Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing the Dolores River Colorado
The Dolores River is both a freestone stream and a
tailwater stream. It is located in the Southwest corner
of Colorado near the small town of Dolores. Its
headwater section contains the Dolores and the West
Branch of the Dolores River. It starts out as a small
alpine meadow type stream at an elevation of about
10,000 feet. The headwaters has some private
property areas and a couple of campgrounds located
on the stream. The trout in the upper areas are mostly
smaller fish ranging from eight to twelve inches. Fly
fishing the Dolores River is best in its lower tailwater

When people mention the Dolores River they are
usually referring to the tailwater section below McPhee
Dam. The river has a very good population of trout
consisting of rainbows, brown and cutthroat trout.
These fish average about twelve to eighteen inches.
This isn't your average tailwater; however, as the
locals put it, it requires some highly technical fishing
methods. It's more like a spring creek and in fact,
normal spring creek tactics work best on the stream.

The Dolores has a very good population of aquatic
insects. Its waters are very fertile. Two of the most
important mayflies are the Blue-winged Olives, which
hatch in the Spring and Fall, Pale Morning Duns, which
hatch from late May through July. There are Green
Drakes, Small Western Green Drakes, Pale Evening
Duns, Mahogany Duns, Gray Drakes, Tricos and other

Caddisflies consis mostly of Little Black Caddis
(Mother's Day Caddis), Spotted Sedges, Little Sister
Caddis, Green Sedges and October Caddis.

There are plenty of stoneflies, mostly in the
headwaters, but some are in the tailwater section.
Little Winter stoneflies, Little Yellow Stoneflies, Golden
Stoneflies and a few Salmonflies make up the majority
of them.

During the Summer months terrestrial insects become
important food to imitate. Hoppers, Carpenter ants,
Japanese Beetles are the most important ones.

Streamers that imitate baitfish and sculpin work
year-round under low light conditions and are very
important flies to use during the early Fall season.

It's best to wait until after runoff to start fishing the
Dolores. Normally this takes place in June. Fishing
continues to be great well into December. The fishing
regulations require the release of all trout caught. Only
artificial flies and lures can be used.

This isn't an easy stream to fish. You need to use
long, light leaders and tippets. Matching the hatch can
be a huge benefit. Good drag-free drifts and good
presentations are usually required if one is to expect
very much success.

Some of the river's access road is closed from the first
of December until April.
Springtime can be a tough time to fish the Dolores
The water usually gets into good shape about the
middle of June.
Fly fishing the Dolores River can be great in the Fall.
The brown trout spawn during the Fall. Good fishing
can last into December.
Type of Stream
Freestone Stream/Tailwater

Rainbow Trout (Wild)
Brown Trout (Wild)
Cutthroat Trout (Wild)
Brook Trout (Wild)

