Colorado Winter Fly Fishing | Tips for Winter Fly Fishing

How to Prepare for Winter Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing in the winter can be a challenging experience and requires proper preparation. The angler seeking solace, serene atmosphere and a shot at some larger trout will be awarded those wishes if the river is approached with some good gear and a little winter fly fishing knowledge.

You will want to have at least a basic understanding of fly fishing or a very patient fly fishing guide.  Outlined below are the basic items you will need to know or to have in order to enjoy catching fish and not catching a cold while in your pursuit of winter trout.


1.Start with some thin breathable socks, next over layer those with a quality fishing sock made by Simms or Patagonia.  Each company has several thickness selections available for your individual preferences.  The socks will work together as a team passing perspiration build up away from your skin.  If you overstuff your wading boot and your foot has no room to move, be prepared for it to turn numb in short order.

2.Technical long underwear will be your next clothing item in order to survive cold weather fly fishing.  Layer with a thin pair of breathable long underwear first then add a thicker pair of long underwear or breathable fishing pants.

3.Next some type of fleece pant works best.  This system will keep down the bulk, enable your inner agilities and make it easier to clamor around on slick rocks and snow covered banks.

4.Your upper body should be layered similar to your lower extremities, quality light weight underwear covered by heavier breathable underwear.

5.Excellent technical products to use for upper insulation, your next layer, are the Patagonia Puff Ball or Simms down jacket.  Soft shell micro-fleece products also work well here for insulation of the upper body.

6.Your hat should be of a warm variety and a visor makes sense on the water.  Having a full head balaclava, lightweight and easy to stow, can be a blessing in the frigid winter wind.  A tubular cloth Buff face shield also keeps out the chill.

7.Breathable waders, heavy duty wading boots and a tight wading belt are essentials to round out the winter fly fisherman below the waist.

8.Above the waist get a good wading jacket made specifically for fly fishing that can handle all types of weather.  Quality ski coats are not inexpensive because they hold out the weather.  Expect to pay for a quality wading/rain jacket.

9.Bring a pair of insulated or fleece fingerless gloves and some fingerless gloves with removable over-mitts for the coldest days.

10.Chemical hand warmers can be advantageous and can be used in wading boots to keep toes warm.

Winter Fly Fishing Tips

1.Time your fly fishing with the insect activity on the river you plan to fish.  It is best when the water is warmest.  Too early in the day and the river is covered by shadows and cold.  Likewise, in late afternoon when shadows begin to cover the water, consider leaving for a nice warm fire place.

2.Look for deep slow moving water as most fish bunch up when water temperature drops.  Strike at the slightest indication of a bite, during the cold season, trout metabolism slows to a point where it is tuff to determine if you had a strike or your nymph is hitting bottom.

3.By keeping the same amount of line out of your rod tip all the time you will have less water/ice buildup on your rod tip and guides.  Keep your reel out of the water so it will not freeze.

4.Be patient, everything, especially knots, take longer to do and undo in the winter.

5.Try your best not to take fish from the water when removing the fly, exposure to the extreme cold can injure or kill the trout.

6.When your fly is covered with ice and your fly line is freezing and sinking, usually at less than 10 degrees F, it is time to take a break from winter fly fishing and go read a book about it instead.

Here in the Vail, Colorado, sections of all our rivers remain open year round and so does our fly shop, Vail Valley Anglers, Edwards, Colorado.  We have both the gear and guides to help you not only survive but to make your winter fly fishing experience fun and rewarding!