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Fly Fishing at Crystal Lake, Colorado

Crystal Lake Fly Fishing

Crystal Lake is a beautiful alpine lake with outstanding fly fishing scenery. Jagged peaks and evergreen trees dot the landscape as you cast for the classic Colorado catch. While this body of water isn’t the first you’ll see in any Colorado fly fishing guides it’s worth the trip for anglers who want both fantastic scenery and good fishing.

Let’s learn everything you need to know about this hidden gem of a lake including when to go, what to take, and what to fish for. It’ll be challenging to concentrate on fishing when views like this surround you.

Where is Crystal Lake?

Crystal Lake is found off the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) about a half hour south of Ouray in southwestern Colorado. If you’re driving from Denver, make it worth your while for the five and half hour drive by planning on at least a couple days fishing. Crystal Lake is approximately a five-hour drive east from Colorado Springs. The picturesque alpine scenery makes it worth your while no matter the drive distance.

Fish Found in Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake is fed by nearby springs and makes for a lovely fishing spot to nab a variety of Colorado trout like cutthroats, rainbows, and brooks. If you’re looking to fish for variety or don’t have proper trout equipment you can try fly fishing for other freshwater species like smallmouth bass and perch.

The Right Gear

You could consider Crystal Lake a large pond rather of a lake so expect a lot of shore fishing. You can get away with waist waders, but the warmth of chest waders will be appreciated. Fish your favorite trout ties including dry flies or try out some streamers and nymphs to see what freshwater species you can pull out. You don’t need a heavy outfit to fish Crystal Lake, just an 8 – 10-foot road at no more than 6 weight. If you know the fish are there but are having difficulty try switching to a lighter rig.

Best Time of Year to Go

Ouray County can see some nasty winter conditions which locks up fishing for many months at Crystal Lake. Due to cold and snow it’s best to fish Crystal Lake after the spring thaw and into the summer. Talk to local anglers to figure out what’s hatching at what time and what you should be tossing in the water.

Best Time of Day to Fish

Finding yourself at the river during the wrong time of day can result in plenty of great views but zero fish. Let’s go by the season so you don’t waste time angling at the wrong time.


Summer brings the warmest temperatures to Crystal Lake, but some fish can still get a slow start with a cool morning. The best time to fish during the summer is approximately mid-morning to mid-afternoon or about 9 am to 4 pm. If the water is warm fish will hit at sunrise and well into the evening.

Spring / Fall

There are several hatches throughout spring that make it an excellent time for hitting Crystal Lake. Trout and other freshwater species will respond to several types of flies throughout spring and into fall so don’t be afraid to get out during the shoulder season. Choose the warmest parts of the day to fish Crystal Lake in spring and fall for the most bites.


Crystal Lake is not recommended during the winter. Southwest Colorado gets very cold making for poor fishing conditions unless you’re swapping your fly rod and reel for ice fishing equipment.

Crystal Lake Fly Fishing Resources

RIGS Fly Shop and Guide Service: Ridgway, CO

Just a short jump for Crystal Lake, RIGS Fly Shop is the only place you need to go if you want to set yourself up for success on Crystal Lake. RIGS is operated by local fly fishing experts who are on the water every day and know how to approach Crystal Lake. You can buy flies, equipment, and book a guided tour with RIGS. There is a local sports store when you can load up on miscellaneous equipment, but RIGS is the closest full-service fly shop.

Good Times and Great Fishing

If you want to fish in some of the most dramatic alpine scenery has to offer, you’ll love fishing Crystal Lake in stunning Ouray County. Grab your assortment of flies, toss on your waders, and ready your line for everything Crystal Lake and the surrounding area has to offer.