Fly Fishing Colorado’s Summer Hatches

At Vail Valley Anglers, we are fortunate enough to have access to several rivers which provide fairly predictable insect emergences each summer. While the timing and intensity of these hatches may vary from year to year, each one brings it own unique fly fishing challenges and rewards. Now is the time to get prepared for some of the best dry fly fishing of the year on streams like the Eagle River, Roaring Fork River and the upper Colorado River.

Here is a few of the hatches we’ll begin seeing soon and some flies to match them:

Eagle River Post-Runoff Caddis Hatch


The Eagle is dropping and clearing nicely after some very big flows. Soon, as water temperatures climb into the fifties we’ll begin seeing our first summer caddis hatches on this stream. This hatch also occurs on the Roaring Fork. These bugs hatch in big numbers for at least a couple weeks and the trout key on them until other hatches take over. This particular caddis is a tan colored size 12-14 insect which tapers down to a 16 later in the summer. Expect good action from early morning through early afternoon and then again in the evening. Good nymph patterns include Hare’s Ears, Guide’s Choice and Sparkle Pupae. For dry flies try the reliable Elk Hair Caddis, Tan Stimulator, or Tan Foam Caddis.

Green Drakes on the Roaring Fork
green drak

The world famous Green Drake Hatch occurs on the Lower Colorado, the Roaring Fork River and the Frying Pan. To a lesser degree these big olive mayflies are also present in the Eagle and Gore Creek. Timing of this hatch changes from year to year depending on water flows and temperatures. The bugs usually show up first near Glenwood Springs on the Colorado River in late June and work their way up the Roaring Fork in early July. The hatch takes a turn up the Frying Pan as well and the hatch there lasts well into August. These are big insects that attract attention from large trout. Emergence seems to occur late in the morning with another flurry of activity in the evenings. Good nymph patterns include Mercer’s Poxyback Drake, Prince Nymph, and Olive Guide’s Choice, all in #10 or 12. Efffective dry flies are large #10-12 Parawulffs, Parachute Adams and Green Drake Cripples.

Pale Morning Duns

Next in line to show up are the pinkish hued Pale Morning Dun mayflies. They start with some bigger #14 adults, run about a size 16 on average, ending with smaller specimens down to size #20 hatching as summer progresses. This is a hatch that trout fixate on because the mayflies hatch in big numbers for extended periods of time throughout the day. The hatch usally begins on all area rivers between early and mid-July but sometimes they show up even earlier if water conditions are ideal. The PMDs are often hatching while other insects such as Caddis, Drakes or Yellow Sallies are present so anglers need to pay attention to what the trout are looking for. Before the hatch in the morning, tie on a Quasimodo Pheasant Tail, Red Copper John or Barr’s PMD Emerger. Dry fly choices include Orange Parachute, Pink Foam PMD Parachute, or PMD Parawulff.

Yellow Sallies
Yellow Sally

These small, bright yellow stoneflies are present in all area rivers and seem to have had stronger emergences in recent years, becoming more important to the trout. ¬†Expect to see big hatches on the Eagle and Roaring Fork in particular. Average size runs between 14 and 16. Trout seem to love this hatch, perhaps because the nymphs aren’t strong swimmers, emerging slowly but the adults really seem get pounded because they are weak fliers that stay on the water a long time. Hatches seem to occur from late morning through the afternoon when temperatures are warmer. This is another hatch that can occur amidst the emergence of other insects, or masking hatches. While I prefer to fish dries during the Yellow Sally hatch, good nymphs are small gold Copper Johns or yellow Wired Stones. On the surface fish with dead drifted Puterbaugh’s Yellow Foam Stones, yellow elk hair caddis or the Corn Fed Sally. Sometimes the trout prefer a dry fly with a red butt to mimic female adults ready to lay eggs.

These are the hatches local and visiting anglers are likely to see during the early part of summer here in Vail, Colorado. Each hatch provides excellent fishing for our wild trout. The Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards is stocked on flies for the summer and will have up to date reports on fly fishing the latest hatch. Guided fly fishing trips are going out daily and having success and each day the conditions are only getting better. We are looking forward to a summer of fantastic fly fishing.

Brody Henderson, Senior Guide and Web Content Writer