Whether you are a seasoned fly fishing fanatic, or are planning your very first experience, there are few better places than Colorado for your next fly fishing adventure. Colorado has many public lands, rivers and lakes surrounded by some of the most picturesque landscapes in the country and it all adds up to world class fly fishing. The state is home to countless Gold Medal Waters, an accolade that is awarded by the Department of Natural Resources. In order to receive this designation, the waters much reach the two following requirements: a minimum trout standing stock of 60 pounds per acre, and a consistent size of trout larger than 14 inches, demonstrated in at least 12 fish per acre. It is waters like these that make Colorado one of the top fly fishing destinations in the world.
THE PERFECT FLY FISHING DESTINATION
Getting out into the wilderness is a huge part of the appeal of fly fishing, and Colorado has natural beauty in abundant supply. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the state enjoys over 6,000 miles of stream and over 2,000 reservoirs and lakes in which to fish, containing within them 35 species of cold and warm-water fish. The rivers are stocked with four species of trout alone; Brook, Brown, Cutthroat, and Rainbow. If you are feeling ambitious, try for the Colorado stringer, an accomplishment that entails catching one of each variety of trout in one day. Colorado is also very well equipped with guide professionals and rustic lodges, both of which will greatly enhance your fishing experience.
DAY TRIP OR WEEK LONG VACATION, COLORADO’S GOT YOU COVERED
Fly fishing can be an activity for an afternoon, or a week-long wilderness vacation. Both options are well covered in Colorado, with great outfitters and lodges for nearly every taste. You can find great fishing nearly everywhere in Colorado, these are just five great areas that provide great fishing opportunities for many skill levels, and this is definitely not an exhaustive list!
FRONT RANGE – the area surrounding Denver is the most accessible of the fishing regions in Colorado, and despite its close proximity to urban areas, there is a lot of great fishing to be had within driving distance of the capitol. Boulder is a short drive away, and the Flatirons are home to great rivers and lakes.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK – also within driving distance of Denver, RMNP is one of the most special places on earth. In addition to the big horn sheep, elk, moose, marmots, and deer, there are many fishing opportunities, all surrounded by the majestic Rockies.
ROARING FORK VALLEY – a little more difficult to get to, but definitely worth the time, RFV is home to the Crystal, Frying Pan, and Roaring Fork rivers, along with high country lakes and reservoirs. This region is the perfect spot to pair up with a local guide and hit the backcountry.
GUNNISON NATIONAL FOREST – Depending on who you ask, the best fishing in the state is located in Gunnison, on the Western Slope. Crested Butte provides a great home base for catching lake trout, browns, rainbows, as well as kokanee salmon. The Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in the state, is located just west of here.
SAN JUANS – in the southern region of the state, the San Juan river, at the base of the mountain range, is a favorite of trout fishers worldwide. The river begins up in the high country and at Pagosa Springs becomes wider, the 25 mile stretch between this town and the Navajo Reservoir contains some of the favorite fishing in the state.
Whichever of these regions that you choose, you will find professional and indispensable guide outfits in every corner of the state, available to give you that once in a lifetime experience.
As a lot of the state’s top fishing occurs on public lands, there will be required permits and licenses to acquire. For many, even the most experienced anglers, this is reason enough to hire a guide for their fishing adventures. More importantly, guides provide access to private waters that are more tranquil, and not open to the general public. And, a great guide will help to improve the technique of all level of anglers, provide new insight on tying and casting, and give some local color to enhance your Colorado experience.
If you are looking to create lifelong memories, a lodge vacation is the way to go. Many cater to fly fishing visitors, and have access to some of the most pristine waters on earth. Fly fishing under an open sky with no one else for miles is truly something special, and a lodge experience can give you a multi-day backcountry experience where you sleep under the stars and cook your catch. Lodges run the gamut from rustic to full-on five star experiences, with everything in between.
WHEN TO GO
Spring, beginning in late March, with the mountain run-off and spawning trout, is extremely popular, but the streams will be very cold with the snow melt; April and May will be a bit warmer but not by much! Due to the pleasant weather and running trout, June and July are considered to be the peak of Colorado’s nearly year-round fishing season. Many guides and locals really love fly fishing in autumn and enjoy the quietness of this time of year. With the aspens changing colors, and the fall foliage in full effect, September and October are perfect months to visit Colorado. Fishing in December right through the winter, is also a possibility, but one that requires a completely different set of skills. This may not be the ideal time of year for beginners as the temps will be cold and the fish more difficult to catch.
Whenever you decide to come, and whichever region of the state you choose to visit, just get out here! The fishing is fine and Colorado is like no place else on Earth.