Big Thompson River

Big Thompson River

Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate
Ideal Days To Fish 10/20, 10/21 & 10/22

Weekly Report

Report DateOct. 14, 2021

Flows increased on the Big Thompson below Lake Estes last Sunday to 57 cfs but have since retreated to 36 cfs. While minor, volatile flows threw off trout behavior and feeding this week but we should see them settle in today or tomorrow. Cooler weather this week pushed trout into soft pools, runs, pockets and seams. Focus on these sections with a dry dropper or light nymph rig. Trout are also moving a bit slower right now, so focus on getting clean and slow drifts through deep water columns. If you’re not fishing tungsten bead nymphs, split shot will be necessary to get your flies down deep and achieve a slow drift. Amy’s Ants, Hippy Stompers and PMXs are ideal dry fly patterns for heavy dry droppers. Due to freezing overnight temps, these patterns will serve more as an indicator rather than an attractive meal. If you’re looking to fool trout on the surface, midge, BWO and caddis patterns will do the most damage in the late morning and afternoon. Sub-surface, searcher and flashy attractor patterns trailed by a midge pupa or baetis emerger is the way to go. Frenchies, red Copper Johns, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, Prince Nymphs and Rainbow Warriors are productive searcher/attractors. Zebra Midges, Mercuy Midges, Jujubee Midges, Chocolate Foam Backs, RS2s and Blue Poison Tungs ae our go-to midge and baetis patterns.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region
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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.