Your fly fishing outfit, the depth, the fish, and so many other details need to be addressed for a successful day on any Colorado river. Arguably, the most crucial is your fly selection. That doesn’t mean nothing else matters if you have the right fly, because every detail you consider betters your chance of a successful day on the water. However, all your other preparations can be in vain without the right fly for the time of year and type of fish you are looking to catch. Understanding how to match a hatch is key, this means looking at the insects hatching when you plan to fish, then finding the flies that imitate them. This is how we created our top 5 Colorado spring fly patterns that need to be in your rig this season.
1. PAT’S RUBBER LEGS
One of the most recognizable flies you will see any Colorado fly fisherman carrying is Pat’s Rubber Legs. This should be your go-to in the spring as it imitates the Salmon Fly (Pteronarcys Californica) during their hatch which is typically late May to early June. The rubber legs flail around adding unique movement that gets attention from nearby fish, helping you compete against the native fly selection they are targeting and luring in fish from further out. Any size between 4 and 8 will do, but you may even consider using a size 2 depending on your observation of the stoneflies around you. This spring fly pattern is very easy to use and recommended for beginner fly fisherman as well as those more experienced.
Pat’s Rubber Legs | Photo courtesy of pacificflyfishers.com
2. PEACOCK FLUTTERING CADDIS
When the weather starts to warm and the water is about 50 degrees, you’ll see the Mother’s Day Caddis (Brachycentrus Occidentallis) begin its hatch. If you’re wondering how this fly got its name, you could probably guess it. The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch typically takes place in early May, around Mother’s Day. A great dry fly pattern for the Mother’s Day Caddis we think you should try this spring is the Peacock Fluttering Caddis, sizes 12-18, because of its natural presentation. Orvis has an awesome video on How to Tie the Peacock Caddis, with some added information.
Peacock Fluttering Caddis | Photo courtesy of orvis.com
3. PHEASANT TAIL NYMPH
A great fly for catching trout in Colorado is the Pheasant Tail Nymph. This pattern mimics various mayflies and remains relevant from February to December, so it should be considered a regular in your collection. With a clear resemblance to the Blue Winged Olive (Baetis Vagans), the Pheasant Tail Nymph are excellent in the spring during their hatch. If you don’t know how to recognize a Blue Winged Olive (BWO), their v-shaped tail, beady eyes, and curved abdomen are clear giveaways. Once you spot a BWO in the wild, you’ll never miss one again. We recommend a size 16 in the early spring, otherwise sizes 18 to 22.
Pheasant Tail Nymph | Photo courtesy of bwofly.com
4. ZEBRA MIDGE
Not all Rocky Mountain currents are fast flowing in the spring, so making sure you have a fly in your arsenal for slow currents can help you try varying creeks when the fish aren’t biting. The Zebra Midge has a common nymph pattern, but that’s only because it works quite well for most spring hatches. If you like to tie your flies, this is one of the easiest, and if you prefer to buy them, they can be quite affordable. This is a year-round fly, so we always recommend carrying a handful with you. Keep sizes 16 to 26 hand so you’re well suited for any condition and fish you encounter.
Zebra Midge | Photo courtesy of feather-craft.com
5. HARE’S EAR NYMPH
For your faster Colorado streams, fish the Hare’s Ear Nymph. This pattern works great when the Mayflies (Epeorus Longimanus) are hatching from May through July. You should expect a consistent amount of bites, if you aren’t getting even a nibble, then it’s time to try another pattern, or continue moving along the stream. It may be hard to guess where the hatch may occur, but rest assured that these hatches occur frequently. Stay vigilant and keep moving when you aren’t seeing results. Sizes 12 to 14 are recommended, but your observations of the insects around you will give you the best indicator of which size and color your fly should be, as with any fly.
Hare’s Ear Nymph | Photo courtesy of hatchesmagazine.com
We hope this short list helps you have a productive spring in Colorado. If you want to share your catch with us, or if you have any other flies you recommend, tag or DM us at flyfishingco on Instagram.
Brown Trout | Photo courtesy of ginkandgasoline.com