The Best Time of Year to Fly Fish in Vail, CO

As a year-round fly fishing guide, my clients often ask me what are the best months or times of year to come to Vail to fly fish. The short answer to these questions is that there is no single “best” time or month. Great fly fishing can be had any day, month or season throughout the year.

Colorado has no closed fishing season and anglers can find success on warm summer mornings and evenings, cool and cloudy autumn afternoons or snowy winter days. There is, however, times when the fishing is consistently  more productive.

Below you’ll find a quick seasonal breakdown of the year-round fly fishing opportunities in Vail, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

Vail Fly Fishing in Winter

For angling purposes, winter effectively begins sometime in late November or early December, although cold, blustery days with snow showers can show up in fall or spring as well. Winter fishing means low and clear water and the majority of the fishing is deep nymphing in slow deep holes where trout congregate to spend the winter.

Generally December and January are the two coldest months and fishing opportunities are usually limited to warmest hours of late morning and afternoon. Feeding windows are shorter and half day wade trips are the norm. Fishing is better when temperatures are consistent or rising before a snowstorm. Tailwater fisheries that are dam controlled fish best this time of year since water temperatures are mostly unaffected by cold weather.

The fly fishing begins to pick up sometime in February, as the days get longer, temperatures begin to slowly climb and ice shelves begin to melt and break up. Water temperatures rise slightly and midges begin hatching. This is enough to kick start trout activity as feeding periods become longer. Cold snaps can shut things down for a few days. Nymphing is the method of choice. Half day wades are still the most common trip until later in the month when full day wades and float become a possibility based on weather patterns.

March is one of our favorite months to fly fish. The rainbows, especially, become more aggressive as they prepare to spawn. Midge hatches intensify and Blue-winged olive mayflies also emerge. The fishing is less affected by cold temperature swings and is usually consistently good. Dry fly fishing and streamer fishing become strong possibilities on any given day. Full day float and wade float trips are great options now and more water and rivers are accessible.

Spring Fly Fishing in Vail

Spring is a season of change here in Vail and fishing conditions can vary widely. The fly fishing in April is usually very good with many opportunities available. Ski season has ended and there are very few fishermen on the rivers despite the good fishing.

Flows begin to rise and rainbows are spawning. Midge and BWO hatches are strong and sometimes early caddis will appear. Nymphing and dry flies work  well and streamer fishing can be outstanding. Wading or floating is equally effective depending on a fisherman’s preferences and experience level.

May is often hit or miss in this part of the country. In many years, early May showcases great float fishing during the Mother’s Day caddis hatch. Later in the month flows begin to rise in earnest as snowmelt increases. Tailwaters remain fishable throughout the month. Once full runoff hits and rivers are raging, fly fishing is aimed towards meadow creeks and stillwater lakes  for large trout on our private ranches and aggressive northern pike in big reservoirs.

Vail Fly Fishing in Summer

Summer fishing in Vail is varied and full of different options. In early June, flows are often still very high but float fishing during the fabled salmonfly hatch can be incredible. As flows begin to recede in mid June, the best dry fly fishing of the year approaches. Caddis and Green Drakes show in big numbers and trout eagerly take flies on the surface. Float fishing is the best option now.

This type of steady dry fly fishing continues well into July. Floats and wades, either full or half days are all good options for a guided trip. July is a busy month with a lot of happy anglers. Insect hatches are strong throughout the month and trout eat continually most days with Yellow Sallies, Golden Stones and Pale Morning Duns supplementing the ever present caddis flies. July may be the most consistent good to excellent fly fishing of the year.

Small creeks, high country lakes and big rivers are all on the menu in midsummer. Hiking is great way to escape busier rivers and find solitude and willing trout in a stunning alpine mountain environment.

Monsoonal summer thunderstorms may begin to appear in the afternoons in late July. Also in late July and early August, anglers may begin to find better fishing earlier in the morning and again in the evening. This pattern can continue into August.

August fishing remains good but conditions and methods may change a little.The big hatches begin to taper off and smaller insects like BWOs, tricos and midges are the mainstay aquatic hatches. Grasshoppers and ants become a big part of the dry fly arsenal, especially for floating anglers. Wade fishermen must often turn to nymphing with small flies for good fishing. Guided trips of any type are still catching good numbers of trout and angler pressure drops as vacationers prepare for the school year. This type of fishing continues well into September until the leaves begin falling and frosty nights put an end to the hopper fishing.

Fall Fly Fishing in Vail

Enjoyable weather, no crowds and willing trout are all a part of fall fly fishing in the Vail area. We love fall fishing and in mid September, as the Aspen leaves turn gold, autumn conditions begin to take hold. Both air and water temperatures begin to drop and flows are generally low and very clear. Sometimes afternoons can be windy and a cool, rainy day is a possibility but generally sunny crisp days are the norm.

Fish will rise to blue winged olive mayfly hatches from September until early November. Nymphing is always effective and October streamer fishing from a drift boat can be outstanding.  Wade fishermen can thoroughly work the water for prespawn brown trout and have whole sections of river to themselves while on a float trip you may not see another boat.  Catching fish with a backdrop of fall colors is icing on the cake. Usually there is no need for an early start and the type of trip you book is entirely up to you as either half or full day floats or wade trips can be recommended.

Want to Book a Fly Fishing Trip in Vail, CO?

As you can see, the year-round fly fishing opportunities are endless in Vail. That is one reason why we love it here. Ski powder in the morning and catch a big rainbow in Gore Creek in the afternoon. Float the Eagle River for the morning caddis hatch on July Fourth and play nine holes of golf in the afternoon.  Spend a leisurely fall day floating the Colorado River without another soul in sight and big brown trout slamming your streamer.

Call us here at Vail Valley Anglers and we’ll help you book your trip or help you pick out a spot to fish and what flies to use for any time of the year.

Brody Henderson, Senior Guide and Web Content Writer