This list of trout fisheries will make any fly fisherman want to get out to Colorado.
Colorado has some of the best trout fishing destinations in the world. The state has scores of pristine mountain streams, lakes and rivers that are teeming with rainbows, browns and cutthroats. So, when you ask the question, “where’s the best places to fish for trout?” You’re likely to get a wide range of answers.
These 12 fisheries have all earned Gold Medal Trout Waters designations, the state’s top award for trout fisheries.
The state Department of Natural Resrouces issues the awards. Here’s the criteria, in their own words:
In order to receive a Gold Medal listing, a body of water must consistently support a minimum trout standing stock of 60 pounds per acre, as well as consistently support a minimum average of 12 quality trout – trout larger than 14 inches – per acre.
The streams, rivers and lakes on this list are some of the most beautiful places to fish, not only in Colorado, but in the world.
Check out the list to see the 12 best Colorado trout fishing destinations.
1. The Animas River
In 1765, when Spanish explorer Juan Rivera saw this river, he named it “El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio,” Spanish for “The River of Lost Souls in Hell.” I’m not sure what he was smoking. The Animas river is a beautiful trout fishery surrounded by majestic mountains. The city of Durango has the best public access to the Animas River. Here, the river stretches 100 feet wide in some sections. Large boulders, deep pools and riffles create habitat for loads of trophy trout.
2. Gore Creek
Gore Creek is a small, tranquil mountain stream that offers great year-round trout fishing. Anglers often fish Gore Creek to complete the trout angler’s Grand Slam: brook, cutthroat, rainbow and browns. It’s a fairly small creek, but the trout are big. Gore Creek starts high in the mountains at Gore Lake and flows down to the confluence with the Eagle River near Vail. The creek has two main fisheries: the Upper Gore Creek north of Vail, and the Lower Gore Creek just south of Vail.
3. North Platte River
The Colorado section of the North Platte River is legendary for its fishing opportunities. The North Platte starts in the grassy meadowlands of North Park and flows northwest to Wyoming. North Gate Canyon near the town of Walden is the Gold Medal Trout Water area. This section can only be accessed with a raft or kayak and has some of the best wild trout fishing in the West.
4. The Frying Pan River
The Frying Pan River is world renowned for its fly and lure trout fishing. Colorado carefully manages this river to produce large impressive wild trout. In some sections of the Frying Pan, anglers can easily catch 10-plus pound rainbows. The Gold Medal Water section is between Ruedi Reservoir and the confluence with the Roaring Fork. Clear waters, monster trout and stunning mountain vistas make this the most popular sections of the river.
5. Roaring Fork
The Roaring Fork River is not as well known as the nearby Frying Pan River, but it’s one of the best trout fisheries in the country. The upper section of is a winding high meadow stream, while the lower part is a raging free stone river. Only the strongest trout can survive the strong currents. As such, this river offers up some beastly fish. Anglers from all over the world come to the Roaring Fork river to catch trophy trout.
6. The South Platte River
The South Platte River begins in South Park and flows into downtown Denver. There are some fantastic sections of the river, but you almost can’t go wrong no matter where you cast a line. During the spring migration, the Platte has loads of trophy spawners. But be warned, it’s also one of the most popular trout fishing destinations, so you might have to fight the crowds.
7. North Delaney Lake
North Delaney Lake is one of three high mountain lakes in the Delaney Buttes near Walden, Colorado. The lakes are well known for their healthy brown trout populations, so much so, the state Division of Wildlife collects their eggs to boost the state’s trout stocks. North Delaney Lake boasts the Gold Medal Water designation, and is easily the best fishery of three.
8. The Gunnison River
The Gunnison River has some of the best brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities in Colorado. The Gold Medal Trout Water section of the river runs through the Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park. The roads leading into the canyon are steep and windy, but the fishing is worth it. Alternatively, you can get a backcountry permit and hike into the river along one of the inner canyon routes.
9. Rio Grande
The Rio Grande flows south from the San Juan Mountain in southwest Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. The Gold Medal Water section of this mighty river lies in San Juans between the towns of South Fork and Del Norte. Here, anglers have ample opportunities to catch trophy browns and rainbows. The best times to fish are from June through July, when the stone fly and mayfly hatches are in full swing.
10. Spinney Mountain Reservoir
Spinney Mountain Reservoir is one of the few Colorado reservoirs to earn a Gold Medal Water designation. This scenic lake has great shoreline, fly fishing, belly boating and trolling opportunities. Spinney Mountain consistently offers up trophy rainbows, cutthroat and browns. The reservoir is wildly popular in the summertime, with the best fishing is in June.
11. The Dream Stream
Though it’s technically part of the South Platte (number 6 on the list), the Dream Stream deserves its own entry. Also known as the Charlie Meyers Recreation Area, it’s probably the best-known fly fishing spot in the state, so don’t expect to have it to yourself. The surrounding desert prairie provides for clean casting lines, and you can catch trophy rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout.
12. Blue River
The Blue River starts in Hoosier Pass and flows North through Breckenridge to the Colorado River. This beautiful river boasts some excellent trout fishing spots. The Gold Water section of the river is called the Tail Water, located below Lake Dillon. This stretch is where fly anglers frequently catch monster-sized trout on imitation flies.