A nice brown trout caught below Glenwood Springs

Float Fishing the Lower Colorado River

The upper Colorado River is a well-known fly fishing destination but another consideration is float fishing the Lower Colorado River below Glenwood Springs . The fishing is excellent and access to the public boat ramps is easy. It has a different feel than upper river due its size and less remote setting but the trout populations are higher than one might suspect. Upon reaching Dotsero the river slows and meanders down to Glenwood Canyon. This water is not prime trout water and anglers should look further downstream for greatly improved fishing for some hefty browns and rainbows.

Below the Shoshone power plant dam at Grizzly Creek down nearly thirty miles to the town of Rifle the Lower Colorado River once again becomes a prime fly fishing location for float fishermen. The Lower Colorado is a large river and becomes even larger at the confluence with the Gold Medal Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs. With the recent winter weather this stretch is now the best option for anglers looking for a fly fishing float trip on the Colorado River.

There are several different floats available and the rowing is generally mild with the exception of high water when several large wave trains must be negotiated with caution. Shuttles for any of these floats can be arranged through Charm Shuttles at 970-379-3966 or On the Fly Shuttles at 970-379-9079. Boat ramps vary from maintained cement ramps to unimproved dirt pullouts. Access is simple and quick as the follows I-70 and boat ramps are located close to exits. The water is mix of public and private which is a good reason to choose float fishing the Lower Colorado River.

Float Fishing Locations on the Lower Colorado River

1.Grizzly Creek to Two Rivers Park

This float flows five miles through the towering cliffs of Glenwood Canyon and ends in the town of Glenwood Springs the Two Rivers Park Boat Ramp. This float can be done in a half day or stretched out to a full day by stopping to hit productive holes.

2.Two Rivers to South Canyon

This shorter section is full of good riffles and rocky bank water. It flows a few miles to the boat ramp at South Canyon west of Glenwood.

3.South Canyon to NewCastle

In South Canyon, the Lower Colorado River flows through steep, rocky banks before the river exits the canyon into wider the valley below. At around five miles this is good half day stretch while anglers looking for a longer full day can put in at Two Rivers Park.

4.Newcastle to Silt

At seven miles in length, this float is perfect for a full day trip. Lots of long riffles and rocky pockets are featured on this float.

5.Silt to Rifle

For good trout fishing this is the last stop on the Lower Colorado River. The  length of this float is good for full day trips.

The Fishing

The Lower Colorado is a seasonal fishery and has long periods of muddy water from early Spring through early Summer. But from mid-summer all the way through the winter this part of the Colorado is generally fishable. In fact it is probably the region’s best winter float fishery. The best fishing is in late winter and during the fall. There is a pretty even mix of brown trout and rainbows with a healthy dose of whitefish thrown in for good measure. Some of these fish reach giant proportions and fish in the 24-30 inch range are always a possibility. Float fishermen have a serious advantage over wading anglers due to the large size of the river. Covering water is often the key to steady fishing and wading is simply not as efficient.

Hatches mimic those on the upper river. Highlights include a Mother’s day Caddis Hatch that begins well before Mother’s Day in April. Also a strong Green Drake Hatch begins in late June. Due to unpredictable water clarity, sometimes these hatches are unfishable. More reliable fishing revolves around spring and BWO and midge hatches and summertime terrestrial fishing when anglers suspend searching attractor nymph patterns under large foam hoppers.

My favorite way to fish the Lower Colorado is to put away the five weight and break out a stout seven weight with a sink tip or full sinking line, a short fifteen pound test leader and extremley large streamers in the five to eight inch long range. This method is not about putting alot of trout in the net but you do have a chance at a fish over thirty inches long. These fish eat other fish not tiny bugs. Your casting arm will be sore but this is the best way to target the lower river’s gator brown trout. The best time to try this method is from mid-October through the winter and into early spring.

For floaters looking for some new water to fish-especially in the winter the Lower Colorado is a much underrated fishery for some exceptionally large trout. For more information on any of the Colorado River float trips discussed in this article check our fishing reports, or to book  a guided fly fishing trip call or stop by the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, Colorado.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Web Content Writer