The Colorado Angler Fishing Report – December 21, 2017

December 20th, 2017

The Colorado Angler Fly Fishing Report


Plan your next fishing trip knowing you’ll arrive without any surprises.  Our professional fishing reports are updated weekly with stream and river flows, recommended flies, equipment, and special fishing tips for the most important fly-fishing destinations in Colorado.  To see a detailed fishing report for a specific stretch of river, simply scroll below to read more information.  Make sure to check those out for your river of interest, as they will be able to answer questions pertaining to hatches and flies.

Understanding how fisheries change during the year, as well as how to approach them is key to growing an angler’s skill set.  We hope you use this invaluable information to your advantage.  Please feel free to call us at The Colorado Angler, at any time to discuss any questions and concerns you may have about the current conditions.  Or stop by and see us in the Summit Place shopping center in Silverthorne, next to Blue Moon Bakery, Exit 205 on I-70, then south 1 block.

Call: Toll Free 855-CO TROUT (268-7688)

Winter Hours:

Monday – Saturday 7:30 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday 7:30 am – 5 pm


Recent Update: December 21, 2017


It looks as if winter will be making an appearance this year after all.  New snow over the next few days will certainly cause many locals to turn their attention back to the slopes, which should open up some fishing locations that have been seeing an above average amount of angling pressure due to the mild weather and sub-par skiing.  However, the freestone options offering open water are dwindling now as overnight lows and short daylight hours have conspired to freeze most of the spots which had stayed open late into winter.

The one river still hanging in there with good access is the Arkansas.  This was due mostly to a combination of warm weather and above average flows coming from a water call out of Twin Lakes.  That call has ended and flows have dropped back down to more seasonable levels, a situation that will certainly start to have an impact on that open water.  That could take a few days yet to transition so, make plans to get out there quick before that access shrinks to a minimum.

Here’s what to expect for open water from Leadville down to Salida.  Hayden Meadows/Kobe are pretty well chocked with ice and a very low percentage opportunity.  However, just downstream from there will be the confluence with Lake Creek as it comes out of the tailwater of Twin Lakes.  From there down to Granite is wide open and at a great level for wading.  Although, keep in mind that it is still just about 10,000 feet and on the chilly side.

Below Granite there will stretches with minimal sunlight where ice returns to the river, offering inconsistent access down to Buena Vista.  But once in BV, the open valley combined with warm water discharges from their treatment facilities, opens the river up all the way down to the top of Brown’s Canyon.  Brown’s will shade the river and add a bit of ice through that stretch before the river opens back up above Salida at the Stone Bridge access.  From there down to through Salida to the start of Big Horn Sheep Canyon, the river is open from bank-to-bank.  Check the Arkansas location reports below for specific details.

While the freestone options may be diminishing, there are still the tried and true winter standards – tailwaters.  The Blue, Frying Pan, Cheeseman, 11 Mile, Pueblo.  Whichever works for you, there are just enough options to feed your habit for the near future.  Some guys love this time of year and those options, while the rest of us simply tolerate it.  If you are in the latter, the bright side to this late winter in particular is that with it starting so late, the amount of down time this season will be that much shorter.


General Tips for Fishing at the Moment:

Although it has been a relatively mild winter as of yet, the calendar doesn’t lie when it comes to daylight hours.  That being the case, you will want to focus your efforts on the late morning through mid-afternoon for the greatest success, 11 am to 3 pm on most rivers has been the most productive time frame.  Look for water that offers some cover from the heaviest currents as well as from predators under these late season conditions of low and very clear water; ledges, runs and pools seem to be the best place to start.

As well, with overnight temperatures at times now dropping into the teens, if not single digits, you might need to adjust your freestone approach for these remaining days of open water.  It will be quite possible that when you arrive at the river early in the day, there will be some level of ice flow drifting through.  If that is the case, don’t panic, it could be a short-lived event.  Be patient and give it a chance to warm up and see if the ice clears off.  This may not happen until late in the morning depending on your location.  Better idea altogether would be to slow play your morning and don’t arrive at the river until late morning, thus offering a better chance at open water.

