Fly-Fishing in Crested Butte
Fly fishing in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado. With two million acres of public land situated around the headwaters of one of Colorado’s largest river drainages, it’s no surprise that Crested Butte, Gunnison, Almont and all Gunnison Valley towns have some of the best fishing in the state. Whether your tastes involve float fishing from rafts or multi-day backpacks between alpine lakes, wetting a line in the Gunnison Valley is almost guaranteed to result in a catch.
One of the best ways to get on the fish and maximize your experience here is to go with a guide. Search our partner pages for fly shops and guides in the valley to get started. Starting your trip in a fly shop is a great way to understand the progression of local hatches and get a good starting point.
This is by no means an extensive list. The Gunnison Basin is huge and chances are that if you see water on the map, that water fishes. If you’re staying in Gunnison, the Cochetopa, Cebolla and Lake Fork drainages are also worth a trip. Learn more about Fishing in Crested Butte + Gunnision Here.
Easy Places to Fish in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley
Roaring Judy Ponds
The Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery ponds, located south of Crested Butte and a few miles before Almont, provide one of the best and easiest access points for kids, families or anyone needing car-side access to fishing. There’s plenty of river access here as well in case you’re looking for some moving water.
With multiple access points and loads of float fishing guides, the Gunnison is always great for a quick fish or a long day. Hiring a guide is your best way to get on fish on the Gunnison for most of the river north of Gunnison. Using the Curecanti National Recreation Area access points of Cooper’s, Beaver Creek, Willow Creek and Neversink are good ways to be able to walk-wade fish large swaths of the river above Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Kokanee salmon start their annual run up the Gunnison and East Rivers in early September and can be targeted with large red nymphs and Royal Coachmans fished wet. Later in the season, fishing eggs behind large schools of salmon can yield some whopper opportunistic trout.
The Taylor is likely our most famous fishing river because of the Catch and Release section directly below the dam. The rest of the river also fishes well and has consistent releases that make it easy to predict flows. This river is listed in the easy section because it has lots of roadside access, but most of the summer it can be very difficult to cross to the other side. Be aware that trying to find a place to cross to fish the other side moves this from easy to difficult.
Moderate Places to Fish in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley
Cement Creek is the drainage near Crested Butte South, 7 miles south of the Town of Crested Butte. Starting at Pioneer Guest Cabins, the creek is almost all public for 4 miles to Cement Creek Ranch. After Cement Creek Ranch another section of public opens up in a meadow with many beaver ponds. Moving around the ponds is the primary reason this section is listed as moderate. Above this section there is more private land, and then the creek goes public to the top of the headwaters. Past Deadman’s Trailhead you’ll need a vehicle with clearance and four-wheel drive to keep fishing.
Coal Creek is one of the closest places to fish to Crested Butte. Located up Kebler Pass Road, you can begin fishing at the Wildcat/Carbon Trail and work your way all the way up to the Irwin cutoff. Lots of wild brown and brook trout wait eagerly for accurately casted dry flies all summer long. Keep your eye out for moose.
Horse Ranch Park
Driving past Coal Creek on Kebler Pass Rd. will bring you over the pass and down into the Ruby Anthracite drainage. Horse Ranch Park and the accompanying meadow are a sweet spot for catching towns of beautiful little brook trout all afternoon long. Bring your stimulators — no need for nymphs when fishing this section in the summer and early fall.
This creek can fish as easy or hard as you make it. From Crested Butte take Highway 135 to Jack’s Cabin Cutoff. Take a left when you hit Taylor River Road and another left shortly after on Forest Road 744. Once you pass the Spring Creek Campground, the fishing is fair game, with only very small stretch of private land in the meadow below the reservoir. Almost 12 miles of fishing is possible here, with much more hike-accessed fishing on tiny streams and beaver ponds above the reservoir. Expect wary browns as the season progresses and water levels drop. You can increase your chances of success by fishing forested sections with more gradient loss in the streambed.
Difficult Places to Fish in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley
This one gets a difficult rating primarily because you need a four-wheel drive vehicle or mountain bike to fish it. Located up Taylor Park just past the turnoff to Cottonwood Pass, this moderately sized creek has loads of public water, beaver ponds and willow bashing. Fishing here extends all the way into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and includes several high alpine lakes.
This area also requires four-wheel drive to access but is very close to Crested Butte. Take the turn at Skyland and follow Brush Creek Road until it becomes gravel, then rough dirt and finally 4×4. Stay right at your first split and follow the shelf road to the creek crossing. Past that, you’ll climb a bit and then descend onto a meadow. This section and all sections upstream fish well. Once you get high enough in the drainage you’ll find cutthroat trout. Past the turn off for East Brush you’ll want a really good four-wheel-drive vehicle with all-terrain tires at least.
Also close to Crested Butte, this high alpine lake is teeming with cutthroats. From the Crested Butte Nordic Center, hike up the road cut and then up Green Lake Trail until you reach the lake. Round-trip this hike is about 8 miles with a fair bit of elevation gain.