Fly Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park

Three rivers in the Northeast corner
By Todd Hosman
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Thanks to the Park Service, the East Slope of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park holds many more accessible populations of greenback cutthroat trout than does the West Slope. West Slope trail systems aren't as numerous or well developed as those on the East Slope, so West Slope waters are generally harder to reach. Those are the two main reasons why East Slopefly-fishing destinations outnumber their West Slope counterparts.

Do's and Don't's

Keep current with Park fishing regulations, available at Park InformationCenters. Wherever you fish in Colorado, greenback cutthroats, if hooked, must always be immediately returned to the waterunharmed. Don't be misled by what seems a"short" distance to a destination. Hiking a steep Park trail is very slow and oftenpainful going-at best you'll make about a mile or two an hour. Always take along a good (USGS) topo map of the Park. If youchoose a destination that's more than a four-mile hike in, plan on camping, traveling by horseback, or both. Camping is allowedonly in designated areas and with permits available from the Park Service. Shuttle buses are available to and from manytrailheads, and some livery stables in the Park provide horse rental and wrangler services.


Reach the east side of the Park via U.S. Route 36 from Boulder or U.S. Route 34 from Loveland. You'llarrive in the town of Estes Park, a year-round community of about five thousand residents and many hotels, restaurants, andshops. Signs will direct you to the main Park entrances: Beaver Meadows (on U.S. Route 36) or Fall River (on U.S. Route34). Trail Ridge Road is the most direct route to the Park's West Slope, but it's open only part of the year, usually from the endof May until October depending on weather conditions. Alternately, follow Interstate Route 70 west from Denver to U.S.Route 40 west to Grand Lake. This little West Slope town (population approximately 250) on the Park's southwest corneroffers lodging and services mainly during the summer.

Extras for Horse Wranglers

Regarding fishing guides and horsewranglers: What you pay isn't what they get. Guides and wranglers usually receive a small percentage (if any) of your fee. Theydepend on your tips for income; consider tipping at least 15 percent of what you've paid up front. The cost of any specialservices rendered food, instruction, gear, clothing, and so on usually comes out of the guide's or wrangler's own pocket, soyou may want to take that into account as well.

© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 9 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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