Fishing in the San Juan Mountains

There is some fantastic fishing to be found here in Telluride. You can choose to hike up to some of the nearby prisitine alpine lakes with your gear, float down the river, or take a short drive to a variety of lakes close to town. The San Juans have it all. No matter where you go, the surroudning beauty at each spot is enough to make the day more than enjoyable. In July you will find gorgeous meadows blooming with wildflowers along quiet creeks. In Autumn, the leaves on the Aspen trees will be glowing a golden yellow through early October.

There are a number of rivers -The Dolores, The San Miguel, and the Gunnison River- that you can fish and acclimitize at before taking to the trails to reach the area's many beautiful alpine lakes. Whether you're just learning or consider yourself an expert, you're bound to find the perfect spot to fish. Please remember to catch and release in respect for the alpine waters ecosystem.

Want to book a guided fly fishing trip? Contact our good friends at Telluride Outside

Here are a couple of our favorite spots:

Town Park: Easy Fishing, fly and spinner. Great for the Family, Kids 12 and under.

Alta Lakes: Easy Fishing, casual fly or spinner. The town of Alta is a historic 1870’s mining town on the National Register of Historic Places, and Alta Lakes are quite picturesque. To get here, go six miles south of Telluride on Hwy 145 to Alta Lakes Road. To reach the now ghost town of Alta, stay on the main road for 4 miles. To reach the lakes, turn right at the town and follow the signs to Alta Lakes.

San Miguel River Trail in Telluride: Easy Fishing, casual fly or spinner. This is a great scenic fishing spot around the river which can be accessed by foot from practically any part of the south end of Telluride. It is a perfect warm up, a leisurely walk for those who would like to acclimatize to altitude. It has recently been expanded to be 2.75 miles one way, with just a 170 ft. elevation gain. The trail begins on the east end of town at Town Park, and ends in the west towards the valley floor, at Boomerang Road. Remember, the Valley Floor is preservation land closed to the public so please do not enter here.

San Miguel River on Valley Floor: Easy to moderate fishing, fly and spinner. The San Miguel is one of two free flowing rivers left in Colorado. It originates in the basins surrounding Telluride, and has miles of great, accessible fishing. The main river holds mostly Rainbow and Brown trout, and the side creeks and head waters hold Brookies and Cutthroats. Fishing season here is best between late June and the end of October, but March and April can promise some pretty big fish. This is a great location to improve beginner skills, and while it is a somewhat “non-technical” river, there will be some challenging situations here. Right in Telluride’s back yard, this river is a great spot to check out. 

The Gunnison River: There is some GREAT fishing here! Easy to moderate, fly and spinner. The Gunnison Gorge (the lower 14 miles of the  Black Canyon of the Gunnison River) holds some large Browns and Rainbows. It is a designated Wilderness Study Area, so access is difficult and there is very little commercial use. There are a few loacations with beautiful wildlife and scenery, considered a premier location on the United States. Float trips and walk-and-wade trips are available. Please follow BLM regulations, all trips are pack-in-pack-out.

The Dolores: Another great spot, there is easy to moderate fishing here, fly and spinner. To access, follow Hwy. 145 below McPhee Dam outside Cortez on the South end of Telluride. The Dolores River begins from the mountains above Lizard Head Pass. The “Upper Dolores” is a freeflow stream similar to the San Miguel. Below the McPhee Reservoir is an 11 mile stretch of waters that house big Cutthroats, Browns, and Rainbows. Note that these waters contain some picky trout and the spring-creek like conditions can prove to challenge everyone.

Lizard Head Wilderness Area: Tough fishing here. Fly and Spinnner. This area is home to some of the most rugged mountains of the Southwest, with 14,000  peaks and beautiful high-altitude hiking.

Trout Lake: Awesome fishing! Family fishing, easey to moderate, fly and spinner. This vast, gorgeous lake sits at the base of 14,000 ft mountains that provide a breathtaking backdrop to a day on the lake. Boats, waders, or shore fishing allowed. A great place to take the kids. This can be found 12 miles South of Telluride on Hwy 145.

Bear Creek Canyon: Tough fishing, Fly only. This is a very beautiful and popular hike found right here in town to scenic waterfalls. The hike is two miles out and two miles back up a gradual road, but the fishing is tough. Enter the trail from the end of South Pine Street and follow the trail up the canyon.

Deep Creek: Tough fishing, Fly only. To access this fishing area, you will need your hiking legs. It is a 6.5 mile hike one way, with 1,672 ft. elevation gain. Deep Creek can be accessed from the Jud Wiebe trailhead at N. Aspen Street or at Mill Creek.

Silver Lake: Tough fishing, Fly or Spinner. This is a beautiful, pristine alpine lake that can be hiked to from just above the power plant at Bridal Veil Falls. The fishing is Moderate to Difficult, and the hike is quite steep and tiring. In the end, the views and tranquility are all worth it. The hike is about 5.25 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. Beautiful wild flowers will be found in the meadows in mid July!

fly fishing telluride

Telluride,  Colorado  81435
United States
(970) 728-3895