Colorado Small Fish Report

David Holmes

Formerly known as "capmblade"
2006 August Colorado Fishing Report

Rocky Mtn National Park

We were given some bad information. One of the gents at the Great Western fly shop in Loveland said that the fishing was great up there. He outlined some rivers and sold me some flies and the next morning we got up early and made the drive to the park. We paid our $20 to get into the park and dropped into the moraine park. This is where the Thompson comes out of a canyon into a moraine and splits into a half-dozen small creeks across the big moraine field. We tried to be stealthy as we fished but it was tough because the wind was blowing and there was a lot of stuff to get your fly caught on.

I put my rod down and just looked around and realized that the only things in these little creeks were little 6 in fish. Disgusted, we packed up to leave and I talked with some anglers who were stringing up their 2 wts in the parking area. The guy said he fished there a lot and that 20# or smaller flies were required for these smart, smart fish. He must have seen the look on my face because he said something like "yeah they're all small fish but who cares?"

Well, I care, but I didn't say anything. Just wished him good luck. Anglers were starting to show up all over the moraine now -- all stalking scared little 6" fish.

So we drove to another little creek and found the same kind of situation. I managed to raise a 4" fish and then just plain quit. We were walking back to the truck again when an angler appeared out of the woods on the other side of the meadow. He motioned for me to come over but I was pretty pissed off by this point so I just stood there and let him huff over to me. Turns out he was a guide and wanted to know how I'd done. I told him we were only able to raise one fish and he said Really? You should have had several. Why myself I've had a great morning. I landed a couple of nice browns and some brookies.

"How big?" I queried.

Well the browns were about this big he said and he held his fingers about 7 inches apart, and the brooks about this far apart (5 inches). Again, I don't think I could hide the expression on my face. I wanted to shake him and say "I fish with FLIES bigger than that!" But I just wished him good luck and we drove back to Loveland, discouraged.

Cache La Poudre

The next morning we drove to Fort Collins and stopped at St. Pete's fly shop. Delightful place. The proprietor told us that fishing was pretty much limited to mornings and evenings this time of year and we were running late but what can you do. So we bought some flies and and a hat and drove up to the first fly-fishing only section. We fished that beautiful river for a couple of hours. I hooked a 10" fish on my first cast but then nothing after that for a while. Eventually I was able to get a couple of grabs on a hopper but the fish didn't get hooked.

So we were skunked there too, but we had only fished a couple of hours at the wrong time of the day so I didn't feel too badly about it. I know I'll be fishing it again in the future and now I know where some nice runs are. Next time I might fish the upper selective gear water because its by the hatchery.

Delaney Butte Lakes

After that we drove on to Walden and stopped at the fly shop there. They gave us the skinny on the North Platte river as it enters the Routt national forest (gold medal water). We decided we'd fish that water next morning and the delaney butte lakes this afternoon. I bought some more flies (note: I had now spent $200 at 3 different flyshops and still not caught any fish).

We spent about three hours pounding the shores of North Delaney butte, which is Gold Medal water where they have browns and rainbows that are larger than small children. Of course, we didn't see them. Eventually, we decided to take a break from the gold medal water and drove 1 minute away to the South Delaney butte lake. We could see fish rising so we waded out into the lake.

The bed of the lake turned out to be some kind of black muck that, when you stepped into it bubbled up some horrifically stinky gas. It was like fishing in an outhouse. But there were fish rising so we stayed for a bit. I landed two rainbows, one was about 8" and the other 13" on a ratty old BWO that I had tied myself over the winter. There is some irony there somewhere about spending all that money on local flies and then catching your fish with your own tried and true piece of s... flies.

Amy was skunked and none too happy about it.

We stayed that night at the "Roundup motel" which featured a sign out front that said "bikers welcome." So there were a lot of bikers there. We actually had dinner with one of them at the Antler Inn (the nice place in town). He looked pretty scruffy but after we got to talking to him it turned out that he was a quite worldly. Of course, he was a CPA. He had recently married a spanish girl and they had taken a 7 month bike tour through 31 countries of Europe (every country except Bulgaria I think) for their honeymoon. This time he had shipped his bike to Alaska and had driven it to Sturgiss and after that he was taking a detour through Colorado on his way home. He ordered a vodka martini "up" and "dirty" and I had to ask him what those meant. Isn't it funny the images that bikers project -- its almost completely opposite of who they really are these days.

North Platte

The next morning we got up at 4:30 and got to the North Platte around 6:00. We hiked a half mile in and started fishing the river as it neared the canyon. To make a long story slightly less long, we only found one pool that had fish in it. I got a couple of taps on a dry and Amy nymphed through it with no success. She was about to take off her nymphing gear when I said let's just trade rods, so we did. I nymped through the pool and picked up a 13" brown. And then a 14" brown on a snow cone. Pretty fish. We fished all the way down into the canyon and then back again and I only picked up one more fish, in that same hole. Amy saw a brown that she swears was 24" and she fished to it for a while. She said it was in surprisingly shallow water.

