Colorado Tailwater Tactics: Winter Fly Fishing For Picky Trout

Fly Fishing during the winter months in Colorado can be a great time to be on the water. Although many of our freestone rivers tend to freeze, an angler can find open water on one of our many Tailwater Rivers like the Frying Pan, Yampa, Blue or Southplatte.

Frying Pan River Rainbow Trout
Frying Pan River Rainbow Trout

Although we are blessed with these waters they are not always the closest stretches to reach. Often times these rivers can be a couple hours or more away. And since they are open and boast large numbers of fish they also attract a lot of anglers. There is nothing worse than making a long drive to find the river extremely crowded. If a tailwater is on your winter fishing list I would recommend leaving early and staking your claim. Bundle up too. A lot of these tailwater rivers are in shaded areas and only get so much sun (if any) a day.

Mid Frying Pan River
Mid Frying Pan River

Be sure to check the reports before heading to the river. Although the flows of a tailwater tend to stay steady during the winter the hatches can vary and fishing can slow down during a damn release or shut down. These cold clean rivers can be very rewarding to a hearty angler who can bear the cold during the long winter. Tailwater fisheries have an abundances of insect life and keep the resident trout fat and happy, even during the coldest winter months. With all the aquatic insect life to choose from these fish can be very picky as well. Having a box full of midges in a many different colors can make the difference between a banner day and a mediocre one. Like above mentioned the water is also very very clear so having tippet in the 5x-7x range is a must. Sometimes using a lighter rod is beneficial when using lighter tippet, but that is another discussion. A lot of these tailwater fisheries have trout in the 8-10 lb range with even bigger trout being caught each year.

Frying Pan Brown Trout - Colorado
Frying Pan Brown Trout – Colorado

The Frying Pan and Taylor River are both famous for it’s large Mysis fed trout. Nymphing is a great technique employed during the cold of winter, but midge hatches can be prolific giving the fly angler the opportunity to catch fish on small dry flies during the winter. If the snow brings you to Colorado for the skiing don’t over look the fly fishing. It is a good way to skip the lift lines and ice down your tired legs after hitting the hill. You might even get lucky and land the trophy trout you see in magazines.