Fort Collins is the eastern gateway into many of Colorado’s best attractions. Right outside the city limits, you’ll find access to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest. Combine these with the amazing fly fishing opportunities, and you’ll have many days of entertainment.
While many visitors are in Fort Collins to check out the National Park, you’ll find beautiful water nearby to test your fly fishing abilities. Local tailwaters, streams and reservoirs are all filled with fish waiting to be caught with a fly rod.
On the western edge of town, you’ll find the Horsetooth Reservoir. This reservoir is over six miles long and a half mile wide. Whether you’re wanting to fish from shore or a boat, you can do either. The reservoir gives anglers 20 miles of shoreline to explore. You’ll find that the spring time is the most productive for fly fishing. The fish are eager to feed and eat streamers you throw their way. You’ll find that Woolly Buggers and crayfish patterns are great fly options. Stay near structure, and you’ll find fish.
Whether you’re in pursuit of smallmouth bass or trout, the reservoir has fish for you. A 20-pound rainbow trout was pulled out of these waters! Trophies are definitely an option. Plus, you get to try and land a variety of species.
Rotary Park is a great place to set up camp when you’re fishing the Horsetooth Reservoir. You can snag a picnic table and still get some decent fishing done. The parking is easily accessible and you can get away from anglers enough to make casts. The hike down to the water can be fairly steep, so be aware.
The Cache la Poudre is a beautiful river that’s renowned in the Fort Collins area. It flows out of Poudre Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park all the way through Fort Collins. It’s considered a Wild and Scenic River, so it’s able to naturally sustain itself quite well. In these waters, you’ll find rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and brown trout. Anglers have success on this water year-round! Whether you want to fish in Fort Collins or further up towards Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll find fish. This water has a nice number of riffles, pools and pocket water. Be prepared to try out a variety of your techniques!
The Poudre Trail runs along the Cache throughout town and provides all sorts of wonderful access. You can walk along the trail and hop in and out of the river depending on what you need. There is ample parking and you can access the trail via the Wood Street Connection in the heart of Fort Collins.
Guide Recommended PRO Tip: If the Poudre interests you check out the fishing guide provided buy the Colorado Parks and Wildlife – MAP HERE
If you’re willing to travel an hour or so west of Fort Collins, you’ll run into some amazing fishing on the Big Thompson River. This river flows out of Forrest Canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park and flows through the town of Estes Park. It cuts south here and runs into the town of Loveland. In this river, you’ll find brown, rainbow and even brook trout! The brookies are best found high in the headwaters where the water is the coolest.
The section of water below Lake Estes is a fly fishing section only portion of the river. This section stretches for nine miles until it stops near the Waltonia Bridge. This portion of the water through the canyon is primarily pocket water! There are portions of calm water, but that depends on water flow! Be prepared to pay close attention and make accurate casts! You’ll find a nice amount of stoneflies, mayflies and caddis.
The best access to the tailwater is via Sleepy Hollow Park along state highway 34. This portion of the river is a bit wider, so you can fish riffles, seams and even some smaller pools. Park in the parking lot and you can work your way both up and downstream. Pay close attention to the private property signs! Land owners can be extra particular in this area.
Guide PRO Tip: Learn how to setup a fly rod from the reel to the fly in this article that includes videos. -> Setup a Fly Rod from Reel to Fly
More Colorado Hot Spots to Toss a Fly
- Get a complete guide to the best places to fly fish in Colorado in this article: Best Place to Fly Fish in Colorado
- Colorado Springs is a fly fishers paradise. Want to know where to go? Read Where to Fly Fish Near Colorado Springs
- Wondering where to toss a fly in the Denver Area? I’ve got the answer – Where to Fly Fish in the Denver Area
- Have you heard about the “Dream Stream” that’s just a little area on the South Platte River – Find more spots in Where to Fly Fish on the South Platte River
- The hidden gem is the Animas…….Don’t say anything, but read THIS
The fly selection in the Fort Collins area is wonderful. Due to the large number of hatches and prey for these fish, you’ll find that you can fill your box with a variety of flies and most will provide you with a decent amount of success! Stoneflies, caddis, mayflies and large streamers all seem to land fish!
- Black Wooly Bugger– Size 4
The Woolly Bugger is a great option for anglers looking to represent everything from crayfish to small minnows. Choose a beadhead and fish this throughout the pools and cut banks!
- Sparkle Minnow- Size 4
The Sparkle Minnow is a great streamer for the western United States. It has the right amount of flash and weight to get you to the necessary parts of the water column. Anglers will have success with this any time of the year.
- Pheasant Tail Nymph– size 16
In the springtime, the Pheasant Tail Nymph is a must! You’ll find that fish have a hard time resisting this fly once the water levels drop.
- Juju Baetis- Size 16
The Juju Baetis is almost an unfair pattern for Fort Collins fishing. It’s not overly complex, but if you fish this below a dry, you’ll find that many fish will strike.
- Parachute Adams– Size 18
The Parachute Adams is a great searching dry fly if you aren’t quite sure what the fish want. When you see a hatch starting to occur, that’s the time to throw on the Parachute Adams.
- Griffith’s Gnat– Size 20
Almost every evening, you’ll find that gnats are going to be swarming around your head as you’re fishing. This means that the fish are going to be willing to eat them! Take your time and fish one of these small patterns. You’ll be surprised at how productive they are.
A 5-weight 9’ moderate fast or fast action rod is a good choice if you’re fly fishing in the Fort Collins area. In terms of fly line, you want floating line for the moving water that you’re going to be fishing. The pockets and pools aren’t overly deep, so you shouldn’t need to get too far down in the water column. Your leader should be able to get you where you need to go.
Looking for the perfect fly rod combo for Colorado?
The Sage Foundation Fly Rod Combo comes with everything minus flies. The rod in made in the U.S.A. and comes with the typically lifetime warranty. The fast action allows you to cast in the windy conditions found along the Colorado. Even better – when your buddies see you casting a Sage you’ll get the jealousy looks.
If you’re fishing in the local reservoirs, a sink tip line is going to be necessary. In the warmer months, these fish are deep in the water column! Your streamers and nymphs aren’t going to be able to get to the necessary depths with floating line.
Have 0x to 4x leaders and 4x to 6x tippet on hand when fly fishing near Fort Collins. You never know when you’re going to want to fish with some exceptionally small nymphs or dry flies!
Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of Trout Unlimited – The Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of Trout Unlimited meets in Fort Collins. This group has a strong social media presence, and meets regularly!
Colorado Women Fly Fishers– For any females interested in fly fishing, you’ll find that the Colorado Women Fly Fishers club has a fairly significant presence. If you’re looking to fly fish with women in your area, this is the place to look.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife– Check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website for information on Fort Collins fishing regulations.
- St. Peter’s Fly Shop– St. Peter’s Fly Shop is the largest fly shop in the Fort Collins area. Here, you’ll find a full guide service along with all of the equipment and flies you would need to have a successful day on the water.
- Elkhorn Fly Shop– A little south of town you’ll find the Elkhorn Fly Shop. They’re a full service shop with guides and a nice selection of gear.
Fort Collins has amazing fishing and sightseeing. If you’re making a visit, be sure to bring along your fly fishing equipment! Odds are, you’ll have some time to sneak away and get a chance to check out the local water.
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels