For most Coloradan anglers, the ideal fly fishing season is a matter of perspective. If you are prepared for the weather, lucky enough to be near a body of water, and hungry for adventure, it is the PERFECT time to fish. Throw your line, sink into Colorado’s natural beauty, and (if you’re lucky) catch a fish or two!
As with every hobby, sifting through the ins and outs of fly fishing can be time consuming and tedious when you really want to just get out on the river! No matter the season, there are some essentials you should never leave without. Arm yourself with your favorite rod and reel, fishing vest/ fishing pack, flies, layered waterproof clothing, fishing license, hooks, sinkers, baits, lures, and a cooler to keep your catch fresh.
To help you navigate the seasons’ specifics, we have broken down what to bring and what to know for fly fishing throughout Colorado’s four seasons.
Spring Spawns Fishing!
Every angler looks forward to Spring. For many, witnessing the melt of spring’s dystopian icescape and its transformation from brisk, breezy mornings to clear, warm days represents the best of spring fishing.
But not to forget the fish! The best catch of the year can come right after the first few days of ice-out when the fish are significantly less picky than they are the rest of the year. The insects also become more active, with Mayfly and Stone flies hatching. Check out our top 5 Colorado spring fly patterns and stop in your local fishing shop for these species to bring with you.
This time of year, water levels can vary and lead to unexpected river conditions; however, lower water levels often allow anglers to see many fish just at the water’s surface! Check the National Water Dashboard to stay up to date on local water levels before you head to your favorite fishing spot.
Because trout spawn in the spring, it is important to remain cognizant of spawning areas. If you notice trout grouped together in the shallows, keep your distance, as this area is probably a nest. Fish that flap on the water should also not be disturbed because they are in a spawning period. Attempt to minimize wading and keep an eye out for signs of spawning in a fish’s appearance including big bellies and bright colors. Read more to better understand spawning and ethical fishing practices!
Any fish you do catch this time of year, catch and release quickly so they can continue to spawn and provide future generations of trout for us! Check out our previous post for more information on spring fishing and the best spots in Colorado!
Slow Summers and Plenty of Sunshine
With summer comes sunshine, a warm breeze through the trees, and water that laps just at your ankles; for anglers, this also means thriving bugs and endless fishing opportunities!
Summer fishing is unique in that day times and light changes become especially important. Early mornings, the trout will be active and hungry, hanging out in the shallower areas ready to feast. I find that any basic dry fly setup will serve you well. I always seem to catch more fish with a Parachute Adams, as it mimics many Colorado fly species and creates a high visibility pattern in the water.
Later in the day, once the sun beams make direct contact, I find it best to head to camp for lunch and relax while the sun is at its brightest. Because the water begins to run warm this time of year, the fish have less access to oxygen, causing them to be less active and harder to catch.
If you do manage to catch a fish, her low oxygen level can cause her to die during the fight. But fret not! You can always head higher in elevation where the fish are less lethargic, and if you do want to fish during the day, smaller midge patterns are more than capable of attracting a lone cruiser.
Because of this, please remain aware of water temperatures and how to ethically fish during hot summer days. For any fish caught, it is important to revive the catch for as long as you took to sink it. Be sure to education yourself on the importance and proper methods of catch and release.
The best time for summer fishing is arguably dusk until dawn due to the colder water and nocturnal lifestyle of the fish. This time of year, trout swim faster and are more active at the end of the day. It is as if the fish can sense the loss of daylight, so don’t be afraid to grab a flashlight and try some night fishing! Many species such as brown trout are nocturnal and aggressively feed in the dark.
Watch the Tactical Fly Fisher’s video to pick up some more late summer fly-fishing tips and our previous blog post on choosing your summer fly fishing outfit.
Brown Trout amid Bright Leaves
There is not a Coloradan alive that doesn’t appreciate a crisp fall day and sparkle on the river. For anglers, this means another trout spawning season of brown and brook trout. Cooler temperatures lead to increased oxygen and increased activity level; however, trout still do not feed as much as they do in the spring or summer.
This time of year, aim to match the hatch and choose smaller nymphs, similar in size to to the insects trout feed on. The other tactic when it comes to flies can be to choose heavy streamers to attract brown trout. Attach big and brightly colored flies to your line and reel in the aggressive big browns this time of year. These big catches really are a special treasure!
Ready to head to the water in the fall? Check out Colorado’s best fly fall fly fishing spots and the fall gear you need to be prepared!
Cold Pockets and Peaceful Fishing
As the depth of winter creeps in and the state slowly ices over, the anglers out on the river are the most hardcore, layered up with waterproof and thermal layers. If you’re looking for a break from the slopes and want to spice it up this year, fly fishing can be a great alternative that still gets you outside into an unbelievable winter landscape.
Because less anglers brave the cold and head to the river, winter anglers have fewer competition, leading to more opportunities for fish. Everything slows down in the winter, including water flow and trout activity, so the trout will be slower and more lethargic. Because of this, the best fishing occurs at midday when the water is warmest.
Additionally, keep an eye out for flat areas of streams—slow, low, and clear areas, as these are the best areas to fish. In pocketwater, or areas of both slight rapids and calmer spots, anglers can also find trout hiding and hungry. Check out some of our winter fishing tips and the best winter fly fishing spots in Colorado.
Whatever season (or all of them!) you decide to fish, we are sure that you will experience a fly fishing adventure with plenty of hungry fish! And, if not fish, at the very least, beautiful scenery and a wonderful day out on the water! Just make sure you pack the adequate gear, prepare yourself for the weather, and research water levels and safe practices!
If you are looking for more guidance on where to start, try one of our day tours or overnight trips! We will get you out on the water with the necessary gear—all you have to do is fish!
Edited by Rosa Canales, Marketing Specialist