Spring Fly Fishing: Pre Run Off

Spring is an excellent time of year to be fly fishing in Colorado and while the warmer temps can bring higher off color water don’t let it keep you from fishing. Here are a few fly fishing tips that might help you keep the rod bent during pre run off season in Colorado.

Watch the gauge – Generally your highest water levels will be around midnight and start to drop slightly after. The drop will usually continue until the following afternoon when the water will start to come rise again. What you are looking for is consistency. Fish like gradual change not drastic change. If you see a big bump of water chances are you can expect fishing to be a little slow. Give the water some time to level out before heading to the river. You will see these big bumps once we start having warmer weather day after day. This will eventually lead to full on run off. But until then keep an eye on the water gauge and focus your fishing efforts during the drop.

Spring Water Gauge Colorado
Spring Water Gauge Colorado

Water Types – Higher water will move some fish around so be sure to fish areas that you may have over looked a month ago. Shallow riffles and pocket water are now holding a lot of fish, these areas can be really productive especially when streamer fishing. Look for rising fish in slower pockets, pools and seam during the warmer parts of the day. Blue Winged Olives and Midges are dominating the hatch scene right now but expect Caddis to make and appearance real soon. On the right days the dry fly fishing can be some of the best all year.

Flies – Bigger water means we can start introducing larger nymphs and streamers. The faster river overturns rocks and old logs pushing Stonefly Nymphs, Caddis Larvae and Sculpins down the river. Streamer fishing can be excellent this time of year, especially in faster water. Black, Olive, Natural, Yellow and White colored streamers are good spring colors to be moving through the all water types. Nymphing can be lights out as well. Pats rubber leg, Prince Nymphs and SJ Worms are excellent attractor flies trailed by smaller mayfly imitations. As the water continues to rise fish will get pushed to the banks so be sure to fish those close pockets before wading into them.

Pat's Rubber Leg
Pat’s Rubber Leg

Tippet – Beef up your tippet. Fish are not quite as picky with the off colored water so take advantage of it and bring out the 3x-4x. This will help you put the breaks on fish who get out in the faster water and allow you to pull a little harder when bringing that big rainbow to the net.

Colorado Rainbow Trout Caught on #20 Blue Winged Olive Dry Fly
Colorado Rainbow Trout Caught on #20 Blue Winged Olive Dry Fly

Use Your Head – The water gets very dangerous this time of year so whether you are floating our wading keep an eye out for debris floating down the river. Know your limitations and be safe. We often forget how powerful the water can be once it is above your knees, some spots you could cross a month ago are now too deep and taking a swim this time of year could be fatal.

Enjoy Fly Fishing in Colorado this spring and feel free to share some of your favorite Spring fly fishing tips with us. See you on the water.

Deckers: Fly Fishing Report

Cody called me last week and said ” hey man you should think about coming down to Deckers for a day next week.” My reply was a simple one ” or you could come up here and we could fish the Eagle.” It was my turn to drive East so I crossed over two icy mountain passes to meet Cody in Evergreen.

Rainbow Trout While Fly Fishing At Deckers.
Rainbow Trout While Fly Fishing At Deckers.

After making a winding trip from Evergreen to Deckers we were surprised to see the parking lot full of anglers. We were hoping to find a less crowded river during our mid-week fly fishing excursion but it looked like every one had the same idea. Despite the overwhelming amount of Titan Rod Vaults in the parking lot we were able to find plenty of water with willing fish. The morning bite was slow but things picked up once the BWO hatch started to come off around 1pm. Most of the fish we hooked were suspended in deeper pools while some were in faster pocket water gorging themselves on emerging Baetis. The BWO hatch consisted of both dark and light bodied adults ranging in size from 18-16. Fish were willing to come to the surface but not consistently. If we had some cloud cover I am confident we would have seen a lot more fish poking their nose through the surface film.

