Fly Fishing Colorado’s Gold Medal Trout Waters

Rocky Mountain Gold Medal Water:

Here in the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado we are lucky to have several nearby Gold Medal trout fisheries that offer fantastic fly fishing. The Gold Medal designation is the highest ranking for top quality fishing for wild trout that a fishery can achieve in Colorado. These fishing areas have been designated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife as providing the necessary water quality and habitat to support healthy populations of large trout. These waters are defined as being able to produce 60 pounds of trout per acre, and at least twelve trout over 14 inches long per acre. Only 322 miles of Colorado’s 9000 miles of trout streams, and three lakes, carry the “Gold Medal” signature. These Gold Medal fisheries are protected with special regulations limiting harvest numbers and size of fish allowed to be kept in order to ensure quality fly fishing in the future.

The state of Colorado is constantly monitoring current and possible Gold Medal waters to ensure quality and has recently upgraded new rivers as well as delisting some streams that didn’t meet the high quality standards needed for Gold Medal status. In 2014, 102 miles of the Arkansas River were added to the list of Gold Medal trout fisheries, the longest stretch of trophy fly fishing water in the state of Colorado. Just a few days ago, the Upper Colorado River between Pumphouse and Rock Creek near McCoy was designated as a Gold Medal fishery. This adds another Gold Medal fly fishing destination for Vail Valley Anglers guided float trips.

Here’s a quick rundown of Colorado’s Gold Medal Trout Fisheries:

Animas River (4 miles)

There was not a major fish kill due to last year’s mine spill. The Animas River near Durango remains a Gold Medal fishery.  The Gold Medal section between Lightner Creek and Rivera Crossing Bridge has nice rainbows and some huge brown trout.

Arkansas River (102 miles)

The 102 mile stretch between the Lake Fork Confluence and the U.S. 50 bridge is the largest stretch of Gold Medal waters in Colorado. It is also a major mining pollution clean-up success story. Mostly browns with a growing number of rainbows. Good numers of 14-17 inch fish.

Blue River (13 miles)

The Blue River recently lost about 20 miles of Gold Medal Water between Silverthorne and Green Mountain Reservoir due to water flow and habitat quality problems. Nonetheless, there is still lots of great Gold Medal trout fishing. Try fishing from the dam at Green Mountain down to the confluence with the Colorado River Near Kremmling.

Colorado River (40 miles)

Great wade fishing along the 20 miles of the Colorado River between the US 40 bridge to the confluence with the Williams Fork River east of Kremmling is designated as a Gold Medal river. Incredibly scenic float fishing on 20 miles of river from Pumphouse to Rock Creek. Primarily a brown trout fishery with a chance at a giant 30” fish in the newer Gold Medal Water downstream from Pumphouse.

Fryingpan river (14 miles)

From Ruedi Dam downstream to the confluence with the Roaring Fork River, about 14 miles of the Fryingpan is Gold Medal water. A mix of public and private, the fish are larger near the dam but angler pressure is heavy.

Roaring Fork River (22 miles)

The Roaring Fork River from Basalt to Glenwood Springs offers a great mix of wading and floating water. This fantastic fishery has a healthy mix of browns and rainbows and with plenty of 14-18” fish.

Gore Creek (4 miles)

Just up the road from our Vail Valley Anglers fly shop is Gore Creek. From the confluence with Red Sandstone Creek downstream to the confluence with the Eagle River is a few miles Gold Medal Water. With rainbows, brown trout, cutthroats and brook trout, this is a great place to try for a Grand Slam.

Gunnison River (27 miles)

Large Rainbow and trophy brown trout swim in the Gold Medal section of the Gunnison River between the Crystal Reservoir dam downstream to the confluence with the Smith Fork. This section of the Gunnison flows through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument. Grueling hikes or overnight float trips are the best way to experience this fishery.

North Platte River (5 miles)

The Gold Medal waters of the North Platte River near Walden, Colorado start at the southern boundary of the Routt National Forest near Northgate Canyon downstream to the Wyoming state line. This is beautiful, remote water with large trout.

Rio Grande River (17 miles)

The Rio Grande near Del Norte holds a big population of larger than average browns and rainbows. These fish live from South Fork downstream to the Rio Grande Canal diversion structure. There are some great floats in this area.

South Platte River (37 miles, 3 sections)

The South Plate River has some great Gold Medal sections. In South Park, about 20 miles from the Colo 9 bridge downstream to Spinney Mountain Reservoir is available. From Spinney Mountain to the inlet of Eleven Miles Reservoir, about 4 miles called the Dream Stream offers seasonal runs of giant trout. Downstream, try from the lower boundary of the Wigwam Club downstream to Scraggy View Picnic Ground. Keep in mind the proximity to Denver and the Front Range means more angler pressure.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain is a 2,500 surface acre lake formed by the South Platte River and one of three Gold Medal stillwater fisheries in Colorado. Trophy rainbow brown trout as well as northern pike can be caught in this water.

Steamboat Lake

At 1,053 surface acres, Steamboat Lake holds large rainbows and cutthroats. In addition to great fishing, the lake offers classic mountain wilderness views.

North Delaney Lake

This lake is only 160 surface acres but  offers great fishing for rainbow, brown and cutbow trout. Nearby East Delaney Lake has oversized browns in addition to Rainbows. Spring and Fall are the best times to fish here.

Now that spring has arrived it’s time to get out there and explore some new water. Stop by the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop and get tips on what to use on these Gold Medal fisheries. To hire a guide to take you fly fishing on some of these trophy trout destinations.

Brody Henderson, Guide And Content Writer