Hello fishermen. Iím planning a fly-fishing trip this summer in the Rockies and would appreciate any input on some must-fish waters for late July/early August. I live in the Midwest and only get out to the Rockies once a year if Iím lucky so I like to make the most of it. I donít mind having to backpack to secluded areas for good fishing (I actually prefer it). Iím pretty much limited to CO, WY, and maybe lower MT. If you have any must hit spots or just good general regions Iíd love to hear um.
We have many members who will be able to give their best advice and I would expect some of it to come to you via PM's (private messages) lots of us won't put our favorite spot on the open internet, it's a fishing thing................
The best way to go if you want to use the forum as a resource is to keep posting to the forum threads and let all the people get to know you from your posts. This way you may actually find someone who would be willing to meet up with someone new to their area and help them out. You gotta work the 'getting to know you' angle before someone will tell you their favorite fishing spot. You'll find that this forum is like a giant trout fishing club that meets every day. New members are warmly accepted and the people are willing to share what they know especially if it appears you are going to stick around.
Welcome to the group and I hope you become a regular and make some friends here,
You mentioned a pretty big area (lower Montana to Colorado). However, I would definitely suggest the Bighorn. It is one of the best trip destinations I have found in this part of the US. Hire a guide for a day, drift the river, and you will catch loads of fish in the 16-18 inch range. Some bigger.
In Wyoming, the North Platte - both the Miracle Mile and the Grey Reef sections. They are about four hours south of the Bighorn.
Colorado - the Colorado River is a great float. Other than that, it depends on the type of fishing you want to do. Colorado rivers are very diverse and the entire western half of the state is absolutely full of fishable water.
Keep in mind - from late May to mid July you will be in potentially high water.
You mentioned backpacking specifically. The fish aren't going to be quite as big as the famed roadside waters of the Rocky Mtn West, but high mountain fly fishing is a much more rewarding experience and there are definitely some nice trout around. If uncrowded fishing is what you're looking for, go to the back country. If you don't mind spending a few bucks, buy Rich Osthoff's Fly Fishing the Rocky Mountain Backcountry. Half of the book features dozens of trailheads and hundreds of his favorite lakes in CO, WY, and MT. He spent 20 summers backpacking the Rockies. His favorite areas are the Wind River Range in Wyoming and the Beartooth Mountains in Montana. Both areas are very accessible from the Midwest. Osthoff himself lives in Wisconsin.
I bought the book five years ago, and really dived into it. I've made over 30 long backpacking trips in CO, WY, and MT, all recommendations from his book. If you can easily hike 30-35 miles on a trip, you can't go wrong with the Winds or the Beartooths. If you can only handle shorter trips, try Rocky Mountain National Park and its dozens of greenback cutthroat lakes. The Big Horn Mountain Range central Wyoming is the closest range to the Midwest, and is filled with good high-lakes that are less than a ten mile hike in.
The best book specifically for fishing one particluar area is: Fishing the Beartooths by Marcusson. There are about 300 lakes in the Beartooths and this book lists fish species, abundance, stocking levels and roatations, and the accessability for each lake. It's a must have if you're headed to the Lake Plateau.
And yes, I know of at least a dozen hot lakes, but I would never tell a soul........I worked too hard to find them. But there is enough great fishing in the Winds and Beartooths to keep a hiker scrambing for a lifetime.
In addition to what Gary posted above, if you're primarily wading, I'd also consider the Frying Pan in Basalt, CO and the Roaring Fork, both have plenty of public access. The South Platte near Fairplay, CO and Deckers can also provide some very nice fishing. If you have a float tube or pontoon boat and like stillwaters, then take a look at the Delaney Buttes lakes just west of Walden, CO. The small streams in the Snowy's just west of Laramie provide some very good fishing if you like small mountain streams and not afraid to hike in a little. The North Platte in the Medicine Bow National Forrest also has some excellent fishing if you like to hike into the remote country.
I'm biased and like big rivers in MT. I also fish 90% dry flies so that eliminates a lot of areas where people push bobbers (a.k.a. strike indicators). If you can't make it to western MT Bitterroot/ Clark Fork/ Missouri my home waters, I'd recommend the Big Horn, the Still water, and if you want to hike into mountain lakes check out the Red Lodge area. The Beartooth has a lot of smaller streams and lakes with good trout numbers and species variety.
If you want to wack big fish on dry flies than go west young man and check out Western MT and our home water!
I live in Colorado and fish the Rocky Mt Park and North Park areas quite a bit. I think based on your comment of willing to hike you are looking for a little seclusion. North Platte at Grey Reef and Miracle mile from what I understand can be combat fishing. Check out the other end of the North Platte where it starts in North Park and goes in to Wyoming. You will find much more open space and smaller crowds. North Park Anglers are great guys at pointing you in the right direction or guiding you. If you contact one of the fly shops in Laramie (cant remember nanes right now) I have heard their is some great small stream secluded fishing just West (NW) of Laramie.
If you want real seclusion pick up Steve Schweitzer's book fly fishing Rocky Mountain National Park. Fish range from 6"-13" predominantly but if you are able to hike more than say 1 mile you will have lots of river to yourself.
As far as time of year almost anything after mid august will be on fire. Bring lots of size 18 Parachuute Adams and be prepared to catch fish.
Hello All! Big fan of the boards, however I've never posted before.
I'll also be doing an extended trip through the Rockies this summer. Along with the great infromation already posted, I was hoping some folks would be willing to share some 'can't miss' towns they've visited in Montana, Wyoming and northern Colorado. I've fished countless times in NM and southern Colorado, however I've never had an opportunity to go much further north. Hoping to change that this summer, as I'll have 2-3 weeks to drive/fish/hike/camp at my leisure.
I recognize that this is a pretty open-ended question as there is a lot of varity out there, but thats sorta what I'm looking for. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated!
Can't miss towns well here it goes.
There are a few real small trout towns in MT that are fun to visit and are on some of the best rivers in the world. Try Ennis/ Madison river, Craig/ Missouri river, Dillon/ Beaverhead/bighole rivers, These towns are trout Mecca with flyshops, bars, guides and hospitality.
Bigger towns with trout water close my would be Bozeman/ Madison, yellowstone rivers, Livingston/ yellowstone river and my favorite Missoula/ Bitteroot, Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Rock Creek. These towns don't have the small town appeal but have multiple flyshops with great info and trout infested rivers close by not to mention motels, universities, many other recreational opportunities. I chose Missoula years ago to fish/guide mainly because there are 400 miles of river in 4 directions within an hours drive of Missoula where you can float all day, stick great fish, and not see another drift boat if you know what you are doing.
hope this helps
Go to the Flat Tops!!! The Flat Tops Wilderness is arguably the finest backcountry fly fishing area in Colorado, and the place is perfect if you only have a week or two to cram in some unforgettable fly fishing.
There is a wide variety of fishable waters. The Bear River drains the eastern portion of the wilderness. The Bear River itself has great fishing for medium sized rainbows and browns along with numerous reservoirs, car campgrounds, and backcountry trailheads along the Bear River. Again, you mentioned backpacking. Check out this fun little trip: Destinations: Flat Tops I've done this trip and there are some nice 10-14" cutts in Island Lake. You can also car camp along the Bear River next to some very good reservoirs that are stocked with 'bow and brown fingerlings. My wife and I car camp each June next to the Stillwater Reservoirs and always have a riot catching and consuming copius amounts of 12-14" trout.
And an absolute gem is Trapper's Lake in the northion portion of the Flat Tops. Again, there are great car campgrounds and backcountry trailheads in the Trapper's area, which is at the headwaters of the White River. You could spend a week alone fishing Trapper's and the North Fork of the White River. Trapper's Lake is the second largest natural lake in Colorado (about 350 acres) and is home to one of Colorado's finest cutthroat fisheries.
But the best part of the Flat Tops is its backcountry lakes, most of them containing very decent populations of cutthroats and brookies. As Othoff describes in his book: "As its name implies, much of the wilderness is high, gently undulating plateau. Once you're atop this plateau, a short steep climb of about 1,500 feet from most trailheads, you can cruise for miles through sparsely timbered meadows with very little change in elevation. Most of the plateau lakes lie between 10,600 and 11,200 feet in elevation and have wide-open shorelines, where you can double haul to your heart's content. Trails run to or near most lakes, but cross-country travel options are unlimited."
Backpacking in the Flat Tops is pure bliss. Because of its level topography and timbered meadows, I've never seen an area so filled with the most perfect backcountry campsites in my life. You say you are going late July/August which is the ideal time for backcountry travel at altitude in the Rockies. And you also noted a degree of seclusion. Although you won't be 100% alone in the Flat Tops, you won't see throngs of people either. The area is popular with elk hunters, but they don't come out until the Fall. Speaking of elk, you are sure to see a few grand herds atop the plateau in the open country. And due to the plateau's lack of high mountain peaks, the D-bag peak baggers, yuppies, and hippies are absent. I've done 6-7 backcountry trips into the Flat Tops and I usually run into only a handful of other hikers and horse-packers per day. Again, there are very few high peaks to gaze at, but the incredible sweeping vistas of the Flat Tops are unparalled.
Getting there is a snap if you're coming from the midwest. I assume from your OP that you'll be traveling west on either I-80 or I-70 which both funnel straight into Denver. From Denver it's another 3-4 easy hours to the trailheads in the Flat Tops. I know of a few hot lakes in the Flat Tops. If you are serious about heading there, shoot me a PM and I'll fill you in cause you sound like a nice person!!