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Big Thompson River

Starting as a mere trickle on the east side of the Continental Divide, inside Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Thompson flows from Forest Canyon Pass near the top of Trail Ridge Road through Forest Canyon. As small drainages offer additional snowmelt, the Big Thompson picks up volume, turning into one of Colorado’s finest streams.

The Big Thompson becomes fishable at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, about six miles downstream of its headwaters. It’s there at Moraine Park, where the river splits into numerous braids and channels, that fisherman encounter the river’s first public access. Trails leading up and down the river from that point will lead you to great flyfishing experiences.

Moraine is a wide-open area, but the Big Thompson’s banks are lined with willows. It’s typical small stream conditions, and the river is filled with, you guessed it, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout in the 6- to 12-inch range. They’ll readily take a variety of general attractor flies.

River description excerpted from Flyfisher's Guide to Colorado by Marty Bartholomew

River description excerpted from Flyfisher’s Guide to Colorado by Marty Bartholomew

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Latest Guide Report

Fishing Report Date: 01-25-2015

What started out as a promising and beautiful day quickly gave way to wind, and plenty of it! From 8am to 10 it was calm enough that there were sporadic rises, and fish were keying in on Midges. As is typical with the tailwater at Estes Park during the winter months though, the wind came roaring out of the park and never quit after that. With the low flows, an extremely light dry dropper rig worked great in the morning, allowing even the lightest take to be sensed, but it became difficult to manage once the wind picked up. Eventually we switched to a euro-rig and were able to convince a few more fish to dance throughout the day.

Fish were definitely stacked up in the deep holes, but even with a rig scraping the bottom, we had to work to find the fish that were actually feeding. Even though it’s typically crowded below the dam, don’t sit on the same fish for too long. Cover some ground, find open holes and look for feeding fish.

The wind seemed to shut the midge bite down a bit after 10. Before that, size 22 Barr’s Pure Midge in cream worked well trailed behind a heavy zebra midge, calico midge or poison tung. For best success get a good drag-free drift with a midge size 20 or smaller and if they are active, they will eat. Make sure you’re using 6-7x in these super clear and low flows. Once the wind picked up a chartreuse egg was the ticket for the vast majority of the fish caught.

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Report Statistics
2/5Time on Water:
Number of Anglers:
Hoook Ups:
Fish Landed:
Weather Experienced

Temperature: 40
Wind Conditions: Windy
Precipitation: None
Water Observations

Water Temperature: 38
Flow Level: 26 CFS
Runoff? Clear
Erik Myhre

Report Submitted By: Erik Myhre

Big Thompson River Water Flow Graphs