The winters in Colorado are of picturesque wilderness, gorgeous snow capped mountains, frozen rivers, and unbelievable deep blue skies. The air is crisp and pristine layers of thin ice crystals cling to the last remaining exposed grass blades off the rivers edge. Intricate ice patterns floating weightlessly downstream from the white sky above. Each flake swirls and dances to its final landing below. Colorado’s rivers still flow throughout the winter season and the fly fishing continues to thrive where the gold medal waters continue to hold hidden gems for the allured avid angler.
While the rivers and lakes do freeze over in Colorado, there exists some of the finest winter fly fishing in Colorado in notable tailwaters below dams and reservoirs. Tailwaters provide a steady temperature that produces an ideal trout environment that can support a hearty trout population. The Fryingpan, the Taylor River, the Roaring Fork, the South Platte, and the Blue River are some of Colorado’s magnificent tailwater fisheries to mention.
When the enthusiastic angler is ready for some winter fly fishing, there are some careful considerations to take for preparation and planning before heading to the waters. Research the water flows, gate closures, and weather conditions. If your walk is of great distance to the river, consider snowshoes to avoid post holing. Layer up accordingly with warm clothing, and never consider wearing cotton. Bring hand warmers in your gloves, toe warmers for the wader boots. A trick I like using with keeping the guides and tip from freezing is a tiny pinch of chapstick on each eyelet. Carry a hot thermos with your favorite desired coffee, tea, hot chocolates, or soups. Pack decadent snacks and a scrumptious lunch for the day. Sunscreen is a must no matter what time of the year.
Consider fishing mild days and during the warmest time of the day. Look for sunny areas, fish in deep pockets where there is food sources and where are fish are in multitude. The first fly presentations are a must, so carefully plan your drifts tenderly and to not startle the fish. Nymphing will be your number one producer during the winter season with your flies being presented near the stream bottom. If there is a hatch happening, drifting a bit higher in the water columns can be more productive. Nymph the slower deeper water near the tail out of a run. Trout can be dwelling in these areas.
Cloudy days can produce some improved hatches of baetis mayflies. Allow the hatches to intensify and look for the rise of fish at the water’s surface. Work the water progressively and meticulously. If you don't get a grab, change your fly and work the same water again. Depending on the clarity of the water, you may be able to sight fish for individual fish.
While the ski resorts are brimful with crowds, winter fly fishing in Colorado can be an extremely enjoyable solitude experience with some of the most stunning scenery and beautiful catches. Dress warmly, be prepared for the winter conditions. There so many great winter activities to take pleasure in Colorado. May your fly fishing excursions bring joy to you into the winter months.