Adult Blue Winged Olive

Due to the high sun, which made for excellent sun tanning, Nymphing was by far the most effective technique. A lot of fish were suspended in the water column so there was no need to go real deep with your nymph rig. The best bugs were flash back Barrs Emerger trailed by an flash back RS2 (Grey or Black). It was difficult to detect strikes by watching your indicator, I know it doesn’t make sense. You could see fish feeding below the surface and more times than not our bobbers would not move when a fish ate our stuff. So we resorted to watching our flies underwater as they approached the fish. This was very fun and at times frustrating. In certain areas we could watch the fish open it’s mouth and inhale our offerings while in other areas we watched for a flash as our presentation drifted past the fish. This was a key to our success. If we kept relying on the bobber I am sure our hook up numbers would have gone way down.

Deckers - South Platte River, Colorado Rainbow trout
Deckers – South Platte River, Colorado Rainbow trout

If you plan on fly fishing at Deckers,  there isn’t any reason to get there real early unless you want to have some solitude or it is the weekend or…maybe you should go early. A lot of anglers pealed out around 2 o’clock right when the fishing got good. I can only assume it was to beat the traffic in the city. The BWO hatch seemed strongest between 2-4 and it could have gotten better but we left the river trying to keep our wives at home happy.  If you have an overcast day I would expect to have some good dry fly fishing. While the Blue Wings didn’t come off in good numbers until the afternoon there was a decent midge hatch in the morning. As far as fly selection goes the early morning angler should have plenty of smaller 22-24 midge larvae patterns, seems strange with all the bigger bugs in the river but thats what they were keyed in on. Once the Blue Wings start rolling – Sparkle Wing RS2’s, Flashback Barrs Emergers, Micro Mays and more of the like are all good patterns to be throwing under an indicator. For the dry fly guy don’t leave home with out some basic Adams sizes # 20 #18 #16, Foam Back BWO Emergers, BWO Sparkle Duns as well as some Adult midge patterns such as the Griffiths Gnat and Roy Palms Special Midge Emerger. Thank you to Lateral Line Media for the photos and excellent outdoor videos.

Colorado: Spring Dry Fly Fishing

We have finally reached the first day of spring and it certainly feels like it. Sunny and 60 in the high country with as much water as you want to fish. While the weather is still unsure what it wants to do, now is the time to take advantage of the warmer weather and unbelievable fly fishing conditions. Our freestone rivers have opened up significantly and you can find fish surfing in the shallow water eating Midges, Small Stones and Blue Winged Olives. While I am still seeing a lot of bobber rigs on the river there is certainly no need to nymph when rising fish are present. The best flies I have found over the last week have been larger Adult Midges as well as Emerging Midge imitations that ride in the surface film. The Blue WIngs are sporadic but when the fish key in on them a size 20 Adams is really all you need. On days when the surface bite is slow nymphing with larger Midge Larvae, Midge Emergers (RS2’s) and small Stones are excellent patterns to be presenting. There is no need to go real deep. A lot of fish have moved in to shallow slicks/ riffles and are suspended. Especially during the afternoon. The Roaring Fork, Eagle And Colorado Rivers are all fishing well and if you are looking for a reason to drive to the high country rising trout and warm weather is a good one. This short video segment was shot on the Eagle River last week and the fishing has continued to impress. With a front moving in over the next few days expect things to slow down a bit. But, once this front passes expect excellent fishing to return.  Fishing Reports on the Front Range are very similar with fish eating on the surface later in the afternoon with a real good nymph bite earlier in the day. Take advantage of the Spring fishing now run-off will be here before we know it.

Colorado: Spring Fly Fishing

Colorado Spring fly fishing can be one of the most productive times of year on the water. As the weather starts to warm and days get a little longer insect activity picks up and fish start to feed a little more heavily then they do during the winter. Hatches comprised of larger Midges and Blue Winged Olives become more consistent and we start to find fish in all types of water. Shallow transitional water will often have fish suspended under the surface eating emerging insect as well as adult flies on the surface. You will also find fish actively feeding in the tail-outs of faster moving water into the slow moving deeper pools that follow.

