Fly Fishing During Spring Runoff

Spring runoff can bring difficult fly fishing conditions to the rivers and creeks of Colorado. Streamflows increase rapidly, water temperatures drop and water clarity degenerates into a muddy mess. Generally speaking, these situations make for difficult angling. For some anglers, this is the time to head for the saltwater flats in search of bonefish or tarpon but for those of us who are stuck in Colorado during mud season there’s still plenty of trout to be caught when the annual snowmelt of spring begins.

Colorado Spring Runoff Fly Fishing Locations

During spring runoff, catching trout is all about finding water that’s fishable and holds hungry trout. Not only are high, muddy rivers going to be unproductive, there are also very real safety concerns that anglers should avoid. Try some of these locations for great spring runoff fishing.


Dam controlled tailwaters often offer clear, fishable flows when most rivers are flowing high, cold and muddy. Colorado has several very popular tailwater fisheries that have large populations of large trout. Streams like the Blue River in Silverthorne, Gunnison’s Taylor River, and  Aspen’s Frying Pan, Stemboat’s Yampa and various sections of the South Platte River  are no secret and you’ll have competition from other anglers but the fishing in these streams can be worth sharing the water. For anglers looking for more solitude, seek out tailwater streams that receive less pressure. Try the Williams Fork, the Blue River below Green Mountain Reservoir and the Umpcompaghre River.  There are many lesser known small streams in Colorado that have tailwater fisheries such as Rifle Creek, Boulder Creek, the St Vrain,  Muddy Creek and many more. Do some research and you’ll find more.Blue River Rainbow


Many fly fishermen in Colorado avoid fishing lakes. They are either intimidated by large bodies of water that don’t immediately offer obvious spots to catch fish or they’re under the assumption that fly fishing and lakes don’t mix. Generally, though, in the spring trout will be cruising in fairly shallow water near shore and often offer sight fishing opportunities. Inlets and outlets of lakes are another Stillwater hotspot. Because of the current in these spots, trout are attracted to these areas for spawning and feeding purposes. For anglers who feel the need to cover a lot of water, take advantage of your raft or drift boat to reach fish beyond the casting range of shorebound anglers.

Stillwater Hotspots:

1.       Delaney Buttes, Walden, Colorado – Three lakes offer outstanding fishing for four species of trout. Nearby Lake John and Cowdrey Lake are also very good.
2.       Steamboat Lake, Clark Colorado-Gold Medal lake fishery for large cutthroats and rainbows. Try Pearl Lake just down the road for the opportunity to catch grayling.
3.       Spinney Mountain Reservoir-Still kicks out big browns and bows and anglers can also fish Elevenmile Reservoir and several miles of South Platte River Tailwaters.

Buttes Brown Trout


Look beyond trout and spring runoff season is one of the best times of the year to pursue warmwater fish with a fly rod  in Colorado stillwaters. Try northern pike in Stagecoach and Williams Fork Reservoir. In Harvey Gap Reservoir a new fishery for Tiger Muskies is available. Bass, sunfish, and carp can be caught in dozens of Front Range locations.

Don’t let high, muddy rivers keep you from catching fish this year during spring runoff. There’s plenty of excellent fly fishing locations to explore in Colorado during snowmelt season. For more information on fly fishing in Colorado this spring, check in with the experts at the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, Colorado.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer