The Arkansas River flows more than 100 miles through the state of Colorado. It’s no fishing secret but, the thirty miles of river just below Leadville flowing south towards Granite, receives relatively light angling pressure. The Headwaters of the Arkansas River offer some of the most scenic fly fishing opportunities in the world as it is shadowed by the famous Collegiate Peaks. Once the rare Greenback Cutthroat trout dominated the headwaters but today the Brown trout makes up the majority of the rivers population. Mining once had a huge impact on this section of river and fly fishing for trout here suffered. It was not many years ago that a barren or badly impaired stream was how you would describe the watershed. Today, the stream has been restored and the stream has come back with clean water. It supports a large population of wild brown trout along with increasing numbers of rainbows and the occasional cutthroat. My personal favorite time of the year to fish this little gem is during the spring, for this water rarely discolors. Attractor dries and droppers will work most of the time for feisty trout to 14 inches and in the spring try streamers for some larger trout.
Middle Colorado River Dotsero, Colorado
The BLM in conjunction with Eagle County Open Space opened several new boat ramps and wading access points along this desolate section of the Colorado River. From the Pinball BLM access you can float almost 20 miles down to Dotsero, Colorado. Ten miles downriver is the new Horse Creek Access, another three miles is the Cottonwood Access, and another couple miles is the Lyons Gulch Access leaving you a four mile float back to the landing in Dotsero. The Colorado River Road parallels the river here in some stretches but for the most part the river is remote and not easily accessed. There is a mix of public and private parcels and although there is some wading access this classic, big western river is best fished with a boat. Overnight floats are a great option in No Man’s Land. If you have yet to float this stretch make sure to go with an experienced oarsmen and guide. Vail Valley Anglers, Edwards, Colorado has several great fly fishing guides who have floated this section for the past twenty years. Primarily a brown trout fishery but with plenty of rainbows hanging out in foam pockets and eddies, fishing here is best from early to mid-fall where trout up to and over 20 inches will attack your streamers and hopper patterns.
South Fork of the White River Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado
This beautiful small stream begins its course high in the Flattops Wilderness Area. The South Fork flows almost twenty miles with no roads running along it, only a hiking/horse trail until it meets up with the North Fork of the White, near the town of Buford, Colorado. My preference for access is to take Interstate 70 to Dotsero Exit 133, head north on Colorado River road for two miles, turn left on Forest Service Road 600 (Coffee Pot Road) for about 38 miles. Come prepared with camping equipment and four-wheel drive. The road ends at Budges Wilderness Resort, a small vintage 1931 log cabin. Camp near the stream and practice a low-impact approach in this sensitive wilderness area. It is about thirteen miles down to the South Fork Campground on the western side of the Flat Tops. A true wilderness experience in the remote backcountry of Colorado, the stream is all public above the campground and is only accessed on foot or by horse. In the upper reaches of the South Fork of the White the fly fisherman finds Brook Trout and Cutthroats with the possibility of browns and rainbows too, all are eager to slash at any well-presented dry flies like Royal Wulffs and Elk Hair Caddis. Your best time for a backpacking trip on the South Fork is in the summer months of July and August where you will find action on attractors and terrestrials and simple beadhead droppers. Travel downriver into more remote areas of the stream where trophy wild trout approaching 20 inches lurk in the deeper holes of this high country sleeper.
Taylor River Almont, Colorado
The Taylor River tailwater isn’t exactly a secret destination but for the hardy souls willing to brave cold temperatures during the winter angling pressure is minimal compared to more popular and easily accessed Colorado tailwaters like the Frying Pan or Blue River. During the winter the only way to reach this tailwater is by traveling up from Gunnison to the dam below Taylor Reservoir, adding several hours drive time from the Denver area so it’s apt to see considerably less angling pressure after hunting season ends. The Taylor is a smallish tailwater that demands technical fly fishing prowess, good sight fishing abilities and the patience to play large fish on light tippet. Huge, slab-bodied Rainbow and Brown trout, up to and well over ten pounds prowl this section of public water picking off Mysis Shrimp, midges and small mayfly nymphs. These fish are a trophy hunters dream and will test your skills. Try fishing, the lower end of the public water below the dam or one of several public areas between there and where the river ends by joining the East Fork to form the Gunnison River in Almont, Colorado