Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Colorado River In
Fly fishing the Colorado River in Colorado, varies
greatly from section to section. The beautiful alpine
meadows of the Colorado River headwaters in Rocky
Mountains National Park doesn't resemble the
Colorado river in the central part of the state, or the
lower Colorado River near the Utah state line. There
are many tributary streams contributing to the flow
throughout its journey through Colorado.
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 the
state of 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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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.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Headlines: The river is still in good
shape from top to bottom. We
recommend fishing the middle lower
and lower section of the river. The
upper sections are much colder
with water temperatures in the
thirties. Midges, creams and reds
or blood midges and Blue winged
olives are hatching. Winter
stoneflies are starting to hatch. Be
sure and check the current stream
and weather conditions by clicking
the above link to the Colorado
River fishing report.
We have Perfect Fly
website pages on
each of these other
fine trout streams.
descriptions of the
location, species of
fish, a fly fishing
guide, a fly fishing
report, hatches and
flies, fly fishing gear
USGS stream data,
much, much more
10/16/15 Great conditions exist right now. The weather is turning cooler, brown trout are either
spawning or in the pre-spawn stage and very aggressive. Stream levels are currently good but
there is some rain forecast. October caddis are hatching. There are still some hatches taking
place and imitations of terrestrials are working good.
10/23/15 The river levels are high in most sections, so be sure to check them prior to making a
long trip. October Caddis are at the peak of their hatch but the areas they are hatching in will
shift during the next two or three weeks. The egg laying females are bringing trout to the
surface to feed on them. Blue-winged Olives are beginning to hatch again.
10/30/15 It is gradually turning a little colder and changing the conditions. It won't be long
before we will need to add midges. Right now Blue-winged olives are the main hatch. October
caddis are still hatching in some sections of the river. Don't forget the pre-spawn browns. The
Brown Sculpin fly is best to fool them.
11/06/15 It is turning much colder but not unusual for this time of the season. It is changing the
aquatic insect hatches. It will be mostly Blue-winged olives and midges for the next few weeks.
Water levels are about normal and should remain that way but it is always best to check them.
11/13/15 It is gradually turning cold in Colorado River country. Hatches are reduced down to
mostly midges and Blue-winged olives. The water is still warm enough for the trout to be active
and feed well and if you use the right strategies you should be able to catch plenty of trout.
11/20/15 It is cold and that of course, is normal for this time of the year. There has been some
snow but that should come to an end today. Stream levels are good right now and melting snow
would be the only thing to change it this coming week. Midges are the most important aquatic
insect right now.
11/27/15 Stream levels are good throughout the system. The water is cold with hatches
consisting only of midges. We recommend fishing midges, with the larva and pupa in tandem.
The lava should be the bottom fly. There is plenty of snow in the forecast with temperatures
remaining below freezing in most sections of the river.
12/04/15 It is warming back up from last weeks cold a little but the water temperature will only
be around 37 degrees. Midges is your best option. Fish the pupa and larva in tandem with the
pupa the top fly and the larva the bottom fly. Space them about a foot or more apart.
12/11/15 We have added Winter Stoneflies to the list because they have started to hatch in the
upper sections. Midges will still be an important insect. The Brown Sculpin streamer fly has
produced the biggest fish for the past month. There is snow forecast every day through next
12/25/15 The water temperature varies depending on which section of the river you are fishing.
It ranges from freezing to about 40 degrees in some areas just below dams. That is where we
recommend fishing. Midges and Winter stoneflies is you best options. Where water is stained,
01/15/16 The stream levels and flows throughout the system are low and in good shape for
wading but we only recommend you fish below the bottom discharge dams. The water
temperature is a little warmer there. There is a lot of slush ice and ice along the banks of the
stream in most areas of the Colorado. Midges and winter stonefly nymphs are the flies you
need to be using.
01/22/16 The weather forecast for mid January isn't that bad but there is a lot of slush ice in the
water wherever it is a little slow and plenty of it around the banks along with deep snow. If you
fish, fish as close to the bottom discharge dams as it is legal to do so. That will be the warmest
water. Midges and winter stonefly nymphs are the best flies to use.
02/12/16 The weather has been just a little warmer lately but not warm enough to get rid of a lot
of slush ice in the river everywhere except near the bottom discharges of the tailwaters. That is
where we recommend you fish. Midges, Winter stoneflies and Black Flies are the main insects
you need to be imitating.
02/26/16 The river is in about as good of shape as possible for this time of the year. Warmer
weather has melted snow and ice in some sections keeping the levels a little high and stained
as well as very cold, but the sections below the dams is in very good shape. The water
temperature ranges from near freezing to 39 degrees in the tailwaters.
03/04/16 Same story, second verse. The warmer weather is nice on people but it only melts
snow, stains the water and keeps in cold in most sections of the Colorado. El Nino weather just
doesn't help the fish. We are still recommending fishing below the two tailwaters, provided, the
flow are low and they usually are. That is the warmest and clearest water.
03/11/16 The river is in good shape in most sections. The lower elevation sections have a lot of
melting snow and that's keeping the water temperature down and stained. Fish near the dams
of the tailwaters for the warmest and clearest water. The discharges could increase, so make
sure you check the stream levels.
03/18/16 Conditions have been very good for the middle of March. The stream levels are in
very good shape in most sections of the river. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching
good. The water temperature is up a couple of degrees in most sections and March Browns will
be coming in the picture soon.
03/25/16 Same story, second verse. It is still cold even though it is the first of Spring. When it
does get warm, it melts the bank snow and keeps the water temperature down low. That will be
the case until after the runoff. Fish near the dams. The tailwater is the warmest. Midges, little
BWOs and maybe some March Browns will be hatching.
04/01/15 The river is getting a little low. This is good and not so good, depending on how you
look at it. You can wade a lot of places and if you stay well hidden, you can catch trout. The
weather is going to be nice with almost no chance of rain or snow for the next week. You will
need to fish midges, larva and puap, and adults when you see trout feeding on top.
04/21/16 The river has been flowing a little low the past two days but it is back up near normal.
The discharges have been low and the weather cooler. Little Black Caddis is the headline
hatch. The bring trout to the surface to feed and is always a sure sign the season is getting off
to a right start. Of course, we will have a runoff and then great fly fishing.
04/29/16 The Colorado is in good shape for the most part. The stream clarity is off or stained
badly in some sections due to melting snow. The levels are mostly good in all sections. The
water temperature is being held down due to melting snow but the weather is returning to a
more normal situation.
05/06/16 The river level is a little high in all sections. There is snow or rain forecast every day
for the coming week, so this is unlikely to change. Blue-winged olives, March Browns and little
Black Mother's day caddis continue to hatch but the cool spell has slowed it down some.
05/13/16 The stream levels are still high in all the sections from the headwaters to the Utah
state line. There is little opportunity. The water is heavily stained. There are little Black Caddis
hatching in some sections but to little avail. You will just have to keep checking the levels.
05/20/16 Everyone is hoping the early start to the Spring runoff will also mean a quicker than
normal ending to it but that remains to be seen. The river is fully blown out in most sections
from the headwaters to the Utah state line. It is very likely to continue well into most of the
month of June. Meantime, send us and email and let us help you plan that next trip.
06/03/16 The runoff is still in high gear with high stream levels and muddy to highly dingy water
in all sections of the river. This will continue for a few more days. Please just keep checking
back with us and we will keep you updated as to the statues.
06/11/16 If you try to fish the Colorado right now, you might get hit by a rock. The river is a
ranging mess, with very high water levels in all sections from the headwaters throughout the
state. This is normal during the peak of the runoff and hopefully, it will come to an early end this
season. It got off to a fast start.
06/24/16 The river is getting back into good shape fast. The water levels are falling and the
runoff headed downhill. It will take a few more days but the uppermost sections are beginning to
look good. A lot of that depends on the discharges but they should begin to be much lower.
There are a lot of insects hatching, especially stoneflies. The middle and lower sections of the
river are still very high.
07/01/16 The river is still high and stained. It needs some more time to get down to where it is
possible to wade it in the normal places. The uppermost section near the headwaters may be
down enough to wade safely but nothing in the middle or lower end of the river is yet ready.
Maybe another week will clear things up. There are a lot of insects hatching but to no avail.
