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.

Colorado Fly Fishing: Weekend Hot Spots

With all the recent snowfall over the past 10 days what are you going to do this weekend? Hit the lift lines or enjoy a quite river. That is a tough call but with two days off I am sure you can find time for both. If you find yourself in the Vail Valley much of the Lower Eagle River is open and fishing well. The “hood” on the Lower Eagle has easements and a lot of water to fish. Bring your midges but don’t be afraid to dredge some bigger bugs down deep. I will be on the Eagle for the next couple days so you might run into me.

Rainbow Trout Colorado
Rainbow Trout Colorado

If your are in Aspen, the The Roaring Fork River has been weather dependent. The upper stretches have some ice and fishing has been slow. I would still give it a go if you are in the Roaring Fork Valley. Tie on a MIcro May Nymph and hit the pockets on the upper river. The Frying Pan is rocking as normal. Get there early. With the weather forecast being sunny and warm I am sure the Frying Pan will be busy.

Brown Trout - Rainbow Trout
Brown Trout – Rainbow Trout

Front Rangers the South Platte River is fishing decent. The flows below Eleven Mile have bumped a bit which should get some fish and aquatic insects moving around. Blue-winged olives and midges should get you a tug on the string.



Wherever you go have fun and be safe. You can always check the fly fishing reports when you are looking for river updates.

Drift Boat or Raft : Pros and Cons

clackacraft_WARight out of the gate there is no question that a Drift Boat is more comfortable to fish out of than a raft with a fishing frame. Lets face it, a drift boat is made with fly fishermen in mind. Everything from the hard bottom, wide beam, knee braces and rod holders caters to those who fish. The only problem with a drift boat is that they are not as forgiving as a raft. Which is fine if you are constantly navigating wide slow meandering rivers like the Colorado or Big Horn. What you cannot do with a drift boat is drop it down into a canyon and row through narrow fast moving rivers, with large rock gardens and big rapids.  Both watercraft are great but if I had to choose one for floating Colorado Rivers it would be a raft. Here is why…Row

A raft is extremely versatile and can be as intricate or simple as you want to make it. Most of the frames come apart easily allowing the boater to remove unwanted weight or switch from a fishing machine to a family fun floater. Rafts are very durable and packable. The frames come apart and the boat will roll up making it ideal for canyon floats where you have to pack in.

A lot of the rivers in Colorado are fast moving bodies of water that can have some tricky rapids and rocky shoots. A lot of these rivers also have tremendous fishing if you can get down them. The only safe way is with a raft and experienced oarsmen.

nrs_otterAs a raft owner I have been in a lot of fishing set ups that are great and others that are not so great. My favorite is the NRS Otter with a Downriver Frame. It is a beefy setup that can get down whatever you put in front of it. In lower water it can get snagged on some shallow gravel bars but I have found that to be common in a lot of rafts. A good setup right out of the box is the Outcast Pac 1300 raft. Super lightweight and a bit narrower than the NRS, the Pac 1300 can take on skinny low water with ease. the frame comes in 3 parts and is easily removable.

Photo Courtesy of Outcast

However you choose to get down the river make sure you stay safe with all the PFD’s, throw bags and First Aid equipment. Float season has started here in the Mountains so get out there and enjoy all these waterways.