High up in the North Park region of north-central Colorado lies the tranquil waters of Lake John.
Not even half a mile from Delaney Butte and its eponymous lakes, Lake John, is one of the best stillwater fly fishing destinations in all of northern Colorado.
Surrounded by 12,000-foot mountain ranges, the North Park Valley is one of the best places in the country for diverse stillwater fishing and seeing many of the wide variety of climates and environments Colorado has to offer.
Aerial view of Lake John near Walden, Colorado
The popularity of Lake John derives mainly from its massive population of rainbows, cutthroats, browns, and cutbows. It is also on state land with a large private resort and RV camp on one shore, so there is also no shortage of public property to fish from.
Guests staying at the Lake John Resort have plenty of places to launch a boat or float for a day of stillwater fishing. Larger motor boats, pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, rafts, and floats are all welcome at Lake John, as there are more boating restrictions further south on both Delaney Butte lakes.
If you can take a trip out onto the lake during your visit, definitely take advantage of the opportunity. The surrounding mountains of the valley present a breathtaking backdrop against the still lake waters.
Lake John Map, Fishing Access Sites and Boat Launches
Best Places to Fish Lake John
The banks by the resort see a lot of boat and water sports traffic, as do many sections mid-lake. Bank fishing provides plenty of action for still water flies, and if you want to venture out onto the water as the sun rises higher in the sky, there are plenty of quiet waters away from the resort.
You may have to hike a bit to find a quiet spot during peak season, but there is plenty of room for everyone. Even in peak season, Lake John seems to present plenty of solitude to anglers looking to land that big rainbow or brown.
Earlier in the day, the fish are closer to the banks as they search for freshly hatched prey and the occasional terrestrial, but as the day goes on they tend to follow the sun as it starts to move directly overhead in the late morning and early afternoon.
You can still land some big fish from the boat with dry flies, but you may find you have better luck with subsurface patterns if you are headed for deeper waters.
Another advantage to taking to the water to fish is the ability to find more secluded places along the lakeside to cast your line, saving both time and your feet.
Best Time to Fish Lake John
Summer and fall are the major hatch seasons for Lake John, though you need to plan your trip well in advance due to the popularity of North Park among tourists and other outdoor adventurers and sportsmen.
In winter, Lake John freezes solid, so unless you plan on doing some ice fishing, you will need to visit the nearby North Platte River to do any winter fly fishing.
The view and fishing conditions on the lake itself are close to ideal nearly all year long though, particularly from the end of runoff season in the spring until the late days of fall.
Lake John Fishing Tips
Bring a 9-foot rod with either a 5-weight or a 6-weight depending on whether you are fishing from the bank or a boat.
Midges dominate the early spring and summer hatches from the banks, with caddis, mayflies, and terrestrials taking over for the summer.
Bring lots of bug spray if you visit in the summer though, as the mosquitoes get pretty thick even out on the water.
In the fall, crayfish patterns are best as the trout start their annual pre-winter feeding frenzy.
Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.
Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.
High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.
Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet. 3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.
Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable. If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.
Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market. Excellent foot and ankle support. Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.
Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!
Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats. Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish. Simply the best nets on the market.
Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam. If you need more storage - you have too many flies!
Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.
Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.
The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes. Game changer.
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Best Flies for Lake John
Here are some favorite patterns for fishing in Lake John:
- Al Ritt's Fighting Crayfish (#4-8)
- Mohair Leech (#6-10)
- Hare's Ear Nymph (#12-16)
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
Lake John Fishing Reports
There are a few area fly shops and retailers that publish Lake John fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Lake John Fishing Regulations
Regarding rules and regulations, you need to be a guest at the Lake John Resort to fish on their land bank-side, but the rest of the lake's edge is open to the public. Standard Colorado Division of Wildlife Rules apply: four trout of any species and no more than four fish per day of any species. Artificial flies and lures only, as is the standard for the whole state.
Lake John Trip Planning Tips
The closest town to Lake John is Walden, CO, and the nearest airport is about two hours drive away at Yampa Valley Regional (HDN).
If you don't mind the longer 3-4 hour drive, you can always land in Denver and travel the rest of the way to Walden or Steamboat Springs for your stay.
Check out the Lake John Resort and private RV park right at the lake's edge to see if you can find a time of year to visit that works for your schedule and budget.
If the resort doesn't work out, there are plenty of campgrounds in and around Delaney Butte, and the North Park area has several ski resorts to choose from that may have off-season pricing if you are visiting during the summer.
As always, don't forget to look into local vacation rentals for those hidden gem bargains that often become available during the off-season months.