Colorado’s Western Slope is a dream for anglers, and you could spend an entire lifetime exploring the region’s lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Whether you want to stay close to home, or venture deep into the wilderness, there’s something for whatever fly fishing experience you’re seeking.
Atop Colorado’s Grand Mesa you’ll find over 100 natural lakes, reservoirs, and streams to explore. Because of the variety offered here, the Grand Mesa is an excellent spot for anyone looking for a wide range of species.
Note that each lake has different rules (for example, some allow motorized boats, and others don’t) so pay attention to posted signs. Making a stop at the National Forest’s Visitor Center is always a good idea, too. The friendly staff will be more than happy to share information with you.
The portion of the Animas River that runs from Durango to the border of New Mexico has been labeled Gold Metal water (and it still has that designation, even after 2015’s mining waste spill north of Durango). These waters are teeming with rainbow and brown trout ranging from 14 to18 inches long, and you’re bound to snag something in the bends, boulders, eddies, and log jams.
Note that some sections of the river flow through Southern Ute Indian reservation lands. Fishing here requires a permit, which you can learn more about by calling the Southern Ute Tribe Division of Wildlife Resource Management at 970-563-0130.
Come out to Colorado’s largest body of water and you’ll have access to more than 96 miles of shoreline. Your options include fishing from a pleasant, shady spot on the shore or taking it to the watersvia your boat. Rainbow trout are most common here, but you can also find lake trout and brown trout in the deeper waters.
This river feeds into Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Gold Medal waters here are worth a trip simply for the spectacular views. Additionally, the fish have been known to be quite large in the Gunnison River.
In the past, the section of river between Crystal Creek and its confluence with the North Fork was home to a large population of the fish, but be prepared for a short hike to get here — it’s not accessible by driving.
Once the Rio Grande hits South Fork, you’ll be fly fishing in more Gold Medal waters. For 20 miles there are tons of brown and rainbow trout.
The entire area contains fishable rivers and streams allowing for multiple days of exploration before finding the perfect spot. Del Norte and Monte Vista are two additional towns worth checking out -- both with equally impressive waters. For more information about the area, check out this guide.