Although the Front Range of Colorado is the most densely populated area in the state, the area around Colorado Springs still offers some incredible opportunities to chase trophy trout. Whether you like ripping streamers for monster brown trout in the fall or casting Size 26 midges to spooky 20 inch rainbow trout with 6x fluorocarbon leaders, Colorado Springs has it all.
1.The South Platte – The Dream Stream Stretch
The South Platte River is a tailwater fishery, and the consistent water temperatures, flows and food source are the perfect recipe for monster trout. This 4-mile stretch of water exists between Spinney Reservoir and Eleven Mile Reservoir. The Dream Stream has been deemed a Gold Medal stretch of water, and you can catch brown trout, rainbow trout, cutbow trout that can reach north of 22 inches. You can even catch kokanee salmon during the spawn in the fall.
Where to Fly Fish on the Dream Stream
The entire stretch of the Dream Stream is public water. There are several parking areas located along the stretch, but I like to park in the middle of the stretch and fish either up or downstream depending on where I everybody else is fishing. A great place to park is Charlie Meyers State Rec Parking. The trails down to the river are fairly clear.
Recommended Fly Fishing Gear for the Dream Stream
The Dream Stream is located at almost 9000ft of elevation, and wind is almost always a factor. Bring a fast action 9ft, 6wt rod that has enough punch to throw streamers or a tandem nymph rig in stiff breeze. In terms of line and leader, you want to bring a floating line and fish a 9ft leader. These fish get a lot of pressure, and they can definitely be leader-shy. I usually fish a 5x or 6x leader or tippet, and 0x just in case I decide to throw streamers.
Best Flies for the Dream Stream
The Dream Stream is a tailwater fishery, so while there is plenty of food all year, it also means that these fish are smart. A good drift is paramount, as is using weight to get your nymph rig down to the right depth.
Midges and little bugs:
- JuJu baetis Sizes 18-22
- Black Beauty Sizes 20-26
- RS2 Sizes 20-22
- Parachute Adams (Gray or green) Size 16-24
- Green Caddis Sizes 12-18
- Chubby Chernobyl Sizes 10-14
- Thin Mint Size 8-12
- Sex Dungeon (Olive or White) Sizes 4-10
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to walk. Get away from other anglers. This stretch receives a lot of pressure, and getting away from other anglers greatly increases the odds of you getting into a couple fish.
2. The Arkansas River – Epic Fly Fishing
Unlike the South Platte and other Front Range Rivers, the Arkansas River is a freestone river and the fishing is more dynamic. The Arkansas River is sometimes forgotten when we talk about great trout streams in Colorado, but the BWO hatches and Caddis hatches are the stuff of dreams. Not only is the dry fly fishing incredible, but there are 102 miles of Gold Medal water to fish on the Arkansas River; the longest stretch of Gold Medal water in the West. There are rainbow and brown trout in this river, but this predominantly a brown trout fishery.
Where to Fish the Arkansas River
The Arkansas offers everything from high country meadows sections to fast water canyon fishing. I like to fish just upstream of Parkdale during the spring and fall because the pocket water fishing can be phenomenal. Head further upstream during the warm summer months.
Recommended Gear for the Arkansas River
Layers and a good pair of waders are essential during the winter, spring and fall. I always make sure that I pack extra water, a snack, and some sunscreen during the summer. I like to fish the Arkansas River with a 9ft 5wt rod with a weight forward floating line. In terms of leaders, a 7ft to 9ft 3x or 4x leader works well during high water, and a 9ft 5x or 6x leader works well for the rest of the year.
Recommended Flies for the Arkansas River
- BWOs Size 16-20
- Griffiths Gnat Size 18-22
- Parachute Adams Size 12-22
- Caddis Size 12-18
- Stimulators (orange or yellow) Size 12-16
- Hoppers Size 12-14
- Slump Busters Size 8-12
- Sculpzilla (black or olive) Size 10-16
Pro Tip: Make sure that you don’t get stuck in one place; give each pocket or seam a couple of drifts and then move up.
3. The South Platte – Deckers – No Secret but Consistent Fly Fishing
This tailwater stretch of the South Platte River is located just outside of the small town of Deckers. This stretch offers great access to numerous miles of Gold Medal Water, and the relatively consistent water temperatures mean that you can fish it year round if you’re willing to brave the winter chill in the Rockies. There is a great mix of pocket water, pools, and riffles outside of Deckers, and you can expect to catch brown trout and rainbow trout between 12 and 18 inches. Every now and then you’ll find a fish in the 20 to 24 inch range, so be ready for that reel to start singing.
Where to Fish near Deckers
The area outside of Deckers can receive a lot of pressure, but there is so much great access in this area that finding a couple holes to fish is easy. From Colorado Springs, head north on US-24 and then take CO-67 N towards Deckers. Pass through Deckers and then start looking for a place to jump in the river. The road follows alongside the river, and there are numerous parking areas for anglers. I like to park here and then fish upstream because there is a great variety of water in this stretch.
Recommended Gear for Deckers
This stretch of the South Platte River is subject to variable weather and wind conditions. A 9ft 6wt rod is a great option because it gives you enough backbone to cast on windy days and it also gives you a little extra reach when it comes to high sticking those deeper runs. A weight forward floating line is ideal, and you want to carry 9ft leaders between 4x-6x. Carry plenty of tippet in the 5x-6x range; these fish can get pretty picky.
Recommended Flies for Deckers
- Pheasant Tails Size 14-20, San Juan Worm Size 12-16, Brassies Size 18-20
- Top Secret Midges, Size 18-24, RS2’s Size 20-24, Cheesman Emerger Size 20
- Griffiths Gnat Size 18-22, BWO patterns Size 16-22
- Amy’s Ant Size 12-16, Caddis Size 12-16, Hoppers Size 10-14
4. Lake Pueblo for Fly Fishing
Lake Pueblo is south of Colorado Springs and offers anglers the opportunity to catch a wide variety of species including wipers, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, walleye and carp.
If you’re willing to travel a little farther and want to find the best places in Colorado to fish read. – 14 Best Places to Fly Fish in Colorado
The lake has 60 miles of shoreline, so if you don’t have access to a boat, this is a great stillwater option. The lake never ices over, so you can fish it all year long. I love to target the monster carp in this lake, but the wiper and bass fishing is incredible as well. Bring a 7wt rod with both sinking and floating lines, sunscreen, and your favorite baitfish and carp flies.
5. Spinney Reservoir – Trophy Fly Fishing
Spinney Reservoir is one of the best Gold Medal fisheries in Colorado. The reservoir is closed to fishing when it is frozen over (usually November 15th to April 15th), and it usually fishes just as well from the shore as it does from a boat.
This incredible fishery offers anglers the opportunity to catch trophy sized rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout and northern pike. Bring a 6wt or 7wt rod, 0x-5x leaders, and a variety of flies including midge patterns, scuds (olive size 12-16), egg patterns, woolly buggers and clouser patterns.
Pro Tip: Fish your scud pattern along the bottom with short, even strips.
6. Rampart Reservoir – Fly Fish Close to Colorado Springs
Located just a short drive from Colorado Springs, Rampart Reservoir offers incredible views and great fishing. In the spring and fall, lake trout (also known as Mackinaw), push up into the shallows and can be targeted by fly fishermen from the bank. These fish can get huge, and the opportunity to target these fish on a fly in shallow water is really unique. Bring a 7wt rod, floating and sinking lines, and plenty of nasty streamers. I love fishing white or olive streamers when I am fishing for lake trout.
7. Cheesman Canyon – Fly Fishing Beautiful Waters
Located just upstream from Deckers, Cheesman Canyon is home to some beautiful trout water and monster fish. This boulder-strewn tailwater pours out of Cheesman Lake, and the consistent water temperatures and food source provides just the right conditions for big trout. This section is known for monster rainbow trout and prolific midge and caddis hatches.
Read about using Midges for Fly Fishing in this article: What is a Midge and How to Fly Fish with Them
Make sure your bring 5x and 6x fluoro, plenty of small midge patterns (Cheesman Emergers Size 20-26 and Parachute Adams Size 16-26 are my go to), and a 9ft 6wt rod.
What Kind of Fish Can I Catch around Colorado Springs
Predominantly rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout. Warm water species include large and smallmouth bass, wipers, pike, wipers, carp, and bluegill amongst others.
General Fishing Regulations on the South Platte River
- Regulations are located on Page 30 and 31: https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/RulesRegs/Brochure/fishing.pdf
Fly Shops in Colorado Springs
- South Platte Fly Shop: https://southplatteflyshop.com
- Peaks Fly Shop: https://thepeakflyshop.com
- Angler’s Covey: https://www.anglerscovey.com