Forever Wild and Scenic: The Cache La Poudre River

Beginning high in the Rockies and making its way down to the plains of Colorado, the Cache La Poudre River is a Wild & Scenic River with fantastic fishing opportunities.
Beginning high in the Rockies and making its way down to the plains of Colorado, the Cache La Poudre River is a Wild & Scenic River with fantastic fishing opportunities. Graham Silver
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In Northern Colorado—east of the divide—creeks, streams, and rivers weave down the mountains and into the Front Range, meandering through the ranches and grasslands on their way to the South Platte. 

The Cache La Poudre River is one of the largest rivers making this trip, beginning in the impressive Rocky Mountain National Park and making its way through the town of Fort Collins before heading onto the Colorado plains. 

In the town of Fort Collins, the Poudre provides the natural bond that anchors the town to the wild forests, canyons, and peaks to the west. It begins in small Rocky Mountain and spills down the Poudre Canyon for 40 miles while descending nearly 4,000 vertical feet. Colorado Highway 14, or Cameron Pass, parallels the river and offers excellent access to an abundance of public parking areas that allow easy river access. The two-lane highway is narrow and winding, passing through tunnels and small communities along the river. 

The Cache La Poudre as it parallels Colorado 14
The Cache La Poudre as it parallels Colorado 14 Graham Silver

The river was originally populated by the native Greenback Cutthroat trout, which was eliminated through the introduction of Brown and Rainbow Trout when settlers discovered the Poudre Canyon as a passage through the Rocky Mountains. Today, efforts to reintroduce the native Cutthroats have brought the fish out of its endangered state, but the Browns and Rainbow still rule the river. 

Through its course down the eastern slope, the terrain of the canyon varies and alters the speed and condition of the river. There are long, tempting stretches of slow moving water great for sandy-bottom wading. Huge boulders sit submerged along the sides of the river, making deep, clear pools for the trout to find refuge. Other stretches are essentially un-fishable with their steep drops, and narrow walls and whitewater conditions. Given the impressive elevation drop through the canyon, the Poudre experiences a full range of conditions throughout the year that can challenge a fly fisherman. Water temperatures, insect hatches, and flows can vary greatly within a few mile stretch of the river. 

The rocky embankments of the Poudre
The rocky embankments of the Poudre Graham Silver

Certain stretches of the Poudre can be fished year round, but the majority of exciting fishing will be found in the spring and autumn months. The Rainbows spawn in March and April and can be found actively feeding along the snow-covered banks and under icy overhanging vegetation. In the late summer and fall, the Brown Trout spawn occurs as the water temperature drops, meaning the fish higher up the canyon will begin their spawn before the lower, warmer water fish. In September and October, the lower reaches can be warm summer conditions and great for large dry flies and hoppers, while the upper stretches may have already experienced the first snow. 

The Cache La Poudre was given the Wild and Scenic River designation and it is prized for its mostly undeveloped setting and minimal passing traffic. It offers miles of accessible water within a day’s drive for Front Range anglers, as well as awesome camping, hiking, and access to some of Colorado’s more untouched natural areas.

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