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Many consider the Williams Fork River to be among the most beautiful of those that wind through the Colorado River Valley. Lined by majestic stands of Cottonwoods, Elk, Mule Deer and ... moreother wildlife are also frequently seen. The river flows through Grand County between the valleys of the Fraser River and the Blue River. The course of the Williams Fork runs nearly parallel to that of the Blue River.

Its headwaters are at the confluence of McQueary Creek and Bobtail Creek, near the Berthoud Pass, just west of the Continental Divide. A rather small river in length and width, the Williams Fork can be easily casted across at just about any point along the way. As a walk-in only river, (snow shoes may be needed in winter months) this river tends to remain uncongested throughout most of the year.

Despite its small size, the river has an extremely high gradient, meaning the water runs fast and hard. For most of its 35 mile journey the river flows uninterrupted until reaching the Williams Fork Reservoir - but it is here that the river becomes most desirable to fishermen. The two mile stretch between the reservoir and its confluence with the Colorado River is some of the finest tailwater found anywhere in the entire state.

First and foremost, the Williams Fork is a nymph fishery where subsurface fishing with strike indicators, straight lines and dry dropper techniques will all get the job done. It is primarily dominated by 12-16 inch brown trout and most of these are wild. Large rainbows may also be found, especially in the spring months when they move in from the Colorado.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Headwatered high in the Collegiate Range of the eastern Rockies, just north of Leadville, the Arkansas River begins its long journey to the gulf. It traverses the valleys of Mt. Ebert ... moreand other 14,000+ peaks, passes through Buena Vista, and turns east to Pueblo before reaching the Kansas state line. Measuring over 1,469 miles, it is the second longest river in the Mississippi-Missouri river system and the 45th longest river in the world.

According to several sources, including the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, this freestone section on the Arkansas River has become the most popular fishery in the state. This may be attributed to high fish counts, easy public access and its recently acquired, (2014) 102-mile Gold Medal Water designation, the longest continuous run in the state. Once polluted by mining runoff, state intervention and conservation efforts have restored the water making the Gold Medal status possible.

Once home to native cutthroat, the river is now predominately rainbows and browns. Densities range from 2,000 to 5,000 fish per mile with an average size of 13 to 15 inches, while 18+ inchers are not uncommon and are there to be taken. Within the Gold Medal section it is catch and release for rainbows.

In contrast to the upper freestone part of the river, east of the Pueblo Reservoir there is great tailwater fishing. Here the river is characterized by gentle bends, deep holes and majestic stands of cottonwood groves. Here cutthroats and rainbows are abundant while the trophy browns, usually older and wiser fish, tend to be difficult to catch.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Within Arkansas, the tailwaters of the North Fork River begins flowing from the Lake Norfork Dam and continues for 4.9 miles before entering the White River. It is famous for it's ... moregreat fly fishing.
Southwest of Denver, the South Platte River is formed by the convergence of the South Fork and Middle Fork rivers. Its drainage basin, on the eastern side of the Front Range Rocky ... moreMountains, is quite substantial covering large parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Together with the North Platte, they form the Platte River that winds through Nebraska and eventually joins the Missouri River. There are three main areas along the South Platte that are known for great trout fishing, each a unique and worthwhile adventure: Cheesman Canyon, Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon.

Cheesman Canyon has the rarified distinction of being ranked as both a Wild trout and a Gold Medal stretch of water. Known for its huge boulders, arid clime and towering Ponderosas, the river is also considered to be one of the most technically difficult tailwater fisheries in the state. It is also known for rewarding anglers with large rainbows (average 14-16 inches and many over 20) and sizeable browns. Throughout the canyon you can expect to find deep pocket water, rifles and small pools. Fishing is possible year round although it is catch and release only.

Open to the public, the Gold Medal Dream Stream runs from the Spinney Mountain Reservoir to Elevenmile Canyon. Famous for it trophy rainbows, cutthroats and browns, the Dream Stream is also known for its Kokanee salmon that arrive during their fall spawning season. Trout weighing 2-3 pounds are commonplace, while larger fish, including monster 20+ inchers, are also possible. Fish here tend to be skilled at avoiding detection and prepared to put up a good fight, humbling even the most experienced anglers. This 3-mile section is strictly catch and release, artificial lures only.

