Floating and fly fishing the six miles of the Colorado River between State Bridge Landing and the Two Bridges boat ramp is one of my favorite trips. This stretch of the Colorado River lacks crowds, has amazing scenery, and has differing water types absolutely stuffed with wild fish, mostly brown trout but also plenty of rainbows. Whether you are planning a private outing with your own boat or booking a float trip with one of Vail Valley Anglers seasoned fly fishing guides, you cannot go wrong with a day of float fishing from State Bridge to Two Bridges.
The float from State Bridge to Two Bridges is best as a half day trip, but can be turned into a full day for anglers who want to mix in a little wade fishing here and there. I do this a lot with clients who really want to work the water and learn good holes to fish for future trips. There are a few designated campsites outfitted with picnic tables on the public BLM land on river left within the first mile of the float that make for great lunch spots, but if you pass them expect to use your own picnic furniture at other unimproved campsites.
Almost the entire float is public land and water on both sides of the river. Pull over to wade in the braided sections for some great nymphing. Anchor on pods of rising fish in the slower sections. It’s all legal so take advantage of this opportunity.
Both boat ramps are newly acquired public sites with excellent parking, clean outhouse style restrooms, and low angle concrete launch areas. If you are planning on visiting these sites make sure to bring five dollars cash per vehicle for the day use fee, and follow the ramp etiquette instructions on the signs.
State Bridge to Two Bridges is a great stretch for the beginning oarsman, as there are plenty of big, slow eddies and wide open runs, which are great for rowing practice. That being said, the act of rowing a boat down a wild river is never completely without hazard. The biggest rapid in this stretch which is a pretty straightforward wave train, is known as “Anticline”, and is about half way down and is easily scouted on river left from an unimproved campsite a few steep steps up from the water’s edge. About a mile downstream from the rapid, the river splits into several smaller channels called The Braids. Unfamiliar oarsmen can get into trouble here when flows are low and the water is shallow. Again, this section is public property and if you are unsure which channel to take it is okay to get out and take a look.
The fish that call this stretch of river home are mainly wild brown trout, but it is not uncommon to net a healthy rainbow or even mountain whitefish. They range in size from eight to twenty-plus inches with the most common fish being in the twelve to sixteen inch category.
The Colorado River has a multitude of great insect hatches that entice anglers and trout alike. Tricos, Salmonflies, and just about everything in between can be found along this great stretch of water. Hopper fishing is great in late summer. That does not mean, however, that the fish will shy away from a heavy streamer during the right conditions. Attractor nymphs like princes and copper johns work well and there is great wade fishing to be had in the braided water on the second half of the float.
Keep an eye on our updated fishing reports for current information about what bugs are hatching before you go. This stretch tends to fish best between April and November with peak months being July through September.
The next thing to pay attention to before planning a float trip down this stretch is water clarity. During the late summer monsoon season here in the Rocky Mountains, rain can ruin visibility without warning. The shuttle drivers at Rancho Del Rio can give accurate clarity reports over the phone at (970) 653-4431.
To summarize the fishing is reliable, the boating is safe, and the access is easy. A float trip here will show you the relaxing side of this amazing sport. On this section, smiles, high-fives, and bent rods are plentiful for every angler from the novice to the expert.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer