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Fly Fishing the Dolores River

by | May 20, 2021 | Fly Fishing | 0 comments

Fly fishing the Dolores River is getting to experience one of Southwest Colorado’s best fisheries. Plus, it’s the last great river before crossing into Utah.

Bighorn sheep, herds of elk, mule deer, lions, and huge variety of bugs. Get ready for some adventure fly fishing on the Dolores River.

With headwaters just 25 minutes from Telluride, the Upper Dolores watershed is fed by dozens of cutthroat and brook trout streams descending from hidden alpine basins. Willing fish and magnificent scenery make the Dolores a Colorado classic. Plenty of public waters exist at the pools, trailing off prior to heading into the high mountain town of Rico.


Fly fishing the Dolores River is getting to experience one of Southwest Colorado’s best fisheries.

Fishing the Upper Dolores River

From Rico to the town of Dolores, the Upper Dolores is a traditional freestone river, meaning it can be extremely temperamental based on the snow melt and water temperatures. The Upper Dolores fishes well in the spring and early summer and exceptionally well in the traditional early fall (just when aspen foliage is starting to really pop). During peak season, this section has low water, resulting in good pocket water fishing (meaning you’ll have pools that have been naturally created over time, so you’ll have to do more specific, targeted fishing). 

The Upper Dolores boasts rainbow and brown trout, and is a great place for caddis, large hoppers, chubby chernobyl, stimulators, and small midges; during certain times, streamer fishing can be good too.

Expedition Outside has private access to several high quality fishing spots on this stretch.

Fishing the Lower Dolores River


Below McPhee Reservoir, the Dolores winds through a lush valley.  The Dolores is known as a place where advanced anglers can test their skills and nerves, as it is some of the most challenging dry fly water in the region.

The main section for fishing the Lower Dolores stretches from Bradfield Bridge upriver to McFee Dam. This portion of river is managed conservatively, which means that it is wadable most of the year. The main draw for fishing the Lower Dolores is the scenery and its technical fishing conditions. 

Due to the lower gradient, the river runs slow and is fairly clear. You can walk the banks and see fish feeding, but proceed with caution! Rattlesnakes and black bears are common in the area. 

You’ll be able to fish with blue winged olives, caddis, pale morning duns, and even in late May, a lot of grasshoppers. Fly fishing the Dolores River is a great place to fish dry dropper or technical dry fly fishing.  

Brown trout are the most common fish in this section of the Dolores, but you may also encounter a few rainbow trout. Like the Animas, brown trout can easily be 20–24 inches.

If you are planning a fishing trip, take a few minutes to browse our private water offerings. While all of these rivers have public access points, you’ll soon discover that there is nothing more “Colorado” than spending the day on the untouched, pristine waters that only private access can offer. 




  1. Fly fishing the upper dolores river - Taunt On Water - […] Fly Fishing The Dolores River; Headwaters, Upper, and Lower […]

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