The Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing in Colorado: Part 2, Types of Fish in Colorado

Trout is the “quintessential” fish in Colorado, yet there are more beautiful fish swimming in our waters. In Part Two of our series, we’ll review some of the many fish you’ll find on the end of your fly fishing line.

Rainbow Trout: 

These trout are known for their “multi-hued coloration” that includes green, yellow, and blue. They have pinkish bands that run from their gills to their tails, as well as black spots. Rainbow trout grow up to 20-plus inches in Colorado. A non-native species, these fish were introduced from Europe to Colorado in the 1880’s.

Cutthroat Trout:

Cutthroat trout feature two red swaths on their lower jaws, and are spotted on their sides and backs. They have a greenish/brassy coloring, and grow up to 12 inches. The Greenback Cutthroat trout is Colorado’s state fish as well as being a native fish to Colorado. Unfortunately because of the introduction of non-native predatory species of other Trout and game fish Cutthroat Trout populations have dwindled over the last several decades.

Brook Trout:

This type of trout features sides “speckled” with reddish-orange, blue-haloed spots, dark-green olive backs, and rust-colored fins. Their fins feature white edges. They grow up to 14 inches in Colorado.

Brown Trout:

Brown trout are unsurprisingly brownish-yellow to dark brown. They feature few or no dark spots, and can grow up to 26 inches. Brown trout are also a non-native species that was introduced from mostly Germany to Colorado in the 1880’s. Thus many anglers refer to them as German Browns.

Lake Trout:

The lake trout is the largest type of trout on the North American continent. It is also referred to as the Mackinaw, and features white spots on a black body. It also features a deep fork in the tail. They dwell in mountain lakes and can live up to 20 years. The largest lake trout caught on record is over 44 pounds.

Kokanee Salmon:

This fish is found in West Coast lakes, however it is not native to Colorado. The salmon is found in many reservoirs thanks to restocking efforts, and is usually bluish-green with silver sides. Male Kokanee salmon have no spots. They grow up to 12 inches and are highly acrobatic and fierce fighters.


The wiper was introduced to Colorado waterways in the 1980s and is a hybrid of white and striped bass. The fish is a schooling species commonly found on the surface of rivers and lakes in the summer, due to its interaction with prey fish. The largest of this hard-fighting fish on record is 27 pounds.

Mountain Whitefish:

The mountain whitefish is native to the Yampa and White Rivers, and was introduced to the Roaring Fork and Cache la Poudre Rivers. It features a short dorsal fin, silvery hue, and slender body. Some species grow up to 28 inches in length. The White fish is a member of the Grayling family.

Largemouth Bass:

The largemouth bass is a member of the sunfish family and features dark-colored blotches that form a horizontal, jagged stripe on its flanks. It can weigh up to 25 pounds when fully grown.  Bass are highly regarded by both non fly and fly fishers as one of the greatest fighting game fish there is pound for pound.

Northern Pike:

Northern Pike are often referred to as the freshwater Barracuda.  Pike are a very toothy predatory fish that was introduced to many of the larger reservoirs in Colorado in the 1950s.  The current state record Pike measured about 52 inches.  Pike are a fantastic game fish for fly fisherman because of their  aggressiveness and very visual strikes.

Enjoy catching these and other species when embarking on trips with our experienced fly fishing guides! Book your trip today and stay tuned for Part 3 of our Ultimate Fly Fishing Guide coming up next week!

This post is part of a series on Fly Fishing for Beginners. Catch up on the first post here:

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