Poudre River – Comanche Peaks Wilderness

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By Andre Egli


The intention of this blog has always been to give our audience outdoor advice, as well as specific directions to trails and fishing spots (no secret trails or spots!).   As such, it pains me that I cannot keep my latest excursion a secret and it is with great hesitation that I share with you this amazing spot on the Poudre River.  Directions to the trailhead can be found HERE, and you’ll want to fish HERE.


Date: 7/3/2016

Flow: 1,000cfs

Rod: Redington Pursuit 8’6” 5wt

Setup: 3 Nymph Rig, Zug Bug, Hare’s Ear, and Caddis Pupa

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Poudre River along Big South Trail

I wrote a post awhile back about fishing the main stretch of the Poudre west of Fort Collins along Poudre Canyon Road.  I thoroughly enjoyed that excursion but this time out I decided to head further off the beaten track.  The Big South Trail follows the Poudre River into Comanche Peaks Wilderness and although the hike is pretty strenuous, the fishing payoff is well worth it.

In this area, the Poudre flows through a steep and narrow canyon.  Subsequently, most of the river is raging whitewater rapids and isn’t fishable.  However, there are a few sections where the river widens and the gradient drops creating nice long runs and deep pools.  These areas hold a lot of very nice fish, mostly Greenback Cutthroats and Brook Trout.

This section of the Poudre is classified as a “Travel Zone” and camping isn’t allowed outside of specific designated campsites.  There are 16 sites in all along the 7 miles of trail but they are first come first serve, so if you want to spend the night I’d suggest getting out there early to secure your spot.  These campsites are numbered and marked with signs along the trail.  Pay attention to these camp markers as you hike in because I’m going to use them to tell you where to fish.  You can find a detailed map of where all the campsites are HERE.


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The first fishable area along the trail is pretty close to the trail head around campsites 1 and 2.  The river here widens and slows allowing fishing even during heavy runoff.  If you’re not spending the night, this is a great place to stop because it’s not too hard to get too and will offer you some pretty good fishing.  However, the Big South Trail is fairly heavily used so don’t expect to be alone if you fish this section.

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Poudre River near campsites 1 & 2

The stretch of river by camps eight and nine offers some good fishing as well, but I would hit this section up later in the year once the snow melt has tapered off and the river calms down a bit.  The real gem of this area is about a half mile past campsite number nine.  As you pass camp nine, the trail will climb up and away from the river, after about a ¼ mile the trail will swing back down hill towards the river and eventually it will end up right next to the water.  When you find yourself hiking a pretty flat section right next to the river beyond campsite nine, you’re right where you want to be.

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Poudre River near campsites 8 & 9

A set of falls flows into a flat area of river roughly 100 yards long.  Right below the falls is a very deep pool, which holds a ridiculous number of trout, including some pretty fat cutthroat.  In a day and a half of fishing I caught at least 80 trout.  Since the flow is so heavy throughout most of this area, the few calm spots that exist are overflowing with trout and the fishing is electric!

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The shallow section at the end of the pool was very productive for me.  The trout were stacked up in this area and the water was so clear I could sight fish the big ones.  I used a dry dropper rig for part of the day, but later switch to a three nymph rig with great success.

If you do go and check out this section I have two words for you, Zug Bug.  I caught fish on all three of the nymphs I had on, but at least 70% of the fish I landed hit the Zug Bug.  I don’t know if it’s a pattern these fish haven’t seen much but it was unbelievably productive.  So, if you go, make sure you have a few of them in your box.

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In conclusion, this section of the Poudre River is AMAZING, but it does have a few drawbacks.  Because the canyon is so narrow and steep you will be limited as far as places you can fish.  Also, since the campsites are first come first serve, overnight trips must be planned in advance and you need to be at the trailhead early to secure your spot.  Also, the amazing spot I mentioned is roughly a 4 mile hike into the backcountry so a day trip might not be worth it.  However, if you’re looking for an overnight excursion along a river with great fishing, the Big South Trail along the Poudre will not disappoint.  If you only have a day to spare check out the section near campsites 1 and 2, if you have a few days make the trek further in and hit up the spot beyond camp nine, you won’t regret it.

Until next time, happy fishing!

  • A. Egli
Categories: Fly Fishing, Places to GoTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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