Colorado is truly a paradise for fly fishermen and has become a go-to destination for both serious and novice anglers. There is a large amount of lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and streams that provide a tremendous opportunity for one to test their fly fishing skills, all against a natural backdrop of breathtaking beauty. Overall, there are 3.83 million fly fishermen in the United States, and over 340,000 of them travel to Colorado every year to reap the state’s rich bounty. Fly fishing requires a good amount of patience and skill in order for the angler to be successful as there’s a lot more to consider than just baiting a hook and waiting for a fish to bite. The mechanics, lingo, and nuances of fly fishing can be intimidating to the novice, which is why we’ve compiled this list of references in order to get you started on your journey. Below is everything you need to begin your fly fishing adventures in beautiful Colorado. Of course you could call us at Big Ed’s and we’ll really show you the ropes!

What You’re Catching in Colorado – Fish You Can Catch in Colorado

Colorado is a sportsman’s paradise, especially when it comes to fly fishing. The state features quite a few cold-water species of fish for anglers to test their mettle against. Here are some of the species that one can fish for:

Cutthroat Trout

There are three subspecies of the cutthroat trout that are native to Colorado: the Greenback (the official state fish), the Rio Grande, and the Colorado. A number of habitat factors has decreased the range of the cutthroat trout, but the state has been working on extensive recovery efforts. This trout can be distinguished by their heavier spotting towards the tail and the appearance of a red slash on their lower jaws. The cutthroat usually does not grow larger than 12 inches in Colorado. This trout is found in clear, cold headwater streams, lakes, and small rivers that feature undercut banks, deep pools, and big boulders.

Rainbow Trout

The rainbow trout was introduced to Colorado in the 1880s and has become the main fish stocked within the state. This species is identifiable due to continuous black spotting on a light body and the appearance of a red stripe running down the side. The rainbow trout is usually between 12 to 16 inches in length, but they have been known to reach an overall size of 26 inches. The record for a rainbow trout in Colorado was 16 pounds, 10 ounces back in 2003. These fish are found in cold headwaters, lakes, and creeks, as well as small to large rivers that feature a variety of pools, riffles, and aquatic vegetation.

Brown Trout

The brown trout is native to Europe and Western Asia and was introduced to Colorado in 1890. The identifying characteristics of brown trout are black spots, reddish orange spots inside of light blue circles, and a tail fin that is not forked and has few to no dark spots. The brown trout has a typical size range from 13 to 17 inches, but they can reach a length of 26 inches or more. The record size for a brown trout in Colorado was in 1988 with a weight of 30 pounds, 8 ounces. These fish are commonly found in lower elevations in streams and rivers, but they can also tolerate warm water at certain times as well.

Brook Trout

The brook trout is native to the Eastern United States and Canada and was introduced to Colorado back in 1872. Their characteristics include red and white spots, a dark body, and pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins that are tri-colored (orange, black, and white). The brook trout is extremely prolific and can out-compete other types of trout. The Colorado record for a brook trout is 7 pounds, 10 ounces back in 1947. They are often found in higher elevation lakes, beaver dams, and streams.

Lake Trout

The lake trout (also called the Mackinaw) was introduced to Colorado in 1890 and is the largest trout in all of North America. They feature white spots on a dark body and have a deep fork in their tail. The record for the largest lake trout caught in Colorado is 44 pounds, 5 ounces from 2003. These fish are often found in mountain lakes and deeper water, but they can also be found in shallower areas during the fall and spring.

Kokanee Salmon

The kokanee salmon cannot spawn in Colorado, so they are re-populated through stocking. Males have no spots on their bodies, and this fish is usually bluish-green with silver sides through most of the year. In the fall, males feature a hooked mouth and a color change to deep red while females turn color to red, grey, or white. The Colorado record for a kokanee salmon is 6 pounds, 13 ounces from 1986. This fish is normally found in the mountain reservoirs of Colorado.

Mountain Whitefish

The mountain whitefish is native to the White and Yampa Rivers and has been introduced to the Colorado River and Cache la Poudre drainages. The mountain whitefish features larger scales than trout and an adipose fin towards the tail. It also has a smaller mouth than trout, making it a greater challenge for anglers. The record for a mountain whitefish in Colorado is 5 pounds, 2 ounces from 1982. They are found in many lakes as well as the Cache la Poudre, White, Yampa, and Roaring Fork rivers.