The Roaring Fork Valley offers some of the finest fly fishing in Colorado, and Carbondale lies in the heart of it. Sitting at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers, and only a 15-minute drive to both the Colorado and Frying Pan Rivers, Carbondale serves as the perfect base-camp for anglers wanting to explore our remarkable fisheries.

The Roaring Fork River is one of Colorado’s finest rivers for trout fishing. This freestone river winds its way down from Independence Pass (12,095 feet) to its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, a distance of roughly 70 miles. The river falls more in elevation than the Mississippi River does in its entire length. Because of the Roaring Fork River’s great diversity along this long journey, it offers a wide variety of water types.

The water from Carbondale to Basalt is known as the middle Roaring Fork. This water runs slower than the river’s upper stretches and offers larger runs and pools. Popular with float fishermen in the early season, it usually becomes too low to float by late July. Brown trout and mountain whitefish are the predominant species in this stretch of river. The Colorado Wildlife Commission declared the 13 miles of the Roaring Fork River between Basalt and Carbondale as “Gold Medal Water,” creating a 42-mile stretch that is the longest continuous section of “Gold Medal Water” in the state.

The stretch of water between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs is known as the lower Roaring Fork. From just below the town of Carbondale and downstream to the confluence with the Colorado River, this state-designated stretch of “Gold Medal Water” turns into a classic meandering western river. Conducive to drift boats, this is a relatively tame 14-mile stretch. The largest fish in the entire Roaring Fork River live here, with several fish in the 5-pound to 8-pound range landed each year. Carbondale’s lesser-known river, the Crystal, is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the west. It flows for over 30 miles from its headwaters above the small town of Marble down to its confluence with the Roaring Fork River, just below the town of Carbondale. Besides the abundance of mountain whitefish in the Crystal River, rainbows and browns in the 14-inch to 18-inch range move up from the Roaring Fork, and each year the river is heavily stocked with catchable rainbows. The Crystal River offers excellent pocket water, great riffles, and some nice deep runs and holes that fish well throughout the entire year. Best of all, most of the Crystal River through the town of Carbondale is open to the public for fishing.

For most recent regulations, licensing, fishing maps, and much more, refer to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 2020 Fishing Brochure

A valid hunting or fishing license is required for everyone 18 or older accessing any State Wildlife Area or CPW-leased State Trust Land, effective July 1, 2020. An annual hunting or annual fishing license can be purchased through CPW authorized sales agents, by phone (1-800-244-5613), or online at CPWShop.

You can get a recent fishing report from the following sites:

  • Crystal River

    While not as well-known as the Frying Pan or the Roaring Fork, the Crystal is a fast-moving, clear river with good fishing, and only a fraction of the crowds you'll find at the other two. The fish tend to be smaller, but it's not unheard of to hook a 16-inch rainbow or brown lurking in the deeper pools. Learn more »
  • Frying Pan River

    The Frying Pan is world-famous, and for good reason. The monster rainbows that live in it have to be seen to be believed, which is often easier said than done. Even though you can often spot the trout in the crystal clear waters, they are wise to the ways of fishermen, and you'll need a perfect drift to fool these elusive creatures. Persevere, however, and you'll likely be rewarded with some of the biggest and most beautiful trout you've ever laid eyes on. Learn more »
  • Roaring Fork River

    Few rivers offer the variety that you can find in the Roaring Fork. Whether you are stalking brookies at 10,000 feet, or floating down the big, meandering stretch between Carbondale and Glenwood, there is something for every angler on this magnificent body of water.

    Browns and rainbows are the most common trout you'll encounter, though brookies are common up high. You are also likely to hook a mountain whitefish if you spend any time nymphing; these guys put up an incredible fight and are a lot of fun to catch. Learn more »

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