Top 3 Best Public Places to Fly Fish in Colorado

And Great Advice on How to Fish Them

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I Have Fly Fished Colorado for almost 15 years. I’ve Caught Big Fish, Little Fish, Lots of Fish, and No Fish. There are over 200 Rivers in Colorado that Have Fish in Them.

You could spend the rest of your life fishing in Colorado alone, getting to know the rivers and the trout in them over the seasons, flow changes, and any of the other many changes the riparian eco systems go through over the decades. I’m here to outline 3 of my favorites, in hopes you will go out and fish them, and send me pictures on facebook of how you did. Visit The Catch and The Hatch on Facebook, and let me know how you did!

Top 3 Best Public Places to Fly Fish in Colorado

In No Particular Order. Every River is My Favorite Under it’s Own Set of Conditions.

South Platte River

Dream Stream, 11 Mile Canyon, Cheeseman Canyon, Deckers, Waterton Canyon, Denver South Platte and More

south-platte-riverThe South Platte has so many sections of pristine fishing water, it’s too hard to choose a specific stretch of river. the south platte river has over 15 public access points and is full of Rainbows Brown, Cutthroats, Cutbows, Suckers, Carp, Bass, and Kokanee Salmon.

The best part about the south platte is the variety of water you can fish. You can fish the technical water of cheeseman canyon and its pocket water behind massive boulders, or you can fish dream stream as it takes shape as a meandering valley stream between 2 reservoirs providing an opportunity to catch some of the largest trout in the state.

Another great reason to fish anywhere on the South Platte River in Colorado are the opportunities to catch huge fish. I’ll let the picture do the talking here.

Advice on How to Fish the South Platte

  • 18'' Rainbow - Cheeseman Canyon, CO
    18” Rainbow – Cheeseman Canyon, CO

    If It’s A Tailwater Section, Fish Smaller Flies: I’ve Caught 80% of My Fish on the South Platte Using Smaller Flies than I’m Comfortable With. I’m Talking Size #22 – #24 midges and baetis patterns. Small Nymphs and Dries Catch More Fish

  • Be Patient:I See a lot of People Try to Cover All of Cheeseman Canyon in a Day, Walking over 1000’s of Fish in the Process. The South Platte Has up to 3,000 Fish Per Mile in Some of it’s Stretches. Be Patient When You Find a Good Hole That Holds Fish, You Will Most Likely Be Rewarded.

Read the Full Report on the South Platte River

There are over 12 distinct sections on the South Platte from the headwaters to downtown Denver and all are worth exploring and fishing in the right conditions and time of year. Check out our free version of the river explorer and read about the South Platte River. All you have to do is put in your email and you’ll get access, then we’ll send you some free content to teach you how to fish Colorado with success.

Check Out All Sections of the South Platte

Indian Peaks Wilderness

So many lakes, inter-connected streams and untouched wilderness, Indian Peaks is a great trout fishery holding one of the largest concentrations of greenback cutthroat in the state.

Golden Rule of Indian Peaks

  • The Further You Hike in, the Bigger the Fish
Betty Lake in July  - Great Wildflowers
Betty Lake in July – Great Wildflowers

I Have had 100 Fish Days at some of the Lakes in Indian Peaks. The Fish are always hungry, always catchable, and are willing to take many different presentations. The water is typically crystal clear requiring careful presentations and sometimes smaller tippet. However, the fish are so beautiful and the scenery is some of the best in the state.

When you think of fly fishing in pristine wilderness and high mountain lakes, you are envisioning the reality of what Indian Peaks has to offer. There are so many different lakes, and interconnecting streams, you could spend years exploring it all and catching the fish in them. You can catch cutthroat, brown, rainbow, grayling, lake trout, and albino trout (though extremely rare). The majority of the catch will be greenback cutthroat and rainbow trout.

Advice for Fly Fishing Indian Peaks Wilderness

  • 16'' Cutthroat - Indian Peaks Wilderness
    16” Cutthroat – Indian Peaks Wilderness
    Timing is Everything:A lot of these lakes are above 9,000 ft meaning there is limited window to where you will be fishing in warm, comfortable weather. June to October are the Best months to Tackle this Adventure.
  • Dry Fly or Die:You can catch 100 on nymphs, but you can catch 100 on Dries too. Being the Dry Fly enthusiast that I am, if I can catch half as many on dries as I do on nymphs I will. There is something uniquely special about catching a native greenback cutthroat on a dry fly you tied.
  • Dress Warm:If you’re native to Colorado, then you know what I’m saying. If you are visiting, Dress in layers, start out warm, and be prepared for rain, hail, lighting storms, snow, blistering sun, and wind. Temperature changes are volatile going from high 80’s to low 30’s in a matter of a half hour. Be prepared. ‘Nuff Said.

Upper Colorado River

coloradoriverparshall4I overlooked the Upper Colorado for a number of years. I’m not sure why, but I sure do regret it!. The Upper Colorado starts up near Granby and ends after the Pumphouse stretch near Avon. Brown and Rainbows dominate this section of the Colorado and they are almost all quality fish!

This stretch of River has made my top 3 list because of the quality of water. On this river, it is impossible to throw a bad drift. What I mean by that is the water all looks so good it is difficult to throw your fly somewhere you wouldn’t expect a fish to hold. In addition to that, you can catch a lot of fish on a variety of big flies. Stonefly nymphs for pre run-off and stonefly dries during the run-off and then end the season with Stimulators and Green Drakes!

Advice on Fly Fishing the Upper Colorado

  • coloradoriverparshallbrown1Stonies FTW: Stoneflies are a major food source for the trout in the Colorado. The stoneflies have a 3 year life cycle as a nymph, so they stay in that water a long time allowing them to grow, and get eaten year round. Fish some bitch creeks or pats rubber legs starting in march, and you will have some excellent spring fishing opportunities for 14-16 inch brown trout all day long.
  • Fish Early, Fish Late: I mean that in 2 ways. The Colorado is best fished early in the morning, and late in the evening. Additionally, I have had my best luck early in the spring, and late in the fall.


Want 125 More Rivers to Explore?

Yup, you read that right, we’ve put together river guides on 125+ of Colorado’s best waters. We share all the information you need to fish the river with success including hatch charts, top flies to use (names, sizes, colors), tips on fishing the river, weather reports and more.