Anglers in search of a high-altitude, high-mountain fly fishing experience need look no further than the Taylor River near Gunnison, CO.
Making its headwaters high up in the Rockies amongst numerous “14’ers”, the Taylor descends from the high country for 9,300 feet before emptying into the Taylor Reservoir.
From the Reservoir the Taylor makes its way through Taylor Canyon for about 20 miles before meeting the East River to form the Gunnison River near the town of Almont.
Fly fishing for monster rainbow trout on the Taylor River in Colorado
Plying the waters up above the Taylor Reservoir is where you can find some of the best high altitude, mountain stream fishing in the state of Colorado, with feeder creeks and beaver ponds dotting the length of the headwaters where vast populations of brook trout are known to make their home.
Below the dam at Taylor Reservoir, the granite canyons are littered with massive boulders that have fallen from the walls above and come to rest in the stream, forming currents and eddies where rainbows and cutthroat love to hide. While this is the more crowded area for fly fishing in peak season, there are 20 more miles of river to explore if you need to move on.
Keep in mind that there is a brief stretch of private property just south of Taylor Dam, so educate yourself regarding where you can and not access the Taylor without trespassing on private property.
If you are seeking some of the largest brook trout to be had in the state, definitely start at the headwaters above the reservoir and the canyon and try your luck in the beaver ponds and feeder creeks from the numerous freshwater springs in the area.
The brook trout love the still waters of the beaver ponds that form along the banks, and the large fly population that breeds and hatches along the muddy edges of the ponds. Access is somewhat limited high up along the Taylor River though, so be prepared for a bit of hiking if you want to fish the Upper Taylor.
If you are more of a rainbow, cutthroat, cutbow fisherman, you need to try your luck 325 yards south of the Taylor Reservoir Dam in the tailwater section. This river reach is catch-and-release-only water and has a sizable population of enormous rainbows and rainbow hybrids.
Browns and other species of trout can be found along the waters that pass through the Taylor Canyon, and there is plenty of public access thanks to the campgrounds and turnouts that are spread out fairly evenly along USFS Road 742. Best staging areas are the towns of Almont and Tin Cup, both of which are within 30 minutes drive of the Taylor Reservoir.
Summertime offers the best hatches of Gray Drakes, BWO’s, and Caddis flies. As with all waters in Colorado, fishing is year round, but the waters are at their best from June to October in terms of speed and depth.
The trout are usually the most active at this time of year thanks to the plentiful hatches in both the Upper and Lower Taylor. Best fishing hours are between 10 in the morning and 7 in the evening.
Recommended fly patterns for the Taylor River include:
- RS92 (grey #20)
- Elk Wing Caddis (yellow #14)
- Indicator Spinner - Trico (black #22)
- Adams (grey #12)
- Disco Midge Larva (red #22)
- Blue Dun (grey #18-20)
- Charlie’s Mysis (white #18-22)
- Sculpzilla (olive #4)
- Miller’s D-Midge (red #18-22)
- Tungsten Midge (black #20-22)
Pack your chest waders and possibly a wading staff for additional stability if you are fishing in the canyons as the wading here is challenging. A 9-ft, 5-wt rod with WF trout fly line and a 9-foot leader with 3x to 5X tippet are the order.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Taylor River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Colorado Division of Wildlife has a catch-and-release only restriction for 0.4 miles downstream of the dam. Only artificial flies and lures are allowed here, and any fish caught have to be returned immediately to the water.
The remainder of the Taylor River is governed by standard CDOW regulations: 4 fish of any species possession, artificial flies and lures only. Abiding by the fishing regulations is key to preserving the trout population, and ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the premiere high-mountain fishing that the Taylor River has to offer for many years to come.
Closest airport to the Taylor is the Gunnison-Crested Butte Airport with commuter flights from Denver and Colorado Springs. Accommodations are plentiful and varied in both Almont and Tin Cup, and there are numerous state campgrounds along the Taylor with public access for anglers who don’t mind “roughing it.”
Fly shops and outfitters are plentiful in both Tin Cup and Almont, so dropping in to restock your supplies will not be an issue either. There are also numerous fishing and hunting cabin rentals available in the area, and it never hurts to check online vacation home listings if you are interested in potential bargain stays in the area.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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