It is no well-kept secret that the San Luis Valley is home to some of the best fishing in Colorado! Travelers come from all over the world to experience the fishing opportunities that are presented. From Antonito to Alamosa to Creede, there are countless options for one to explore and it would take months to make it to all of them. That being said, Visit Alamosa did a deep dive into the best locations for you to hit while you are visiting to make it the best adventure possible! Whether you consider yourself to be a professional, or you are just starting out, there is a fishing hole for everyone, and we hope to set you on course to finding your favorite! We will also send you on your way with some advice from local guides and local anglers as well as local guide services offered across the Valley. Read on to widen your horizons on the plentiful fishing offerings of the great San Luis Valley.
Alamosa, Monte Vista and Surrounding Areas
Now, we aren't going to tell you that the best fishing happens downtown, because that would be a lie, but you won't have to travel very far! Just outside of our urban gates lies some gems that any fisherman would be eager to visit! Grab your tackle box and ready your rods for pristine locations all located an hour or less away from town.
Located just a short walk away from our beautiful downtown, the Rio Grande is an excellent choice! Filled with various species of trout, you are most likely to hook into Brown and Rainbow Trout. Flies and lures will yield the best results while fishing here. It is recommended that for the best fishing, one visits mid June through late October. It is generally too cold before mid June, and the river flow is too high and fast for the fishing experience to be considered good. The waters will resemble chocolate milk, making it that much harder to hook into a good catch. The consistency of the water dulls the vibrancy of the fish's colors as well, making for a less than picture perfect moment for anglers. Plan your trip accordingly and wade into some incredible waters that will not disappoint.
This location is a short 30 miles east of Alamosa. Catches will include Rainbow, Brook, Brown and Cutthroat Trout as well as Northern Pike! Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring, this spot is open year round and because it is a cold water lake, the fishing is plentiful in any season. Take in a warm July trip or opt to take a trip to ice fish in the colder months. Camp, fish, and take in the beauty surrounding this area, who knows, it may just become your new favorite spot.
This one is for the avid fly fishermen and those that seek solitude on their fishing endeavors. This location is just an hour West of Alamosa. Anglers will find themselves catching Rainbow, Brown, and Cutthroat Trout. Word on the river is the browns in this location tend to be hogs! Offering both lake and river fishing, this two for one stop will be at the top of your list for years to come. Local angler Paul Apke considers this to be one of his favorite places to fish and had this to offer on fishing the Conejos River, "My second favorite river to fish in the San Luis Valley is the Conejos. With such a diverse and healthy aquatic buglife, the Conejos boasts one of if not the healthiest river system in the state. This means that the trout can sometimes be picky, and the fishing can be technical. I confirmed this firsthand on my first trip to this river when I flipped over the first river rock I grabbed and it was covered with bugs. Multiple sizes and variations of stoneflies, mayflies, caddis, midges, and more. Most rivers it takes flipping a few rocks over and you may find a couple of bugs, the first rock I grabbed on the Conejos was loaded. This is a helpful trick if you’re not sure what nymphs to fish with, flip over some river rocks and use flies that match the size and colors of the bugs you see in the water. I’ve also had success throwing dry flies during certain hatches and throwing small streamers on the Conejos. Although it can be a difficult river to fish at times, when you can figure it out, it pays off and the reward can be catching big trout or a lot of them."
This little man made lake is both pleasant to the eye, and plentiful for the hook! Being that there are less fishing options in Monte, this is a popular place, so you will not likely find yourself fishing alone. Stocked in the late spring, the later weeks of May begin the best fishing in this lake. Look forward to catching Bluegill, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout and Channel Catfish. This is a great location for those that are just learning how to fish or those fishing with children
Del Norte is known for its cultural diversity and wide array of adventures that can be had in and around this small mountain town. The fishing is just one of the many activities that is hosted, and you will be in no short supply of places to find to partake in an epic day or weekend of fishing.
Just an hour outside of Del Norte is Crystal Lakes. This secluded area allows for a peaceful escape and you are not going to run into an abundant amount of people in this area. You will mainly hook into Cutthroat and Brook Trout, but there is also the chance of getting lucky and hooking into a Tiger Trout (a hybrid between Brook and Brown Trout) or a Brown Trout as well. Some of this largest caught fish come out of Crystal which is all the appeal an angler needs to be enticed to make the trip.
This lake will require a little bit of a hike, but is well worth it! Located at the top of a 6 mile trail lies San Francisco Upper Lake. You will likely be one of the only people fishing at this location due to it being very remote and difficult to access, making for a peaceful day at the lake. Here you will mainly catch native Cutthroat Trout with the chance to hook into Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout as well.
The Rio Grande is always a great choice while in Del Norte. You will likely catch the same species of fish that you caught while fishing it in Alamosa, with a little bit of different scenery!Rainbow and Brown Trout will likely be at the end of your line! The same rules apply, mid June through late October is going to be your best bet for the best fishing.
South Fork is one of the fishing hubs of the Valley offering more locations to fish than any other area in the San Luis Valley. Home to one of the largest stretch of Gold Metal river waters in the state that anglers catch trophy Brown Trout in, this is not a town that you want to overlook while planning your fishing endeavor!
This is one of the most easily accessed fishing points in the San Luis Valley and is highly recommended as a great family friendly location! A short 8 miles, roughly 15-20 minutes outside of South Fork, one will hook into various species on the 114 acres of water including Rainbow and Brown Trout along with the possibility of catching Kokanee Salmon as well. Whether you choose to use bait, lures, or flies, you are sure to catch plenty of fish and have a blast doing it! This lake also offers ice fishing during the winter months making it a year round gold mine. Fish from the bank or bring your small boat and cruise the waters for the ultimate fishing experience.
Known for its 15 miles of Gold Metal Water, the Upper Rio Grande in South Fork is a location you won't want to skip! Starting in mid- June, anglers can experience the Salmon fly Hatch that occurs in these waters. This experience is limited however, and it ends within the first couple of weeks in July. Epic fishing at its finest is calling your name. In speaking to local fishermen Presley Garcia, he had this to say about fishing the Rio in South Fork, " The Rio Grande River near South Fork is some of the best fishing in the state without the immense fishing pressure that other Colorado streams see. The Upper Rio Grande and its tributaries see some of the biggest bugs that hatch in mid to late June that continue into July. Known for the salmon fly hatch (pteronarcys California) that occurs in the middle of June each year, the Rio grande and its tributaries see other great hatches. Generally the season on the Rio begins in mid April and starts off with great streamer fishing that continues all season long. In April we see smaller bugs hatching like midges and blue winged olive mayflies in sizes 16-22. In May we start to see caddis species (size 14-20) that can last in some years into the beginning of august. June is when the big bugs show up, starting with the salmon flies (size 4-10). Generally the salmon flies show up when peak runoff has subsided and water temps have leveled off around 55 degrees. You can almost count on the salmon fly hatch to start between June 10th-20th, though it can be earlier or later. The next big hatch at the end of June and the beginning of July is the green drake hatch (sizes 10-16). In July we see a plethora of smaller mayfly hatches including red quills, pale morning duns, and blue winged olives again (sizes 14-20). August and September make for great terrestrial fishing on the Rio with hoppers, ants, and beetles ( size 8-16) being abundant food for the trout. The fall is often an overlooked time of year to fish where just about any nymph or streamer presented properly entices a strike. The season on the Rio generally wraps up at the end of November or beginning of December as the river starts to freeze over. Generally the hatches on the Rio start off with small bugs, and progress to bigger bugs in the middle of summer. Then gradually getting smaller to end the season creating this bell curve of bug sizes if you will. The streamer fishing on the river is generally best early and late in the season but fish can always be caught using streamers."
This location is a short drive out of South Fork, roughly 18 miles, but is well worth the effort it takes to get to! Enjoy 114 acres of water to fish on with views that are hard to beat. Hook into Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout as well as Kokanee Salmon at this location. Fish with bait, lures, and flies, as fish will be caught on any of the listed options in typically equal amounts. Take the kids, grandparents, or your buddy in a wheelchair as it is handicap accessible! Take it from Paul Apke, who has fished this location for years and said, "A great fishery we frequent is Big Meadows Reservoir. With nice facilities, an easy access boat ramp and a walking path around the lake it makes for a great outing with the whole family, fun to bring the kayaks, boats, paddleboards, you name it. Just outside of South Fork right before the pass on the way up to Wolf Creek Ski Area there’s a turn for Big Meadows Reservoir."