Rainbow Trout Eating Midges, Colorado Spring Fly Fishing
Rainbow Trout Eating Midges, Colorado Spring Fly Fishing

These conditions offer excellent opportunities to fish dry flies as well as light nymph rigs. Although the fishing can be bonkers at times it does not come without its occasional challenges. One of the biggest challenges you will find is insect size. While Midges and BWO’s tend to be larger in size there are days when the fish are keyed in on much smaller insects and will refuse your larger presentations. For this reason it is important to bring plenty of fly patterns is numerous sizes and colors. Especially when fishing dry flies. The one fly I always trust this time of year is the Roy Palms Special Midge Emerger. I have probably written about this fly numerous times but it a pattern that works when all others are not. I highly recommend grabbing a half dozen of these flies in different sizes and fishing them both wet or dry.

Timing – Angling pressure certainly picks up this time of year and while it helps to get to your favoriteclock spot a little earlier than normal, fishing still remains best during the warmest parts of the day. Midges and Blue Wings start coming off sporadically later in the morning, but the bulk of the hatch is usually around noon – 1pm. during this time you will find the fly fishing picks up significantly. If you are strictly on the river to cast dry flies be patient and wait until you see rising fish before you start blind casting. This can be a test in patience but will pay off in the end.

Set-Up – Much like your winter set-up, your leaders should be long and lean. 5x-6x tippet helps when throwing dry flies to risers in skinny water. You will find that as spring continues water clarity will begin to stain and at that time you can beef up your tippet and start throwing larger caddis and stonefly nymphs. Until then think light and continue to present smaller midge and BWO patterns. If fish are not rising and nymphing is a technique you prefer, start off with a light, shallow nymph rig and fish the water close to the river bank. if you are not successful in these areas adjust your set-up accordingly and move to deeper bends and pools. While it is tempting to dredge the bottom often times a bead-head nymph trailed by an emerging midge pattern is enough weight to find trout in all water types.

Streamers – We all love casting big bugs and moving them through pocket water in anticipation of black_sculpzillathat aggressive trout inhaling our offering. While I encourage you to employ this technique it might still be a little early for great streamer results. Once our rivers start to turn off color and rise a bit more consistently you will find that the streamer bite picks up. Until then focus your streamer fishing on days when there is not a lot of dry fly activity. Keep your streamers small in size and present them in shallow pocket water as well as slower tail outs. Once the water levels rise break out a heavier rod and start splashing those larger sculpzillas wherever you want.

Rainbow Trout – Right now the rainbow trout have their feed bags on and are gearing up for their spawn. While these beauties are fun to catch, spring is spawning time for Rainbow Trout. If you see reeds or fish paired up please leave them alone. You will find spawning trout in shallow slow moving water with a gravel bottom. Give them a wide berth and do not walk on or near their spawning beds. The gravel they kick up is to cover their eggs so we do not want to crush their future..literally. If you see and angler fishing to spawning trout DO NOT be afraid to say something. If they give you a hard time, which they probably will, deal with it like a professional. There is no need to drop the gloves on the river.

Colorado Spring Fly Fishing, Rainbow Trout

No matter where you are fly fishing in Colorado, Spring is a great time to be on the water. Expect fishing to remain consistent until we get our first big push of run-off.

5 QuickTips for Fly Fishing Highly Pressured Waters

Colorado has many thousands of miles of streams and rivers that are great for trout fly fishing, but there are certain stretches—mainly our fantastic tailwaters—that receive the majority of the angling pressure. Do not let a highly pressured river, and its “educated” trout, intimidate you as there are many different tactics you can take to stack the odds in your favor. Here are a handful.

Be Patient: Before you think about wetting your line, take a step back and observe the water. Too often we rush into fishy looking water and spook large trout that were along the bank or we rigged up at the car and have the wrong setup on. 5 quick tips 1When you arrive at the river look for insects hatching, or whether the fish are feeding in tailouts or the head of riffles. Observe the surrounding weather so you’ll know which fly patterns will work best with cloud coverage. A simple two minutes of observation before you make your first cast may tip you to a flash in the tailout that turns into a 22 inch rainbow!

Adaptation is Crucial: The river is a living, moving organism that can change day-by-day and certainly hour-by-hour. As anglers we must be prepared to make the necessary adjustments throughout the day, especially on a highly pressured river. This could be as simple as switching from a dry fly setup to a subsurface nymph rig, but it can also be more complex than that. Adjusting your weight on a nymph rig, changing the size of your fly patterns (smaller is usually better), and noting when trout are moving from deep water into riffles should have you playing a mental game of chess. And in this game of adjustment there is nothing more useful than good old fashioned observation.

