Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Elk River Colorado
Unless you gain permission from a local property owner along the river you are going
to be limited to fishing the headwaters of the South and North Branches in the Routt
National Forest or the lower section inside the Christina Wildlife Refuge Area. These
two areas require different fishing methods because of the size of the stream and the
trout. This is not a lot of water considering the river is thirty-one miles long. I will
mention that there are some guest ranches and retreats along the river that can be
rented. It is possible some of these offer fly fishing opportunities from their property.
The headwaters has plenty of small rainbows, browns and brook trout but a trout over
twelve inches is rare. They exist to sizes much larger than that but they are very few of
them. Some of the upper headwaters lies in meadow areas and some in canyon like
settings with fast water. There is an area called the box canyon that has a very steep
decline with rapids in some areas. The upper river is a popular white water destination.
This is a true freestone stream which means its flows are entirely controlled by mother
nature. The snowpack and rainfall amounts determine the flows. The water can get
low in the late summer and early fall months if the year is a dry one and the snow pack
is low. The water usually stays cool enough to provide good fishing even when it is low.
While the water is at a fairly high level in the pictures shown, it is not usually that level
during the summer. Most of the water can be waded easily even in the lower section in
Christina Wildlife Refuge. Dry fly fishing can be great during a prime hatch but
otherwise nymphs are usually required to catch trout.
The lower river usually has some very nice sized brown trout that can be taken on
streamers during the fall spawning season. Rainbows up to eighteen inches are not
exactly an everyday catch but they are commonly caught in the lower section of the
Elk River. They do average a very good size of around fourteen inches or better.
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Elk River Colorado