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Everything you need to know about Colorado’s #1 Fly Fishing Spot: The Upper Colorado River

The Colorado River winds from the Rocky Mountains, all the way down to Mexico throughout its sprawling 1400 mile journey. The lore of this iconic waterway is difficult to put into words as countless books have been written by those who found adventure on and between its banks. While boating the Colorado is incredibly fun and scenic, it’s true charm is found with a rod in hand.

The Upper Colorado river is home to some of the best wade and float fishing trips in the country. The river flows through several reservoirs as it grows into a larger river chock-full of a diverse array of fish an angler could ask for. There are fantastic public access options for any who are searching for their new favorite fishing spot.

The upper section of the Colorado River, or as locals refer to it “The Upper C”, has a Gold Metal rating because of its plentiful fish population and is the perfect spot for anglers to live out their fly fishing fantasies.

Best Time To Go

While you can find fishing options on the Colorado River all year long, there are certain seasons when its easiest to find success due to hatching schedules. The Summer is the most popular time for anglers to hit the Upper Colorado due to the copious insect hatches. PMDs and Caddis typically are a main draw for trout in June but Salmon Flies are what really get anglers pumped up. These hatches take place at the end of May and anglers should look forward to some successful days on the water. You’ll typically want to head out in the heart of the day somewhere between 11AM-4PM.

Where to Go

It can be daunting for those who aren’t familiar with the river to locate and choose a place to fish, but have no fear, its actually a fairly easy river to access and we’re here to break down the best spots for you to find trophy fishing potential.

Wade Fishing

Gore Canyon: Great place to fish for those looking to avoid others and an easy access. To get to Gore Canyon you will park at Pumphouse and follow the trail head up river from the boat ramp.

Pumphouse: This area may get a bit busy with people putting rafts in but you can expect them to pass by very quickly and not to bother you too much. This spot can be found directly down fiver from boat ramp three.

Radium: You’ll be able to find a series of islands and sandbar upriver from the bridge that contain an insane amount of fish! The shelf on the left side of the river holds tons of hefty browns and rainbows.

Ranch Del Rio: Both sides of bridge fish extremely well in this area. There are plenty of soft rapids in this area and one of the favorite spots of local waders. To access this area you will park on the pull offs along the trough, cross the railroad tracks, and head up or down river as much as you’d like.

State Bridge: A fantastic area of the Colorado River with several access options. This stretch is located four miles below Rancho where you can park at State Bridge ($5 parking fee) and then make your way up stream. From there you can fish on the right side of the river right before where the Piney river feeds into the Colorado. If you want to go a bit further you can even walk up the Piney which is a incredible tributary that feature’s fantastic wade fishing.

Float Fishing

Pumphouse to Radium: The top section of this stretch holds tons of fish and pressure before entering the canyon. You’ll find the best success in this section looking beyond the obvious spots. You can head left when you hit the islands where you can spend time in the channels before heading into the canyon. Before you enter the canyon, make sure to fish enjoy the slow water where many mistakenly overlook and are full of fish. Once you’ve entered the canyon its great to be aware of shelves, cuts, or any type of structure in the middle of the river or corners. Near the end of this stretch there will be a set of islands that are great to stop at and cast away.

Radium to Rancho: The little things are key in this section! You’ll want to spend a good amount of time working the main channel in the first section. Look for shallower water and decide where you think it becomes deeper in the hard to read water. These transitional depth areas are really where you’ll want to be active in this run of river. Once you get into Red Canyon, you’ll want to fish against the banks and at Yarmony rapids, fish the right side of the river to find lots of fish. Once you pass Yarmony, you’ll want to start looking for clues along the banks such as points and edges that may be representing a submerged hump or shelf. When the water slows, find and cast at sections where the water is flowing fastest and make long drifts to find large rainbows.