07/08/16 The river is in much better shape than last week with mostly all clear water. The levels
are down a lot and fine from drift boats. There are some sections that can be waded safely but
many are still too high. There are a lot of insects hatching but keep in mind they vary from
section to section. The river should keeping dropping and get better each day.
07/15/16 For the first time this season, the Colorado is in good shape from its headwaters to
the Utah state line. Customers are sending in good reports from the upper and middle sections.
You can wade safely in all but the deeper sections. A huge number of insects are hatching but
it vary greatly, depending on he elevation and section of river you are fishing.
07/22/16 Some sections of the river are a little high right now and some are in good shape for
wading. The levels are dropping fast but there are chances of rain everyday for the next week,
so you just have to keep checking the levels where you intend to fish. Thee are still a large
number of insects hatching but they vary from section to section.
07/29/16 It is rare the river is in good shape throughout its long length in the state of Colorado,
but it is now. You should be able to catch plenty of trout from the uppermost section in the
Rocky Mountain National Park to the Utah state line. Stream levels are good and there are still
plenty of hatching insects. Shoot us an email for a detailed list for th section you plan on fishing.
08/04/16 Our customers are sending in good reports mostly from the middle section of the
river. There are lots of caddisflies hatching. The weather is cooling down just a little and there
are good chances of rain forecast for about every day this coming week. Terrestrials are also
beginning to work good.
08/11/16 Recent showers has brought the stream levels up in good shape in most sections.
The uppermost sections are cooler and have better hatches but there are hatching throughout
the entire state. Fish early morning with Sculpin streamers like our Matuka sculpin. Fish the last
two hours of daylight with adult caddis to imitate the egg layers.
08/28/16 We have been getting some good reports from customers wading and those using
drift boats. The upper headwaters are producing good numbers of trout as well as the middle
and lower sections of the river. Hatches depend on the section but caddisflies are in all
sections. Tricos are hatching in the middle and lower sections.
09/23/16 The river is in good shape from its headwaters to the state of Utah. Our customers
are catching good numbers of trout. There are lots of Blue-winged olive hatches as well as
some new October Caddis and Mahogany dun hatches. The cooler weather has the trout
turned on. It is a great time to fish the river and few anglers are doing it.
09/30/16 The stream levels are in good shape throughout the entire system. You can catch
trout anywhere now, but we recommend the middle sections. The uppermost headwaters are
getting a little chilly but still in good shape. Wading is possible in most places in the middle
section and we are getting some good reports of trout caught in good numbers.
10/14/16 The river is in very good shape for this time of the season. There are still plenty of
hatches taking place but of course, they vary with the section of the river being fished. The
Blue-winged olives are the most consistent one. October caddis are hatching in most sections
of the river. The Brown sculpin is getting some large browns.
10/27/16 We received some very good reports this past week. Stream levels are in good shape
and there are some big Blue-winged olive hatches taking place. The brown trout are ranging
from Pre-spawn state to the full spawning stage. Please do not wade through the redds.
11/04/16 The river is in great shape with normal stream levels and clear water. The weather
has gotten a little cooler and that too helps. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching. Brown
trout are still being caught on the Brown and White belly sculpin streamers. These are post-
11/11/16 The conditions are great, with good stream levels that are easy to wade most places
and good hatches of Blue-winged olives and Cream midges. Trout are still being caught on the
surface on dry flies in the afternoons. It just doesn't get much better than this in November.
There are some large trout being caught on our Sculpin streamer flies.
11/18/16 The river is in good shape from a stream level standpoint, with levels averaging a little
below normal that provide good wading opportunity. The cold nights has dropped the water
temperature down and the hatches will mostly be Blue-winged olives and Midges. The Cream
midges are most plentiful. The middle and lower sections of the river are in the best shape at
11/25/16 The river is still in good shape from a stream level standpoint. Wading is possible
most places. The water is getting colder, averaging about 40 degrees. Midges, both creams
and reds or blood midges, are hatching. Fish the larva and pupa imitations in tandem with the
larva the bottom fly. You can fish these under a strike indicator. The Brown and White Belly
sculpin streamers are also working good. We do recommend fishing the lower to middle ends of
the river, as opposed to the upper section.