Big Thompson River

What to expect

The Big Thompson River is famous for it’s pristine waters and abundant trout population, particularly brown and rainbow trout. It is easily accessible from Estes Park, making it a popular choice for both locals and visitors. Whether you prefer dry fly fishing, nymphing, or streamer fishing, the river provides ample opportunities for each style. Its varied water flows, deep pools, riffles, and pocket water make for an exciting angling experience.

The river can be divided into upper and lower sections. The upper section, which flows from Lake Estes to the town of Drake, is characterized by fast-paced water and narrow canyons. This part is well-suited for adventurous anglers seeking a challenge. The lower section, from Drake to Loveland, has a more moderate flow and wider channels, offering a more relaxed fishing experience.

Spring and summer are considered prime times for fly fishing. During these seasons, hatches of various insects, including mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies, provide abundant food sources for the trout, resulting in excellent fishing opportunities.

Who to use

We recommend Kirks Fly Shop ( located on the Main Street in Estes Park. Kirk’s is Estes Park’s preeminent fly shop, and has been fishing and guiding the area for over 20 years.


Where to eat/drink

  • Ed’s Cantina and Bar serves up delicious Mexican food and tasty (yet strong) margaritas.
  • The Wheel Bar is a local staple, with cheap drinks, pool, and an extreme townie atmosphere.

How to get there

Estes Park is about an hour and half from Denver, and less than an hour from Boulder and Longmont. We highly recommend driving through the beautiful Big Thompson canyon, where there are plenty of locations to pull off and fish along the way.

Where to stay

If you’re into the spooky stuff, check out the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The Stanley Hotel was the basis for Stephen King’s acclaimed book “The Shining”, and there are rumors of haunted rooms and potential ghosts. If that’s not your thing, The Stanley still has a world class whiskey bar, is walking distance to downtown Estes Park, and is a quick drive to the Big Thompson River and Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s worth checking out, even if you don’t stay the night.

Ease of Access

South Platte River – Deckers


Blue River


Clear Creek


Roaring Fork River