The spawn has wrapped up for the most part but, there are still active spawners our there in some spots.  PLEASE, leave these fish to their seasonal task of procreation and resist the urge to fish for them.  It’s not cool to hammer fish off of their beds during the time of year that naturally impacts the highest level of stress on them.  Any additional stress can lead to higher than average mortality rates and a decline in trout populations for years to come.

Generally speaking it will be Midges on most rivers, with a few remaining Baetis scattered around.  Detail reports below will give more specific information on a particular stretch of river.  Make sure to check those out for your river of interest, as they will be able to answer questions pertaining to hatches and flies.


Blue River Below Dillon Reservoir

Flow: 95 cfs
Conditions:  Stream flows have dropped back down to a typical winter level.  While not as exciting as that slightly higher than average level, this is still a good flow for this time of year and should continue to provide solid conditions.  Action has been decent, with the most consistent results coming on subsurface patterns for Mysis, Midges and some Baetis emergers – specifically RS-2s.  As well, the usual tailwater staples of Eggs, San Juans and small searching patterns have been finding some fish.  Now that we’re back just under a hundred cfs, we would also drop our tippet back to at least 6x.  However, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend cutting your weight down as a general rule.  There are still plenty of runs that benefit from using heavier weight that you would think.  As the saying goes, most often the thing that separates a nymph fisherman from a successful nymph fisherman is the amount of weight used in their set-up.  Experiment with your weight throughout the day and make sure that you are getting down to the depth you need quickly, that is the key to more fish seeing your offerings.  If you aren’t bumping the bottom on occasion, chances are you need more weight.  For those dry fly enthusiasts out there, we have been seeing scattered fish feeding on the surface at times.  Keep your eyes peeled, as it will not be widespread.  If you do find fish on the surface they have been taking emerging Midges in Black, Chocolate and Dun colors, sized #22-26.  Good luck with that.


Town Flies:  BTS Shrimp, Tim’s Mysis, Stalcup’s Mysis, Andrew’s 5-0 Midge, Red Neck Midge, Glassy Brassie, Mirage Zebra Midge, Desert Storm, Rainbow Warrior, Black Beauty, Brassie, UV Emerger, Biot Midge, Lil Spanker, Tungsten Psycho May-Black, Rojo Midge, Tube Midge – Black or Red, RS-2 – Black or Dun, WD40 – Black or Chocolate, Zebra Midge, Otter Soft Milking Egg, Bead Eggs, Flossy Worm, Gummy Worm, Sparkle Worm, And work in a streamer every once in a while, as well. Often over looked but, randomly deadly.

Blue River Below Green Mountain

Flow: 155 +/- cfs
Conditions:  Flows have settled in to their winter lows allowing for much greater access, as you can now cross the river relatively safely and double the amount of water available for fishing.  Overall fishing has been very good, as the fish haven’t been to hammered into seclusion just yet and as a bonus, the frigid temperatures typical of the canyon in the winter have yet to settle in.  But, those days are coming so, get in on this before it’s too late.  Results will be best on tandem nymph rigs, with a wide assortment of patterns.  At this time of year you will want to emphasize the Midge and Baetis imitations but, there continues to be action on Stonefly imitations, Eggs and mid-sized searching patterns fished as the point fly in those tandem rigs.  Cloudy days have been slightly more consistent for action, as the low and clear flows tend to magnify your shadows and movements on sunny days.  As well, those overcast days have produced a little interest in surface feeding to emerging midges along with some minor streamer activity.  Even though flows are at seasonal lows, don’t underestimate the amount of weight needed to get your flies down to fish holding on the bottom of deep runs.  As well, 5x mono should be adequate enough for the clarity, with 5x fluorocarbon offering a little more stealth for the conditions.  If you aren’t familiar with this piece of river in the winter, be prepared for the steep access from the parking area down to the river.  Just a little bit of snow or moisture on the slope can make for a treacherous descent or climb back out at the end of the day.  And it should go without saying but, please leave the spawners alone.