Though it is a little smaller than some of the other locations, this little lake is full of Brook and Cutthroat Trout that are ready for the taking. It is recommended that one lure fishes this lake for the best outcomes in terms of numbers of fish you will catch, however fly fishermen tend to have good success while fishing this location as well. One can bring their small boat and launch at the boat ramp or pack your float tube and enjoy this serene location as you fish out in the middle of the lake. This is a great location if you are interested in having few to no people on the waters with you, especially during the week.
This beautiful lake is a local favorite and is best for seasoned fishermen. The lake is more shallow than most and it is not recommended that one uses lures to fish this location. The best luck will be had using bait and dry flies in the main part of the lake. Fly fishermen will have a great time fishing in the creek and beaver ponds located above the lake! Enjoy hooking into Rainbow, Brook, and Brown Trout at this location and take in some of the best lake views that Creede has to offer travelers! Keep in mind that you will want to have a 4x4 vehicle to get to this location.
Another gold mine location that Creede offers in Crystal Lake. This is another location that is best for experienced fishermen, but that's not to say the entire family can't come along. The generally shallow body of water might be a hang up for less experienced anglers, but not impossible by any means! This location is highly recommended for fly fishermen, but spin fishing is also a good option. Hook into Rainbow and beautifully colored Cuthroat Trout at this location. There is not a boat ramp option here, and it is not deep enough to float on. One will need a 4x4 vehicle to reach this location, it gets pretty bumpy along the way. Enjoy some great bank or wade fishing surrounded by breathtaking scenery. This is a popular spot for those taking side by side adventures, but many won't stop to fish so there will be plenty of open water for you to take on!
This location is very specific to fly fishermen. One will have little to no success using bait here and spinning rod fishing is not recommended. There are a few rules and restrictions in this area to keep in mind while at this location, only flies and lures are to be used. All Rainbow Trout must be released unless accidentally killed by swallowing lures. You may only keep 2 Brown Trout per person and they must be 12 inches or less to keep. Failure to follow these regulations could result in the revocation of your fishing license for the remainder of the season. Fly fishing and float fishing is the best option to have a fun and successful trip on these waters.
This high mountain lake appeals to all anglers. This is a great family friendly location and is perfect for those trying to teach kids. If you are just learning how to fish and still dabbling in different techniques, this is an excellent place to learn and experience at. Fly fisherman and spinning rod fishermen alike will have a great time fishing this lake. Lures, bait, and flies are all great to use here leaving you endless options. One will most likely catch Brook and Cutthroat trout out of this lake, but there is always the chance of hooking into various species of trout outside of those two.
Tips and Advice From Local Anglers
Kale Mortenson is an Alamosa resident and longtime fisherman. When we asked him what advice he had to offer for travelers, he offered this, "As a local fisherman, the biggest tip I have is to know before you go. With rivers in Colorado, it's important to understand which areas are public and allow for access and which sections are private. The best place to get this information, or to get some insight on best places to go or hatches to catch, is to utilize the local fly shops. Whether you are there to set up a guide trip or to find some great flies, ask the guides for their recommendations. If you want to beat the crowd or feel like you have more river to yourself, I highly recommend doing a trip with a guide. Most guides have access to private stretches or will take you to more unknown spots and all you have to worry about is placing that fly in the right direction."
