Fishing and Colorado summers go hand-in-hand — offering mild temperatures, cold flowing mountain rivers and the adventure of finding both stocked and native Colorado fish species.
If you’ve ever wanted to take the plunge and try fishing in Colorado, below are 3 different fishing options. All, though, give the opportunity to experience the best of what the outdoors and Colorado have to offer.
1. Durango, High Country Creek Fly Fishing
We parked and walked from the trailhead to fish one of the major tributaries of the Upper Animas River, Lime Creek.
Wanting to fish unpressured water, we hiked for about 30 minutes before we wet any flies. The fishing was a little slow in the morning, but as the temperature warmed, so did the fishing.
Lime Creek is chock full of native cutthroat trout, rainbows and brook trout. As we worked our way up the creek, we took turns fishing new holes.
The trout couldn’t be seen, but if you landed your dry fly in the right spot, a trout was very likely to take a run at it. These fish weren’t large, most were 7”-9”, with a few in the bunch coming in at 10”. Both the forward and back casts had to be exact due to the overhanging trees and shrubs on both sides of the creek, but a snag-free cast was often rewarded with a trout in hand or at least a missed hook set.
After fishing for several hours making our way upstream, we came to a beautiful waterfall. The trout in this hole were eager to accept our dry flies and we took turns catching trout until they lost interest. This was one of the best days of fishing in 2020 and for a few hours, we had forgotten about everything going on in our world.
The pros at Duranglers will give you a great on-water experience, no matter what you’re looking for or your skill level. If you’re stopping through town, the fly shop is worth a stop and their staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
If you’re staying in Durango, here are a few suggestions:
Steamworks – Dirty fries, slow roasted pork shoulder, bacon with dirty sauce. The Nugget – Food truck sliders, great atmosphere, best restroom view in all of Colorado. Fired Up Pizzeria – Pepperoni, best pizza we had on the trip, it’s a must-stop. College Drive Cafe – Breakfast burrito, for $10 bucks you’ll be full for the rest of the day.
Hiking Engineer Mountain
Everywhere you drive in Durango, you’ll see the iconic Engineer Mountain in the distance. The trail head is only 45 minutes from Durango and at a steady pace it takes about 2 hours to get to the false summit. The final climb is a class 3 scramble called The Chimney and it’s sketchy. It’s best to attempt this final section to the top with a guide or experienced hiker. It’s still worth a hike, the views of forested mountains and alpine meadows from the false summit are breathtaking.
We made a pit stop in the iconic mining town Ouray (self-named the “Switzerland of America”) and I wish we could have stayed longer. If stopping for the day, try the Ouray Perimeter Trail, Ouray Ice Park and the Ouray Via Ferrata.
Ouray lodging and dining options:
2. Spin Cast Fishing at Blue Mesa Reservoir
A totally different kind of fishing was in store for our second day on the water. After an early start, we made the hour and a half drive north from Ouray to Blue Mesa Reservoir.
We were on the water by 7:30am and spent the morning with Captain Andy Cochran, who owns Gunnison Sports Outfitters, catching lake trout and kokanee salmon. The water is so deep at Blue Mesa, the best way to fish there is with a down rigger system that takes your bait to where the fish are hanging out. The fishing poles are set to the rigger and once the rod tip starts moving up and down, you set the hook and let the fun begin!
The bite was slow to start, but our captain found the fish through consistent trolling. Once the bite was on it only took a couple of hours before we caught our limit.
From Pole to Plate
We waited while Captain Andy cleaned our catch and we had a delicious meal of grilled trout and salmon that night, simply adding garlic butter. You don’t have to add much to fish that were swimming in the depths just hours prior to landing on the grill. Being a mostly catch-and-release fisherman, it was a treat for me to take home and enjoy our catch of the day.
3. Fly Fishing On the Taylor River
The last fishing experience of the trip took us north and east, onto the Taylor River with Colleen from Irwin Guides.
I started fly fishing about 5 years ago and have been on 10+ guiding trips and this was the best experience I’ve ever had with a fishing guide. Colleen was extremely knowledgeable and knew exactly how much direction to give and when to let us fish. I was more experienced than my travel companion, but he improved dramatically after just a few hours with the insightful help of Colleen.
Since we were with Irwin Guides, we had access to fish in a private water section adjacent to Taylor River Lodge. Fishing sections of both fast moving water and pocket water, we caught several fish while we bunny hopped each other upstream. Our last spot was home to some very large rainbow trout — you could see them holding steady at the bottom of the river. With Colleen at my side, I put a sidearm cast upstream with a nice dead drift that enticed a gorgeous brown trout. And, after a healthy fight, we finally netted him. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for hours.
Fishing With Guides
If you’re new to fishing with guides, they will provide everything you need to catch fish — rod, reels, bait, flies, etc. It’s important to listen to your guides. They spend hundreds of days on the water each year and they know the water. Basically, the better you listen, the better your experience.
Even though fishing with a guide can be expensive, save money in your budget to tip your guide based on your experience. If you had a great, memorable fishing experience on the water, then 20%+ is a good place to start, but guides will appreciate any amount that was worthy of their effort.
Cover photo courtesy Duranglers
Doug Flatt is the publisher of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. When not running small businesses you can find him on a mountain bike or a body of water with a fly rod in his hand.