Winter Fly Fishing Tips for Colorado

We have been talking about winter fly fishing a lot lately here on the Vail Valley Anglers blog. So far we have dealt out gear reviews, fishing reports, and general fishing tips. Although spring is coming, there are still plenty of cold, snowy days on the way. Here are a few more winter fly fishing tips to help you catch more trout until the snow and ice melts.

Fish The Correct Stretch of Water

Throughout most of the summer, water temperatures on the lower stretches of river can be dangerously warm. From mid July to late September, it is not uncommon to see daytime water temperatures in places like Gypsum, Glenwood Springs, and Rifle soar into the upper sixties and even the low seventies. These temperatures are not good for trout. It is for this reason that many conscientious fly fishermen avoid fishing these stretches of river during the summer. During the cold winter months, however, places like these are havens for insects and large trout. Lower elevations and warmer temperatures mean that with a little longer drive, local anglers can access large browns and rainbows that are, for most of the year, “off limits”.

Powder Days Can Mean More Trout

A big winter storm always brings a lot of excitement to the mountains of Colorado. Skiers and Snowboarders flock to the hills, filling up lift lines and highways beyond their capacity. For local anglers this is the time for a difficult decision. Get in line and hope for a few untracked turns, or wander down to the river alone? Most winter time fly fishermen will tell you that some of their best days on the water have been on powder days. The choice between skiing and fishing is never easy when both are good, but if you are looking for a reprieve from the hour long lift lines and twenty dollar cheeseburgers, look no further than your local trout stream.

A Thermos and a Camping Stove Can Make the Day

Layering up with wool, down, and Gore-Tex is important and can even prevent hypothermia in an emergency, but nothing stands up to the warmth provided by a boiling hot cup of coffee, tea, or ramen noodles. Two of my favorite winter fishing tools are the thermos, and lightweight camping stove. It only takes a few minutes to heat up some water for a hot drink or meal. When the cold finally makes its way through your thousand dollar outfit, and it will, warm up from the inside out with something extra hot. One of my favorite warm up meals is a cup of ramen noodles with extra cayenne pepper or Tabasco added in.

Hire a Guide to Float

A winter float trip on the Roaring Fork or lower Colorado is a great opportunity to see beautiful sections of river that most only drive by. The full time guide staff at Vail Valley Anglers specializes in winter float fishing and can give you your best shot at one of the many monster trout down low on the western slope.

January is almost over and winter’s time has rounded the corner and Spring will be here quickly.. Soon the days will get longer and the water will come to life again. Make the most of your winter fishing experiences until then, and enjoy the rivers as much as you can while you have them all to yourself.


Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer