Colorado could be considered the Western mecca for fly anglers with Montana being a close second. Colorado has a much better infrastructure that makes it easier for anglers to fly into large airports, rent cars, and find good lodging. In addition to the infrastructure Colorado has a rating criteria that classifies a stretch of water as a Gold Medal section. To get the label Gold Medal water, the area must be able to produce a minimum of twelve 14+ inch trout per acre. It has to produce 60 pounds of standing stock (the amount of living organisms in the ecosystem- including fish, plant life and micro invertebrates) per acre, and the water is accessible to the public. Listed below are the areas that have received this title.
Animas River – 4 miles between Lightner Creek to Rivera Crossing Bridge. Known for holding rainbow and brown trout averaging 16 inches.
Arkansas River – 102 miles between the Lake Fork confluence and hwy 50 bridge. This once highly toxic mining river has taken decades to clean up but the fruits are now beginning to bear. Browns make up the bulk of the fishery.
Blue River – 34 miles starting at the exit of Dillion Reservoir and follows Highway 9 until the water meets with the Colorado River in Kremmling. The entire stretch is artificial fly and lure only. A medley of species call this area home.
Colorado River – 20 miles of the Colorado River between the US 40 bridge to the confluence with the Williams Fork River east of Kremmling is designated a Gold Medal river. Brook, brown and rainbow trout all call the area home. Regulations vary along this stretch.
Fryingpan River – Below the Ruedi Dam downstream to the confluence with the Roaring Fork River, about 14 miles of the river has achieved Gold Medal status. The section of the river is catch and release only with both browns and rainbows.
Roaring Fork – Where the Fryingpan kisses the Roaring Fork, the water remains a Gold Medal section for 22 miles until it joins the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Mountain whitefish aka Rocky Mountain Bonefish, browns and rainbows take up residents.
Gunnison River – Rainbows and giant browns are found in the Gold Medal section of the Gunnison River between the Crystal Reservoir dam downstream to the confluence with the Smith Fork. The section of the Gunnison flows through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument. The canyon is no joke so be prepared. This section is 27 miles long.
Upper Rio Grande River – West of Del Norte, the Rio Grande river holds tank browns and rainbows, making it a Gold Medal waters. The 17 mile stretch flows from the Colorado 149 bridge at South Fork downstream to the Rio Grande Canal diversion.
South Platte River aka the Golden Boy – Two sections of the South Platte River make up Gold Medal streams. The first is about 20 miles from the Colorado 9 bridge downstream to Spinney Mountain Reservoir. The second section is below Spinney Mountain to the inlet of Eleven Mile Reservoir, about 4 miles. This section is commonly known as the “Dream Stream.” The third section is from the lower boundary of the Wigwam Club downstream to Scraggy View Picnic Ground. Be prepared for PhD level fish with long leaders and microscopic flies.
(We think it’s IMPORTANT that we give y’all options since we know not everyone enjoys large rivers and 15 ft leaders. There’s a growing sector that enjoys small, intimate settings where not seeing other anglers is more of a priority than catching big fish. These two smaller Gold Medal streams are small but still no push over.)
Gore Creek – One of the smallest sections of Gold Medal waters in Colorado is Gore Creek. The section is about 4 miles between the confluence with Red Sandstone Creek downstream to the confluence with the Eagle River. Browns are the main target in this stream.
North Platte River – A true sleeper of the Gold Medal waters is the North Platte River. The section flows from the southern boundary of the Routt National Forest downstream to the Wyoming state line. Although the section is smaller in distance, the brook, rainbow and brown trout are worth the drive.
If none of these waters interest you there are plenty of other waters to keep you busy. Unlike Georgia just about any ditch in Colorado has trout! Stay safe and enjoy the summer!
For more information about specific streams check out the resources below: