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Fish tales. You’ve heard plenty, but with more than 6,000 miles of rivers and streams and 322 miles of designated Gold Medal waters, those tall tales of tremendous fish coming out of the state of Colorado are (mostly) true. To really get the scoop on the places to find the biggest fish, the most gorgeous stretches of river and an all around good day on the water, we reached out to the professionals who know the rivers in this state best. These fly-fishing guides have seen it all, fished it all and they are still willing to share some tips and tricks for the best fly fishing here in Colorado.

Roaring Fork River

Guide: Raphael Fasi, Gone Fishing Colorado

Fasi, a fly fishing guide in the Snowmass/Aspen area for the past five years, knows how to find the sweet spots on the river between Snowmass Creek and the town of Aspen. “Most of the the locations in this area are accessible along the Rio Grande Bike Trail (see page 11), so you can ride your bike up and down the trail and fish as you please. The Roaring Fork River is one of the last true freestone rivers in Colorado. The structure of the river changes from pocket water to deep, slow runs, and really changes and transitions as it flows down the valley.” And according to Fasi, those pockets and runs are teeming with rainbow, brown, cutthroat and Snake River cutthroat Trout—the biggest ones holding in the deep runs—waiting for a prince nymph with the perfect drift.

Yampa River

Guide: Jarrett Yager, Bucking Rainbow Outfitters

“My favorite thing about fishing the Yampa is that there is always a chance that the next fish you catch could potentially be your new personal record,” says Jarrett Yager, who’s been guiding on the river for six years. In Yager’s experience, catching trout that measure 30-plus inches in length is very common on the Yampa, with some fisherman occasionally reeling in frightening northern pike of 40-plus inches. To find the best holes, Yager suggests trying the tailwaters below Stagecoach Reservoir or dimply hitting up the public waters right in the town of Stamboat Springs. “In the fall as the brown trout begin to spawn, the fishing on the Yampa only gets better. Focus on fishing the runs and drop offs where a lot of excess food is being pushed.” And be sure to add plenty of tricos, caddis flysand  blue winged olives to your fly box this fall.

Blue River

Guide: Andrew Petersen, The Colorado Angler

For longtime guide, Andrew Petersen (22-plus years guiding the Blue), the best thing about fishing this popular water in the heart of Summit County is the striking landscape of the entire valley, away from the I-70 crowds. “On some stretches of the river, you really feel like you’re very far removed from the city.” But the fishing is good right under the bridge in front of the outlet stores just off I-70, too (just get there early.) “The town stretch of river and the Palmer Gulch area are fishing well right now, but some of the best fishing in the state is happening in Green Mountain Canyon on the lower section of the Blue.” For prime access to the sweet spots on this river, Petersen suggests heading out early in the week, in the early morning or early evening for some quiet time on the river. “Nymphs are always the best approach first, but caddis, green drakes, blue winged olives and pale morning dun flies work well, too. Midge pupa and larva flies are also fishing well.”

Big Thompson River

Guide: Stephen Jacob, Kirks Flyshop

Stephen Jacobs has been guiding on the Big Thompson River for 11 years, which means he witnessed the effects of the flood of 2013. “The Big Thompson has a good, healthy, self-sustaining trout population, even post-flood.” But to find the best fishing, Jacob says you’ll have to work for it. “If you’re willing to walk a mile, you’ll find a remote, more enjoyable experience,” he says—which is best in early April to May when the rainbow trout are spawning and feeling sassy. “When fishing the lower Thompson, the tailwater is very productive and best fished with dry flies in the summer. I personally like to find a spot the first five or six miles down into the canyon.” When fishing the upper Thompson in Rocky Mountain National Park, the guides at Kirks Flyshop saddle up horses and take pack llamas to remotes sites—some of the best found above Glacier Creek. Jacob’s fly box is usually stocked with ants, beetles, caddis and pale morning duns to reel in the rainbow, brown and brook trout in the river.

Boxwood Gulch on the South Platte River

Guide: Randy Hicks, Rocky Mountain Anglers

According to longtime guide, Randy Hicks, Boxwood Gulch is the place to go for an ego-stoking day on the river. “It’s all smiles. The fishing is so spectacular that we are able to really teach here, too, with success.” At least six species of fish can be found in the private waters of Boxwood Gulch, most weighing in at five pounds or heavier. “Pine squirrel leeches, copper johns, iron lotus, rainbow warriors, prince nymphs, girdle bugs and stoneflies all do well here. These fish are predators, larger fish looking for a big meal.” There are also stretches of public waters of the north fork of the South Platte, and Hicks says you’ll find the best ones downstream of Bailey towards the confluence of the South Platte proper.

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