Big Thompson flows have been volatile but remain elevated. Sitting above 600 cfs, flows are well above the ideal range that we consider to be ideal for fishing. There is some color in the river, particularly below Drake, but there is still enough visibility to get the trout’s attention. Trout have been pushed towards the banks, so focus your efforts on the outer edges of the river. Banks, outer seams and other pieces of soft water are where you’ll want to focus. As a result of elevated flows, hatches and surface feeding have taken a hit and are harder to come by. This doesn’t mean you won’t see bugs flying around or the occasional trout feeding on the surface, but it does mean that dry fly fishing won’t be the most productive tactic. Hopper droppers, nymph rigs and streamers are the most productive setups at the moment. Buoyant dry flies such as Chubby Chernobyls, Hippie Stompers and Amy’s Ants are ideal for trailing multiple nymphs and weight. Sub-surface, larger attractors and pupa/emerger patterns with some flash are getting the most attention. Pat’s Rubber Legs, scuds, Squirmy Worms, Mini Leeches, Electric Caddis, red Copper Johns, Frenchies, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, Flashback PT’s, Rainbow Warriors and Perdigons are productive lead attractors or droppers below a dry fly. For your trailer, you can’t go wrong with midge pupa and baetis emergers. Mercury Black Beauties, Mercury Midges, Blue Poison Tungs, Sparkle Wing RS2s, Darth Baetis and Mercury Baetis are hot right now. Small streamers are fun to fish in deeper pools and runs. Experiment with dead drifting, twitching and erratically retrieving the streamer.
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.