The Best of Winter Fly-fishing in Colorado
Having grown up in the Mid-west where the sun goes on vacation from October until may, the thought of breaking out the fly-fishing gear in Winter was hard to fathom. But then again we were avid ice fishers, but that’s a story for a different time. Once settled in the Vail valley in 1992, I discovered that Winter wasn’t nearly as dismal as I had known growing up. Sure, the gravity driven snow sports are what drew me to this paradise, but I soon discovered the allure of winter fly-fishing. Spending an afternoon fishing Après powder day is about the best day anyone can have! Just the topography of Colorado alone provides many more warm weather zones within a short distance of my beloved ski mountains than I could believe. Where there is a snowy 30-degree day in Vail the sun was shining and temperatures were 10-20 degrees warmer within a 30-minute drive of the chairlifts. Of course, our rivers stay open to fishing all winter and well the trout gotta eat. I also learned that the fish are easy to find in the lower water and that the food source is a very consistent buffet of mostly Midges and in the Tail-waters Mysis Shrimp. So, with 2 of my most difficult variables solved all I needed was knowing where to go and what to use. It is true that sometimes in Winter there may be a bit if access issues with regards to freestone rivers and streams on some days, but that’s where the tailwater fisheries shine. We are very fortunate to have 3 of Colorado’s most famous tailwater trout streams all within an hour’s drive of Vail/Beaver Creek resorts.
Freestone vs Tailwater Winter Trout Fisheries
Freestone rivers and streams are naturally free flowing and are more susceptible to mother nature’s wrath. We are so blessed to have the Eagle River flow through the heart of the vail valley. This is a world class trout river that as it makes its way from atop Tennessee pass and dropping 2,400 vertical feet in its first 30 miles the river slows and widens as it flows through the towns of Avon and Edwards. As the Eagle cuts, it’s way west towards the Colorado River from Edwards, winter wade fishing for a mix of large Browns and Rainbows is some of the best Wild-Trout fishing in Colorado. The lower Eagle is more heavily fished in Summer, but not in Winter and offers good public access. Wild Rainbows and Browns up to 20 plus inches are not uncommon in the Eagle River. It’s the bottom 30 miles of the eagle’s 77-mile journey that the winter Fly fisher pays most attention too. Once you get as far west as the towns of Eagle and Gypsum you are in the valley’s “Banana Belt”. Warmer air and water temperatures can create fantastic Fly-fishing conditions just about any day of the week. The other lesser known stream for winter fishing is literally right under your nose or Gondola. The Gore Creek is a great small creek, big trout stream that can offer amazing afternoons of fishing pleasure if you know where to go. I have said all I am allowed to say about the Gore Creek. Winter fishing on the Roaring Fork River near Glenwood Springs is a great destination due to its lower elevation and mild Winter climate. Less than an hour’s drive from Vail, the “Fork” is a tremendous year around Trout river with as much public access as you could wish for. On days when is snowy and colder in our valley the Roaring Fork valley can seem almost tropical. In fact most years we can float fish the Fork almost every day.
Colorado’s famous tailwaters are known for constant year around water temperatures flowing from the dams and create a very consistent food source of Midges, Mysis shrimp and other aquatic invertebrates. The fish below tailwaters are known to grow to abnormally large sizes due to the constant supply of food. The Blue River – This tailwater below Dillon reservoir in Silverthorne, just over the hill in summit County is unique in that the Gold medal section starts behind an outlet mall. But as it heads north of town there is a bit more access to the river that is quite scenic. The Yampa River below stagecoach reservoir lies just less than an hour north of Vail/Beaver Creek and is a great fishery, however the road into the tailwater is closed through much of the winter for Elk migration starting January 1st. the Yampa is a relatively small river, but has an abundance of quality Trout. Perhaps the most famous of our areas tailwater trout rivers is the Frying Pan River which is located just about an hour from our happy valley. The “Pan” below Rudi reservoir is 13 miles of unbridled Fly fishing heaven. The frying pan valley is as spectacular as are the Trout that inhabit it’s water. Many veteran fly anglers put the Pan on their bucket list of Trout fishing trips. This famous river is also one of the most crowded in the state, except for during the winter months. Our guide staff love to guide wade trips there in Winter.
Happy to live in such a great place with great year around oppurtunities to catch Trout.