The lower Colorado River flowing west from Glenwood Springs to the Town of Rifle stays ice-free during winter months, and is one of my favorite winter fly fishing destination. I’ve come to expect large fish in these waters, with rainbow and wild browns often measuring over twenty inches. I believe much of my success depends on the flies I use.
Predominate winter hatches on this stretch of water include midges and blue-winged olives. There’s often an abundance of stonefly nymphs as well. Choosing the right fly to use can be a challenge. There are literally many hundreds of different flies available, and, after some friendly guidance from staff at my local Minturn Anglers fly shop in Denver or Minturn-Vail Valley, I have learned to categorize flies into three categories:
- Nymphs or wet flies are designed to look like immature insects that live underwater for a short time; an “emerger” is a special kind of nymph that looks like a maturing bug that’s moving to the surface; using a nymph fly is the best way to fly fish because most feeding happens underwater; I prefer using Disco Midge flies in sizes 20 and 22, to imitate midge hatches that occur all winter; other favorites are the English Pheasant Tail Nymph and the Flashback Scud
- Dry flies float on the water surface and are designed to look like mature insects such as midges, caddis flies and mayflies; fish must be rising for these flies to be successful so they may not be effective later in the afternoon when the water becomes warmer; my favorite dries include Griffith’s Gnat and Cannon’s Bunny Dun
- Streamers are larger lures that do their business below the water surface, and are designed to look like leeches or small bait fish such as minnows; learning how to cast and a retrieve a streamer can be difficult and sometimes I use them just for the challenge; my favorite streamer is the Woolly Bugger
As I usually do before any Colorado fly fishing trip, Denver or Vail Valley, I drop in to Minturn Anglers fly shops to get the lowdown on current water conditions ̶ and also to check over new gear and flies to see what I can add to my collection. For me, this is all part of the enjoyment of fly fishing.