Don't Forget the Fraser

by K. Christopherson

The Fraser River Valley - many people drive through this part of the state, on their way to go skiing, visit Rocky Mountain National Park, or fish the Colorado River. Some are overlooking a great fishing spot in this beautiful valley. The Fraser River, the first main tributary of the Colorado River, offers small to medium-sized stream fishing in a variety of settings.

This is one of those parts of the state where you can ski and fish. But winter can be a cold season. Fraser used to be called "the nation's icebox" - subzero temps are not uncommon in winter as the cold settles in the valley. The Fraser is often overlooked as anglers opt to fish in the Colorado, bigger is better? Well, not necessarily. The Fraser holds some big fish - rainbows, browns, and brookies. For a change of pace, try this river for some smaller stream fishing. If you get bored, you can always drive a few miles further and fish the Colorado or other area creeks.

fraser colorado fishing
Flowing towards the canyon from Tabernash
fraser downstream colorado fishing
Fishing by Safeway in Fraser

The Fraser River starts near Berthoud Pass. As it runs north for its first 8 miles, it is on National Forest land and is publicly accessible. The river is narrow and shallow here, but worthy of fishing.

From Winter Park to Fraser, the river can be accessed by the Fraser River Trail (hiking or mountain bikes), from USFS campgrounds, or road turnouts. The only exception is as the river flows through private land in the town of Winter Park. You can fish in the forested lands, or where the river starts into the valley, even right behind the Safeway in Fraser! Between Winter Park and Fraser, the trail and river go through the Cozens' Ranch Open Space. Here the river is accessible. Kids can fish at the Lion's Club ponds at the north end of the open space.

The Fraser River Trail is well marked. As you fish, your audience may include bikers, roller-bladers, hikers, or dogs. It would be fun to bike the trail, with fishing gear in tow, and sample more spots in a day than one could do by just hiking. Pick up a copy of the Fraser River trail map when in the area (at one of the visitor centers).

fraser river downstream colorado
Easy wading in lush forest land

Access to the Fraser River is limited downstream from the town of Fraser. Some of the best fishing is in the canyon downstream from Tabernash. HOWEVER, the railroad and private land owners have become much more guarded by their right of way along this section. It is difficult at best to figure out how to access the few miles of public land (BLM and Forest Service), and it does involve quite a bit of hiking.

There is access at Kaibab Park in Granby, located on the north side of the Fraser off Hwy 40. There is a kids' fishing pond on the property

You can also fish at the Granby Ranch (Ski and Golf area) - off Hwy 40 just south of Granby. They have several beats for fishing. Guests at the resort are allowed to fish on the property. You can fish the Fraser there for a rod fee, payable at the Headwaters Golf Course pro shop. There are guide services in the area that also have access to the river on the resort property. And the Rocky Mountain Angling Club has access between Fraser and Tabernash. (See

trout fraser river colorado
Without telling you where this is, the trout motel holds some HUGE fish. We caught 20" and 18" rainbows, a 14" cutthroat and numerous small browns within a period of 20 minutes. If you find this spot, please practice catch and release. These are beautiful wild fish who deserve to stay at this "motel" for a long time.

Resources/Other Info:

Colorado fishing book Click here to buy an ebook The Colorado River: A Fly Fisher's Guide by Al Marlowe and Karen Christopherson which includes color maps and info on the Colorado and its main tributaries (Blue, Eagle, Fraser, Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Fraser).  The book is over 170 pages and includes info on access, flies, hatches, and more.....Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble as paperback, Nook or Kindle edition.

colorado fishing map Click here to buy topo maps for this area. You need map 103 for the Fraser River from Berthoud Pass to Tabernash. You need map 102 for the Fraser from Fraser to Granby (There is not much public access along this section). Map 106 shows the Fraser River at confluence with the Colorado River near Granby, and then includes the Colorado from Granby to west of Kremmling. Maps are produced by National Geographic Maps

See the website for Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest

Much of this area was developed around the railroad. The Moffat Tunnel bores through the Front Range with its western portal at the Winter Park ski area. The rail line then goes north to Granby, turning west to follow the Colorado River.

How to get there?

  • US Hwy 40 runs between Berthoud Pass and Granby, following the Fraser for much of the way.

Rules for the Fraser River

  • From the headwaters to confluence with St. Louis Creek: Artificial flies and lures only. Catch and release on Rainbows.
  • From the St. Louis Creek confluence downstream to the Colorado - bag/possession on trout is 2 fish

Where to stay?

There are numerous forest service campgrounds in the area. The towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Granby host many motels and condos. There are lots of other activities such as the alpine slide, hiking, and mountain biking.