Big Thompson flows currently sit at 25 cfs, which is roughly 10 cfs lower than what we typically see this time of year. Sub-freezing overnight air temps have led to thin ice buildup in sections that receive little sunlight. Most of the ice breaks up and melts as the day progresses, but it’s a sign that winter is moving in quickly. In general, the first mile or two below Lake Estes dam will produce the most consistent fishing as water temps are warmer and better regulated. Midges are the most prominent bug right now but there are still some lingering BWOs that will appear on warmer afternoons. Heavy midge and BWO hatches will bring trout to the surface during the late morning and early afternoon. When trout aren’t feeding on the surface, light nymph rigs and dry double droppers are the way to go. Trout are hugging the river bed during the morning hours. Get your flies down deep with split shot and/or tungsten bead nymphs. As the day progresses and the water warms up, trout will feed in the middle portion of the water column. Adjust your indicator and split shot accordingly to drift your flies through their feeding lane. Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs, Mercury Flashback Pheasant Tails, Frenchies, Rainbow Warriors, Blue Poison Tungs, RS2s, Mercury Black Beauties and red/black Zebra Midges are all good patterns to have on hand.
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.