Cold Weather Fly Fishing in Colorado

Cold Weather Fly FishingCold Weather Fly Fishing:

Winter is here in full effect in the Rockies, and fly fishermen are experiencing some of the coldest fishing weather of the year. Daytime high temperatures are barely getting into the low twenties, and they are not staying there for long. This means that a day on the water with a rod in hand is probably out of the question for everyone but the most die hard anglers. For those of you who want to keep fishing, there is still hope, however, because western Colorado is home to several top notch winter fishing destinations that can scratch your angling itch during even the worst cold snap.


Many of the most legendary tailwaters on the planet flow out from beneath large reservoirs here in Colorado. Places like the Frying Pan, Yampa, and South Platte rivers are host to some of the biggest trout and most diverse insect populations in the state. The best thing about them is that they flow all winter long with a relatively small variance in water temperature, meaning that dedicated fly fishermen can target trophy fish any day of the year. As always, tailwaters can be a bit crowded and sometimes difficult to fish. No matter what the weather is like, make sure to bring small bugs, fine tippets, and plenty of patience when traveling to one of Colorado’s pristine tailwater fisheries.

Seek Out Warm Water

Almost every river in Colorado has some kind of warm water tributary. Whether it is the return flow from a waste water treatment plant or presence of a natural hot spring, a tiny flow of warm water into the main river can create a small pocket of active trout. Many of these small stretches of river are considered to be secret spots by local fishermen during intense cold spells, and it is important to practice your best angling etiquette while fishing one that you find.

Ice Fishing

While standing over a small hole in the middle of a frozen lake or reservoir in January may be a far cry from launching dry flies from the front of a drift boat on a summer evening, it is still fishing. Ice fishing can be a great way to get out on the water and even put a meal on your table in even the most frigid conditions. Even though it requires a different set of equipment and it does not qualify as fly fishing, it is hard not to smile when you feel a tug on the end of your line – even if you had to ice fish to get it.

Final Thoughts:

Hopefully this helps encourage you to take a day off of work or skiing to head back down to the water and remember why we love this sport so much. In the end, most experienced winter fishermen will agree that one of the best ways to succeed in your cold weather fishing endeavors is to lower your own expectations – whether that means being satisfied with fewer fish, settling for less time on the water, or even letting go of your pride and picking up an ice fishing rod. In the end a slow day of winter fishing is still quality time spent outside, off of I-70, and away from busy lift lines and crowded ski villages.

As always, remember that the professional guides here at Vail Valley Anglers are out on the water 365 days a year and the best way to learn cold weather fishing tactics is to book a trip with your favorite guide.

Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer