Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Colorado River In
Looking at the beautiful alpine meadows of the Colorado
River headwaters in Rocky Mountains National Park, It's
difficult to imagine it's the same river that supplies
Southern California, and many other areas, much of
their water. Even in the state of Colorado, it's
appearance and character changes drastically. Fly
fishing the Colorado River varies greatly from its
beginning to where it enters the state of Utah.
There are other sections of the Colorado River outside
of the state of Colorado where the river can be fished
for trout. Those are included in separate sections of our
site. Inside Colorado, the Colorado River is a great trout
fishery. Trout exist in the entire length of the river within
the state's boundaries. It is all a freestone fishery. There
are no dams on the Colorado in Colorado.
Rainbow trout grow to large sizes. Browns can be huge
and exist throughout much of its waters. There are also
populations of cutthroat and brook trout. There are
various types of water in the River depending on where
you are fishing. It is a large river that gets larger in size
and flows the further west you fish it. The size of the
Colorado River, as stated to the left, is the best
description of the river within the state of Colorado we
can provide because it grows from a very small stream
where it begins in Rocky Mountains National Park, to a
large river over a hundred feet wide in the western part
of the state. Many small and several large tributary
streams increase the size along its way westward.
The upper section of the river flows through several
reservoirs. Even though much of it flows through private
property, from its upper section to Kremmling you will
find several places you can access the river.
Many areas, especially around Hot Sulphur Springs,
provide good wading opportunities. Probably the best
section to wade is from the Fraser River confluence
near Granby downstream Kremmling. Numerous pulloffs
and exits along state Route #40 provide access to this
section. There are long riffles and runs in this section of
the stream which averages about 50 feet in width. Most
of the water is moderate flows and easy to wade. Near
Hot Sulphur Springs, Byers Canyon offers much faster
flowing pocket water.
Westward of Kremmling, the river receives water from
one of its largest tributaries, the Blue River. That
increase the size of the Colorado to the point that
floating the river becomes the primary option and the
only option in many places. There are numerous boat
launches along the river and access is easy.
The river can be swift in areas and caution is needed if
you attempt to float this section of the river without an
experienced person at the oars. Certain areas cannot
be safely floated. There is some wading opportunities at
the boat launches but other than that, wading is limited.
State Route #1 follows this section of the river along with
the Colorado River Road. It generally follows the river
from Kremmling to Dolsero but access points along it are
few and far between. Route #70 follows the Colorado
from Dotsero through the Glenwood Canyon. There are
some very good fly fishing opportunities in this section
but the water is usually too deep to wade. There are
also some boat launch ramps in this section.
It is important to check the water flows and levels in the
lower section of the Colorado River. It is often high and
off color. The USGS link on your left should give you a
good idea of the flows.
Colorado River Colorado
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Colorado River near Rocky Mountains National Park
Colorado River above Glenwood Springs
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us with the dates you will be
fishing this stream and we will send
you a list of our fly suggestions. Please
allow up to 24 hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will
help you decide which flies you need.
3. Call or email us with a budget for
flies and we will select them and get
them to you in time for your trip.
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over $50 are shipped Priority Mail.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The Colorado River can be fished
Although you can fish during the winter,
fishing is generally slow and tough.
Except for the late spring runoff, Spring is
Fly Fishing Guide to the Colorado
The methods and techniques used for fly
fishing the Colorado River are as diversified
and the river itself. It strictly depends on where
you are fishing the river. The methods and
techniques used to fly fish the Colorado River
strictly depends on where you are fishing the
river. The size of the stream and the type of
water varies considerably from its headwaters
to the western state line.
The upper river is inside the Rocky Mountains
National Park. It is a typical small stream that
starts in the Kawuneechee Valley. Shadow
Mountain Lake impounds the river about
fifteen miles from its start. The stream is
accessible inside and just outside the park at
several locations. The stream is mostly
shallow riffles with some deep undercut banks
with plenty of brown, rainbow and brook trout.
It is a good place for beginners to fish.
The Fraser River joins the Colorado near
Grandby and the stream becomes larger. A
little impoundment collects water from both the
Fraser and the Colorado river which is
transported to the east slope through the Big
Thompson Project. From Windy Gap to the
Troublesome Creek confluence the river is
deemed Gold Metal Water by the state.
