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Within the Colorado borders, the Colorado River is an outstanding freestone fishery harboring excellent numbers of trout and is known as one of the state's premier fisheries. Rainbows reach impressive sizes in the Colorado, although some have disappeared from whirling disease, Browns inhabit the river in excellent numbers and average from 13-15 inches with a good number of fish in the 16-20 inch class and some even larger. Cutthroat and brook trout can be found in limited numbers near the river's headwaters. Check the Colorado River's special regulation area's before heading out.

The Colorado is a large powerful river that increases in intensity and flow as it moves farther west, therefore the best section for the wading angler is from the junction of the Fraser River just west of Granby to Troublesome Creek, which flows into the river east of Kremmling. Route 40 parallels this section and provides excellent access to the river. The town of Hot Sulphur Springs, which lies in the middle of this section, is a great starting point. In this section you will find numerous places to wade and fish. The river here consists mostly of beautiful riffles and runs with a few pools mixed in averaging from 40-80 feet wide. Much of this section is slow to moderate in pace with the exception of Byers Canyon, which lies just west of Hot Sulphur Springs. Byers Canyon is fast moving with a lot of swift runs and pocket water.

West of Kremmling foot access becomes a little more limited and the size of the river increases from the influence of several feeder streams. Wade/foot access can be found at some of the boat launches as well as a few other areas. A major tributary in this section, the Blue River, is found entering the Colorado just southwest of Kremmling. The Blue River provides a good shot of water to increase the Colorado's flow. The river below Kremmling averages over a hundred feet wide and ranges in character from big long slow moving pools and riffles to swift runs, crashing white water and charming pocket water.

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Floating the river in this section is an excellent way to cover water and access the river. Boat access through this section, from Kremmling to Dotsero, can be found in many areas some of which are located at Pump House, Radium, State Bridge, Burns and Dotsero. This stretch of river is approximately 60 miles long so your floats will be broken up. The average float is 5-6 miles long with some longer and some shorter. Hire a guide if the water is unfamiliar to you for a few reasons. For one, the river throughout this section has many areas of class 3 and 4 rapids with some reaching class 5. These are areas of the river you don't want to navigate yourself without some good experience. Most class 2 rapids are safe but 3, 4 and 5 class rapids need higher levels of skill. Even some of the local businesses and guides do not float certain areas of the river depending upon water levels and flow rates. Two, having an experienced guide who knows what section is best to float or which areas have been producing the best hatches and/or fishing is a big bonus. Three, it's a great way to learn the river from its history to the geography and best fishing areas. Plan accordingly and you will have a very enjoyable trip with the chance to catch several quality trout. Some of trophy proportions!
Hatch Chart
At Kremmling, Route 40 turns north away from the river and only small secondary roads follow the river (County Route 1 or Trough Road and Colorado River Road follow the river from Kremmling to Dotsero). These roads will, in some areas, leave the river for prolonged periods of time. An example of this is in the area of Gore Canyon, which is located southwest of Kremmling before the Pump House Access. This area is difficult to access with no roads leading to the river for a stretch of about 4-5 miles. For a short distance Route 131 follows the river.

Below Dotsero the river flows west through Glenwood Canyon and is paralleled by Route 70 and Highway 6 all the way to New Castle and beyond. This stretch of river also provides superb angling. Glenwood Canyon is a beautiful and productive stretch of river that is easily accessed and provides great bank fishing. Fish the seams and runs in close to shore. Fish will hold in seams and pockets created by boulders, bends and depressions in the river bottom. There are also a few areas of access for anglers who wish to float.

The Colorado River also has an abundance of hatches. Mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies can all be found in excellent numbers. Blue-wing olives, pale morning duns and tricos make up most of the mayfly hatches. Caddis hatches are excellent from late spring through runoff and remain good until early fall. Terrestrials and attractive patterns are also important.

Stoneflies are a very important part of fishing the Colorado. The salmonfly hatch can be very heavy and provide exceptional fishing for better then average size fish. They usually coincide, however, with the runoff period, which usually runs from mid May to early July. During this time fish the softer areas or close to the banks with large stimulators and sofa pillows (stonefly dry patterns). Large stonefly nymphs fished deep will produce trophy fish and usually provide better angling when the water is extremely high. Don't be afraid to weight them and use a sufficient amount of lead to get them down. Large golden stoneflies come off during late and post runoff providing excellent angling as well. The stonefly fishing is generally best in the upper reaches of the river.

A few characteristics of the Colorado to point out before making a fly selection would be; high rough water much of the time, generally runs off color, hatches of large stoneflies and a good variety of baitfish all equate to fishing big flies, heavy tippets and sometimes attractive patterns. The fish in this river are much more forgiving then a tail-water or spring creek. They have less time to react to the fly and with the cloudy water they have less visibility. In addition there is the potential of hooking a very large trout in which a large fly and heavy tippet would increase your odds of landing the fish. There are times, however, where light leaders, matching the hatch and small flies are necessary.

The Colorado River is a fabulous stream that would put a smile on almost every anglers face. Its diversity, scenery, access and large trout all help to make this a wonderful place. If you're planning a trip or just looking for a great fly fishing vacation, check out the Colorado River in northwest Colorado.