For the years that I have been guiding along the Front Range of Colorado, I have come to rely heavily on the park as a place to take clients. The vast wilderness and beauty this National Park offers somehow seems to trump any reasons for not being there. The opportunity to see Longs Peak, the endless supply of rivers, herds of trophy elk, bear and other big game sometimes surpasses a client's desire to catch fish. At the end of a trip, I always ask clients what the best part of their day was or what they will remember from the trip, and more often than not, it has to do with the environment and not the fish caught. They are so awestruck by the beauty of the park that catching fish, no matter how big, is the last thought on their mind. Rocky Mountain National Park gives fisherman the chance to escape their reality for what feels like a brief moment in time, which for some anglers is what pursing a day of guiding is all about.
Within the park, on the east side you will find the headwaters of the Big Thompson and on the west side is the Colorado River. Within each side, there are several different river environments to fish, ranging from meandering meadows to pocket water and riffles surrounded by the forest, and let's not forget about the high alpine lakes which are gin clear and can house some surprisingly large fish. Browns generally populate the rivers here, but there are brook trout, rainbows, and greenback cutthroats if you know where to look. The same species will be found up in the lakes as well, but they tend to hold more greenback cutthroats and brookies.
Our greenback cutthroats are by far the most prized fish within the park, and clients will routinely ask that we target them. There is always a disclaimer that comes with fishing for greenbacks, due to their population and where they are found, sometimes your chances are slim. And even when you do find them, they can be very picky and easy to spook.
Some require longer casts to catch them within the streams and lakes, as others seek refuge within structure and riffles. But when you do get lucky to land that beautiful fish, there is no greater feeling in the world.
Outside of the beauty and fish species within the park, a lot of anglers gravitate here because of the great bug life it offers. Just like every river within the state, the park provides excellent opportunities to fish BWO, PMD, and caddis hatches throughout the year. But one of the more special hatches comes in the late Summer and early Fall when the rivers return to normal flows, and the drakes come out. The green drake hatch within the park is a truly magical experience. At times there will be a great number flying around and ultimately landing in the river, which creates an amazing sight of fish rising everywhere. And if you catch the hatch just right, you can land multiple fish measuring 20 inches or higher with a single green or gray drake imitation.
Words can not convey what an amazing place Rocky Mountain National Park is to fish and you could spend a lifetime trying to see and fish every body of water within its boundaries. While you're never guaranteed a fish, one thing is for sure, you can have the worst day on the water but still remember the trip for years to come.