Small to Medium

Southwestern Colorado

Nearest Towns



USGS Real-time Data:
At Delores

Non-Resident License
State of Colorado

National Weather Service Link

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11/09/13 Two customers reporting catching large browns using the PF Brown Sculpin
Streamers. One catching browns and rainbows on our PF midges and BWO nymphs.
01/02/13 Weather has been very cold and limited the fly fishing opportunities. Our local
contact reporting he caught some fish in mid December in the tailwater on our PF midges but
condtions have been poor since.
Fishing Report Updated 10/07/16
(Bottom Of Page)
01/29/14 Cold weather has kept anglers off the freestone section but a few have fished the
tailwater recently. According to our customer he has caught some nice trout on our
light green and cream larva, pupa and adults. Cold weather is on the way again.
03/21/14 There was a warming trend last week but it has turned cold again. The tailwater
section has continued to produce well for those who braved the weather.
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. Email us (
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
Priority Mail.  
04/15/14 Customer ordered more midges. He reporting catching trout in the tailwater section
on a consistent basis mostly on the light green colors.
04/06/14 Two customers ordering flies including Little Black Caddis, Blue-winged Olives and
Matuka Sculpin reported catching several trout this pas week in the tailwater section.
04/19/14 High water levels have hampered the fishing opportunities lately but currently back
in a fishable condition. We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week.
06/23/14 Sorry for the lack of fishing reports. We now have a local contact keeping us
informed on the conditions. The stream is currently a little low but fishing well. Pale Morning
Duns and lots of caddis are hatching.
10/18/14 The Delores is fishing good in both the tailwater and freestone sections. One
customer reporting catching several nice size browns on our
Brown Sculpin.
11/08/14 Another good report came in from the tailwater last week. Two large browns caught
along with several nice size ones.
12/04/14 Anglers are catching trout in the tailwaters when the flows are decent. The midges,
light green and cream larva, pupa and adults.
12/19/14 One good report from the past 10 days or so. Customers was using Midges and our
Brown Sculpin. Conditions are good.
12/31/14 No reports recently but the tailwater section is still very fishable. The weather has
turned much colder.
02/05/15 We didn't receive but one good report in January and one so far in February but
conditions are great for this time fo the year. The tailwater section should fish good with good
discharge rates and good weather in the forecast.
Delores River, Colorado, Fishing Report:
11/14/15 We are beginning a new series of fishing reports for the Delores River. Normally,
we will break the report down into the tailwater section below McPhee Reservoir and the
section above it. Right now, conditions are good with good stream levels. We recommend
the tailwater below McPhee. Brown trout are still spawning or in the post-spawn stage.
Hatches consist mostly of blue-winged olives and Midges. The Perfect fly Brown Sculpin is a
great fly to use at this time of the year.
12/11/15 The water is getting colder and we recommend fishing the McPhee tailwater. The
water is much warmer. Fish our Cream midge larva and pupa in tandem. The Brown sculpin is
still catching the larger trout. You should also have some
Winter stonefly nymphs and adults.
12/25/15 The McPhee tailwater provides the best fly fishing opportunity right now. There is
heavy snow, as you probably know, through today, Christmas Day. Have the right vehicle.
You should imitate the Winter stonefleis and midges.
01/08/15 Snow ends today and it will be clear for the next six days. The tailwater is high right now.
The USGS gauge is frozen but they are running water. This should settle down soon. Fish as
near the dam as you can.
01/15/16 Those brave enough to get off the couch and layer up well, are catching some trout in
the tailwater near the dam. Midges and Winter stonefly nymphs are the flies you need.
01/22/16 Yes, it is cold but the tailwater below McPhee Dam holds a lot of trout and the water is
usually ranging from a maximum of 39 to 32 degrees a few miles below the dam. Midges and
Winter stonefly nymphs are the flies you need to use.
01/29/16 The water is warm near the McPhee dam and trout are being caught. There is a lot of
snow for this coming week and you may want to check the roads. We recommend a 4 wheel drive.
02/05/16 The discharges from McPhee dam are staying in a good range and the stream levels
in good shape. One customer has caught some nice trout on the Winter stonefly nymphs and
cream midge pupa and larva fished in tandem.
02/12/15 Warmer weather is going to make it more comfortable on angler fishing but melt a lot
of snow, keep the levels up some, and stain the water. Fish below McPhee dam and use
midges, winter stoneflies and the white belly Sculpin streamer is the water is off color.
02/19/16 The weather will be a little colder this week, but with little snow. The tailwater should
produce some trout for those who fish midges the right way. The discharges should be fine.
02/26/16 The weather is going to be much warmer, with highs from 46 to 56 degrees. The lower
end of the freestone section will be warming up but melting snow will keep the water temperature
down. The tailwater will still be the best option.
03/04/16 The freestone section is clearing some of slush ice but still very cold. The tailwater
(lower section) is still the preferred section to fish. The discharges and levels should be low but
be sure to check them. There's less chance of rain or snow this coming week.
03/11/16 The weather continues to be supper good but it has had little effect on the trout, but
made for some happy anglers. The freestone section is still cold, below 40 degrees, and fishing
