Big Thompson River
January 14, 2021:
Winter is in full swing and flows are low (14 cfs) on the Big Thompson and as a result, your options are limited. While you can still find some open stretches below the tailwater section, your time will be better spent fishing the tailwater stretch below Lake Estes dam. There is less ice buildup and trout are relatively active. The morning hours have been slow due to freezing overnight/morning temps but as the day progresses, trout will become more active. During the 11 am – 4 pm window, trout are stacked up and feeding in the soft pools, runs and pockets. These trout typically aren’t spooky or selective, but accounting for low flows and clear water, plan to work a little harder. Small (#22-24) midge larva and pupa patterns have been the most productive. Baetis and searcher patterns such as Mercury Flashback Pheasant Tails, JuJu Baetis, Blue Poison Tungs, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, Frenchies and small stones are productive lead flies if trout aren’t responding to a double midge setup. Miracle Midges, Bling Midges, Black Beauties, Top Secrets and Chocolate Foam Back Emergers are our go-to midge patterns. Focus on getting your flies deep early in you drift and you’ll find a few trout willing to play.
Ideal Days to Fish: 1/13, 1/14 & 1/15
Sub-surface: RS2 (#20-22), Barr's Emerger (#20-22), Chocolate Foam Back Emerger (#20-22), JuJu Baetis (#20-22), Mercury Pheasant Tail (#20-22), WD 40 (#20-22), Blue Poison Tung (#20-22), Mercury Midge (#22-24), Black Beauty (#22-26), Zebra Midge (#20-24), Blood Midge (#20-22), Miracle Midge (#22-24), Bling Midge (#22-24), Disco Midge (#20-22), Guides Choice Hares Ear (#16-18), red Copper John (#18-20), Rainbow Warrior (#18-20), Pat's Rubber Legs, pink/green scud, leech pattern and San Juan Worm.
Surface: Parachute Adams (#24), Griffiths Gnat (#22-24)
Detailed River Info:
The Big Thompson, commonly referred to as the Big T, is a beautiful river that originates high in Rocky Mountain National Park. This small-medium sized river flows through Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park before feeding into Lake Estes. Below Lake Estes, the river continues along Highway 34 through Drake, eventually making its way to the town of Loveland. The Big T flows through various types of terrain, offering anglers a variety of scenic and fishing opportunities. The stretch of river that flows through Rocky Mountain National Park is in an open meadow setting and contains brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and if you’re lucky, greenback cutthroat. Below Lake Estes, anglers will find themselves in a canyon setting dominated by pocket water with a select number of deep pools and runs. Brown and rainbow trout in the 10 – 12” range can be found in this stretch.
The Big Thompson is a diverse river that is friendly to anglers of all skill sets. The stretch that flows through Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park is highly sought after during the summer months. During the summer, this stretch tends to see a lot of foot traffic, so stealthy fishing is required to not spook the trout. Fishing dry and dry dropper setups is the preferred method in Moraine Park. Below Lake Estes, pocket water is prevalent, which may test your ability to fish tight pockets. Nymphing is a productive method year-round, while dry and dry dropper setups are productive during the summer and fall. Overall, the ideal time to fish the Big Thompson is during the summer and fall months. However, if you’re looking to fish during the winter, the section directly below the Lake Estes/Olympus Dam is classified as a tailwater and usually remains ice-free.
The Big Thompson has many access points with varying levels of difficulty. In order to fish Moraine Park, anglers will need to purchase a $25 National Parks day pass. Moraine Park is located just under 3 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station on the south side of Estes Park. Below Lake Estes, anglers can access the tailwater section via a public park on Mall Rd. Downstream of the tailwater, there are a number of pull offs along Highway 34 that anglers can use to access the river. Be conscious of private property when fishing along Highway 34. In general, the bank that borders the road is public and the property along the far bank tends to be private.