Top 5 Late Fall Colorado Fly Fishing Rivers

Late fall is one of the best times of the year for Colorado anglers to enjoy fly fishing our best streams and we are lucky to have five of the top trout rivers nearby. The leaves have all fallen, the water is low and clear, and most importantly, even the more popular rivers experience much less fly fishing pressure than during the busy summer season. This is the time for busy fly shop staff and fishing guides to disappear and chase a few trout of their own. Here is a short list of our favorite late fall destinations in no particular order.

The Lower Eagle

The Lower Eagle runs between the towns of Eagle and Gypsum, Colorado and is home to some of the finest trout water in the state. The largest trout in the Eagle live here and while there is some private water there is also plenty of public water to be explored. Try the river right in the town of Eagle near the fairgrounds or downstream at Gypsum Ponds State Wildlife Area or the BLM access below Gypsum. Standard fall flies like Blue Winged Olive mayflies, large stoneflies, eggs, and streamers can entice some giant fish in the rocky riffles of the lower Eagle River.

The Gunnison

The lower Gunnison river gives adventurous anglers miles upon miles of hike-in access below Blue Mesa Reservoir in some of the most rugged and beautiful country in the West. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Gunnison Gorge can be hard to get to because of the steep hike in and the long drive from populated cities and towns. This means that if you get down to the Gunnison below Blue Mesa Reservoir during the fall fishing season, you just might have the place to yourself. For those who are not quite ready to commit to the steep hike down to the river, the Gunnison above the reservoir offers fantastic fall fishing, easier access, and the chance to catch a freshwater Kokanee salmon. Downstream, the lower portion of the Gunnison and the Gorge is easily accessed near Delta.

The Colorado

Float fishermen rejoice! While other popular float fisheries are getting lower and harder to fish from a boat, the mighty Colorado river remains deep and wide. The remote upper section of our home river gives the drift boat angler a wide variety of water features and fishing opportunities both in and out of the boat. The lower float sections from Grizzly Creek to Rifle begin to cool off during this time of year and are a great place to fish when the cold weather strikes the upper valleys. Check out Vail Valley Anglers blog series “Float Fishing the Colorado River” every Wednesday to get detailed information about boating and fishing the Colorado.

The North Platte

One of the favorite fall fly fishing destinations for anglers in central Colorado is to make the journey up to the North Platte River. It has numerous meandering tributaries in North Park, Colorado near the town of Walden. While some of these streams are small, they are known for consistently producing huge brown trout. Late fall can bring bitter weather to this part of the state. But, when the wind dies down and the sun comes out, the fly fishing can be amazing. If you are going to the North Platte for the first time, make sure to look at a map. Much of the river flows over private land.

The Arkansas

The Arkansas River is an outstanding late fall fly fishing river and lies in Colorado’s “Banana Belt.” Which is a long, narrow stretch of land that enjoys warmer weather than its surroundings. This area of Colorado includes the towns of Buena Vista, Salida, and Canon City. All of which are located on the Arkansas  River. When the temperatures dip below freezing elsewhere, many anglers flock to the Arkansas River to enjoy its warmer weather, dry fly fishing, and eager brown trout. The Arkansas features over one hundred miles of gold metal water. Much of that water is open to public access. These unusual conditions make the Arkansas an ideal late fall destination for any angler.

Late fall fly fishing can be unpredictable to say the least. But, when bad weather clears and gives way to sunshine and warm air, fly fishermen can enjoy casting to huge fish. For local fly fishermen, this season can be our last chance to enjoy pleasant fishing conditions before we have to start breaking ice off our guides. Get out and fish one or more of the destinations listed above this fall and see some of Colorado’s finest fly fishing.

Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer