April 28, 2015
Fly Fishing the Blue River
This article is a fly fishing guide to the Blue River. It is a fly fishing resource with directions and maps for Blue River public fishing access, a guide to towns near the Blue River including a resource to Fly Fishing Shops and Guides, Lodging and other Local Resources needed by the fly fisherman. In addition this article contains hatch charts for fishing the Blue.
Don't forget to take a look at our Virtual FlyBox iPhone application for this area also.
Overview of the Blue River Drainage
The Blue River is a tributary of the Colorado River and flows 65 miles from its headwaters to the Colorado River near Kremmling, Colorado.
The Blue River begins its drop to the Colorado River above Breckenridge on the Northeast side of the Mosquito Range and the Eastern side of the Ten Mile Range near the top of Hoosier Pass. Flowing North through Summit County, Colorado the Blue flows through the town of Breckenridge and a few miles below, into the Dillon Reservoir. As it flows through this area the Blue is a classic freestone stream.
The Dillon Reservoir provides water, through a diversion tunnel under the Mosquito Range, into the North Fork of the South Platte River. As a side fishing note regarding the Dillon Reservoir, the reservoir contains a small organism called Mysis Shrimp that were initially introduced to aid the growth of the fish in the Reservoir. Fish just below the reservoir have benefited "hugely" from these shrimp.
After the water is released from the Dillon Reservoir, the Blue becomes a tailwater fishery, meaning that the reservoir’s releases impact the flow and river’s health. The river flows Northwest along the Eastern side of the Gore Range towards the Green Mountain Reservoir which was built to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation capacity.
After the waters are released from the Green Mountain Reservoir, the river flows through 3 mile long Green Mountain Canyon and then through several miles of private land before joining the Colorado River in Kremmling, Colorado. CO Hwy 9 follows the Blue River from the top of Hoosier Pass to Kremmling and provides multiple access points to the river.
One of the Blue’s major tributaries is Ten Mile Creek. Ten Mile Creek begins above Copper Mountain on the Western side of the Ten Mile Range. From Wheeler Junction (Copper Mountain), I-70 parallels Ten Mile Creek through Ten Mile Canyon to Frisco where the creek flows into the Dillon Reservoir. A bicycle and hiking path, that follows the creek offers fishing access between Copper Mountain and Frisco.
Getting to Summit County, Colorado
Take Interstate 70 west for 60 miles to Silverthorne, CO.
From Colorado Springs:
Take US 24 to Antero Junction and turn North onto US 285. At Fairplay, turn North onto CO Hwy 9 towards Breckenridge.
From Vail / Eagle:
Take I-70 East to Frisco.
Highway Map to Summit County, Colorado:
Blue River Towns and Resources
There are several major cities and smaller towns that support fly fishing on South Platte River. Following are links to a few of the town’s web pages:
Denver / Colorado Springs
This is the jumping off point for many traveling to the Blue River / Summit County area. Denver International Airport is located in the Denver area and many of the fishermen and fly fishing shops and guides are located on Colorado’s Front Range.
Summit County Municipalities
Breckenridge is at the upper end of the Blue River Valley. Breckenridge is a resort town offering summer and winter recreational activities and has numerous lodging opportunities and restaurants.
The towns of Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillion are all located within a few miles of each other and are hubs to various recreational activities in the Summit County area. Both Frisco and Dillon offer marinas to support boating and fishing on Lake Dillon. Silverthorne is home to the tailwater fishery below Dillon Reservoir.
Summit County Chamber of Commerce
Kremmling is a small community located at the confluence of the Blue and Colorado Rivers.
Fly Fishing Shops, Lodging, and Other Local Resources
Fly Fishing Field Guide
Blue River Fly Fishing Field Guide
Blue River Public Fly Fishing Access
For fly fishing, the Blue River can be divided into three sections. The first is the Upper Blue River which runs from the top of Hoosier Pass, south of Breckenridge, to the Dillon Reservoir. This section is a classic mountain stream. The upper section, above Breckenridge, is small and runs through private property, however several of its tributaries flow through National Forest.
As the Blue flows past the town of Breckenridge, it passes through a section of river that was heavily dredged during Breckenridge’s mining days. The river has been heavily restored and can be accessed from a parallel bicycle path.
Below the Dillon Reservoir is its tailwater which runs through the town of Silverthorne.
As the river flows past Silverthorne and before Green Mountain Reservoir the Blue has a more classic mountain stream feel. It is lined with pine and aspen trees and the river contains many boulders, pocket water, riffles and runs. Despite its feel, the river is still a tailwater, meaning that its flows depend mainly on releases from the reservoir. Below Green Mountain Reservoir is a 3 mile canyon section of fishing that can be floated or hiked during low water. From the end of that canyon to the confluence is mostly private land and not available to most fishermen unless floating the river.
The Blue, from the tailwaters of the Dillon Reservoir to Kremmling is designated as Gold Medal Water and will carry limits on what can be used to fish these waters regulations on the size of fish that must be returned to the water. Please be aware of the regulations for the areas you fish. The easiest way to comply is to practice “Catch and Release”.
Upper Blue River Fly Fishing Access:
The Stair Steps
This section is located towards the lower end of the town of Breckenridge. Generally it is the section of river that can be seen from CO Hwy 9 that has the bike path running beside it. In earlier years this section of the valley was a pile of river rock left from dredging operations years ago. This area is now called the “Stair Steps” and is a section of the river that has been modified to provide better fish habitat.
This parking area is by the Gold Hill trailhead, is 1/4 mile north of Tiger Run (a road, small subdivision, and trailer/camping park are well signed) and offers a little fishing access.
Swan Mountain Access
From CO Hwy 9, turn East onto Swan Mountain Road (CR 1) and park near the bridge.
Dillon Reservoir Tailwater Fly Fishing Access
Dillon Tailwater Access
This section begins at the outlet of the reservoir, just past the fence across the river. This marks the first place that for public fishing access. From this spot towards I-70 there are a series of man-made runs, riffles and pools.
Middle Outlet Mall Access
This section runs from I-70 through the second set of outlet stores back toward CO Hwy 9. This section includes several waterfalls and deep pools. Be prepared for onlookers taking a break from shopping.
This section runs through the town of Silverthorne. It begins just past the outlet stores and runs on both sides of the river to just below the Forest Service building near 6th and Blue River Parkway. Access continues on the East side of the river along the paved hiking trail. When the pavement ends, the river’s access is no longer public.
Willow Grove Open Space
Parking at Mesa Dr. Parking area.
Blue River Run Access
This section begins just north of the Blue River Run neighborhood and continues approximately 500 yards past the Ponds Neighborhood.
Below Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir Access
Once the Blue river passes Silverthorne it begins to look like a mountain river again. This is a pine and aspen lined, boulder filled river and has a traditional mountain fill. CO Hwy 9 follows the river, so there are numerous pull-outs and parking areas for fishermen. As it makes its way down to the Green Mountain Reservoir, it passes between public and private lands, so be aware of “No Trespassing” signs.
Gravel Pit Access
As you drive North from Silverthorne you will see a large gravel pit operation on your left. There are two parking areas mear MM107 on the right.
Note: On 4/26/15, it appears that access to these parking areas may be closed due to construction in the area. Check with local fishing shops about access.
Blue River Campground
The campground is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. At other times you can probably hike to the river. MM 108.5.
Blue River SWA – Sutton Unit near Rock Creek
Sutton Unit— From Silverthorne, drive 7 miles north on Highway 9.
Click for larger Image
Blue River SWA – Eagle’s Nest Unit near Boulder Creek
Eagle’s Nest Unit— From Silverthorne, drive 9 miles north on Highway 9.
Columbine Landing off FR 2400
From I-70 take Exit 205, Silverthorne / Dillon, and travel north on HWY 9 for approximately 10 miles. The area will be on your right just before the highway crosses the Blue River. MM112.
Blue River SWA – Blue River Unit
This access is near the inlet to Green Mountain Reservoir on both East and West side of CO Hwy 9.
From Silverthorne, drive17 miles north on Hwy 9.
- Palmer Gulch is near the inlet on East side just past the Heeney turn.
