100 Best: Colorado River, Upper
Location: Central Colorado
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, Spinning, Bait
Species: Browns, rainbow, cutthroat, brookies
Supporting Services: Basalt, Aspen
Short take: Trout in the headwaters of the river that waters the West
Handicapped Access: None
Closest TU Chapter: Colorado River Headwaters
The Colorado River gathers its waters on the east slope of Little Yellowstone Mountain above the historic ghost town of Lulu City in the western most reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. For more than 150 miles, the Colorado River in its namesake state provides excellent fishing for browns and increasingly rainbows resistant to whirling disease.
Needless to say, the reach of the Colorado north of US Route 34, the main road across the park, is a narrow and shallow riffle with pools at its bends. Brook trout, which have no business being here but they are, readily take dries and nymphs. The highway joins the Colorado a mile or so north of a gap named Hells Hip Pocket where the nascent mighty river begins to meander through a meadow. Fun to fish if you’re a small stream aficionado like me, but the real action doesn’t begin until the tailwater below Windy Gap Reservoir.
The run of river from Windy Gap Reservoir through Parshall and Kremmling, where it’s joined by the excellent Blue River. From the confluence of Fraser River to Troublesome Creek, the Colorado holds Gold Medal status. Typical fish are smallish in the seven to eight inch range. What keeps anglers coming back are significant numbers of 13 to 15 inch fish. Public access is limited. Best bets are the rapids and pocket waters of Byers and Gore Canyons, but the hike down into each can be arduous.
At Dotseo, the Colorado is joined by the Eagle River, another great trout stream. Below the town, the river enters Glenwood Canyon which provides about 10 miles or so of excellent angling. Downstream from the mouth of the canyon, Roaring Fork comes in at Glenwood Springs. Fishing for browns is good all the way to Rifle and hatches begin earlier and end later on the lower end of the Colorado than upstream.