would be very tough. We are still recommending the tailwater. Midges and little BWOs are
03/18/16 Two good reports from this past week from the tailwater. Nice size trout were caught on
the Brown Sculpin and several on the red, or blood midge pupa and larva in tandem.
03/25/16 The McPhee tailwater is one of the better fly fishing destinations in the state of
Colorado right now. Anglers are catching some nice trout on midges.
04/01/16 Two good reports from customers fishing the tailwater this past week. The weather is
going to be great this coming week but check the discharge rates and schedule. Midges, cream
and red, larva and pupa in tandem, and little BWO nymphs will work.
04/15/16 The stream levels are staying high and there is rain or snow in the forecast every day
through next Tuesday, with colder temperatures. The tailwater is the best option but you may
have to fish from the banks.
04/29/16 The tailwater continues to produce some good trout as long as the discharges are low
enough that wading is possible. Midges, creams and light greens, larva and pupa in tandem, and
little BWO nymphs are working. The upper river is still in the mid forties.
05/06/16 Stream levels are high and likely to remain high. The tailwater can vary with
discharges but they too are likely to be high. Rain and snow and some runoff is causing it.
05/13/16 The runoff is full blown at this time. The freestone section very high and dirty and the
tailwater will likely be high at least most of the time. This condition will likely continue through the
next week. It is a good time to be planning that next trip.
05/20/16 You can be planning your next fly fishing trip to the Delores. We will be happy to help
you in anyway we can. Send us an email:
05/27/16 the runoff is still in full stream and there is little to no opportunity for fly fishing. This is
likely to continue for a few more days. The tailwater discharges are high as well as the freestone
sections. Just keep checking back with us and we wil keep you updated.
06/03/16 The stream levels are still high in both the freestone and tailwaters. Runoff is going full
blast and will probably get stronger with the warmer weather in the forecast.
06/10/16 The stream is flowing at 2290 cfs at 5.27 feet. That is extremely high, even more than
the average at the prime runoff time. You can forget fishing it this coming week.
06/17/16 Down to 901 cfs at 4.01 ft at Delores which is much, much lower than it was. The
upper section is dropping fast and should get in good shape soon. It won't be long, but we don't
yet recommend you head there from out of town.
07/01/16 The stream levels are up some recently due to rain. The runoff is over and otherwise,
the stream should get down to safe wading levels very soon. The rain should end by Monday
and the river start to fall fast. They will lower the discharges soon thereafter. Lots of insects are
hatching and vary from section to section. Shoot us an email and we will send you a list.
07/08/16 The headwaters, or freestone section, is down at a good level and allowing some safe
wading in places. The tailwater below McPhee dam is also in good shape with low discharges
and levels. There are a lot of insects hatching and our customers are catching lots of trout.
07/15/16 All sections of the river are in good shape. We recommend the freestone section over
the tailwaters right now, but both are in good shape. It doesn't get any better than it is now.
07/22/16 Excellent conditions exist with good stream levels in all sections and lots of insects
hatching. We are still recommending the freestone section but the tailwater is also in good shape.
07/29/16 The river is at 167 cfs at Delores, or getting low. You will need to use stealth and stay
hidden. There are still plenty of hatches. Tricos have begin to hatch along with two species of
caddis, Little Yellow stoneflies, PMDs and others.
08/05/16 We received several good reports this past week from customers. Most are fishing the
PMD hatches. There are good little Yellow stonefly hatches taking place and lots of caddisflies
hatching.The levels are okay now, but check them. There is a lot of rain on the way.
08/12/16 Conditions are about as good as they get in mid August. The freestone and tailwater
sections of the river are in good shape, with good hatches, and lots of trout being caught.
08/19/16 The stream levels and discharges below the dams are low. It is easy to spook trout
wading, so stay low and hidden. Caddisflies are hatching big time. Terrestrial imitations are
working as well. We think the freestone section gives you the best opportunity at this time.  
08/26/16 Stream levels are about normal this morning. Tricos, Spotted sedges, Green sedges,
little sister caddis are present. There are some PMDs and little Yellow stoneflies in the higher
elevations. All sections of the river are in good shape.
09/02/16 The stream levels is still normal and our customers reporting some good catches. The
upper sections are fishing the best but both tailwaters are also producing some good fish.
09/09/16 The freestone section has been terrific, with good stream levels and lots of hatching
insects. The tailwater are good as well, but few anglers are fishing them. The crowds are gone
and you can have a lot of water to yourself.
09/23/16 Conditions have been good and anglers have been catching lots of trout. The stream
levels are up the last two day and wading tough to impossible but the river is falling and should
be back in good shape soon. October Caddis, Mahogany duns and BWOs are hatching good.
09/30/16 The stream is just a little above normal levels and rising. There are only slight chances
of rain for the next few days, so the levels are likely to be back normal soon. It is a little tough
wading in some areas and some are okay.
10/07/16 Good conditions continue to exist with good stream levels and discharges. Hatches are
still taking place and our customers reporting they are cathing some nice trout.