Big Thompson River

Big Thompson River

Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate
Ideal Days To Fish 2/23 & 2/28

Weekly Report

Report DateFeb. 25, 2021
While it wasn’t much, Big Thompson flows below Lake Estes increased last Sunday from 10 cfs to 15 cfs. At this level, any increase in flow is positive. Some stretches downstream of the dam have cleared up but for the most part, the tailwater stretch below the dam is still your best bet. These trout aren’t typically selective and skittish but in these low flows, they will make you work a little harder. Slow and deep drifts are key right now, so experiment with your split shot until you find the right depth. With cold water temps, trout are favoring the deepest water column and ample split shot or tungsten bead nymphs are the best way to get you flies down quickly. Focus on the deep pools, soft runs and pockets. Simple searcher or attractor patterns are working well when trailed by small midge larva/pupa patterns. Frenchies, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, red Copper Johns, Rainbow Warriors and Perdigons are all solid lead fly options. Overnight temperatures will be well below freezing the next few nights, so let the river sit until 11 am or noon and hit it hard through the afternoon.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region

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.