Winter Fly fishing in Colorado- Tail water fly fishing

Some of the most productive days I’ve ever had fly fishing has been in the middle of the winter. While most anglers are inside tying flies, or not thinking of fishing at all. Growing up in the mountains of colorado, I spent a lot of my winters chasing trout on many of the tail water around the state.

Winter fly fishing in Colorado can be some of the most peaceful times you’ll ever have on the water. There are very few anglers on the water the fish are still feeding and you have a chance at some true trophies. Colorado has always been known for its monster tail water trout, and this is the time of year to get after them.

If you can push yourself past the frozen fingers the rewards are defiantly there for the taking. Here are a couple tips I have learned over the years to keeping me on the water and the trout in the net.

Staying warm, and on the water

One of the most important thing to remember when winter fishing is staying warm, so wearing layers, and even bringing extras in the car is very important to staying on the river all day. I even buy my waders a size up so that in the winter I can fit more layers underneath.

Keeping yourself dry is another huge tactic, so carrying a small towel with you can be very helpful for after you get your hands wet when releasing trout. A good pair of gloves goes a long way and I generally have a pair of latex gloves with me as well. Latex is not gonna keep you warm but it will keep you dry and that can make all the difference.

Don’t be afraid to take a break, go back to the truck and warm up. Keeping a warm thermos full of coffee can be a great treat on those cold days on the water, and a good meal will help as well. Just remember to take care of yourself when your on the water, this will keep you sharp and most defiantly bring more trout to the net.

Rigging and winter flies

A lot of the time ill set multiple rigs up at home, this will help you to be quick on the water and not have to worry about tying full rigs while your freezing on the water. Being efficient with your hands on cold winter days goes along way. You can always set up new rigs in the truck as well when you’re taking a break which also helps as well.

Most of the time in the winter the main source of food for the trout is midges, so running size 20-26 flies is almost always the most effectively way to fish. I’ll some times run a small egg pattern as an attractor on the front of my rigs, which can be very productive as well. Just remember to keep the flies small and the tippet super light.

Good winter flies

  • zebra midge
  • rs2
  • pure midge
  • uv midge
  • tail water assain
  • wd40
  • juju bees

A lot of the time in the winter I find the drift to be more important than the flies them self. So try and make sure your tippet is right and you’re getting a solid drift over the trout without spooking them, and you should be in business.


Where to be wetting your line

Most of the time your going to want to spend your winter days on the water in Colorado on one of the many Tail water sections threw out the state. If you can find some open water on any of the freestone rivers, I would surely give it a go because those fish are defiantly going to be hungry and see a lot less pressure.

Colorado Tailwaters

  • Blue River, Silverthorne
  • Dream Stream, Eleven mile, Dekers, South plate
  • Taylor River, Almont
  • Fry Pan, Aspen
  • Williams Fork, parshal Colorado
  • Stage coach, Steamboat

All of these Tail waters have their own beauty and can be very productive in the winter. There are in fact, many more tail waters in Colorado but these are the most famous and hold the most amount of fish, but buy all means get out and explore you’ll never know unless you try.

Techniques, and time of day

Most the time in the winter I will start my day sight fishing, looking for the hungry trout that are feeding. I generally start with a small indicator rig and go from there, with the water being supper clear they do get a little weary of indicators so keep the color mellow or lose it all together. I have had great luck with naked nymphing so don’t be afraid to take the indicator off and watch for the eat.

Time of day is also of importance when winter fishing, showing up to early and the fish will probably be very slow. Mid day always seems to be the best, look for anywhere the sun starts to hit first. Basically there is no rush to be on the river in the morning. once the midges start coming off the fish will become much more active.

Lastly the guides on your rod are probably going to freeze up and there are a couple of tricks I’ve learned over the years to fix that. Cooking spray works well, so does sunscreen and also floatant, so make sure you grease up your rod before you hit that water so you don’t spend the whole day break off ice chunks and potentially breaking your rod.

My Favorite time of year

Winter fishing has always been my favorite, there are fewer crowds, big fish and unbelievable scenery . There is nothing like standing on the river with  snow coming down, and watching fishing to a hungry trout. Its defiantly not for everyone but if you can get past the freezing temps and cold finger you’re sure to have a great day on the water.

If you have any other questions about winter fly fishing in Colorado don’t hesitate to ask, leave a comment below and I will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible

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