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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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Fishing Report Date: 09-18-2015

With the changing colors filling the horizon, we headed up to Estes Park to try our hand at the Big Thompson.  The water levels were low and a little stained which worked to our advantage since there was a good amount of sun.

When we arrived the wind was whipping and thunderstorms seemed to be ready to pounce on us even though they stayed away.  We started off with a nymph rig with a size 18 Hotwire Prince and a RS2 trailing.  We did no add any weight since the water was so low and the Prince had some weight built in.  Within the first two casts we were into fish.  We caught all of our fish on the Prince but did have a few strikes on the copper ribbed RS2.

For the most part the fish were eating smaller midges and other nymphs.  If you are not having any luck on the beaded prince try going to small flies, 20 and below.  Juju beatis, sow bugs, BWO emergers, copper johns(very small) and pheasant tails.

Don’t be afraid to try dry flies, especially terrestrials, since the fish are getting ready for the winter and want as much protein as possible. And don’t be afraid to throw out some flies that fish may have not seen for awhile.


Report Statistics
3/5Time on Water:
Number of Anglers:
Hoook Ups:
Fish Landed:
Weather Experienced

Temperature: 86
Wind Conditions: Windy
Precipitation: None
Water Observations

Water Temperature:
Flow Level: 40 CFS
Runoff? Clear
Adam Spoerl

Report Submitted By: Adam Spoerl

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Big Thompson River Water Flow Graphs