Flies:  Big bead heads: Deep Dish Green Drake, Hare’s Ear, Tungteaser, Pheasant Tail, Rubberlegs, Psycho Prince, Duracell Jig, Flossy Worm. The Smaller Stuff: Aero Baetis, RS-2, Tung Psycho May, Darth Baetis, Split Case BWO, Barr’s BWO, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Juju Baetis, Red Neck Midge, Tube Midge, BH Biot Midge, Mirage Zebra,Otter Egg. Sculpzilla, Sex Dungeon, Cheech Leech, Sparkle Minnow etc

Colorado River Above Kremmling (Parshall)

Flow: 200 +/- cfs
Conditions:  Flows are getting down to winter lows as the Williams Fork is only adding 40 cfs to the native flow in the river.  However, the river is providing open, fish-able water down a ways into the Breeze Unit, at least a run or two below the bridge.  Action has been pretty solid for the past several weeks, with the majority of that action coming on nymph imitations fished in tandem nymph rigs.  Interest has been best on a mix of small midge pupa and larva imitations, and Baetis patterns.  We are also finding success on small to medium sized Stonefly and searching nymphs used as the lead flies in those set-ups.  With the low and clear conditions, tippet in 5 to 6x has been most productive in both mono and fluoro.  Don’t overlook the factor that weight plays into the equation either.  Even with the low flow there is a need for your flies to get down expeditiously in the compact and deep winter lies that fish are favoring right now.  Look for runs and pools that offer a little bit of depth that can provide cover from predators in these clear water conditions, preferably with a decent bit of current at the top end of them to bring in both food and oxygen.  Likewise, avoid the slow and shallow flat water that will leave them exposed.  And now that overnight temps have hit single digit to sub-zero levels there isn’t going to be much opportunity above the Willie’s, as ice has set in.  Concentrate your efforts below that influx of tailwater stability.


Flies:  Pat’s Rubber Legs, Flossy Worm, CDC Pheasant Tail, Bead Prince, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead Nymph, Lil Spanker, Tungsten Hackled, Pheasant Tail #18-22, Black Copper John #20-22, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, Tungsten Micro Mayfly Brown, Tungsten Juju Baetis, Aero Baetis, Root Beer Float, Zebra Midge, RS-2, Foam Wing RS-2, Red Neck Midge, BH Biot Midge, 5-0 Midge, WD40, Pure Midge Larva, Chocolate Thunder

Colorado River Pumphouse to Dotsero

Flow: 420 +/- cfs. @ Pumphouse
Conditions:  Big changes along the upper river, as the cold temperatures have finally brought plenty of ice to the river.  This could be the beginning of hibernation for the next couple of months.  Although it might still be day-to-day in a few locations, the majority of the river is heavily iced.  That varies from full coverage in some spots to narrow open channels in other areas.  And any of those open spots have a good chance of seeing flow ice for large portions of the day.  This isn’t to say that you can’t still find a spot of open water, free of drifting ice at some point in the next couple of weeks but, with the cold overnight temperatures and the shortest days of the year, don’t put all of your eggs in this basket when searching out a location to hit.  But if you happen to be in the neighborhood and you find some open water, then here’s how to approach your day.  As is the case everywhere right now, subsurface patterns fished in a traditional tandem nymph rig will offer the most consistent results.  Anchor your set-up with a Stonefly, Egg or mid-sized searching pattern and follow that up with a Midge or Baetis imitation.  4 and 5x tippet are adequate with the current flow and clarity and make sure to use enough weight to come in contact with the bottom on occasion, just often enough to know that you are getting it down where trout are holding as they conserve energy at this time of year.  Look for fish to be holding toward the center of the river in slightly deeper runs, flats and glides.  As well, please avoid fishing to the few remaining spawners in the riffles, or walking/wading through those areas which may contain Redds.  With the low light and shorter days, daytime temperatures are slow to climb in the morning.  As such, we have found the wider valley areas, that are prone to greater sun exposure to be more productive through the afternoon hours.  Conversely, we have been finding little to no success in any of the canyon stretches (not to mention they are locked up in ice at the moment).

