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Fly Fishing The Yampa River – Colorado

The Yampa River is without a doubt one of the best trout rivers in the west. Flowing through Steamboat Springs, Colorado, this river holds lots of large trout. It also has great hatches with its abundant bug life. If you’re looking to catch nice trout in a beautiful setting, the Yampa River should be on your list.

If you are looking for technical fishing on smaller water, the Stagecoach tailwater is going to be your best bet. For looking to fish bigger flies on wider water, fish it through Steamboat or even float downstream, which we will cover below.

This article will cover the best access points for floating and wading the Yampa River. If you’re traveling through this area of Colorado, this is a destination that every fly fisher should consider.

Yampa River Wade Fishing Access

Wading is one of the best ways to fish this river, and there are quite a few access points. Below, we’ll cover the top access points for a day of wade fishing. Miles of water throughout the Stagecoach tailwater and Steamboat Springs provides many days of angling opportunities. You can take your pick of which water you want to fish, whether it be the tailwater or through town.

Stagecoach Tailwater

Below the Stagecoach Reservoir dam flows the Yampa tailwater. Here, you will find large trout willing to eat a variety of flies. There is a dedicated parking lot here, and you can work your way upstream towards the dam, or downstream to the Sarvis Creek section.

This is a tailwater, so the fish are picky and you’ll need to be stealthy. This often means smaller flies and light tippet such as 5x or 6x. Throughout this winding meadow section, you’ll find plenty of nice runs and riffles. You can also fish right below the dam where some of the larger fish are found.

This section is still open in the winter time, but the road is closed. You’ll need to park at the Stagecoach lot and walk a longer distance. Throughout the warmer months, you can drive downstream and fish the Sarvis Creek section as well.

Steamboat Springs Access

Once you get to Steamboat, there are several access points throughout the town itself. River Creek Park is one of the first stops, and offers good wade fishing with easy access. This place is no secret, and you can expect to see other anglers out there.

Going downstream with the Yampa River Core Trail, there are other stops such as the Rotary Park Boardwalk, Fletcher Park, Emerald Park, Little Toots Park, and West Lincoln Park, etc. Along the Core Trail, there is roughly 4 miles of full river access. Fly fishers use this trail, but it is also popular for summer rafting and tubing down the river.

The plethora of public access makes Steamboat Springs a great spot to fish the Yampa River. You could spend days exploring all of the different pools and runs.

Yampa River Float Fishing

In stark contrast to the plentiful public access through town, float fishing downstream is pretty much all private property. This section is only floatable for a short period when the water is dropping after runoff. There is virtually no public water, so there is no anchoring allowed (or getting out of your boat). Colorado is notorious for being one of the strictest states when it comes to private water laws.

You can put in at many spots, but we like to stay at the KOA camp and use their put in. However, this is a private ramp and you have to pay for a campsite to use the ramp. From here, you’ll float all the way down to the Pump Station, which is a long float! At about 19 miles, this float will take you all day, but it is an amazing experience. The trout are large, and there is also a population of Northern Pike. The Pike are invasive, but they are still very fun when you hook one.

You can also put in at the River Creek Park, and float through town.

If you are an inexperienced boater, this section is best done with one of the local guides. There are some diversion dams and rough water, so experience is necessary.

Below the Pump Station, fly fishers still float, but the trout population dwindles. You will find more Northern Pike and Bass on this float, but they are still a blast on the fly.

Bug Life

The Yampa River has just about every insect hatch you would expect in Colorado. There are many ways to fish this river, and below we will cover the main hatches for each season.

Winter brings mostly midge hatches, with some winter stoneflies as well. Eggs are also a good fly to fish throughout the winter months. Try Zebra Midges, Bling Midges, Brassies and Thread Midges in sizes #18-#24.

Spring brings large Blue Winged Olive hatches, so try Rs2’s, JuJu Baetis, and Pheasant tails in sizes #18-#22. Later in the spring brings good Caddis hatches as well.

Summer brings the full spread of bug life to the river. You will see Stoneflies, Yellow Sallies, Pale Morning Duns, Caddis, Drakes, and hoppers. Fishing a dry dropper setup is best during this time, with a large Chubby Chernobyl to suspend the nymphs. Tungsten bead head nymphs work quite well during the summer, so you can get your flies down quickly. Perdigons, Sally nymphs, PMD nymphs and Pats Rubber Legs will all work. You can even fish larger attractors such as Squirmy Worms.

When fall comes, Blue Winged Olives come back into play, so make sure to have some imitations in your box. Fall is a great time to fish streamers on the tailwater or through town. This is when you’ll hook some of the larger browns of the year. Larger articulated patterns such as the Dungeon, Circus Peanut, and Goldie are good choices.