Colorado Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Conejos River in Colorado

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 22, 2024

Conejos River Colorado

Hidden away in the southernmost reaches of Colorado where its lies nestled in the eastern slopes of the San Juan mountains is a stretch of water that is every fly fisherman’s dream-come-true: the Conejos River.

The Conejos River is a 92 mile long tributary of the Rio Grande River, located in south-central Colorado

Numerous fishing access points and easements along the way provide access to some of the finest trout fishing to be had in Colorado.

About Conejos River

Fly Fishing the Conejos River in Colorado (coverage begins @ 10:00)

The river snakes back and forth across the borders of the San Juan National Forest and the South San Juan Wilderness Area, making them slightly less accessible but still open to the public. Many fishing easements have also been added to private land along the Conejos, which has proven a major boon for both anglers and the owners and renters of summer cabins.

The origin of the name of the river is unknown, though why anyone would name it “Rabbit River” (translation) remains a mystery. What is completely devoid of mystery is that this southern Colorado river is prime fly fishing territory filled with nearly every variety of trout, and the scenery is gorgeous regardless of what season you choose to visit.

Conejos River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Conejos River in Colorado

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Conejos River

A better question to ask might be where can’t you fish along the Conejos. The headwaters start up above the Platoro Reservoir, which is accessible via USFS Road 250N from Highway 17. There is road access there, but to get as close as possible to the headwaters you are looking at some hiking through the South San Juan Wilderness.

Lake Fork is another good spot to try your luck, as it is designated Wild Trout waters from the headwaters all the way to Rock Lake/Big Lake. You can find the trails along USFS Road 250.

Saddle Creek is a fly-fishing only area, so if you are looking to work on your technique there are few better places in the state to get practice. Be careful past South Fork though, as much of the land belongs to the Menkhaven Ranch and is posted private property.

The Conejos offers great fishing and beautiful landscapes and vistas, but it is very important to respect private property when fishing in the area, as irresponsible anglers who trespass can cause access via private land and easements to disappear over time due to poor choices.

Make sure you know where you are and where nearby private property boundary lines are in order to maintain a good relationship with the property owners in the area.

Best Time to Fish the Conejos River

Summers is hands down the very best season to fish the Conejos. The greatest number of insect and terrestrial populations are at their highest levels of the year, and the trout are biting at anything that looks remotely like food.

Spring fishing is decent so long as you keep to the tailwaters, and fall is the best season for bigger catches since the approach of winter draws the grandaddy fish out from the depths to feed.

If you are a fan of winter fishing, most experts recommend sticking to waters below the dam, and to try to fish on warmer days since the winter weather can be brutal.

Best Flies for Conejos River

The hatches for the Conejos are as follows by season:

  • Winter/Spring: Midges, Mayflies
  • Summer: Stoneflies, Mayflies, Caddis, Terrestrials, Midges
  • Fall: Midges, Mayflies, Caddis

The following flies come highly recommended for the Conejos River:

  • Beadhead Hares Ear
  • Mercury Baetis
  • Beadhead Rubber Leg Hares Ear
  • Blue Wing Olive
  • Stimulator
  • Parachute Blue Wing Olive
  • Chaos Hopper
  • Mercury Midge
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Rainbow Warrior
  • Beadhead Caddis Larva

For midges, stick to size #16-#24, mayflies should be #16-#24 or #14-#20, caddis are best in #10-#20, and stoneflies are effective anywhere from #6-#18 depending on the fly. Terrestrials are recommended in sizes #14-#18.

Gear Recommendations

A 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies, nymphs and small streamers on the Conejos River.  A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Conejos River Fishing Reports

There are a few area fly shops that publish Conejost River fly fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.

Fishing Regulations

Make sure you are familiar with the following regulations along the Conejos before setting out for your day of fishing:

Downstream Menkhaven Ranch through Aspen Glade Campground, and Bear Creek subdivision, HEBO Corp. and Douglas properties

  • Artificial flies only
  • Bag and possession is two trout, 16″ or longer

Platoro Lower Bridge to South Fork Confluence

  • Artificial flies and lures only
  • Bag and possession is two trout, 16″ or longer

Lake Fork to Rock Lake

  • Artificial flies and lures only
  • All cutthroats must be returned to the water immediately.

Outside of these areas, all regular Colorado Division of Wildlife standard fishing regulations apply. Always verify you are not fishing in one of the restricted zones for regulations before you start casting.

Trip Planning Tips

The closest airport is the San Luis Regional, and flights in and out year round are fairly reasonable, though summertime tends to see an increase in both price and traffic.

In terms of accommodations, there are several ranch resorts in the area that cater specifically to anglers looking to fish the many trout filled waters of Colorado, and many of them are located quite close by the to the Conejos, too. 

Summer cabins are popular in the region as well, and securing a rental is generally no problem provided you book sufficiently far enough in advance. Last but not least, don’t forget to check out vacation rentals in the area, as you will often find hidden gems where you can stay in between trips to the river that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Colorado.