trout. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, here are ten fly-fishing locations in western Colorado that are sure to fill your creel.

1. Upper Arkansas River (Gold Medal)

The Upper Arkansas River stretches over 102 miles, offering a diverse fishing experience. With its sub-alpine meadows, bouldered canyons, and irrigated hayfields, the river is home to a population of brown trout and introduced rainbows. Bighorn Sheep Canyon, with approximately 40 miles of public fishing access, is the prime fly-fishing destination on the Arkansas River.

2. Blue Mesa Reservoir

Created in 1965 by damming the Gunnison River, Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water. With over 96 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of spots to cast a line. 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. Rainbow trout, the most abundant species, can be found throughout the reservoir and river areas.

3. Animas River (Gold Medal)

The Animas River, flowing from Durango to the New Mexico border, offers prime fly-fishing opportunities. Classified as gold medal water, it easily supports populations of rainbow and brown trout. The bends, log jams, boulders, and eddies along the river provide excellent spots for nymphs or streamers. Keep in mind that fishing within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation requires special permits.

4. Grand Mesa Lakes

Grand Mesa Lakes, with more than 100 natural lakes and reservoirs, offer a wide variety of trout species. Boating is allowed on some of the lakes, but make sure to check for posted signs. Additionally, numerous fish-laden streams bisect the area, providing a peaceful angling experience.

5. Gunnison River (Gold Medal)

The Gunnison River, within the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, is a hotspot for trophy-worthy trout. Nymphs are highly effective here, with excellent chances of landing a 16-inch trout. Access to the river is available through wilderness trails and South River Road.

6. Steamboat Lake State Park (Gold Medal)

Steamboat Lake, nestled beneath the needle-like Hahn’s Peak, offers a picturesque setting for fly-fishing. Anglers can access the deeper sections of the lake with a drift boat or fish along the easily accessible shoreline. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout, and brown trout can all be found here.

7. Trappers Lake

Trappers Lake, located near the Flat Tops Trail, is a serene wilderness area perfect for non-motorized floats. It is home to Colorado’s second-largest natural lake and boasts the largest population of cutthroat trout in the world. Casting a gnat-shaped fly during late-day sun can yield great results.

8. Wolford Mountain Reservoir

Wolford Mountain Reservoir offers idyllic fishing conditions, with abundant rainbow trout reaching impressive sizes. The manicured boat ramp and numerous campsites make it a popular destination for anglers looking for a peaceful retreat.

9. Yampa River State Park

Yampa River, the most prolific trout fishery in Colorado, is a treasure trove for anglers. The eastern portion of Yampa River State Park is known for its abundance of trout, while the western end offers warm-water fish like small-mouth bass, northern pike, and catfish.

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

The Roaring Fork Valley is a haven for fly-fishing enthusiasts, with over 40 miles of catch-and-release gold medal waters on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. The Crystal River, often overlooked, provides solitude and excellent fishing opportunities.

In conclusion, western Colorado is truly an angler’s paradise. With its diverse range of fly-fishing spots, from serene lakes to rushing rivers, there’s something for every fishing enthusiast. So, grab your fishing gear, obtain a Colorado fishing license, and get ready for an unforgettable fly-fishing adventure in this beautiful region.

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