Presley Garcia is a resident of Alamosa, Valley Native, and an experienced fly fisherman. His recommendations lean to fishing the Rio Grande River in South Fork, Colorado and offered the following, "One thing to keep in mind when fishing the Rio is flows are not suitable for wading when flows are around 600 cubic feet a second as it can be dangerous. Even experienced anglers do not wade some parts of the river when it is above 400 cfs. When wading in high flows, find softer water or stay on the banks that are NOT undercut (undercut banks can give way very easily). Another thing to keep in mind is that the gold metal section of the Rio is between the towns of South Fork and Del Norte, which is mostly private water. In Colorado, like most Rocky Mountain states, landowners own the bottom of the river and you can be trespassing even if you are in the water. The best way to fish the goal metal section of the river is by boat (raft or drift boat). One final thing to keep in mind is protecting the resource and being respectful of the fishery. The Rio doesn’t see as much pressure as other streams, however, those days are coming to an end as we are seeing angling pressure increase each year. It is important to practice leave no trace and follow CPW’s fishing regulations. Rainbow trout spawn in the Spring and Brown Trout spawn in the Fall and when they are doing so, it leaves them very vulnerable. It is important to let these fish do their thing during the spawn, as it creates many more fishing opportunities for all in the future." He also offered his opinion on the best flies to use in this area:
- Sub-surface (nymph)
- Pat’s rubber leg (6-10), 20 incher ( 10-14), copper John (12-18), Prince nymph (10-16), rainbow warrior (14-18), pheasant tail (12-18), hares ear (12-18), Graphic caddis (14-18), zebra midge (18-22), frienchie (14-20) waltz worm (12-18), caddis pupa (14-18) mini leech (12-14), San Juan worm(14-16)
- Surface (dry fly)
- Chubby Chernobyl (6-12), stimulator (8-16), sofa king (4-10), elk hair caddis (12-18), parachute adams (12-20), puterbaugh’s foam caddis (12-18), film critic (12-18), sparkdun (14-20), royal wulff (14-18), hackle stacker (16-20), corn fed caddis (14-18), purple haze (16-22)
- Wooly bugger (6-12), peanut envy (4-6) slump buster (4-8) zonker (4-10) , meat whistle (2-4)
Pierce Lancaster is a guide for 8200 Mountain Sports in South Fork. His advice is, "As an angler, there's not many other places on the map comparable to the Upper Rio Grande and its tributaries when it comes to catching large fish in large quantities. The Valley boasts Gold Metal Waters on the Rio Grande between South Fork and Del Norte. Gold Medal Waters are designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for being of the highest quality (or gold standard) of cold water fisheries. These rivers, streams, and lakes are surveyed by biologists frequently, and must be found to hold a minimum of sixty pounds of fish per acre, as well as a dozen of these fish being a length of 14 inches or greater. Plainly speaking, the fishing is incredible. To complement the big river, several of its tributaries and surrounding reservoirs offer stellar angling experiences for the lake bum or creek junkie. Lakes and streams are also perfect for taking children or teaching beginners the ropes of their new addiction."
"As always, we love our world class fishing here in the Valley, and we would like to keep it that way. The first step in doing so is ethical practices while angling such as catch and release, packing out what you pack in, as well as picking up trash you may encounter while fishing. Another way of helping the conservation of these waters is by joining your local Trout Unlimited chapter. Trout Unlimited is a worldwide organization dedicated to the preservation and conservation of cold water habitats such as the ones we get to enjoy here. The San Luis Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited is our local chapter that focuses on our local fisheries. One of the chapter's primary initiatives is the conservation of our native Rio Grande Cutthroat trout. There are a myriad of ways to get involved with the chapter's efforts, and it's a great way to meet and interact with fellow anglers and conservationists."
If you're in need of some tips on what bugs to be throwing, or if you are interested in joining Trout Unlimited, stop by 8200 Mountain Sports in South Fork for all the knowledge and gear you'll need!
Paul is a long time Valley resident and avid fisherman. He enjoys solo trips often and opts to venture out with his small family to teach them what they need to know to be successful anglers as well. Be it from the banks or floating the river, he has experienced it all. As such, he offers the following advice to those coming to the San Luis Valley to fish, "If you’re traveling to the San Luis Valley and plan to do some fishing, the options are certainly in your favor! With many different rivers and lakes to choose from that provide excellent fishing opportunities, the Southwest corner of Colorado is truly a fisherman’s paradise. I will highlight a few of my favorite fisheries, tips on how to best fish them, and general best practices. If you have other questions or concerns, don’t forget to call a local fly shop!"
