River: The Upper Colorado River offers scenery to rival the fishing

Apr 15, 2019

Packed with trout of all varieties – from cutthroat to rainbows, browns, brook and others – the Upper Colorado River is an angler’s paradise, offering nearly 200 miles of prime fishing in some of the most pristine country in the United States. Framed by “cathedral mountains” and “silver clouds,” this river calls to mind the lyrics of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” a timeless ode to the Centennial State. Although packed at peak times, this river offers plenty of solitude for those looking to cast some line in search of prize-winning trout.


Although the entire Colorado River stretches nearly 1,500 miles from the Rockies to the U.S. border with Mexico, most anglers set their sights on the portion contained within the state of Colorado, better known as the Upper Colorado River. Beginning in Rocky Mountain National Park at La Poudre Pass Lake, the Upper Colorado flows through scenic mountain passes and canyons down to Dotsero along Interstate 70 in Western Colorado. In all, the Upper Colorado stretches nearly 200 miles through some of the most breathtaking vistas the nation offers.

Aquatic Species

  • Brown trout
  • Brook trout
  • Rainbow trout
  • Cutthroats
  • Rainbow/cutthroat hybrids

Food by Season:

Bug – Blue-winged olive

Season – Summer

Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Pheasant tailed nymph

Season – Spring-Fall

Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Adams Parachute

Season – Summer

Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Z-winged Caddisflies

Season – Summer

Sizes – 16-20

Fishing Techniques

Gear: Shoot for a 9’ fly rod around five- to six-weight. A seven-weight is also not unheard of in the pockets. A nine-foot leader and 3- to 6x leader seems to work well year-round.

Find the top spots: The portion of the river between Windy Gap near Granby, Colo. and the town of Kremmling is always a popular one. With a Gold Metal rating, this stretch offer easy access any time of year. For those seeking a less crowded spot, try Gore Canyon, a popular area for kayakers during spring runoff, but otherwise quiet for anglers. You can float the area between Pumphouse and Radium or continue on down to Rancho where you’re likely to land some large Rainbows in the pocket waters.

Rule of thumb for bugs: If you stick to midges when it’s cold, olives and stoneflies when it’s hot and caddisflies in the shoulder seasons, you’ll do well.

Avoid the crowds: The Upper Colorado can be a busy place on the weekends, with anglers flocking form all over the West. Best to stick to weekdays if you value your space.

Take in the scenery: Certain stretches of this river will take your breath away. Wildlife is abundant here, with deer, elk and the occasional bald eagle sighting possible. A particularly inspiring region is Glenwood Canyon near the resort town of Glenwood Springs, which also serves as a leaping off point for ski resorts such as Aspen and Vail. For those looking for luxury accommodations, check out the hot springs and first-class service at the historic Glenwood Hot Springs lodge. Budget accommodations are also available, but vary with the season.

How to get here: Whether you start in Granby or Kremmling, it’s just under two hours by car from Denver via I-70. To start from near La Poudre Pass Lake, you’ll need to head north from Denver up I-25 to Fort Collins, then continue west. In all, it’s about a four hour drive.


There aren’t many rivers in the nation as equally forgiving and rewarding as the Upper Colorado River. With the potential to catch trout all year long from sunrise to sunset, this is a can’t-miss opportunity. No wonder so many anglers have the Upper C on their bucket list.

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