By Brandon Butler
With summer in full swing and temperatures soaring, there might be no better place to retreat to than the mountains of Colorado.
Crystal clear, trout-filled waters and air without humidity are reason enough to pack the family wagon and head west. Colorado also is home to more than a few rivers considered “famous.”
While everyone loves the privacy and solitude of lesser-known waters, these so-called famous rivers are places where anglers may have to share the view with a number of anglers — but usually the effort is worth it.
Located in Western Colorado, the Frying Pan River is most easily accessed through the small town of Basalt, which is about halfway between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. A tailwater beginning below the dam at Ruedi Reservoir, the “Pan” is too small and swift to float. Wade fishing is the only way to angle the river, but thankfully there are plenty of public access sites to accommodate the large crowds.
If you plan to fish the Frying Pan on a weekend, as I have, be prepared to deal with plenty of other fishermen. The fishing is exceptional though, so don’t be deterred by the sheer volume of fishermen.
The Frying Pan offers excellent dry fly fishing. You’ll encounter many finesse fishermen dropping tiny dries to large bows. Blue Wing Olives and Elk Hair Caddis are favorite flies.
Frying Pan Angler is a top-notch shop in Basalt. The staff is a great source of information for current conditions and advice on fly selection.
The South Platte is a river known far and wide as an exceptional trout fishery. The Platte runs east out of the mountains before making its way through Denver and out across the plains. While the Platte’s entire run through the Colorado Rockies provides worthy fishing, Cheesman Canyon is a short stretch of the river that propels the Platte to mythical proportions.
Located below Cheesman Reservoir, near the town of Deckers, the canyon is accessible only by foot. A short hike from established parking areas puts an angler on some of the most scenic, trout-filled waters you can lay your eyes on.
Cheesman Canyon is famous for its monstrous rainbow trout. What really makes these trout special is the fact that the state doesn’t stock this section of the river. These big ol’ bows are known as “Old Natives.” While they aren’t true natives, as no rainbow trout are in North America, they’ve been in there so long and grown so large that the old-timers have earned the title.
Easily accessible from Denver or Colorado Springs, Cheesman Canyon should be a must fish on every fly anglers’ life list. Check with Flies and Lies Fly Shop in Deckers for information on fishing the canyon or to book a guided trip.
In terms of fishing and scenery, the Rocky Mountain National Park is incredible. Accessible through the tourist town of Estes Park, the park offers a number of angling opportunities. The Big Thompson is the primary river you’ll want to hit, both inside the park and out.
Fast moving and full of fish, the Thompson offers great nymph fishing as well as dry fly action. It’s a perfect river for floating a dry up top and dropping a nymph below.
Colorado is a must-see state. If you’ve never gazed upon the Rockies, you owe it to yourself to do so. If you are one who travels to the mountains, be sure to give the above rivers a try for some excellent mountain fly fishing.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.