Big Thompson River

Weekly Overview:

June 8, 2020: 

  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

  • Big Thompson flows below Lake Estes are currently sitting in the mid 600 cfs range. The river is moving quickly in most parts and the water is stained. For the best water clarity, focus on the banks. At this level, trout will hold along banks or behind structure. Elevated flows have also decreased bug and surface activity, so focusing on the soft water with a heavy nymph rig is the best approach right now. If you’re not seeing any action or snagging the bottom every few casts, add more weight. Lead your nymph rig with a large pattern such as a Pat’s Rubber Legs, San Juan Worm, leech or caddis larva. For your trailer, go with something flashy. Good options are Blue Poison Tungs, Rainbow Warriors, Psycho Prince Nymphs, Flashback Pheasant Tails and red Copper Johns. Fishing is definitely a bit harder right now, but if you get your flies down quickly in soft water and get the trout’s attention, you’ll have a good day. Until we see a reduction in flows and an improvement in clarity, our daily forecasts will be suspended.

    • Ideal Days to Fish: Wednesday, Thursday & Friday

  • Suggested Flies:

    • Sub-surface: RS2 (#20-22), Barr's Emerger (#20-22), Chocolate Thunder (#20-22), JuJu Baetis (#20-22), Mercury Pheasant Tail (#20-22), WD 40 (#20-22), Mercury Midge (#22-24), Black Beauty (#22-26), Zebra Midge (#20-24), Blood Midge (#20-22), Disco Midge (#20-22), Guides Choice Hares Ear (#16-18), red Copper John (#18-20), Rainbow Warrior (#18-20), Blue Poison Tung (#18), Frenchie (#18), Pat's Rubber Legs, pink/green scud, leech pattern and San Juan Worm.

    • Surface: Parachute Adams (#22-24), Griffiths Gnat (#22-24)​, Elk Hair Caddis (#16-18), Chubby Chernobyl (#14).

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.


River Access:

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.

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