Use Fluorocarbon: There are many occasions in which you’ll want to have the Nylon v Fluorocarbon leader and tippet debate. But when fishing a highly pressured river, such as The Taylor River where the fish can get extremely large and extremely skittish, you’ll want every advantage you can get. 5 quick tips 2The light refractive index of Fluorocarbon tippet is very similar to that of fresh water so when it’s submerged in a river it is almost near invisible to a trout’s eye. This element of Fluorocarbon makes it essential to fishing highly pressured river and its trout.

Be a River Ninja: You’re going to want to be as stealthy as possible when fly fishing water that receives an excessive amount of angling pressure. This starts with your approach into any given run or riffle. Trout have a blind spot, and it’s directly behind them, so begin your presentation at the tailout of the riffle and make upstream presentations, so as to keep out of their periphery. Also, wear colors that blend in with your surroundings. During winter I like to wear gray jackets, during spring I’ll wear more green colored shirts. Match your environment!

Sunglasses Matter: Using polarized sunglasses will allow you as an angler to cut through the glare of river and will help you identify what the heck is going on down there! In a highly pressured river, fishing “fishy” water will occasionally get you the lucky trout, but to be a truly effective angler on these waters requires you to be able to sight fish to feeding trout. You need to be able to spot feeding trout and their movements so you know exactly where your cast, mend, and presentation should be. Point being, I’d rather leave my waders at home than my polarized shades.

February Fishing Conditions: Colorado

I will be the first to shout that this weather is great and the sun feels nice on my face. But, to see people wearing shorts at the grocery store in February is concerning. The last couple weeks have been absolutely beautiful by April/ May standards but to get this heat up during what is supposed to be one of Colorado’s snowiest months could mean some bad things this summer. The water that is now melting down the hill and filling our rivers will be needed much more in August than at the current moment. Of course there is not a thing that we can do about it except hope for more moisture and cooler temps moving forward. Until that happens we might as well enjoy the warm snap of weather and get on the river.


Fishing has been great and fish are feeding consistently throughout the day. You will still find the best fishing between 11 and 2pm and fish have been keying in on midges. Finding the right depth has been the most challenging aspect lately. Sporadic midge hatches have the fish up and down in the water column. One minute the fish seem on the surface then the next closer to the bottom. Constantly adjusting weight will help your hookup success. Best flies have been Barrs BWO nymph, Roy Palms Special Emerger, RS2’s and other midge variations.  Bigger pheasant tails, eggs and small worms have been good point flies in a two nymph rig setup. If you are itching to bust out the boat the Roaring Fork and Lower Colorado are wide open and at good winter flows for a float. Keep your eye out for the rising trout you we have been seeing some large heads in shallow water slurping on midges. Get out and enjoy the spring weather but secretly be praying for more snow.

Eagle River CO Rainbow Trout

Layering For Colorado Weather: Nano Puff

The Patagonia nano puff or should I say a mini sleeping bag that fits in my wallet,nanopuff is one of my favorite articles of outdoor clothing. The super lightweight highly compressible material is perfect for insulating during winter fly fishing or a cool summer evening. The Nano Puff is not bulky at all and fits under your outer layer with style. Another bonus is that they come in some bright colors that will lighten up your drab fly fishing outfits. Bright green, orange and blue are a couple of my favorites.


I fell into the Alagnak River in AK a few years ago with my nano puff on. Not just a little damp, I fell into the river off a boat and had to swim to shore. I was amazed how quickly my Nano Puff dried out and kept me warm until we reached camp later that day. I would recommend this article of clothing to anyone looking to beef up their layering system.

Nano Puff In The Alaskan Bush.
Nano Puff In The Alaskan Bush.

Fly Fishing Colorado: Superbowl Weekend

The weatherman is calling for 15-30 inches of snow in the high country over the next 3 days and from where I sit he might be accurate this time. I- 70 is closed in Vail, CO and it is snowing so hard I cannot see across the yard. So where to go fishing this weekend? How about the Bahamas. Oh man that sounds nice. Warm sand, tailing bonefish and no problems.