Floating Tip: As the river runs lower, please proceed with caution. Shallow, narrow channels littered with exposed rocks and sleepers requires a lot of navigational skill. If you are unfamiliar with the river at these levels ask someone that is familiar with it about what to expect. And by all means, wear your PFD. Cold water and lower currents can neutralize your amazing swimming ability (more exposed rocks and sleepers!). There’s nothing cool about drowning.


Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Psycho Prince, Yeager’s Soft Hackle, Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Duracell, Lil Spanker, Mirage Zebra Midge, Foam Wing RS-2, Poison Tung, BH Biot Midge, Tungsten Psycho May, Darth Baetis, Eggs, San Juan Worm, Sculpzilla, Silver Bullet, Sex Dungeon, Cheech Leech, Crystal Bugger

Colorado Below Glenwood Springs

Flow: 1280 cfs
Conditions:  Conditions on the lower river remain manageable and the action continues to be solid, as well.  Although now that temperatures have fallen to more seasonal lows, you can expect to encounter flow ice at times.  While the best results have been on deep, tandem nymph rigs, there are still some fish being taken on streamers.  With those nymph set-ups, lead with a medium to large beaded searching nymph, Stonefly imitation or Egg pattern and follow that up with a Baetis or Midge of your choice.  Clarity for this part of the river is in great shape but, you can still be stealthy enough with 4x tippet, even 3x if you would prefer a little more holding power when you hook up.  Look for deep cover, ledges and drops to be holding fish most consistently.  This stretch of the river is entirely different than anything upstream from Dotsero but, if you can get past it’s proximity to the highway it is definitely worth the trip.  Although floating it does offer the best access for the patchwork of public water that can be hard to reach on foot, there are plenty of spots to drive/walk in to.  Don’t let the size of the river intimidate you, rather break it down into smaller pieces and fish it like you would any other wade river you are familiar with.  This stretch consistently produces some of the nicest Rainbows on the Colorado River and late fall through early spring is a great time to get out and explore this overlooked location.


Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Tungteaser, CDC BH Pheasant Tail, Bead Prince, Duracell Jig, Tungsten Pheasant Tail, Bead Hares Ear, San Juan Worm patterns, Lil Spanker, Tung Psycho May, Big Spanker, Rainbow Warrior, Magic Fly, RS-2, Bead Eggs, Otter Egg, Flossy Worm


Arkansas River Above Buena Vista

Flow: 160+/- cfs @ Granite & Ice is forming @Hayden Meadows
Conditions:  Starting to get fairly cold along the upper part of the river, and the popular public water stretch through Hayden Meadows has mostly iced over.  However, a water transfer out of Twin Lakes continues to keep an above average flow in the river from Balltown down through Granite and beyond.  What this means is that there should be a slight stability to water temperatures and icing of the river should hold off for a while longer.  Definitely focus your efforts on this stretch from Balltown to Granite.  Nymphing will offer the best approach with 4 and 5x tippet in a two fly set-up.  Lead with a mid-sized to small beaded Stonefly or searching pattern and follow that up with a Midge pupa or larva.  Look for fish to be congregating in winter water that offers a little more shelter from the heavy currents, such as deeper runs, tail outs to pools and ledges.  Probably not the hottest destination for this time of year but, there is potential for some action. If nothing else you shouldn’t see much in the way of competition.


Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Duracell, Copper John, BH Pheasant Tail, BH Hare’s Ear, Lil Spanker, Hot Wire Prince, Psycho Prince, Yeager’s Soft Hackle J, Iron Sally, Hammerhead Jig, Mirage Zebra, Red Neck Midge, Poison Tung, BH Biot Midge, Flossy Worm, Silver Bullet, Sparkle Minnow.