Rancho to State Bridge: You will want to take two very different strategies on this stretch. Before you reach the bridge, fish will be quite spread out without as much of river structure. Once you hit the bridge, take similar actions as we explained in the “State Bridge” wading section.

What to Catch

While you may run into species such as brook or cutthroats, the main fish you’ll run into on the Upper Colorado are Brown and Rainbow trout.

Brown Trout

Brown Trout - Upper Colorado

A relative of Atlantic Salmon, brown trout have thrived in the United States after being brought to North America from Europe. The are a very popular trout species and often are a difficult fish to catch due to their impressive endurance and tolerance for warmer water. They’ve been in Colorado since the 1890’s and the state is now abundant within the high elevation streams and wide rivers winding throughout the plains.

Colorado Brown Trout Record: 38 inches

Rainbow

Rainbow Trout - Upper Colorado Fishing

Since arriving in Colorado in the 1880’s the Rainbow Trout has thrived and become the most stocked fish in the state. They are a intricate piece to Colorado’s hatchery system and can be found in many mountain lakes, streams, and plain reservoirs. With millions of catchable rainbows being stocked annually, this is a fish you’ll want to master catching.

Colorado Rainbow Trout Record: 40 1/4 inches

 

What Flies to Bring

Midges during winter, Caddis in the springtime, BWOs and Stoneflies in the summer. This is a solid road map for which flies to use on the Upper C for each season but its also a good idea to stop in a local fly shop to confirm what sections to fish at and what equipment to use.

Nymphs

Nymph fly for trout

Troutline Tactical Buggy

Nymph rigs will be your best bet for max effectiveness. When nypmphing you’ll want to go with large patterns followed by a few smaller attractor patterns over the banks where you think clarity looks the best. Worm/egg flies, and big stoneflies enjoy nymphs with black rubber legs.

Streamers

Streamer Fly - Upper Colorado Fishing

Thin Mint Streamer | Cone Head | Weighted

Hatch Chart

Image Courtesy of thecatchandthehatch.com

Colorado River Fishing Tips

4 Hour Float Trip: This trip is perfect for a father-son bonding day or two friends who simply want to enjoy one another’s company while taking in the beauty of the Colorado River. This trip is unique in that each raft will have only one or two guests accompanied by one guide. The guide will be an experienced river and fishing guide who will handle all of the rowing of the raft and instruct guests on everything they should know to be a successful angler.

2 Hour Walk & Wade:Spend your afternoon exploring the incredible waters of the Upper Colorado River with a knowledgeable fishing guide. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time fishing or you’re a seasoned angler, this trip is fit for all levels of experience. Whether you’re looking for a unique date idea, a family outing, or you and some buddies feel like trying your hand at fly fishing for a few hours, AVA’s 2 Hour Wade Fly Fishing Trip is perfect for all of the above. This trip features about 2 hours of fishing time and all flies are included. Please be advised that fishing licenses are not included. Minimum age 5.

Two Day, Overnight Fishing Trip: The 2 day overnight fly fishing trip combines both float and wade fly fishing and camping to create the quintessential Colorado adventure. Meals and gear are provided, you just bring that fishing license and a sleeping bag (we can also provide you with one for a small fee)! A camping fishing trip allows you the opportunity to cover more river miles which means you will wake up to a fresh, new section of river each day with different fishing prospects ripe to explore.

Three Day, Overnight Fishing Trip: The 3 day overnight fly fishing trip combines both float and wade fly fishing and camping to create the perfect Colorado adventure. Meals and gear are provided, you just bring that fishing license and a sleeping bag (we can also provide you with one for a small fee)! A camping fishing trip allows you the opportunity to cover more river miles which means you will wake up to a fresh, new section of river each day with different fishing prospects ripe to explore.

 

 

Be sure to head to our shop in Kremmling or give us a call at 970-423-7036 to chat and learn more about fishing the Upper C! Our guides are always happy to talk Colorado River fly fishing with both first timers and experienced anglers alike.

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