Western Colorado prime for wetting a line

Get a Guide

Hiring a guide to get to the goods; as with hunting, it can provide access to trophy-filled private waters.

Expect to pay several hundred dollars, depending where you go.

Also, don’t hesitate to ask local fly shop experts for advice.

Guided options

■ Steamboat Springs:

-Straightline Sports (970-879-7568)

-Bucking Rainbow Outfitters (970-879-8747)

-Steamboat Flyfisher (970-879-6552)

■ Walden: North park Anglers, (970-723-4215)

■ Rifle: High Flies Angler (970-274-2669)

■ Grand Junction: Western Anglers


If you’re through with your hunt, or simply want a break from hitting the trail day after day, swap your rifle for a rod and hit the water. Western Colorado offers hot spots for trout as well as trophy bucks and bulls.

From the lakes atop Grand Mesa and the Colorado and Gunnison rivers near Grand Junction, to White River and lakes of the Flat Tops near Meeker, to the Craig and Steamboat area’s Yampa and Elk rivers and countless reservoirs and lakes, the region is as rife with fishing options as it is hunting ones. And wetting a line can be the perfect tonic to complement your time chasing deer and elk.

“Fishing is the perfect companion activity to hunting,” said Brett Lee, a veteran hunter and co-owner of Straightline Sporting Goods in Steamboat Springs. “And western Colorado offers some great options, from high alpine lakes to cool, clear rivers.”

While the rivers might be lower this fall, lakes should remain great through October. “This fall should still be great,” he said. “The Yampa has great fishing with a lot of public access, the White down by Meeker always fishes well, and the high mountain lakes where people hunt are also fantastic. Fish know winter’s coming and start feeding.”



Coursing its way from the Flat Tops Wilderness Area west to its confluence with the Green River, the Yampa River offers more than 100 miles of prime fishing, especially during the cooler hunting months of autumn when trouts’ metabolisms come alive.

Prime public areas include the Stagecoach tailwaters just below Stagecoach Lake, the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area three miles south of town on County Road 14 (including a pond teeming with northern pike), and the six-mile town stretch, which carries as many as 2,000 trout per mile (with the year’s low water, check regulations to see if it’s open for fishing). For flies, try elk hair caddis, bright green caddis emergers or weighted streamers.

The Elk River offers public access upstream of Hinman Park Bridge along Seedhouse Road, or at the Christina Wildlife Area along its lower portion on Routt County Road 129 northwest of town.

Those hunting near Craig can fish for smallmouth bass and northern pike in Elkhead Reservoir and the Yampa (try white/chartreuse streamers and lures for “smallies”), and also troll these spots for trout.

Another Moffat County option is to head northwest from Maybell to the Green River in Browns Park, offering world-class trout fishing on three great sections of water (A, B and C). The area is known for its large brown trout and clear, cold water released from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

The White River, which flows through Meeker and Rangely, drains the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and teems with trout in the fall. Head upstream from Meeker on Cty. Rd. 8 toward Buford, where you can branch up the south or north fork, or try the Meeker town stretch, the section between Meeker and Rangley, or the the Rangely reach.

Near Grand Junction, river fishing doesn’t get any better than the blue-ribbon water of the Gunnison River Gorge below Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which attracts anglers every season of the year. While you can wade fish in the stretch near the take-out at Gunnison Forks at the confluence of the river’s north fork, for the best action try to book a float trip through the gorge.

Lakes and ReservoirsLakes and Reservoirs

Lakes and Reservoirs

For big lake fishing, hit any number of reservoirs near Craig and Steamboat (Stagecoach Lake, Steamboat Lake and Elkhead Reservoir). Recent expansions have increaed the sizes of Stagecoach and Elkhead. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been stocking them with bigger fish than normal to give them a chance to survive the northern pike,” said Straightline’s Lee.

October is when the fish charge out of the depths to feed before winter sets in. Cooler temperatures also bring rainbows back into shallower water. Go early and be prepared to get your fly down 10-11 feet. Boat rentals are available at the marinas of Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake). For fly patterns, try woolly buggers in olive, black and brown to imitate minnows. As water temperatures drop, slow your reeling motion. “Autumn’s cold water dictates a slower retrieve,” said Lee, adding that crayfish patterns are also a good bet.

There are also countless smaller lakes to dip a line. On the other side of the Park Range from Steamboat, in Jackson County, are the Delaney Buttes lakes, all of which offer free camping, as well as Big Creek Lake and Lake John. In the Flat Tops Wilderness Area are Trapper’s Lake, where you can rent canoes, rowboats and rustic accommodations, as well as Chapman, Sheriff and Stillwater reservoirs, and the smaller fish hideouts of Rainbow and Mosquito lakes.

North of Steamboat are Hahn’s Peak and Pearl lakes, and farther off the beaten track are the alpine lakes of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, including Gilpin, Three Mile and Mica. Atop Grand Mesa, a 10,000-foot-high plateau near Grand Junction, are more than 200 lakes stocked by Parks & Wildlife and teeming with rainbows, brooks and cutthroat. Favorites include the Gold Medal waters of Mesa Lakes, as well as Cottonwood Lakes and Vega Reservoir. There are also several fishing lodges on Grand Mesa that stay open well into fall, when brown and rainbow trout turn aggressive in anticipation of winter.