Colorado Rainbow Trout

Where to Fly Fish Colorado
for Big Colorado Rainbow Trout

Colorado Rainbow Trout can be found in most cold water streams in the state.  But finding places where Colorado, Rainbows grow to very respectable 28 to 30 plus inches and eight or more pounds is not as easy. Since I stream fish, this page will be devoted primarily to streams.

Private Water

Just an hour or so west of metro Denver are three ranches situated on the North Fork of the South Platte River.  The North Fork Ranch, the Boxwood Gulch/Long Meadow Ranch. These three ranches encompass 2 and a half miles of the North Fork of the South Platte.  The North Fork headwaters on Kenosha Pass and is augmented by water through the Roberts Portal Tunnel from the Dillon Reservoir.  This stream is also a prime fishery for rainbow, brown, cutthroat, cutbows and brook trout.  The ranches are reached via highway 285 west of Denver Metro Area.

28 inch 8 lb. rainbow North Fork Ranch 2005. Biggest fish I have ever landed.

28 inch 8 lb. rainbow North Fork Ranch 2005. Biggest fish I have ever landed. This fish took an orange #10 San Juan Worm

Guide Gregg Cunningham netted the fish and helped me learn to hold a fish this big.

See our Fly Fishing Photos for more information about our trip to the North Fork Ranch only one hour west of the Denver Metro area.

There are also first class accommodations at the Ranch and the food is excellent.
North Fork Guest Ranch and Fishing Lodge Rates  The Ranch also features airport pickup.  Call and ask about arrangements.  To maintain the pristine environment of the stream, only guided fishing trips are allowed.  The ranch features the services of guide Kevin Gregory.  Fly Fishing Guide Services. was the guided service I used for my trip to the North Fork Ranch. Unfortunately Greg Cunningham shown above no longer guides.

Bluequillangler out of Evergreen is another experienced guide service.  Pat Dorsey is one of their main guides with many years of guiding and fly tying experience.

Boxwood Gulch / Long Meadow

Boxwood Gulch is the ranch name with Long Meadow being a named section above the Gulch section.  This area offers over 2 miles of private water.  All trips must be booked through a Boxwood approved guide.  Fly Fishing Colorado recommends Tad Howard at as a superior Colorado Guide Service.

Elk Trout Lodge

covers private stretches of the Colorado River, the Blue River and the Troublesome Creek Drainage.  The Blue River is a tail water fishery coming from the Dillon Reservoir.  Elk Trout Lodge is reached by taking I-70 west from Denver to the Silverthorne Exit.  Then take State Highway 9 north toward Kremmling, CO until you reach the lodge.

Below Lake Dillon, The Blue becomes a classic Tail water fishery holding Browns to 8 pounds and Rainbows to 15 pounds. In the public stretches between the old bridge below the dam and the main I-70 bridge, I have seen some Colorado Rainbows in the 26 inch plus size and Brown Trout too.  Stonefly nymphs are best to use early in the season for big fish.  Close to the dam a Mysis shrimp dropper in smaller sizes can produce big fish too.

Public Waters

  • Blue River between the Dillon Reservoir Dam and Green Mountain Reservoir has many public access fishing areas mixed with private waters.  Above the Green Mountain Inlet several miles is BLM access to a portion of the Blue.  This area may not be fished as heavily as some of the public access spots.  Check with the BLM Office in Kremmling, CO.
  • North Fork of South Platte offers many public access miles along Highway 285 clear into Bailey, CO.  There is always the chance of finding a large rainbow in a public access area.
  • Pine Valley Ranch in Jefferson County offers access to the North Fork of the South Platte for some 2 river miles.  In this area you may hook up with a 20 plus inch Colorado Rainbow Trout.  Not as big as some other areas but still fun.
  • Chessman Canyon below the Cheesman Reservoir still offers the opportunity to find large rainbows and browns.  Small flies are the order of the day.  Access is by trail into the Canyon.  The trail head parking is about 2 miles west of Deckers, Colorado.
  • South Platte River downstream from Deckers, CO to the Scraggy View Picnic Grounds offers the opportunity to find both large rainbows and browns.  Several years before the Hayman Fire, I watched a 30 plus inch rainbow in the Scraggy View Pool behind the picnic area.
  • South Platte River between Waterton to the Chatfield Reservoir just southwest of Denver can produce some large rainbows in the spring.  The bows come up from the reservoir to spawn.  The months of April and May would be your best bet.
  • Dream Stream the South Platte between Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain Reservoirs.  In March, April and May there are some large rainbows coming up out of Eleven Mile reservoir.  (There were many photos in Alpine Angler Aurora with catches of Rainbows in the 26 inch plus category.)  This area is Gold Medal water and is catch and release only.
  • Colorado River from Hot Sulpher Springs down stream to the Kremmling offers the opportunity for large fish.  Starting with Hot Sulpher Springs, there are six public access area to just west of Parshall, CO .  During runoff be very careful, the Colorado is a large river and can run heavy during the runoff season.
  • Frying Pan River  catch and release sections below Rudi Reservoir can produce Colorado Rainbows up to ten pounds.  In the first mile or so below the dam, the trout grow fat on the Mysis shrimp coming out the Reservoir.  This is again Gold Medal Water
  • Seven Historic South Park Ranches allow private water fly fishing at reasonable fees.  Some of the ranches offer lodging and fishing packages. Check out the Santa Maria Ranch which offers 1.3 miles of South Platte River Access.  The other ranches offer miles of Tarryall River access and other streams.  Some really beautiful water.  Season opens next March.
  • Colorado Fishing Hotspots from the Colorado DOW has a more complete list of fishing hotspots. Use the links at the top of the page for the various areas. Various areas include gold medal waters.

While these are not the only places to find big Colorado Rainbow Trout, there is certainly enough here to keep you busy.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,
Marshall Estes , Editor
copyright 2005 by Marshall Estes