By the end of that day Amy was ready to break her rod over her knee. She even yelled at me for a few minutes. She was skunked the entire trip.

But then she was over it. You know, sometimes when you hit new water you have to rely on luck because you don't know what you are doing yet.

Me? In three days I landed only 5 fish, none over 14". That's tough fishin.

Because I accidentally dunked our digital camera, the only picture I have is me zipping up after pissing the moraine.


Thanks for the detailed report, sorry to hear it turned out that way, but a lot of it sounds familiar. I've quit going to fly shops in new areas for advice. Seems like you always end up with a new batch of "can't miss" flys and a thinner wallet.
North Park has some great fishing but it can be very difficult if you don't know it well.
You certainly were hitting all the high spots in Walden; the Hoover Roundup and the Antler Inn. Don't know the Antler but stayed at the Roundup during the annual ice fishing contest many years ago. The Hilton it ain't.
If you make it back sometime, capmblade, the Poudre can be kinder with more water in it, and that stretch by the hatchery that you fished does hold some good fish, probably the best in the river. North Delaney for big browns in late September/early October is a good bet and the North Platte in Northgate Canyon is one of favorites in September, but north of where you went, in Wyoming. It's hike-in fishing with few people and it can be great hopper fishing.
Hope it turns out better next time.:thumb:
Yep, all the big fish in Colorado have been taken by locals. Just a few small ones left for the tourists. I know that story. I've got about $1,500 wrapped up in gear for salmon and steelhead. Guess how many I've brought to hand over several trips to Washington? Did get a dink out of Fortson Hole using a nymph on my last trip, though. Fishing new water can be a challenge. Hope that you enjoyed Colorado otherwise. We've been getting quite a bit of rain and it's about as green as I've ever seen it this time of year.
Was on the big thompson in moraine over the past weekend as well. Took one 10" brown on a bugger swung under the undercut banks but other than that only fish under 6 inches on dries. Too much work for such a little reward- lots of kneeling behind the tall grass on the banks. I did see one that had to go 14" in a side channel but no chance of catching it.

The thompson below the park and lake estes can be a lot more rewarding.

sorry for the bad luck, though it makes the good trips that much better.

I love your reports. Especially since they remind me of the wonderful State of Colorado.


Fly Fishing in the North Front Range is certainly an acquired taste---with lots of 7x stuff, stealth, etc. Nevertheless, in all of those creeks up there (Big T, Poudre, St. Vrain, Boulder, etc) you can find the occasional fish over 20 inches. These fish just aren't really dial-up lunkers. Delaney and the N. Platte both really do have big-uns but it takes time to find them.

A lot of guides these days are showing their clients a good time by piercing some wary 5 inch brookies and charging dudes a bundle for it (dude: an East Coast dweller vacationing on a Western Ranch). But those brookies have a hard time of it. The creeks are frozen by mid to late October and thaw out in late May.

I think that North Park trout fishing is not really about big trout, rather about nature. I'm sure you saw some beautiful stuff out there. And that wonderful, thin Rocky Mountain air in August is truly amazing.

Give it another try sometime. There is another dimension to the North Park trout fishery, and not just the carp in the scrap water on the praries.

By the way, you might be able to read the memory chip even after dumping your camera. The memory might be intact and you may be able to read the chip using a different functinoal camera device.

Thank you for your informative report.

Sincerely, Chris.

P.S. I do recall that Morain Park was a great place to shake the dew off your willey.


dude_1967 said:

I think that North Park trout fishing is not really about big trout, rather about nature. I'm sure you saw some beautiful stuff out there. And that wonderful, thin Rocky Mountain air in August is truly amazing.

David Holmes

Formerly known as "capmblade"

thank you for your considerate words. You know, you are right; after thinking about it, it WAS really beautiful up there. We didn't see much wildlife (some elk) but the rarified air was a delight to breath early in the morning. I already miss it.

In reading my post over again it sounds kind of snide and that is not really representative of how I felt about it while we were there. We had a good time up there and we should have approached the north platt with a better attitude.

I think we were just so desperate to get into some fish after having such bad luck in RMNP.

Our next trip to CO probably won't be until springtime. Maybe then I'll be able to use all them flies I bought! :) :) :)
Thanks for sharing the details. I'll be in that area next week with more focus on the Wyoming side of the N. Platte since my base will be Laramie. I've done best on the Delaney Butte lakes fishing evenings and at night. That region takes years to explore.



Native Trout Hunter
I was over that way not to long ago and for the same thing with small brookies in the park. I fished the Colorado River in the park for quite a while and I think all of the fish was 8" or less. I actually found better trout fishing in a creek about 2 feet wide in most spots than I did in the river.

If you are ever at Rocky Mountain National park again, you should give fishing for some greenback cutthroat a try. Most of them are smaller some 12" or 14" fish can be found though and they have to be one of the most beautiful trout on earth.