Telluride hosts some of the best fly fishing in Colorado. The San Miguel, Dolores, Uncompahgre and Gunnison are all accessible on a day trip basis from Telluride, offering variety and quality matched by few fly fishing destinations. Check out our detailed information regarding fly fishing locations professional guides, who will show you the best spots in our area for full- and half-day excursions.
The upper San Miguel River offers a destination for anglers operating on foot. Even without a car, you can simply walk west from Telluride to fish the gorgeous meanders of Telluride’s Valley Floor. If you're thinking bigger, rent a Jeep and take your SUP Board and fly rod to Alta Lakes or Priest Lake, which hold rainbow and brook trout. Sensational fishing is matched only by the stunning views.
The San Miguel is our backyard river, a terrific trout stream with more than 20 miles of public access just west from Telluride. Characterized by high-gradient pocket water, the San Miguel is famous for well-structured trout habitat and fish that love to eat dry flies. This is one of our best year-around rivers, with six different species of stoneflies that hatch from February through September, plus a huge population of Caddis, Pale Morning Dun Mayflies, Blue Winged Olives, midges and terrestrials... it's like a trout Thanksgiving every day!
Seasonality: The San Miguel has an excellent "pre-runoff" window from late February through mid-April. Spring skiers should pack a fly rod and plan to spend a day or two on the water. Runoff generally lasts from mid-April through late-June. This varies enormously from year-to-year because the San Miguel is an undammed stream. Peak dry fly fishing runs from early July through mid-September. "Dry-dropper" techniques are highly effective during this period and have become the primary method used by our guides. Late September, October, and early November can offer excellent nymphing and some dry fly action on the San Miguel. The river is low and highly wadeable during the gorgeous fall months.
The Uncompahgre is one of the real sleepers in Colorado. We have excellent public access at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk State Park, just eight miles north from Ridgway and less than an hour from Telluride. Two private leases provide access to secret water that gets very little pressure from other anglers.
The Uncompahgre is a dam-controlled river, providing relatively constant flows regardless of weather conditions. This plays a key role during summer months when rain can wash out area streams. In June, July, and August, the Uncompahgre boasts one of the best Pale Morning Dun mayfly hatches in Colorado. Midges, caddis, and plenty of terrestrials complete the food base. In lower sections of the Uncompahgre, sculpins, stoneflies and other large food items support a healthy brown trout population.
The Uncompahgre is also our best winter fishery, thanks to relatively low elevation (approx. 6,500 feet) and dam controlled tailwater flows. When other rivers freeze over, the Uncompahgre keeps on flowing. In the winter, trout feed primarily upon the abundant midge population, which lends to site-nymphing for fish suspended in relatively shallow water. Hefty trout are caught year-around in the Uncompahgre, with many of the true trophies coming during winter months.
The headwaters of the Dolores lie just south from Telluride, near Lizard Head Pass and the Wilson Mountain Range. Variety is the name of the game on the Upper Dolores. Between Lizard Head and the town of the Dolores, the watershed is fed by a dozen cutthroat and brook trout streams descending from alpine basins. The Main Fork and West Fork offer more than 75 miles of trout water. Willing fish and magnificent scenery make the Dolores a Colorado flyfishing classic.
The Upper Dolores is a checkerboard of public and private water. The seven miles on the main branch upstream from Rico is mostly public, whereas the 35 miles of water below Rico has only a few public access areas scattered between long stretches of private water.
Telluride Outside is proud to offer the best of both public and private water on the Dolores.
Below the McPhee Reservoir, the Dolores winds like a spring creek through a lush, low gradient valley. This is our most challenging dry fly water - a place for advanced anglers to test their skill and nerves. Anglers can expect to face many fly fishing challenges on the Lower Dolores.
The McPhee Reservoir, completed in the early 1980's, was constructed to manage water for irrigation. Pinto beans and water-intensive crops such as alfalfa are grown in this arid land, pulling most of the water out of the Lower Dolores. In low water years, fish numbers decline and the trout seem to scatter. Locating fish and carefully stalking them plays a critical role in our approach. When we find fish, it is necessary to make a pinpoint presentation to fool them.
Lower Dolores trout grow to great size and become exceedingly wary in thin, air-clear water. We normally fish with long, light leaders, so playing fish can be a delicate process. Even when throwing grasshoppers, we typically fish leaders over 12 feet in length.
Tricky conditions are at least partly balanced by phenomenal insect hatches. The year's first grasshoppers appear in April, followed by beetles and blue-winged olives. Caddis appear in early June, with Pale Morning Duns coming on strong near the end of the month. Terrestrials, such as hoppers, ants, and beetles, play a major role all the way through October. As the PMDs decline in late July, mahogany duns, blue-winged olives and midges fill the void. Watch for the amazing orange-winged grasshopper, which materializes in late August most years. Smart fish make stupid mistakes when it's around. Late fall features intermittent midge hatches and blue-winged olives that hatch on cloudy days.
Telluride Angler offers float fishing trips on the Lower Gunnison River and wade fishing on two sections of the Gunnison (inner Canyon wade fishing is through our friends at Black Canyon Anglers, CO Outfitter #618). The mighty Gunnison is one of Colorado's legendary trout streams, famous for voracious browns and rainbows that can reach two feet in length. We wade the Gunnison from several trail access points in the Black Canyon, including the Chukar, Bobcat, Duncan and Ute trails, as well as the lower river from the Gunnison forks. 1-day float fishing trips are available on the lower stretch, beginning at the forks and fishing six miles downstream to Gunnison River Farms.