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How to Fly Fish the Colorado River Like a Pro

Image of a Fly Fisherman on the Colorado River
Ray Redstone, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s your quick and dirty guide to mastering the art of fly fishing on the spectacular Colorado River. We’ve got the skinny on everything from the river’s fishy biography and the best times to fish, to the low-down on the top places for access, the prime gear to snag, and the freshest local guide shops to hit up. Whether you’re a seasoned angler looking for the inside scoop or a newbie eager to make your first cast, this guide is chock-full of savvy advice, sage techniques, and the keenest tricks of the trade. So saddle up, fly fishing enthusiasts, we’re about to embark on the wildest fly fishing adventure on the Colorado River.

Once Upon a River: The Colorado River and its Fishery

Image: Picture of Colorado River with majestic mountains in the background.

The Colorado River is the fly fisher’s dream and one of America’s great fishing destinations. Originating from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, this river is home to a plentiful selection of fish species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.

As for the best time to fish, well, that’s almost all year round. But, if you’re looking for prime time, aim for spring (April-May) and fall (September-October). That’s when the river is less crowded and the fish are plentiful.

Your Access Pass: Top 5 Colorado River Fishing Spots and Guide Shops

Access SpotHow to get thereLocal Guide Shop (with hyperlink)
Upper Colorado near KremmlingHead northwest on Highway 40 from SilverthorneCutthroat Anglers
Gore CanyonTake Trough Road from Kremmling to State BridgeBlue Quill Angler
Pumphouse Recreation AreaWest from Kremmling on Trough RdTrouts Fly Fishing
Glenwood SpringsWest from Denver on I-70Roaring Fork Anglers
Lee’s FerryDrive north from Flagstaff on US-89Lees Ferry Anglers

The Lone Fisher: Best Fishing with Lowest Traffic

If you’re one who prefers solitude and tranquility, head to Gore Canyon. It’s a wild, rugged, and somewhat challenging place to get to, but the solitude is worth it, and the fish are incredibly rewarding.

The Fly Fisher’s Rush Hour: Busiest Fishing Spot

Glenwood Springs is the hotspot for fly fishing on the Colorado River. The angler traffic here is as heavy as a Los Angeles freeway during rush hour, but the rainbow trout fishing is top-tier.

Gear Up: Ideal Rod and Reel Selection for Colorado River

Image: Picture of a fly fishing rod and reel.

When tackling the Colorado River, it’s all about balancing versatility and precision. We recommend a 9-foot, 5 or 6-weight fly rod with a matching reel. This setup offers a blend of sensitivity for dry flies and backbone for nymphing or streamer fishing.

Fly Fishing Calendar: Essential Flies for Each Season

SeasonFly NameFavorite ColorHook Size
SpringBlue-Winged OliveOlive#18-22
SummerPale Morning DunPale Yellow#16-18
SummerElk Hair CaddisTan#14-16
FallParachute AdamsGrey#16-22
WinterMercury MidgeBlack/Silver#18-22

Pro Techniques: How to Fly Fish the Colorado River

Image: Picture of an angler casting a fly rod.

  1. Nymphing: This is the go-to technique when the fish aren’t rising. Use weighted flies and get them deep in the water column.
  2. Dry Fly Fishing: When the hatch is on, nothing beats casting a dry fly. Precision and timing are key.
  3. Streamer Fishing: Perfect for targeting the larger, more aggressive trout in the Colorado River.

Gear Rigging 101: Fly Line, Leaders, and Nymphing Depths

First off, let’s talk weight. Aim for a 5-6 weight fly line. This will give you a good balance of control and power for various fishing conditions on the river. As for leaders, go with a 9-foot 4X or 5X leader when fishing dry flies or nymphs.

Nymphing depths can vary based on the time of year and the specific area of the river you’re fishing. As a general rule, start by setting your indicator around 1.5 times the depth of the water you’re fishing. If you don’t get any bites, adjust the depth until you start finding fish.

The Rules of the River: Colorado River Fishing Regulations

Before you hit the river, you need to make sure you’re up to speed on the local fishing laws and regulations. First and foremost, make sure you have a valid Colorado fishing license. Some stretches of the river have special regulations such as catch and release only and artificial flies and lures only. Check the current Colorado Parks & Wildlife regulations for the most accurate information.

The Last Cast: Concluding Your Colorado River Fly Fishing Adventure

And there you have it, folks, your definitive guide to fly fishing the Colorado River. With the right gear, a stash of irresistible flies, and an understanding of the river’s characteristics, you’re set to reel in some epic catches. So go ahead and immerse yourself in the thrilling world of fly fishing on the Colorado River, where the trout are abundant, the scenery breathtaking, and the fishing experience like no other. Until next time, happy fishing!

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