Big Thompson flows dropped below 100 cfs for the first time this summer. Water clarity is high and trout are on alert. Keep a close eye on water temps during the afternoon as lower sections of the Big T are hitting concerning levels (67+ degrees). Dry droppers, hopper droppers and nymph rigs are all productive tactics. We’ve found that dry droppers and hopper droppers are most effective during the morning and evening, while nymph rigs produce the best results during the afternoon. When it comes to dry droppers, you have a few options. Smaller mayfly patterns such as Parachute PMDs are ideal when trailing emerger/pupa patterns. For deeper or heavier dry dropper setups, Elk Hair Caddis, Chubby Chernobyls and Hippy Stompers are better options as they’re more buoyant. Trail your dropper 14 – 18” behind your dry and if your dropper isn’t getting down fast enough, add a small split shot above your nymph. Sub-surface, trout aren’t terribly picky. Pat’s Rubber Legs, Copper Johns, Electric Caddis, Hare’s Ears, Frenchies, Rainbow Warriors, Flashback Pheasant Tails, RS2s, Barr’s Emergers, Blue Poison Tungs, Sparkle Pupas and Chocolate Foam Back Emergers are all effective options either on a dry dropper or double/triple nymph rig.
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.