Arkansas River Salida Area

Flow: 300 +/- cfs @ Salida
Conditions:  Above average stream flows for this time of year has helped to keep this a decent destination for early winter.  With the added water, there are more sheltering lies for trout to hold in and offering more fish-able water.  Look for fish out slightly from the edges along the drops just off the current lines.  Runs with a little depth and pools that offer cover without a lot of energy consumption have been consistent, as well.  Early in the day fish will be sluggish to start but, that should change mid-day as they feed on Midge pupa and larva.  As the day goes on there may also be some interest in Baetis nymphs behind a mid-sized searching pattern such as BH Pheasant Tail, Duracell Jig or your go to fly for that category.  We continue to have good success on Stonefly, Midge, Baetis and Beaded searching patterns all throughout the afternoon.  With clarity as good as it is, 5x is ideal but, the extra flow in the river might allow for 4x to your top fly.  This is a great destination right now as there is far less traffic than on some of the other open water spots at the moment.  Not to mention the weather is generally noticeably warmer down this way.  On a mid-week day this week, we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed steady action.


Flies:  Beadhead Pheasant Tail, Beadhead Prince, Beadhead Hare’s Ear, Red or Chartreuse Copper John, Hot Wire Prince, Iron Sallie, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead, Duracell Jig, Barr’s Emerger, Juju Baetis, Tungsten Psycho May BWO, Yeager’s Soft Hackle, Extended Body Para BWO, Zebra Midge, Poison Tung, Rainbow Warrior, BH Biot Midge, Brassie, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Mirage Midge, Red Neck Midge, Biot Pupa Midge

Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs

Flow: 415 cfs
Conditions:  A good option at this time of year as warm weather and solid flows are keeping insect activity high enough to spur good action through the middle part of the day.  The lower reaches of the river offer the better weather and water temps and the consistency of feeding is following that trend but, there remain decent moments in the Carbondale to Basalt stretch as well.  With the colder temps the last week or two, expect to find flow ice in the river early in the day, which may not clear until early afternoon.  Deep nymph rigs have been the best approach with 4 and 5x tippet.  Start with a BH searching pattern, Stonefly imitation or Egg on top, dropping down to a Baetis or Midge imitation, using a good amount of weight.  Even though the flow is low, most of the fish will be holding in deeper buckets and runs that require some weight to get down quickly.  Also of note, the lower river had not gotten much float traffic from August to November due to the bridge closure that had serious impacts on traffic in the valley.  The new bridge is finally open, once again offering easy access to Glenwood.  Those fish in that stretch seemed to be a little less sensitive than a normal year as a result to the interruption in floaters. Check that out before they readjust to more typical attention.


Flies: Midge Emergers, UV Emerger, Tungteaser, Beaded Pheasant Tail, Pat’s Rubber Legs #8-10, Psycho Prince,CDC Prince, Hot Wire Prince, Standard Pheasant Tail, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, RS2, Frenchie, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Duracell Jig, Root Beer Float, Foam Wing RS2, Yeager’s Soft Hackle,

South Platte River, Middle Fork

Flow: 30 +/- cfs
Conditions:  Flows are down to winter lows, as are the temps.  Ice is starting to form but, it has not choked the river out just yet.  Not that catching a fish is totally out of the question but, it’s a less than decent option.  If you’re in the neighborhood, than give it a try but, we wouldn’t go out of your way to hit it.