Below Grandby it flows through ranch land
except for the Byers Canyon area located
near Hot Sulphur Springs. In this area,
called the Middle Park, the river parallels
US highway 40 to Kremmling. The Blue
River joins in the flow near Kremmling and
the river gets larger and faster and flows
through Gore Canyon. In this area the
popular Elktrout Lodge has five miles of
private water on the Colorado and a
couple of miles on the Blue River. They
offer package deals including lodging.
Except during the spring runoff, the water
can be floated from the downstream end
of the Gore Canyon to Dotsero. Runoff
usually ends around the first or second
week of July. The river flows though a lot
of private land in this area. Below Dotsero
the river goes into the Glenwood Canyon.
This area is basically just too rough to fish
although there are a couple of places the
river can be accessed and fished.
By the time the river get to Glenwood
Springs it is large and quite deep. The
Roaring Fork River adds to its flow. Below
Glenwood Springs the river flows through
a large valley.
Colorado River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based on
our stream samples of larvae and nymphs, not
guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Blue River and in all stages of
life that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with selections,
you will learn why, after trying Perfect Flies,
92% of the thousands of our customers will
use nothing else. 1-800-594-4726.
Since the river changes elevations drastically
and since it flows across much of the state of
Colorado, you can expect the dates of aquatic
insects hatches to vary considerably
depending on the location. A good selection of
streamers is a good start.
The first of April until mid May brings on the
first Blue-winged Olive hatches. They hatch
again from about the middle of August until
mid October. If you are fishing the Colorado
River during these dates, it will pay you to
have imitations of the BWOs.
Several fast water areas have huge Salmonfly
hatches. Most of them have Golden Stonefly
hatches. Sometimes these hatches conflict
with the spring runoff and the water is still high
but they are fishable for the most part. They
start about the first of June and hatch until the
end of August depending on where you are
fishing the river. There is also several areas
Little Yellow Stoneflies and Little Brown
Stoneflies hatch. Don't forget imitations of
these stoneflies if you fish during that time
The slower moving, smoother water sections of
the river have Trico hatches that start about
the middle of July and last into October.
Several areas, more particularly along the
lower end of the river, have the Trico hatches.
This may be your only opportunity to fish a
hatch so be certain to have plenty of imitations
of all the stages of this little mayfly.
Other than the BWOs, the Pale Morning Dun is
the most consistent mayfly hatch. They hatch
from the middle of June to the middle of
August in most areas of the river, including the
Rocky Mountains National Park.
Dark Red Quills hatch in many sections of
the river. They start around the first of July
and last until the end of August depending
on the location on the river.
Caddisflies are very important insects to
imitate on the Colorado. There are several
species. One of the first is the Little Black
Caddis (Brachcentrus species) called the
mothers day hatch. It starts towards the
end of April and last until near the end of
May depending on the location. Green
Sedges, the larva of which is called the
Rock Worm, are plentiful in the fast water
areas. They hatch from about the middle
of May through July depending on the
location. The most plentiful caddisflies are
the spotted sedges. There are several
species that start hatching in May and last
through September. Others are the
Short-horned Sedges, little black
caddisflies that hatch in May and June and
Little Sister Caddisflies that hatch in July
and August. There are other less
important species that hatch in isolated
areas of the Colorado River.
In some areas of the river you will find
populations of scuds. Imitations of these
crustaceans may be your best choice in
some areas at certain times of the year. As
with most any trout stream, the Colorado
River has a huge population of midges.
Although they hatch throughout the year,
midges may be your best opportunity
during cold weather.
Terrestrial insects become important
around the first of June in some areas.
You would want to have imitations of
Japanese beetles, Carpenter ants, flying
ants and grasshoppers along with you if
you fish the river anytime from the first of
June until the first of October.
Be sure to check out our "Perfect Flies".
We have specific imitations of everything
the trout eat in the Colorado River. We feel
certain it will be to your advantage to use
them. They are the most realistic and
effective flies you can purchase.
All things considered, the Summer is
probably the best for fly fishing the
Autumn provides one of the most scenic
times to fish.
Colorado River Fishing Report:
11/15/13 Customer reporting cold water (low
forties). Midges and small BWOs hatching in
the Parshall area. Caught 3 trout in 3 hours
of fishing. Slow fishing according to him.
11/30/13 Water has been in good shape
last couple of day but cold. Water has
cleared up. Anglers continuing to catch a
few trout on midges and small blue-winged
olive nymphs. No customer reports. This is
from our local contact.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge