Anglers’ Brief Guide to Colorado’s Best-Kept Fishing Spots

Anglers’ Brief Guide to Colorado’s Best-Kept Fishing Spots

No matter where you are in Colorado, you don’t have to go far to find pristine, prosperous fishing waters. Whether you’re up in the mountains or down by the plains, the gorgeous streams and rivers of the Centennial State offer the perfect settings to cast your line and enjoy a memorable day of fishing.

With the state’s 6,000 miles of fishable waters, finding the perfect experience for any type of trip or skill level is easy. Check out this anglers’ guide to Colorado’s best-kept fishing spots and find the best place for your next fishing trip.

South Platte River

The South Platte River is popular for many reasons: its diverse and distinct sections, its proximity to Denver and Colorado Springs, and, of course, its thriving trout population. Fishers can catch brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and cutbow trout throughout the year.

Reservoirs divide the South Platte into four sections, each with its own beautiful landscapes and lucrative fishing waters. The Dream Stream is a three-mile-long section boasting Gold-Medal waters that are home to some of the largest fish in the river. Past that is Elevenmile Canyon, a picturesque haven of gray granite cliffs, lush greenery, and plenty of fish that come to the surface during the area’s busy insect hatches.

After Elevenmile Canyon comes Cheesman Canyon, which boasts awe-inspiring canyon walls and boulders that make for a challenging but rewarding hike out to the water. The rocky area lends itself to tricky access and technical fishing, but if you’re looking for a place to test your skills, Cheesman Canyon is it.

Finally, there’s the easy access and year-round popularity of Deckers. It’s a common spot for anglers—and anyone else who wants to spend time on the river—which means finding a quiet spot can be tricky. But the sheer number of trout in this stretch makes the trip worth it.

Colorado River

Colorado’s namesake river begins in the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and cuts across the northwest corner of the state through Grand Junction and into Utah. The river is wide enough that it’s also a popular place for boating and floating. The Colorado is another great place for brown and rainbow trout, especially in the stretch that follows I-70 from Dotsero to Rifle. Further downstream, where the water temperatures start to rise, you can also find suckers and carp.

The Colorado River boasts many different landscapes as it moves through the state, and each one features a slightly different fishing season. In the upper section, the narrow canyons cut off the winter sunlight, leading to waters that are too cool to fish between fall and early spring. Plan your trip between April and October to get the most out of these areas. Farther down, in the stretches west of Glenwood Springs, you can find plenty of fish anytime other than May and June’s runoff periods, when the waters are too high and fast for fishing.

Arkansas River

The waters of the Arkansas River flow fast and hard from Leadville, Colorado, and through Buena Vista, Salida, and Canon City. Because of its white waters, the Arkansas River is a poor place for wading. However, you can book a guide to take you safely through the technical waters to the best fishing spots on the river.

The Arkansas River is a popular spot for brown trout fishing, but you can also find rainbow trout in its waters. Populations are bigger in the freestone sections near Cañon City. Numbers are thinner farther downstream in the tailwater sections by Pueblo Reservoir, but you can try your hand at sight fishing with the rainbow trout there.

You can fish year-round in the tailwater section, but the freestone areas are in their prime between April and October.

Gunnison River

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a bucket-list destination purely for its views. The steep, dramatic walls of the gorge are home to diverse wildlife, breathtaking views, and endless opportunities for adventure. It’s no wonder why this is one of Colorado’s best-kept fishing spots.

The Gunnison River offers thrilling freestone rivers full of dense populations of sizable brown and rainbow trout. You can also find kokanee salmon if you visit between August and October.

The Gunnison is another great place for guided float tours. Let a professional show you safely around the limited public waters so that you can focus on enjoying the views and the fish.

Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River is a 70-mile freestone that boasts vast waters; ample brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish populations; and fantastic hatches for dry fishing before it flows into the mighty Colorado River. Spacious public waters make it perfect for wading, while the numerous boat ramps are great for anglers who want to float and fish.

Generally speaking, Roaring Fork’s best fishing comes between April and October. If you’re looking to float, try for earlier in the summer—especially late June and July—for busier days with much higher fishing numbers. If you’re wading, you can enjoy fishing all summer long and into the fall.

Animas River

The Animas River is a freestone that flows through much of southwest Colorado. The iconic turquoise waters of the river are home to magnificent brown and rainbow trout. Populations aren’t as dense as in other rivers in Colorado, but if you’re patient and dedicated, you can catch one of the 30-inch brown trout that appear in the river every season.

Peak fishing season on the Animas changes from year to year depending on the snow and runoff from the mountains. Heavy snow leads to a later start to the season, while dry winters bring fishers to the area earlier in the year. For the most success on the water, plan your trip between March and October.

Rio Grande River

Before the Rio Grande flows down to form the natural border between Texas and Mexico, it flows through beautiful scenery and rural towns in southwestern Colorado. The Rio Grande’s Centennial State stretches are quiet and understated, making it a hidden gem in the Colorado fishing scene.

Warmer climates make the fishing season shorter along the Rio Grande. Visit between mid-May and mid-June to experience the high-number days of post-runoff fishing. You can come later in the season, too, but it gets more difficult as the water temperatures rise later in the summer.

Hit the Water With YoColorado Gear

Stay cool on the water with men’s Colorado T-shirt designs from YoColorado. From simple, stylish stripes to iconic designs from local artists and collaborations, we have something to suit everyone’s personal style. Make the most of your Colorado fishing trip when you visit us online or swing by our Golden, Colorado, store.

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