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Fly Fishing The Crystal River – Colorado

The Crystal River is a productive trout fishery located along highway 133 in Colorado. About 40 miles long, as it passes through the upper reaches of Marble and Redstone, it eventually reaches the town of Carbondale. Just north of town, it flows into the lower Roaring Fork River.

Although trout on the Crystal are smaller than surrounding streams, you can still find some good fish. The Crystal is also an amazing dry fly fishery in the summer months. Trout are eager to rise for a well presented dry.

Since the Roaring Fork Valley is home to other, more popular rivers, the Crystal can get overlooked. However, this is a bonus for willing anglers. You will find less anglers on the Crystal, and sometimes you’ll be the only one out there.

If you’re looking for more solitude and less combat fishing, consider fishing the Crystal River. It is a true gem of Colorado, and holds plenty of trout. Occasionally, you will hook into a trophy trout on the Crystal. This is not unheard of.

Crystal River Fishing Access

Near the abandoned ghost town of Crystal, the North Fork and the South Fork of the Crystal River merge to form the Crystal River. Here, you can find many pull offs along County Road 3. Once you get down to the river, you can find solitude and work a few miles of river. This section is often overlooked, and I absolutely love the water up here. You can also check out the historic Crystal Mill. This section is only accessible by 4 wheel drive vehicles and ATV’s, so be aware.

Throughout Marble, there is some good access. Around Beaver Lake, you can wade the Crystal and also fish the lake (there’s trout in there, also).

Downstream at Redstone, you can access the Crystal throughout town. I like to park at Redstone Park and work the holes with a dry dropper setup.

Following downriver on highway 133, there are some pull offs to fish, but a lot of areas are private property. This road has lots of houses and development on it, so always be aware of private property.

When you reach Carbondale, there is actually some great fishing through town. Throughout the River Valley Ranch neighborhood, you can walk and wade. There are some great fish in here, as the hatchery sometimes drops big fish right in the river.

You can also park at Stairway Park in Carbondale, which offers fishing access.

Best Months To Fish The Crystal River

The Crystal is a freestone river, meaning that it flows naturally without a dam. Because of this, it can freeze over in some places in the winter. If it doesn’t freeze, the water gets so cold that the trout become lethargic. When this happens, they don’t feed as much – and they can be very hard to catch.

The best months to fish the Crystal would be July through September. During runoff in May and June, the Crystal is very muddy and can be unfishable. When it comes down in the middle of the summer, the fishing becomes really good. You can fish it into the fall, until it gets too cold.

You can fish the Crystal in the off season as well. For winter and spring fishing, I like to fish the Crystal through the town of Carbondale, as the water isn’t as cold. It is much less likely to freeze through Carbondale, since the nights are a bit warmer. There are also bigger fish in Carbondale, compared to the upper reaches.

Flies To Use On The Crystal River

My favorite method is to use a dry dropper setup on the Crystal River.

For dry flies, I like Stimulators in sizes #12-#16, Elk Hair Caddis in sizes #12-#16, Chubby Chernobyls in sizes #12-#16, and Ants in sizes #14-#16. Trout are eager to eat dries on the Crystal, especially in the summer and throughout fall.

For nymph droppers, go with your confidence patterns. Trout on the Crystal aren’t too picky, as long as the flies are presented well. Try Prince Nymphs in sizes #14-#18, Rainbow Warriors in sizes #14-#18, Hares Ears in sizes #14-#18, and Stonefly Nymphs that are on the smaller size (#16’s usually).

The streamer fishing can also be amazing on the Crystal. However, I like to keep the streamers small. Woolly Buggers and leeches in sizes #12-#14 can be very productive. You can also fish smaller sculpin patterns as well. Smaller articulated streamers can also work – such as Mini Dungeons and Baby Gongas.

Compared to the Roaring Fork and the Fryingpan, trout on the Crystal are much less picky. As long as you are stealthy and present your flies well, you are bound to hook some trout.