- West side access is from the Highway 9 bridge. Turn left and the Cemetery / Kansas Gulch parking area and the McDonald Flats Campground further towards the reservoir.
Click for larger Image
Off of Hwy 9 going North past the Heeney turn:
- Parking on west side at mm 119.
- Prarie Point Campground at mm 120.
Below Green Mountain Reservoir to the Colorado River Access
Much of the land below Green Mountain Reservoir is private property. The area near the Reservoir offers the last major section of wade fishing access until reaching the Colorado River.
Green Mountain Canyon
The Blue River is designated “Gold Medal” waters by Colorado Parks and Wildlife within Green Mountain Canyon. This offers 3 miles of public access including ½ mile upstream and 1 mile downstream before the terrain blocks you. It is a very steep trail to access the stream.
Just past the county line ... FR 381, turn left onto the first BLM road. After a brief, rough access road, there is about ¼ mile access on the east side of river.
BLM Confluence Recreation Area
The Confluence Recreation Area is located on Trough Road (Grand County Road 1). From Kremmling, head south on Highway 9 for about 1 mile, then turn west onto Trough Road. Go about 1/2 mile until you see a BLM sign on the right for the Gore Canyon put-in. Turn right and go about 1 mile until you see a parking area.
Blue River Fly Fishing Access Maps
Upper Blue River Access Map
Lower Blue River Access Maps (Part 1)
Lower Blue River Access Maps (Part 2)
Fly Fishing Gear You Will Need
The weather during Colorado’s high country summer is unpredictable. It can be sunny and cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon. By afternoon you may receive a thunder storm and by early evening it’s clear again. Be prepared. In the winter, dress warmly.
Following are a few items to consider bringing for wade fishing:
• Fishing License -
The first thing to bring when fly fishing is a license and know the local regulations. You can buy your license on line from the Colorado Parks and Recreation website or at Wal*Mart, may of the grocery stores and fly fishing shops in the area.
• Water, Food
• Sunscreen - The sun is intense at high altitude and you’ll get sunburned without it.
• Fishing Gear – A 4-6 weight rod and all the other gear you typically fish with.
• Rain Jacket
• Additional Layers (vest)
• Fly Fishing Boots
• Wading Staff
• Hat (see sunscreen)
Blue River Hatch Charts
Note: These are approximations. Actual conditions will change due to weather, runoff and other natural and man-made conditions. Because much of this area is a tailwater fishery, hatches will be impacted by impoundment releases. In addition, there is a significant elevation difference between the headwaters and the confluence with the Colorado River (roughly 4300 ft). As a result, the timing of the hatches will vary. Check with your local fly shop to get a current update.
For more complete fishing charts organized by location on the river, season and time-of-day, including fly suggestions, images, size and entomology, download the Blue River iPhone fishing guide. To learn more about the application visit the Virtual FlyBox iPhone Application page.
Blue, Gore /Eagle RiverVirtual FlyBox
Blue River Hatch Chart
The Blue River is a major tributary to the Colorado River and supports Denver and western slope water needs.
This is a very diverse and tricky fishery due to its location to the front range and pressure that the fish receive throughout the year and also due to the fluctuating impoundment releases. Near the Dillon Reservoir the river can be fished year round. The Blue River provides fishermen with two types of fly fishing experiences, freestone and tailwater fisheries, within close proximity of each other. To the South of Dillon Reservoir, the Blue (and its tributaries) is a smaller freestone stream. Below Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir the river is a tailwater fishery, dependent on the releases from the dams. The advantage is, if one section of water is cloudy or “blown out”, another section should be fishable. The disadvantage is that stream flows may be dependent on the impoundment releases.
Some of these waters are world class fisheries. The waters below the Dillon Reservoir are designated as Gold Medal waters and have specific fishing requirements such as flies and lures only and may require that all fish of certain sizes be returned to the water immediately.
Regardless of where you live, your ability or the time of year, we think that you can find something that will suit your fishing preferences.
We hope you will take the opportunity to experience the amazing fishing on the Blue River.
See you soon …
The folks at the Virtual FlyBox