Between the Elevenmile Reservoir and Lake George, the South Platte flows through a gorgeous canyon with riffles, runs and pocket water. Steep canyon walls protect from wind and offer shade during summer months. Largely a rainbow fishery, browns and cutthroats are also here. Most fish measure over a foot long but much bigger fish can be found. The top two, Gold Medal miles of the canyon have the highest concentration of trout; catch and release only here. Public access to the canyon is excellent, and this year-round fishery can be crowded. Miraculously, the fish seem oblivious, easier to catch here than on other parts of the river.
Lengthy and litigated is a great way to describe this river. Starting high in the Rockies at La Poudre Pass (elevation over 10,000 feet) the river flows south and west for another ... more1450 miles before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Compacts, treaties and reams of legislation have determined the course of this river for the past two centuries. Luckily, within the state of Colorado the river remains a largely unencumbered, freestone fishery.

Initially, the river winds its way through the Rockies along the western slopes of the Continental Divide. The river gathers momentum as mountain streams and tributaries flow into it. Further along, it gains additional force with the confluence of the Blue, Eagle, and the Roaring Fork rivers. Its Rocky Mountain run ends after passing through De Beque Canyon and opens into the agricultural flats of the Grand Valley. Here it meets with one of its largest tributaries, the Gunnison, at Grand Junction.

A short drive from Basalt to Glenwood Springs will get you to great trout waters. At this point, its pocketwaters, rifles and pools are flush with rainbows and sizeable browns, ranging from 13 to 20 inches. Guides and experienced anglers will tell you that the bows and browns here are among the toughest to catch in the state, surely an enticing invitation to fishermen who enjoy a challenge. Cutthroat and brook are said to be easier to catch and can be found in limited numbers a bit farther north, closer to its headwaters.

While indigenous people have lived along the river for thousands of years, it wasn’t until after 1846, when the Americans won the war with Mexico, that new-world explorers began to fully appreciate the full course and commercial importance of the river. In fact, it took until 1869 for an American explorer, J.W. Powell, to actually run the rapids of through the entire Grand Canyon. Now of course, the Colorado is the main source of water for millions of westerners. If you are an angler traveling with friends and family that aren’t that enthusiastic about fishing, the river provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities from wilderness hiking to river rafting and other outdoor sports.
Game Fish Opportunities:
With a name like this you know there has to be a story. In fact there are several, but our favorite is the most obvious – that long ago there were so many fish (native cutthroat) they ... morejumped right out of the river and into your frying pan. It begins near Mt. Elbert as a stream fed, heavily pocketed, freestone river. From there the river turns northwest and flows into the Ruedi Reservoir, where since 1968, its waters have been dammed. This 14 mile, Gold Medal, section - from the reservoir to the Roaring Fork at Basalt - is considered one of the state’s best tailwaters. 

By definition, Gold Medal in Colorado means the fish are plentiful – a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre with at least 12 fish over 14 inches in length. Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of the dam brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish.

Add abundant, year round hatches and it’s no wonder anglers flock here to fish. The Frying Pan is known for its fabled Green Drake hatch that typically starts in late July and extends through October, drawing even the savviest fish to the surface. In addition to Spring Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches, this tailwater is one of only three that hosts the Serratella ignitia, a flightless BWO that attracts fish like ice cream attracts kids.

The river above the reservoir is less crowded and less regulated. The Gold Medal run is catch and release, artificial lures only.
Often overlooked by visitors to the area, the Crystal is an undiscovered gem worth finding. Starting at the confluence of its north and south forks, the river winds down from the alpine ... moremeadows of the Elk Mountains above Marble, Colorado and drains into the Valley of the Coal Miners. Because there are large shale deposits in its drainage basin, the “crystal” water can get muddy after a hard rain or during spring runoff, but if you catch it right it can deliver some great trout fishing.

Public access is quite good since most of the river flows through the White River National Forest and runs nearly parallel to highway #133. In the fall, brown trout come up from the Roaring Fork River to spawn, which can provide a great opportunity for anglers. The state stocks rainbow and cutthroat in the public sections between Marble and Redstone because hatches tend to be lower here than in other parts of the river. This is the only section that is stocked.

Higher concentrations of rainbow are found as you move toward the river’s confluence with the Roaring Fork. Because this is a swift moving river, the fish are known to hold out in current seams and banks where it’s possible for them to feed without exerting too much energy. Most consider late spring to early fall the best time to fish this wading river. 

