Browns, ‘Bows, Brookies & Cutthroat – that’s what fly fishing in the San Luis Valley is all about! If you’re looking for an easy-to-access, trout-packed stream for your next fly fishing destination, consider a visit tot he trail waters of Big Meadows Reservoir in the Rio Grande National Forest.

to access, travel west on Highway 160 from the town of South Fork to Forest Road #410. This dirt road travels north over a bridge from the main highway and provides several access points to the South Fork. However, continuing to the parking area near the Big Meadows Campground will provide access to fishing below the dam and points downstream – some of the most productive sections of water along the South Fork.

Located 8 miles west of the town of South Fork, the South Fork of the Rio Grande begins at the tail waters Big Meadows Reservoir and flows for several miles until its confluence with the Rio Grande int he town of South Fork. Along the way, freestone stream flows past rocky cliffs, lush meadows, striking aspen stands and towering spruce/fir forests. Several sections pass through public lands on the National Forest, but to get your fill of 12 inch-plus sized trout, set your sights on the section between the Highway 160 turn-off and the dam at Big Meadows.

The Best time to fish the South Fork is late spring through early summer. As air temperatures increase and waterflows decrease, opportunity to net “the big one” declines substantially. From May through July, throw your favorite tandem rig with a flash dropper, such as a Flashback Pheasant Tail below a Parachute Adams on the sunny, open water sections. In the shaded sections of the stream, dry flies like Elk Hair Caddis work well, but throwing a larger streamer, like a Beadhead Wooly Bugger could also yield impressive results.

Looking for more ways to wet your line? Spinner fishing, hiking and boating opportunities are also available at Big Meadows. The 600-acre lake offers a small boat ramp (suitable for smaller vessels, kayaks and canoes) that is open from Memorial Day until the lake freezes over – please not that it is a no-wake lake. Additionally, a handicap-accessible fishing pier is available above the dam spillway and a hiking trail (Archuleta Trail) following the water’s perimeter is also available.

For visitors seeking an overnight experience, camping is available along the mountainside above the south shore of the reservoir in the Big Meadows Campground. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance (or at least 4 days before scheduled arrival) by visiting or by calling 877-444-6777. Fees apply.

Please note, a valid Colorado fishing license is required for all fishing on all bodies of water including the Big Meadows Reservoir and the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website or nearby office to purchase a fishing license.