"The Rio Grande has ultimately become my favorite river in the state, and while I may be biased after being fortunate enough to live on its banks for several years, even on a slow day of fishing it never disappoints. There are a number of great public access points along highway 149 between South Fork and Creede. However, due to the overgrowth of brush on the banks, and miles of private sectors it can be difficult to wade fish. Ultimately floating this river is the best way to fish it. Usually the best time of year to float is from mid June to August depending on runoff and flows. During that time period there are a number of great hatches anglers can capitalize on: mayflies, bwo’s, caddis, stoneflies. And if the fish aren’t rising for dries, I’ve always had good luck nymphing with stoneflies, caddis pupae, worms, and mayflies. Using a “hopper-dropper” or a grass-hopper with a nymph tied below is a great way to target multiple types of feeding fish in the summer. Fishing with a streamer, or a pattern that imitates a minnow, sculpin, or prey fish is my favorite way to fish this river. Stripping these flies up or across the river in short rhythmic bursts to imitate swimming fish, or swinging the fly across the river will activate a fish's predatory instinct and cause them to strike the fly in the most exhilarating fashion. If you do plan on floating the Rio, and haven’t before, please check in with a local fly shop first - 8200 in South Fork is a great one, and make sure the current flows are safe to float, make sure your float, coordinate your shuttle, they can provide one for you if you only have one vehicle, and make sure you bring and wear your PFD!"
Information and Pricing From Local Guide Services
8200 Mountain Sports is South Fork’s premier Fly Shop & Guide Service. We offer Float trips, Wade trips, Fly Fishing Schools and lessons on the Rio Grande for all levels of anglers. The trips are all inclusive with no additional charges and all equipment is provided. Float Trips are $500- $650. Wade trips & Schools start at $300*.
The Fly Shop is staffed with friendly, local anglers and fully equipped with all the gear and supplies for your next fishing venture. We take a “no-attitude” approach to fly fishing. Stop in and chat about fishing!
8200 also offers rod, reel & wader rentals. Additionally, you can rent a Raft/Kayak/SUP for the Rio Grande and local lakes. Guided Raft trips are also available through Mountain Man Rafting at 8200.
Conejos River Anglers is a full service fly shop, guide service, and cabin rental located four miles west of the town of Antonito, home of the Cumbres and Toltec steam train. We can provide everything you need for a great day on the water. Our very experienced guides can take you out for a full day or half, and put you on to some of the best public fishing in Colorado. We can also arrange for private water as well. You will find that the Conejos River has much less pressure than other surrounding fisheries. Our fly shop stocks over five hundred patterns from vendors like Montana Fly Company and Umpqua. Our sportswear, boots, waders, jackets, and hats come from vendors like Patagonia, Simms, Korkers, and Fishpond. The cabins, rustic and charming, can sleep from four to seven people comfortably. Let us help make your next fishing experience memorable .
# in Group Full day 1/ 2 day Cabin rates.
1 $ 395 $325 $120-175.
2 $475 $395
3 $555 $450
The staff at Wolf Creek Anglers would like to invite you to join us in South Fork some time this summer. We are a full service fly shop and guide service. We guide the magnificent Upper Rio Grande River right out our back door. We provide full and half day float trips, full and half daywalk/wade trips, as well as a variety of beginner packages. So whether you are a seasoned flyfisher or wanting to get started, we want to be your go to headquarters for fishing in this area.We are an authorized Orvis retailer with a complete line of products. Our guides and shop staff are ready to serve you and provide everything you need to have a successful fly fishing experience on the Upper Rio Grande. We look forward to seeing you this summer.
Packages vary in price depending on the number of people in your group and the duration of your guided trip. Visit the website linked above for full pricing details. At a glance, float trips range from $475-$600* and wade trips range from $275-$475*.
Rio Grande Angler is located in Creede Colorado. They offer quality fishing gear and wade trips to travelers. Float trips range $500-$700* for two people and wade trips range $400-$600* for two people. Contact them today to get your trip booked. Visit their website for fishing reports and more information.
The San Luis Valley offers truly premier fishing unlike anywhere else you have been before. It is not often that one comes across a string of 5 towns back to back that offer the kind of fishing that these towns do! Visit Alamosa sincerely hopes that your visit to the Mystic San Luis Valley is extraordinary and that you find a spot to fish that keeps you coming back to see us for years to come! We urge you to always have your fishing license handy, do your research on each location to keep up to date on rules, regulations, fish limits, and generally know before you go as you head out on your epic angling adventures! As always, Team Visit Alamosa is just an email away or you can come on into the Colorado Welcome Center 7 days a week to chat with someone for our team and we can provide with all the reading material you will need to have an amazing visit! Feel free to browse Alamosa.org for additional information, use our itinerary planner, or catch up on our travelers blog for more inspiration toward planning your visit!
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*All prices listed are current as of publication, 6/13/23.