Colorado Fall Fly Fishing Tips

Fall fly fishing tips in Colorado revolve around a few simple issues. When autumn sets and the leaves begin showing brighter colors, all trout respond to the cooler water temperatures and the typically low and clear river conditions. While the major summer hatches have diminished, with blue-wing olive mayflies and midges now the main insect food sources, the trout will feed heavily under the right conditions.

Try the following fall fly fishing tips to put more fish in the net before winter sets in.

1.Choose the Correct Size and Type of Flies

Fall fly patterns generally fall into two simple and distinct categories. Nymph and dry fly patterns should be small to match the insects trout feed on at this time of year. Blue-winged olive mayflies and midges represent the most common hatches. Flies mimicking these bugs should range from #18-24. This is more important than the actual fly pattern. Choose flies in olive or grey such as the trusty Parachute Adams, Sparkle RS-2, CDC Loop Wing Emerger or JuJu Baetis.


The second category is big, meaty flies-specifically streamer patterns. Fall fly fishing is synonymous with chucking heavy streamers in search of big, gnarly predatory brown trout. As the browns become more territorial and aggressive before and during the spawning period, bulky and brightly colored streamers often account for the largest fish of the year.  Patterns from #1/0 down to #6 are ideal. Try patterns such as the fall favorite the Autumn Splendor, the oversized Home Invader or Sex Dungeon on a sink tip line for the biggest browns in the river.

Home invader

2.Follow the Weather for the Best Fall Fly Fishing

Every angler can appreciate hitting the river on a crisp, sunny morning in October. These mornings generally give way to warm, Indian Summer days and this means anglers will more than likely do the most the damage nymphing small beadheads and emergers through depeer riffles and runs. Hatches are usually sparse on sunny fall days but things change rapidly when cool, cloudy weather sets in. This type of fall day with a socked in overcast weather system combined with calm conditions are the absolute best days to fish at this time of year.  BWO hatches are thick and trout become more active and will rise to a dry fly or eagerly chase a streamer. Just today on the Yampa River upstream from Steamboat Springs, under cloudy, cold conditions mid-sized rainbows were rising everywhere and when we tired of catching them we targeted a few large pike on big, dark streamers.

3.Target Tributaries and Feeder Creeks

The annual spawning run of brown trout and whitefish begins in earnest in mid-October but before that happens trout seek out feeder steams and feed heavily at the junction of the creek and the main river. Trout will travel miles towards tributaries where they will spawn. Examples include trout moving out of the lower Colorado River into the Roaring Fork or fish transitioning from the Eagle River into Gore Creek. While we never advocate fly fishing for actively spawning fish that are on shallow gravel redds, these tributaries allow anglers to predict where to find larger fish. Fish in deeper water that aren’t on beds are fair game and with a quick, gentle release they will be free to continue their mission to propagate the species. Be aware some small tributaries are closed during the spawn because the trout are simply too vulnerable in these tiny creeks-check the regs-but the fishing can be excellent downstream from closed areas.

Try these simple fall fly fishing tips for more action. Autumn is one of the most enjoyable times of year to be on the river. Anglers can find unpressured trout without another angler in sight. The weather is great and with the knowledge in a few short weeks winter is coming, each brightly colored brown trout is a treasure to be enjoyed thoroughly.  Keep in mind that Vail Valley Anglers is running their special fall fly fishing promotion FreaknFish. For the price of a half day trip, anglers can enjoy a full day float. Call the shop or book online.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Web Content Writer