The Taylor River near Gunnison, Colorado is an absolutely perfect river for fly fishing. When anglers first lay their eyes on it, the pocket water and holding areas look too good to be true. The river flows through picturesque scenery with healthy populations of brown and rainbow trout. If I visit Colorado, the main river I want to fish is the Taylor. I have yet to fish it and not be successful!
A Little Bit About the Taylor River
The Taylor River is a tailwater that flows out of the Taylor Reservoir. It flows for 48 miles until it meets up with the East River. When both of these rivers combine, the Gunnison River is created. This little portion of Colorado is a fly fishing dream. The water temperature stays in the mid-40’s and is a perfect haven for trout. The brown and rainbow trout naturally reproduce creating a nice population of fish.
There are 11 miles of the river that are able to be accessed by wading! The seven access points throughout the river offer anglers the chance to fish both up and downstream.
Guide Pro Tip: Colorado and specifically the area around the towns of Gunnison (south) and Crested Butte (north) are legendary for fly fishers. I’ve got a complete page of fly fishing locations. Read 👉 Where to Fly Fish in Colorado
5 Mile Access
The 5 Mile Access point is one of the best kept secrets on the Taylor River. Since several miles of the river are private, there are a few access points that give anglers a nice chance to explore the river. From this access, you can drop in a raft or wade up and downstream. This portion has plenty of boulders and tree laydowns that hold fish. Most anglers choose to nymph this section of river, but small streamers will also land fish.
Guide Pro Tip: The Colorado State Parks and Wildlife has an awesome website with MAPS to “Gold Medal Water”. You can find access points and stocking locations all over the state. Here’s a link to the Fishing Atlas 👉 Colorado Fishing Atlas
Below the Taylor Reservoir
The few hundred yards below the Taylor Dam is known as the Hog Trough. This section of river holds massive brown and rainbow trout. It’s faster moving water, but there are beautiful seams and holding areas all throughout this section. This part of the river is heavily fished but for a good reason. Fish over 20 inches aren’t overly uncommon.
Small tippet and small nymphs are your best bet. Since the fish are use to seeing flies, you have to be as inconspicuous as possible. Fish slow and steady and you’ll eventually tie into the fish.
The final spot you should visit is the Lodgepole Campground. This section of the canyon has skinnier water than most! You have to hike down into the canyon to get to the water, but it’s filled with fish. Many anglers choose to avoid this portion of the Taylor River because it’s more technical. If you can catch fish here, you can catch fish anywhere on the Taylor. You’re going to want to high stick with nymphs through here.
Why the Taylor is Perfect for Fly Fishing
The Taylor is perfect for fly fishing; the water temperature stays similar throughout the entire year and the flow rates also stay consistent. Most of the year, the river flows at 250 CFS, so you can always assume what you’re going to get.
Each year, the Colorado Game and Fish Department releases at least 3,000 fish into the Taylor River to keep up the fish populations. These fish don’t all stay in the Taylor, but many hold here throughout the year.
Combine the landscape with the extremely healthy fish, and you have a year-round fishery that will constantly produce.
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
What Stream Flow is Best for Fishing the Taylor River?
You’re going to want to fish the Taylor River when it’s flowing around 200 CFS. Since it is a tailwater, you’re able to keep track of the flow and know when the Game and Fish Department is going to release more or less water. If it gets up near 400 CFS, you’ll find that it’s challenging to fish due to the narrow conditions.
Here’s a link to the USGS Stream Flow Data to check the current conditions. 👉 Taylor River Stream Flow
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch on the Taylor River?
In the Taylor River, you’ll find primarily Rainbow and Brown Trout. You’ll also find small populations of brook and Snake River cutthroat hybrid trout. The most common fish you’ll catch is going to be brown trout!
Favorite Flies for the Taylor River
Mysis Shrimp- Size 14
Below the reservoir, Mysis Shrimp are a great option. These freshwater shrimp live below the dam year-round, so it’s a foolproof fly! Fish this with a split shot, and you’ll be able to get to the bottom of the water column.
RS2- Size 20
Small RS2 nymphs are another fly that will work all year-round. They’re a small nymph that represent midges that hatch in the Taylor River. Fish this on the bottom of a nymph rig or the bottom fly of a dry-dropper.
Chubby Chernobyl- Size 8
Come late summer, the Chubby Chernobyl is gold. As the air temperatures warm and water levels drop, the terrestrial flies are prevalent. Size 8 Chubbies attract any fish looking to feed on the surface.
Hatch Chart for the Taylor River
|Fly Name||Size||Start Date||End Date|
|Blue Winged Olive||16-22||March 31||October 1|
|Midges||16-24||April 1||November 31|
|Mysis Shrimp||14-18||April 1||November 31|
|Streamers||2-10||April 1||November 1|
|Caddis||10-20||May 15||September 1|
|Golden Stonefly||6-18||May 15||August 1|
|PMD||16-20||July 1||September 1|
|Red Quill||12-20||July 1||September 1|
|Green Drake||10-12||July 31||September 1|
|Terrestrials||8-20||July 1||September 1|
Fly Rod and Reel Setup for the Taylor River
For the Taylor, you’re only going to need a 4 or 5-weight fly rod. If you’re only fishing right below the dam, the 5-weight may be more necessary due to the size of the fish. The rest of the river can be fished with a 4-weight. Make sure you’re using a 4-weight reel.
For your leader and tippet, you want to keep things as light as possible. a 3x or 4x leader with 4x or 5x tippet is your best bet.
Guides and Fly Shops
- Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colorado is a full-service guide shop that offers floating and walk wading tours on the Taylor River. The guides here definitely know their stuff!
- Dragonfly Anglers in Crested Butte, Colorado is a full-service guide shop that offers trips to all of the rivers in the area. They have a wonderful fly selection!
Last Cast for the Taylor River
The Taylor River needs to be on your bucket list when you visit Colorado. It’s a few hours away from Denver, but the productivity and scenery are well-worth your time. The fish are large and healthy, so come prepared to have a trip of a lifetime!
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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