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Fly Fishing The Blue River (Colorado)

The Blue River is a great trout fishery in the Colorado Rockies. There are 3 main sections of the Blue, all offering some world class fly fishing. There are healthy populations of Rainbow, Brown, and Cutthroat Trout throughout the drainage.

Only about 1.5 hours from Denver, the Blue River offers a cool fishing experience for travelers and front range locals. It is a great river to escape the Denver heat and get into some good trout fishing.

This article will cover the 3 sections of the Blue River, where to fish, and what flies to use.

Upper Blue River (Breckenridge To Lake Dillon)

The upper Blue River starts near Mount Quandary, and then flows through the town of Blue River. It then meanders through Breckenridge, and then down into Lake Dillon.

The fishing season is shorter on the upper Blue River. It usually doesn’t thaw until late spring, and then it is fishable into summer and early fall.

The upper Blue can offer some great dry-dropper fishing. I like to fish hoppers and ant patterns, with a nymph below them – Usually a Prince Nymph or Pheasant Tail. Trout on this stretch usually aren’t too picky, as long as you get a good drift and presentation.

I really like fishing through the town of Breckenridge, as there are some great stream improvements that offer structure for the trout. The parking lots off of Airport Road offer some easy walk/wade fishing access.

Although the upper Blue provides some good fishing, I usually opt for the middle and lower stretches instead. The trout are larger and it provides more of a challenge on the lower reaches.

Middle Blue River (Silverthorne To Green Mountain Reservoir)

This is a great fishing section that is very accessible to wade anglers. Below the Dillon dam, the Blue turns into a tailwater which is accessible throughout the town of Silverthorne. You are fishing near the outlet malls, so don’t expect lots of solitude. However, here, fly anglers can get shots at large Rainbow and Brown Trout. These fish are quite educated, and are picky as well. 6x tippet is often necessary, along with small midges in sizes #20-#26. This section fishes well all winter long, and you can even fish it after skiing at one of the local resorts.

Below Silverthorne, there is much less public access – as the Blue meanders through lots of private property. There are some pulloffs here and there, but not too many.

This section is floatable to rafters in the summer, but it is less popular. The trout are so much larger on the lower Blue, so fly anglers usually prefer to float the lower.

Lower Blue River (Green Mountain Reservoir To Kremmling)

This is my favorite section of the Blue, by far. Below the Green Mountain dam, there is an amazing tailwater through a very steep canyon. Anglers can walk down a few miles before the river turns private. This canyon stretch hosts a good population of larger Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout. Although it can be tedious to wade, it is worth it for anglers that fish it thoroughly.

The lower Blue has some amazing bug life in the summer months. Fly anglers can fish Caddis, PMD, Yellow Sally and Green Drake hatches in this section. There is also some solid streamer fishing, with a chance at hooking a big Brown Trout.

For float fisherman, the Lower Blue provides an incredible float which is about 13 miles long. Floaters will start in the canyon by lowering their raft down a very steep hill. After floating through the canyon, the lower Blue enters private property – much of it is owned by Paul Jones, who is a billionaire ranch owner. He stocks some very large trout in this stretch, sometimes reaching upwards of 20 pounds.

Although floating the lower Blue is fun, it can be very dangerous. There are lots of diversion dams (weirs) that can be tricky to navigate. The canyon also has lots of whitewater and boulders, which can be hazardous. I recommend only floating this route with someone who has done it before – It is not for beginner rowers.

Below the Jones ranch, the Blue meanders through some slower sections before joining the Colorado River.

Flies To Use On The Blue River

During the summer months, there are many insect hatches on the Blue. You can fish Caddis, PMD’s, Stoneflies, and Yellow Sallies. Some patterns I like are: Elk Hair Caddis #14-#18, Breadcrust Caddis #16, Barr’s PMD Emergers #16-#18, Pats Rubber Legs #10-#14, Iron Sallies #16, Yellow Foam Stones #14-#16.

During the fall months, Blue Winged Olives and Midges become more important. There is also a good egg bite on the blue during the fall. Some flies to use are JuJu Baetis #18-#22, Rs2’s #18-#22, Gulper Specials #20, Mercury Midges #18-#22, Black Beauty’s #18-#22, Top Secret Midges #18-#22, Glo-Bugs #16-#20

During the winter, Midges will be the main food source. You can also continue to fish egg patterns. I like to fish Blood Midges #20-#26, Bling Midges #20-#26, Mercury Midges #20-#26, Black Beauty’s #20-#26, Top Secret Midges #20-#26, Glo-Bugs #16-#20

For the spring, Midges and Blue Winged Olives will fish well. All of the Midge and Baetis patterns listed above will work. I will continue to fish egg patterns in the spring.

Streamers can work all year throughout the Blue River drainage. Some days will be better than others, with cloudier days offering the best streamer bite. My favorite streamers for the Blue are Woolly Buggers #6-#10, Sculpzillas #4-#8, Mini Dungeons #6, Thin Mints #6-#10.

On the middle Blue River below lake Dillon, Mysis Shrimp are a big food source. They flow out of the dam and into the river. My favorite Mysis patterns are the BTS mysis #18-#20 and Charlie’s Mysis #18-#20. Mysis will work year round below Lake Dillon, but higher river flows will push more Mysis into the river.

Gear You’ll Need For The Blue River

A 5 weight rod is usually preferred on the upper and middle Blue. The river is narrower and you are usually throwing smaller flies. For streamer fishing this stretch, I use a 6 or a 7 weight rod with a sink tip.

A 6 weight rod is best on the lower Blue. It is a much wider river, and the fish are larger. A fast action 6 weight offers enough power to fish this section. Since the streamer bite can be hot down here, I like to bring a 7 weight rod with a sink tip, also.

Both the middle and lower Blue are tailwaters, meaning the water is very cold and dam released. It comes from the bottom of the reservoirs, so it is usually in the 40’s. Having a good pair of boots and waders will keep you much more comfortable. On the upper Blue, the water is cold as well. It is almost entirely snowmelt, so it never warms up much. This stretch is really only fishable in the summer and fall months. I would recommend bringing waders to the upper Blue to stay warmer.

Having a net with a wide hoop is also a good idea. Blue River trout can grow quite large, and it helps to have a bigger net. This is especially true if you’re fishing the lower Blue.


The Blue River is an awesome trout fishery that many anglers enjoy. Whether you fish the upper, middle or lower Blue River, you can get into some good trout.

If you are planning a trip out to Colorado, I highly recommend checking out the Blue River for a day of fly fishing.