The mountains and valleys of Northwest Colorado offer countless opportunities to fish for trout, and in many cases, the farther you are willing to walk down a wilderness trail, the better your chances of catching lots of fish.
But it's an ironic fact that some of your best opportunities to catch a large trout are within the city limits of Steamboat Springs.
Thanks to a catch-and-release policy on the Yampa River in town and an ambitious stream habitat improvement program, the Yampa is fishing better than ever before. The trout are surviving long enough to get both big and smart. And there is ample public access along the Yampa River Core Trail.
It's possible to have breakfast in a restaurant on Lincoln Avenue and be casting to rising trout within 10 minutes of finishing your omelet.
Special regulations on the Yampa prevail for 4.8 miles from the first stoplight on your way into town from Rabbit Ears Pass at the confluence of Walton Creek, all the way through town to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. The fishing regulations limit fishing techniques to flies and lures only. All trout must be returned to the water immediately upon catch. Anglers are free to keep toothy northern pike.
Significant hatches and fly patterns include pale morning dun mayflies in June. Look for caddis flies and grasshoppers in July.
For families that want to dunk a worm of salmon eggs so the kiddies can catch a trout and take it home for dinner, Fetcher Pond, a city park, can't be beat. From U.S. 40 in town near Safeway, turn west at the light on Pine Grove Road and cross the railroad tracks. The pond is well-stocked with pan-sized trout.
Youngsters under the age of 16 may fish at no charge. Adult annual: $40.25 Five-day $18.25 One-day $5.25 * The cost of the license includes a 25 cent fee that protects the holder in case they need search and rescue services. * The daily bag limit for trout is four fish and the possession limit is 8 fish. The possession limit means anglers can't pile up trout in their coolers day after day. The possession limit for brook trout is 10 fish, 8 inches or less in length.
Other fishing hotspots within a day's drive of Steamboat include:
Yampa River State Park west of Hayden boasts a fine campground, however the park really comprises 13 different access points on the river stretching all the way into Moffat County. There is trout fishing in the upper stretches, some great stream fishing for smallmouth bass in Moffat County and pike fishing throughout. Call (970) 276-2061.
Delaney Buttes Lakes in Jackson County (on the east side of the Park Range from Steamboat) offers spectacular scenery and promising fishing when the wind isn't blowing too hard. The fish in these three lakes grow at a rapid rate. North Delaney represents some of the best lake fishing for brown trout in the state, but they are tough to catch from shore in summer. The best bet for a high catch rate is South Delaney, with its population of Snake River Cutthroats. East Delaney has rainbows. From Steamboat drive approximately 60 miles to Walden via U.S. 40 and Colorado 14.
Wolford Mountain Reservoir, between Steamboat Springs and Kremmling on U.S. 40 has gained a reputation for producing 16-inch trout. We recommend you return home over Gore Pass via Colorado 134, and enjoy driving down the Yampa River to Stagecoach Reservoir on the way back to Steamboat. Stagecoach has been blessed with stockings of mature trout the last two autumns and is producing two-pounders.
Steamboat Lake is the undisputed king of fishing destinations in the area. It's a beautiful 30-mile drive northwest of Steamboat springs on County Road 129. Visitors to state parks will be required to pay a $5 daily admission. During the past two seasons of drought, many thousands of trout originally destined to be stocked elsewhere were released in Steamboat Lake. Through the Fourth of July holiday, bank fishing is a great option either with bait or flies. From June into early July, fly fishers do well with woolly buggers or with damselfly nymphs. Later in July and in August, the trout will seek deeper cooler water. Renting a boat and rigging fishing tackle to fish deep is the best option. n