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Fly Fishing The Williams Fork River – Colorado

Fly Fishing The Williams Fork River – Colorado

The Williams Fork or “Willy’s Fork” is a wonderful tailwater located just outside of Parshall, Colorado. It is a tributary of the upper Colorado River, but it’s a wonderful fishery in its own right. Here, fly anglers can expect to catch Rainbow and Brown Trout in the 16 to 18 inch range with regularity. However, trout 20 inches and larger are relatively common.

With all of the super crowded rivers in Colorado, the Williams Fork River can offer more solitude with less crowds. The trout here are healthy and grow to large sizes, but fly anglers should expect to be stealthy and use smaller flies to fool these fish.

Williams Fork Reservoir separates the upper river from the lower tailwater section. Most anglers will gravitate towards the tailwater due to the larger fish size. The upper section fishes well with dry dropper rigs during the summer, but the fish are much smaller.

This article will primarily focus on the lower river. We will cover access points, fishing tips, and directions to get here. If you’re in this area of Colorado, the Willy’s Fork is certainly worth fishing for a day. You may be surprised at the quality of trout that live here.

Overview Of The Williams Fork River

The tailwater section is about 2 miles long. Along this section, you will find plenty of riffles and deeper pools that hold nice trout. Due to this being a tailwater, the fish receive a fair amount of fishing pressure. They are picky when it comes to fly selection, so fishing smaller flies on lighter tippet is usually the best method. Nymphing will be the most productive method here, but streamers and dry flies can work at times.

The tailwater is completely catch and release only. All trout that you catch must be returned to the water right away. This keeps the river healthier, and allows the trout to grow quite large.

From the fishing parking lot, it will take most anglers about 20-30 minutes to hike into the river. This is actually a good thing, because it deters more lazy anglers. Once you reach the river, you can work upstream towards the dam, or you can work downstream for a bit.

Throughout the summer and fall, the dry fly fishing can be amazing here. Hatches of Caddis, Sallies, PMD’s, Stoneflies, and Blue Winged Olives all provide perfect dry fly opportunities. During the fall when the Brown Trout are more aggressive, throwing streamers can be a good way to find a big fish.

During the winter and early spring, nymphing is my go-to method. With these low water times, a shorter nymph rig with a small yarn indicator can be effective. This is often when we’re fishing flies in the #18-#24 size.

Throughout this 2 mile stretch, you couldn’t ask for better water quality and river structure. The pools and runs are pristine, and they all hold nice trout. However, when it is crowded you may have to hike a bit to find your own piece of water. This is all public, so you are free to explore all the way to the upper dam section. However, the actual dam area is blocked off like most tailwaters in Colorado.

A 9-10 foot 5 weight rod is best on the lower section. Fishing a floating line is the best bet, unless you want to fish a sink tip with a streamer.

For anglers looking to fish the upper section, 2, 3 and 4 weight rods are best. Throwing a single dry fly is very productive here, and the fish are much smaller. Using a lighter rod on the upper section is more enjoyable.

Directions To The Williams Fork Tailwater

To get to the tailwater section – First, you’ll want to head towards the town of Parshall. Once you reach Parshall, you will follow Co Road 3 for 1 mile. The fishing parking lot will be on your right. Gear up here, and then prepare for a 20 minute walk to reach the actual river. Some people like to bring mountain bikes to shave some time getting to the river, but I usually just walk. The scenery is beautiful and the walk is enjoyable.

Once you reach the river, you’ll notice easy trails which lead up and down the river bank. This makes it easy to hop around to different pools.

For accessing the upper section of the Williams Fork, we like to fish above the inlet at Williams Fork Reservoir. To get here, just follow Co Road 3 for 4.4 miles out of Parshall. Then, you will take a quick sharp right onto Co Road 330. Here at the picnic area, you can gear up and work upstream with dry flies and dry dropper rigs. This section is really only fishable in the summer and fall.

Flies To Use

Throughout the winter, midges in sizes #18-#24 are going to work quite well. Bling midges, Top Secrets, Zebras, and Thread midges will all catch fish. Throwing micro stoneflies in the winter is also a good choice. Try fishing these small black stones in sizes #14-#16.

During the spring, Blue Winged Olives start to hatch. For this hatch, I like to fish JuJu Baetis, Pheasant Tails, Radiation Baetis, and dries as well. For dries, I will fish Extended Body BWO’s, Parachute Adams, and Gulper Specials. Try to keep all of your Baetis in the #18-#22 size range.

In summer, lots of different bugs come out. Caddis, PMD’s, Stoneflies, Sallies, and Hoppers are all available. This is when it’s important to find out what the fish are feeding on, and match accordingly. This can be tricky, but it is quite rewarding when you get it right.

During the fall, focus back on Blue Winged Olives and Midges, the trout will start to key in again on these smaller bugs. Also, make sure to bring a streamer rod as well. Throwing larger patterns can produce some really nice trout in the fall.