Between Crystal City and Marble, the river works its way through the Crystal River Canyon, a narrow valley with a challenging landscape. Fishing is known to be good here but the terrain is rugged and access is difficult due to seasonal mudslides, snow slides and rockfalls. If this type of adventure appeals to you, be sure to only go in with an appropriate, 4 wheel vehicle.
As a tributary of the Colorado, and the Frying Pan and Crystal as its main tributaries, it’s no wonder that large stretches of the Roaring Fork are ranked as Wild Trout and Gold Medal ... morefisheries. Originating high on the western edge of the Continental Divide near Independence Pass, this steep gradient river is aptly named. During its 70 mile run, the river drops over 7,000 feet, generating speed, turbulence and Class I to VI rapids. The Roaring Fork Watershed is vast, draining over 1,450 square miles, an area comparable in size to Rhode Island.

Above Aspen, the upper waters can be waded and are flush with brown and rainbow trout. Located in the White River National Forest public access is plentiful and well marked. The distance between Aspen to Carbondale, a 4200 ft. drop, is a highly regarded section for fly fishers and is also easily accessed off Route 82.

From Aspen to Basalt, the river loses gradient with another 1300 foot drop but picks up volume from surrounding mountain waters. Most of this section is designated as Wild Trout Water indicating that the river can support trout through an entire, natural life cycle. At Basalt the Frying Pan joins the Roaring Fork and the volume of water increases significantly. The 28 mile distance between Basalt and the confluence with the Colorado at Glenwood Springs is the famed Gold Medal run. The Crystal River converges with the Fork near Carbondale and maintains the Gold medal moniker that started at Basalt.

Restrictions apply in the designated waters and vary from section to section and from season to season, so it’s important to obtain current information before casting off. The Upper part of the river is good for wading. Floating is best suited for the lower stretches but requires someone experienced in whitewater navigation.
About an hour’s drive from Durango, the San Juan River tailwater, a result of the Navajo Dam completed on Navajo land in 1962, is another happy accident for trout lovers. It originates ... morein Colorado’s San Juan Mountains on the western side of the Continental Divide, winds its way through northern New Mexico and Arizona, and ends in Utah where it empties into the Colorado River at Lake Powell. Although it crosses all 4 of the Four Corners, most agree the best place to fish is in New Mexico, below Navajo Dam at Navajo Lake.

While fishing is good for at least 10 miles below the dam, the most coveted area is a mere 3½-mile run. What this mileage lacks in length, it makes up for in fish. Known almost reverently as the “Quality Water,” many anglers consider this the holy grail of trout fishing. Releases from the dam keep the water temperature a near constant 42-45 degrees year round, and unlike the Delores, the San Juan can be experienced throughout every season.

Initially, New Mexico game officials stocked the river with brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout. Because the water is rich in nutrients and the conditions are so near perfect, the fish have flourished. Stocking rainbows has continued over the years although browns have reproduced on their own. This has resulted in one of the highest fish counts of any North American river, estimated at approximately 20,000 fish per mile in the Quality Water section.

Most of the year this section of river can be easily waded or fished from a drift boat, although it is strictly catch and release with a 2 fly limit on a single barbless hook.
Game Fish Opportunities:
This 241 mile tributary of the Colorado River begins its journey high (over 11,000 ft.) inside the boundaries of the San Juan National Forest, about 5 miles south of Lizard Pass. Initially ... morethe river flows southwest to the confluence with the West Dolores and then continues until it reaches the McPhee Dam. Eventually it is joined by the San Miguel River and keeps running through to Dewey Bridge where it empties into the Colorado.

Many consider the Delores a well-kept secret and wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. It came to the attention of trout lovers after the completion of the McPhee Dam and the release of cold water created a world-class tailwater. In response, the Colorado Division of Wildlife introduced thousands of rainbow, brown and Snake River cutthroat and since then they have thrived.

The initial 12 miles down from the dam are limited to catch and release, lures and flies only, but the area is well signed and access is easy. The scenery here is also dramatic and beautiful, running through a steep, rocky canyon that is blanketed with Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, juniper and majestic cottonwoods. Waders will find the low gradient water welcoming with rifles, pools and slow bends, although pocket water tends to be scarce.

Trout average about 10-15 inches although much larger fish are there to be caught. Water can be low in the winter months, depending on how flows are managed at the dam, and it’s not uncommon for the river to ice over. As a result, in contrast to many other tailwaters, the Delores is not a year round fishery.
Game Fish Opportunities:

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