fly fishing

High Mountain Lakes Fly Fishing

Summer is a fantastic time to fish rivers and creeks but it also is the perfect time to strap on a backpack and explore some high mountain lakes. Colorado has a vast number of high alpine lakes loaded with trout.

I was lucky enough to have a few days off last week so fellow guide Reid Eakins and myself hit the road in search of high mountain cutthroats. What we have found is that the more remote you get, the better the fishing will be;  with this in mind, we ventured South down to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The plan was to spend 3 days in the backcountry fishing. With our packs loaded with fishing gear and the backpacking essentials (whiskey, of course), we hit the trails.

The first day we hiked 4.5 miles to our first destination. We set up camp in the early evening and fished well into the evening hours. Fish were rising but it was a challenge to figure out what they were eating. Finally, after switching several flies, Reid started picking fish up on a thin mint fly; they took the fly on a very slow retrieve. The next day, we hiked up to another lake looking for bigger cutthroats. We found fish to be eating scuds just below the surface on a very fast retrieve. After a long day of fishing and hiking we relaxed at our campsite sipping whiskey and sharing fish stories.

Backpacking and fishing go great together; it is a great opportunity to get away from the hustle of city life and explore what the Colorado mountains have to offer.

Give your local creeks or rivers a break and explore some high mountain lakes!




Umpqua Tippet Review

About three months ago, Angling University began a new partnership with Umpqua, thus providing terminal tackle for students. Now, when you fish with Angling University, you will have the opportunity to try out some awesome tackle, including Umpqua Tippet.

As President of the school and professional guide of almost 20 years, I have tried my fair share of tippet materials. Nylon, hard mono, fluorocarbon, non-stretch, stretch, you name it. I’ve also tried all of the popular brands: Rio, Scientific Angler, Trout Hunter, Seaguar, Cortland, Frog Hair, Orvis, you get the idea. And though these brands all have their strengths, Umpqua Superfluoro tippet has really grown on me.

The major reasons we choose to work with our sponsor companies is because of the quality products they make. Umpqua’s tippet (both nylon and fluorocarbon) is no exception. I first started fishing with their Nylon (monofilament) for my dry fly fishing years ago, but for some reason I was stuck in my ways when it came to fluorocarbon. I have since completely converted to Umpqua’s Superfluoro and couldn’t be happier.

Umpqua Tippet Review:

Strength, abrasion resistance (durability), flexibility, good packaging (spools and labeling), and a small diameter are what I look for in a fluorocarbon tippet. Umpqua’s Superfluoro provides all of these qualities.

The tippet is noticeably smaller than what I was accustomed to. At first, I thought I had mixed up my spools because the 3x felt more like 4x. As crazy as it sounds, I think this smaller diameter helps flies get down to depth at a faster rate. Additionally, the tippet is surprisingly durable. I’ve guided multiple trophy hunting trips lately and haven’t had to replace tippet nearly as often. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was the flexibility of the Superfluoro tippet. This translates to a more lifelike movement and presentation, both for streamers and nymphs alike.

All in all, Umpqua’s lineup of tippet is a strong contender for top product in it’s class. If you haven’t tried the Superfluoro, I strongly recommend it. You will find Umpqua’s Superfluoro to be a well rounded product that provides all you might want in a fluorocarbon tippet material.

Read more about Umpqua’s terminal tackle visit their website:  Learn about fly fishing or to book a class or lesson, visit our website


Tight Lines,

Ethan Emery

Fly Reels: 3 Tand

Just like a fancy wheel on a vehicle fly reels often catch our eye and can add some flare to your fly fishing set-up. Fly Fishing Reels can be very pricey and the ones that we gravitate towards are usually the most expensive. I recently had the opportunity to look over the new 3-Tand Fly Reels and they are extremely nice at a great price point. There are several different models to choose from and come in a Silver or Black finish. The lightweight TF -Series starts at 179.00 and is perfect for Trout and Warm Water Fly Fishing. The larger T-Series Big Game reels are ideal for chasing Steelhead, Stripers, Snook Tarpon, Permit and other larger game fish that require heavier line weights. They are also perfect for switch and spey rod. Coming in at just under 350.00, this is an amazing price for reels of this caliber.

3-Tand T-Series Fly Reels
3-Tand T-Series Fly Reels

From the 3-Tand “Our Nano CF Drag™ (Nano Carbon Fiber Drag) has been labeled as the toughest and the smoothest drag for your money. We did not make that mantra; the dealers and the fishermen gave us that recognition. “High quality. Mid-range price.” That is all we heard when we introduced our reels to the market, and that was the mark we set prior to our birth. The first year out of the gates we received the award for Best of Show at ICAST; an award that is voted on only by dealers, editors and other industry professionals. Are we proud of that? HELL YEAH, but we are more thankful the industry welcomed us in this manner.”

What stands out most about these reels is the drag system. “What makes our drag different is one of our boldest and smartest features – our drag discs. We treat our drag with a nano resin and that creates an exceptionally smooth experience. We also designed them to help achieve the mega stopping power they deliver, but without the grit and grind other carbon fiber drags might put out. No maintenance required, no special directions, no BS. Fish the hell out of our reels and don’t be afraid to CAST AT ANYTHING. When you see that tank of a GT barreling down the reef edge in the Seychelles, throw something its way with confidence, knowing that the only thing failing is maybe your intermediate line because our T-Series drag boasts an insane 20lbs+ of drag.


The 3-Tand Fly Reels are availible in numerous fly shops around Colorado so be sure to give them a look if you are in the market for a new fly reel. Let’s face it we are always looking for something new.

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.

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.

