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The Best Fly Fishing Rivers in Colorado

Northeastern Colorado

The Colorado River, particularly the upper stretch that starts in Rocky Mountain National Park and extends to the Fraser River, is legendary for its fishing opportunities. This area is designated as gold medal water, meaning anglers can catch ample and big fish. Gore Canyon, located in this region, offers abundant native fish and beautiful scenery. The Colorado River covers a large portion of the state, flowing from the northeastern quadrant to the southwest.

Tip for the Upper Colorado River

During high water, bring a sink tip line for fishing streamers deeper. Midges are effective year-round for catching fish.

Blue River

The Blue River, a tributary of the Colorado River, is accessible and highly productive. It is known for its designated gold water stretch downstream of Dillon Reservoir, where anglers can find large rainbows and plenty of fish. This river is located almost in the center of the state.

Tip for the Blue River

Take advantage of the mysis shrimp found in this river, as rainbow trout gorge on them.

South Platte River

The South Platte River is densely populated with fish, estimated at 3,000 fish per mile. The upper South Platte in the Cheeseman Canyon area is known for larger fish, but it can be challenging due to heavy angler pressure. The river features various stretches filled with fish.

Tip for the South Platte River

The river can get busy, so consider fishing in the winter to avoid the crowds. You can find plenty of unoccupied water during this time.

North Platte River

The North Platte River is a wild trout river and gold medal water, offering excellent wading fishing opportunities. The headwaters are located in North Park, where creeks flow into the river. Northgate Canyon provides great access to extensive water if you’re willing to hike. Exploring the productive waters in Wyoming is also highly recommended.

Tip for the North Platte River

During spring and early summer, opt for a float trip rather than wading for the most success, as high water levels are common during this time.

Southeastern Colorado

The Arkansas River flows over 150 miles from Leadville to the Colorado plains, passing through various towns. The upper stretches offer fantastic wading opportunities, but floating down the river is an easier way to have a productive day. The river features stunning scenery, although it may not produce record-sized fish.

Tip for the Arkansas River

Floating down the river is the most productive way to fish, covering a larger portion of the river and increasing your chances of success.

Northwestern Colorado

The Yampa River is not only beautiful but also home to incredible fishing. Public access near the town of Yampa provides ample opportunities to catch trophy-sized rainbow trout. The headwaters in White River National Forest and other areas are productive year-round.

Tip for the Yampa River

Early in the season, tricos and midges are the most effective flies. Golden stonefly patterns work well in later months.

The Fryingpan River

The Fryingpan River is a year-round, gold medal water located in White River National Forest. It is known for wild trout and beautiful scenery. The gold medal water stretches from Ruedi Reservoir to the Roaring Fork in Basalt, offering around 9 miles of public access waters.

Fishing Tip for the Fryingpan River

Use spring for green drakes, spring for winged olives, and winter for midges for productive fishing.

Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork River, starting southeast of Aspen, has public access throughout much of its course. Two sections of the river are designated as gold medal waters. The stretch between Aspen and Basalt provides great access, while the section where the Roaring Fork meets the Crystal River is deeper and larger, ideal for float fishing.

Fishing Tip for the Roaring Fork River

Access the stretch of river from the Rio Grande Trail if you prefer wading.

Southwestern Colorado

The Gunnison River is one of the top fisheries in the United States. It offers year-round fishing for large brown and rainbow trout, as well as kokanee salmon. The upper sections are designated as gold medal water and native trout water, featuring breathtaking cliffs and abundant wildlife.

Fishing Tip for the Gunnison River

After the kokanee fry release, streamers tend to work well. When nymphing, make sure to get deep for the best results.

Animas River

The Animas River, designated as gold medal waters for 126 miles, flows through the San Juan Mountains and past Durango. The stretch surrounding Durango offers easy public access and plenty of wading spots. South of Durango, a special permit is required to access the river as it flows through the Ute Reservation.

Fishing Tip for the Animas River

During winter months, midges are the most successful fly, while caddis flies tend to do well in the summer.

Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande River in southwestern Colorado provides ample wading opportunities and year-round fishing. It holds lots of fish, including trophy-sized ones. The southern sections, although more heavily fished, are still productive.

Fishing Tip for the Rio Grande River

Take advantage of the caddis fly hatches to have a great day on the water.

This article provides insights into the best fly fishing rivers in Colorado, showcasing the unique features and fishing opportunities each river offers. Whether you’re in the northeast, northwest, southeast, or southwest region of the state, there’s a river waiting for you to explore and land some fish. From the legendary Colorado River to the scenic Gunnison River, Colorado truly lives up to its reputation as one of the best fly fishing destinations in the country.

Article by Max Desmarais,

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