Roaring Fork Valley Fly Fishing

The Roaring Fork Valley is world-famous for its outstanding fly fishing. With several stretches of Gold Medal trout water, anglers from all over the country travel to the valley year-round to explore its rivers in hopes of landing huge rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of a Roaring Fork Valley fly fishing experience.

The Roaring Fork Valley’s Best Rivers

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller creeks and tributaries that empty into the Roaring Fork Valley. Unfortunately, we can’t cover all the fly fishing that exists in the majority of them and instead this guide focuses on the three most productive fly fishing rivers in the valley.

Roaring Fork Valley Gold Medal Waters

The Colorado Wildlife Commission designates a section of a river ‘Gold Medal’ if it is home to at least 12 14” trout, can produce 60 pounds of standing stock (living organisms) per acre, and is accessible to the public. The Roaring Fork and Frying Pan rivers are home to 36 of Colorado’s 322 miles of Gold Medal waters.

Roaring Fork River Fly Fishing

The Roaring Fork river flows for 70 miles and drops over a mile in elevation from the top of Independence Pass until it empties into the Colorado river and becomes a part of it. Locally known as ‘The Fork,’ The Roaring Fork offers itself to a wide array of fly fishing opportunities from amazing float fishing near its mouth to pocket water fishing in the high country.

Don’t miss the stretch of the Roaring Fork designated as Gold Medal waters. This portion of the river begins at the Roaring Fork’s confluence with the Frying Pan river and runs downstream to the mouth of the river where it converges with the Lower Colorado. Wading is recommended between Basalt and Carbondale and amazing float fishing can be found below Carbondale all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Fly Fishing on the Frying Pan River

‘The Pan,’ as locals call it, is famous for its year-round fly fishing access, Gold Medal waters designation, and impressive insect hatches. It flows 14 miles from the Ruedi Reservoir Dam until it runs into the Roaring Fork in the town of Basalt. It is the ideal habitat for brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout, all of which thrive in large numbers in the Pan.

One of the many reasons the Pan is such a popular fly fishing river is its relatively consistent year-round flows. Being a tailwater fishery, it typically doesn’t get blown out the way other rivers in the area do during the spring thaw. Wading is the best way to access the entirety of the river and there are a few sections on private property closed to the public.

Lower Colorado River Fly Fishing

The mighty Colorado runs from Rocky Mountain National Park all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The section of the Colorado River frequented by Roaring Fork Valley anglers runs from the middle of Glenwood Canyon through the town of Rifle. From Glenwood Springs, anglers can head up-river to walk-wade the river in search of the massive brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout that live in it.

Below Glenwood Springs, the river is less turbulent making it ideal for float fishing. Walk-wading below Glenwood Springs can be challenging as the river is extremely wide and there are large sections of inaccessible shoreline on private property.

Helpful Roaring Fork Valley Fly Fishing Tips

  • Anyone between the ages of 16 and 64 will need a fly fishing license. You can get one-day, five-day and annual licenses at local grocery stores, fly shops, or online.
  • Keep in mind that all the fishing in Gold Medal waters is catch and release and barbless hooks must be used. All other waters in the valley are recommended catch and release.
  • If you need fishing gear there are dozens of fly fishing outfitters and fly shops in the valley.
  • The rod of choice in the Roaring Fork Valley is a 9” 5 weight. Check local river reports or stop in a local fly shop to find out which hatches are happening and which flies are hot in various areas throughout the Valley.
  • The Roaring Fork and the Colorado get blown out by spring runoff from April through June. The Frying Pan still fishes well in those months.
  • If you want a bit of guidance, make sure to book a guide service well in advance. Outfitters and guides get very busy in the summer months.

Now that you know the basics of Roaring Fork Valley Fly Fishing, it’s time to hit the rivers and try your own luck!