Winter Fly Fishing The Arkansas River Tailwater

The Arkansas Tailwater is approximately two hours south of Denver. What you spend in driving time will definitely be made up with gin clear water and actively feeding fish through the cold winter months.

Fly fishing the tailwater of the Arkansas River in Pueblo during winter is certainly not a secret to the angling community, but with these tips you’ll see your hookup rate grow exponentially. My main fishing partner and cousin, Chris, is going to hate me for posting this blog but I’m going to give you all the pro’s tips to catching a trophy trout down on the tailwater!

pueblo hat trout

Beat the crowds: Anyone who has been down there knows the crowds, and subsequent etiquette with your fellow anglers, can be somewhat unpleasant. My best advice here is to park and fish at the Nature Center section of the river. You’re going to find some really great runs, and a couple of great weirs, and a fraction of the crowds. Sure, you could head east of Pueblo Blvd, but I’ve found the Nature Center offers the best balance between catching trophy sized trout as well as a lack of pressure that the upper sections receive.


Bring the midge patterns: During these winter months in The ‘Blo, I’ll fish a triple nymph rig and typically it’s a combination of different colors and different life cycles of midge patterns. So as an example, I’ll have my first two flies be a red zebra midge (represents a larva) and then an olive zebra midge (again, represents a larva), then trail those two flies with a purple medallion midge emerger. Now you’re going to want to think of the size of your flies—think size 20 and 22s. If you’re comfortable fishing size 24 hooks then more power to you, and congratulations, because you’re definitely going to get a fablack rojo garcia patternir amount of action. With all that said here are my go-to winter midge patterns:

  • Black Rojo Garcia Midge
  • Tungsten-bead Olive Zebra Midge
  • Brassie (size 22 or smaller)
  • Chocolate Foamback Emerger (size 22)
  • Dorsey’s Top Secret
  • Dorsey’s Medallion Midge
  • Bling Midge

Fish the structure: The tailwater is loaded with diamond shaped rock formations which offer great trout habitat. I call these boulder clusters “Baseball Diamonds”, with the bottom boulder being ‘home plate’, the one up and to the right ‘first base’, then ‘second’ and ‘third base’. The key is to fish every side of all four bases/rocks. Get your presentation behind each rock, get it to the side of each the rock, and definitely fish in front of each boulder as well! Use a nice high stick presentation so only your strike indicator is in the water while fishing these baseball diamonds for the best chance a trophy trout.

pueblo river rocks 2


This is a highly pressured fishery: With that in mind we want to give ourselves every advantage we can. During the winter months I always use 6x fluorocarbon tippet. It can absolutely mean the difference between hooking into a piggy and not hooking into one on a highly pressured river. Also, and as small as this may seem it definitely helps, but I use brown colored split shots. The river bed in the Arki varies between a light to dark brown coloration so camouflaging your weight will help stack the chips in your favor.

There is of course more than this to catching fish on this river, or any river for that matter, but keep these four pointers in mind and enjoy your next day out on the Arkansas Tailwater!

Eagle River Fishing Report

This time of year the Eagle River can turn on fire and stay that way for several weeks. The warmer day time temps are giving us a little more flow and larger midges an BWO’s are starting to become the common fare. The warmer temps is bringing dirty water to the lower section. Alkali creek is starting to pump some mud into the river below Wolcott so if you plan on fishing down low you better do so in the A.M. The streamer fishing should start to pick up as the water temps begin to rise but until then the nymph fishing has been pretty easy and the dry fly fishing can be great during the right time of day.


The fish in the Eagle River can be extremely finicky and the big slow risers are a difficult bunch to fGluten_Free_Logoool unless you use the following flies. After conducting extensive research over the past few years we have found that the bigger trout on the Eagle River are only eating Gluten Free Flies. Although these flies are much more expensive and are only available at natural fly shops these GF flies are sure to trick the big heath conscious trout in the Eagle River. If you cannot find these flies at a local fly shop a standard size 20 Adams will work well too.

The crowds will start to get thicker as we march on into spring but until ski hills close there is not reason to be on the water before noon. Sleep in, do some work then sneak out for an afternoon session. Do the bobber thing until the Blue Wings come off around 1pm then try those GF creations for the slow risers.

Colorado Midge Hatch: Winter


Fly Fishing during the winter months often consists of the same set up day after day and that setup generally includes a bobber and some type of midge imitation. Of course changing out your lead egg fly for a small BWO or Stonefly occurs but 90% of the time we are staring at a bobber waiting for a strike. And why wouldn’t we? this is an extremely effective method to get the rod bent and the net wet. But there are those times when the mercury rises to the right temperature and we start to see rising fish. Timing these sometime short periods can be difficult but when it happens we are allowed to cast dries in the middle of winter to rising trout. This happens a lot on tailwater rivers where water temperature is more consistent but we also see a lot of surface activity on freestone rivers like, the Roaring Fork and Eagle River. Both of these drainages can create some amazing midge hatches and sometimes they are significant enough to bring, what seems like, every fish to the surface. During the last few weeks of warm weather I brought my camera instead of a fly rod and tried to capture trout eating naturals during the peak of the day. It was interesting to observe their behavior and it was also challenging not to spook the fish such low clear water. All of these fish we filmed along the Eagle River in different locations and while I wasn’t able to find a prolific midge hatch there were enough bugs on the water to keep it consistent. This is something that we are fortunate enough to have here in Colorado, I know anglers back East who would love to be able to cast dries year round to rising trout. Although it can be a total pain in the rear to change your whole set up for a couple rising fish give it a try the next time you see a few risers. It can be a very rewarding experience to catch a trout selectively eating midges off the surface….in the middle of winter.

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