No Snow There.

Since the Bahamas is probably not in the cards  I would recommend staying on the front range. The roads are going to be a mess from all this weather and for some reason snowflakes make people drive like teenage girls. Find some water close to home and fish it. If you are a high country dweller like me pick a local river and go. With all this fresh powder “brah” the lift lines will be packed and the river will be empty. Go Broncos.


Colorado WInter Fly FIshing: WInter Hot Spots

Colorado has been in a dry weather pattern for the last couple weeks. The temps have been in the high 30″s in the high country and reaching the 60’s in Denver. After a cool down tonight the warmer weather should be back for the weekend. If you want to run into people you can always find fish on one of the many tailwater rivers around the state. For some reason I feel like telling you Colorado Rainbow Troutto go to the Taylor River this weekend and see if you can find a fat Mysis fed Rainbow Trout in the catch and release section. In fact if I was a single guy I might do that. Otherwise if you want to get out of the city the Eagle River is still fishing well. I have been seeing a lot of bigger midges and small BWO’s in the afternoon and fish are rising to them. You will find warmer temps on the front range so the South Platte or Arkansan below Pueblo should be rockin’. I xgameswould try and stay away from the Roaring Fork this weekend. Although the fishing has been solid in the Roaring Fork Valley the X- Games are in town and there will be a ton of Traffic on HWY 82. Good luck out there. Send us your fish pics from the weekend.


Swinging Wet Flies For Colorado Trout: How To Set Up

Watching trout eat emergers can be very frustrating. They are not quite eating dry flies but showing enough of their backs that you switch out your nymph rig for dry flies. Again you are fish-less and wondering what the hell are these fish eating. Well chances are they are chowing on emergers and since trout are professional bug eaters if you are not in the zone then you are out of it. Lose the bobber, weight and heavy nymphs and try swinging for a change.

colorado rainbow trout Swinging flies is not a new technique in fact it is very old and is getting more attention each passing year. Quotes like “if it aint on the swing it aint no thing” or “the tug is the drug” have emerged from swinging flies to fish. These quote also tend to end with “Brah” which is slang for bro. I personally think those sayings are dumb and tend not to use them. But, I do like to swing flies and have been doing so before it became the “cool” thing to do. A lot of anglers tend to associate swinging flies for Anadromous fish like Steelhead, Salmon and Sea Run Brown Trout. What is often over looked is swinging flies for pesky mountain trout. I learned how to swing flies for trout quite a few years ago on the Yakima River in WA. Of course the bobber fishing was crushing as it tends to do but our guide turned me on to swinging wet flies. If this is old news to you please chime in and let us know how you like to set up your program. If you are new this is how I like to set up a swinging rig for trout.

Take a 7-9 foot leader and tie on an additional 12-18″ of tippet. Leave about 4-5 inches of tag end at your leader/tippet connection. That tag end is where you will tie your first fly. Your second fly will be attached at the end of your tippet. your rig should look like the picture below.

Sorry For The Bad Illustration
Sorry For The Bad Illustration


Try to use flies that are not overly heavy. This will reduce your tangles. I like to use soft hackles that displace water when moving through the water column. Keep in mind that you will be fishing the top 1-3 feet of the water column. If you want to go real deep go back to the bobber or add a sink tip.

Cast down and across the river and let your bugs swing across the current at a 45 degree angle. It is best to leave a little loop behind your trigger finger. Keep the line somewhat tight and follow your fly line with your rod tip as it moves down river. When you feel the tap tap either drop your loop or keep swinging. Often time the fish will hang itself on the bug and the fight begins. It is difficult not to set the hook when you feel the “tug brah” but you will be more successful if you either drop your loop and keep your rod low.


Trout Eating Emergers
Trout Eating Emergers

Swinging flies works well in all types of water. In the winter it works great in long slow runs. In the summer months try swinging bigger flies in fast riffles at the head of a run. You’ll be surprised what you’ll pull out. Get rid of the bobber for a day and let us know how you do.