Flies: Beaded Prince, Duracell Jig, Hammerhead Jig, Red Collar PT, Beaded Pheasant Tail, Big Spanker, Zebra Midge, Mirage Midge, Red Neck Midge

South Platte, Dream Stream

Flow: 85 – 140 cfs
Conditions:  The fall spawn is wrapping up so, maybe we can get back to just the normal traffic on the Dream.  Flows have been all over the board the past couple of days and we really can’t say why. (And it could just be that the gauge is acting up with the cold.) Not sure how long this pattern will last but, this can have a serious benefit on the feeding habits of trout as food options increase as the water ramps up and not only dislodges aquatic insects from the stream bed but, also may be drawn into the river from the reservoir, as well.  On the other hand, it can also slow the action as it drops, as fish become sensitive to the sudden loss of cover.  If you catch it on the way down, make a couple of adjustments to how you approach the river in order not to compound what may be a little panicked period for trout.  Make sure to travel with a little greater caution when moving along and in the river.  Slow down and make sure your foot steps are light, so as to not alert fish to your presence.  Minimize wading and keep a lower profile.  Once at a spot where you intend to fish, don’t be in a hurry there either.  Slow, calm movements with your rod and cast, limit your extraneous movements.  Light tippets of 6x will offer the best presentation.  Likewise, if you catch it on the way up you may be able to be a little more aggressive in your approach.  Bump up your tippet, as the water may have a little color to it. That goes the same for the amount of weight you use, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting down quickly with the added volume of water.  As well, this can be a great time to use flies that might be a little more robust, as the heavier water will be dislodging a cross section on insects from the river, not just the micro midge patterns that are typical for this time of year.  Don’t hesitate to throw a San Juan Worm or Cased Caddis or even a Crane Fly Larva as your point fly.  Follow that larger offering up with an imitation for the Midges and Baetis nymphs that will generally be the bulk of the diet for the next several months.


Flies: Loop Wing Emerger, Pure Midge Larva Black or Pale Olive, Black, Red, Chartreuse Copper John, Juju Baetis, Caddis Larva, Poxybiot Nymph, Desert Storm Chartreuse, Tube Midge, Poison Tung, Zebra Midge Black/Silver, Barr’s Emerger BWO, RS2, Poxybiot Nymph, Egg Patterns, Cap’n Hook, Disco Midge, San Juan Worm variations, Crane Fly Larva, Buckskin, Bread Crust

Williams Fork River Below Dam

Flow: 40 cfs
Conditions:  Dam releases are down to winter levels and may drip further.  As it gets down to sub 75 levels, the action really tightens up on this popular tailwater, which gets more than it’s fair share of traffic.  As such, drop your tippets to 6x, even 7 if you are comfortable with that light of line.  Midge pupa, larva and emergers along with Baetis patterns will be most productive.  These can be fished together or behind a small searching pattern, such as a size 20 Flashback Pheasant Tail, or Caddis larva.  Look for fish to be “holed up” in the few deeper spots that are available at this low flow.  Now that the temperatures have adjusted to more seasonal levels, add an extra layer because it gets cold in this valley.


Flies: Split Case BWO, Poxy-Biot Nymph, Buckskin, Flossy Worm, Little Brown Bug, Two Bit Hooker, Flash Back Pheasant Tail, Tungsten Micro Mayfly, Big Bear Baetis, Tungsten Psycho May BWO, Pure Midge Larva, Rainbow Warrior, Rojo Midge, Biot mayfly Emerger, #20-22 Green Copper John, Zebra Midge, RS2’s, 5-0 Midge, UV Emerger

Eagle River

Flow: 97 @ Wolcott 160+/- cfs @ Gypsum
Conditions:  Ice is finally settling for large portions of the valley.  There are still open water options and the fishing at those locations remains pretty decent considering the time of year.  Best options are going to be lower in the valley, generally near Gypsum but, there will be pockets upstream all the way to Avon if you are close enough to the few warm water discharges that keep the river open.  Even where you do find that open water, don’t be surprised to find ice flow early in the day.  That should clear by mid-day and offer decent conditions through the afternoon. Results have been best with a two nymph set-up, rigged with 5 and 6x tippet.  Lead with an Egg or mid-sized searching nymph and follow that up with a Midge or Baetis pattern.  Look for runs that have a bit of a current formed by a drop at the head of the pool.


Flies: Duracell Jig, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Psycho Prince, Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Thompson’s Forky Baetis, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Root Beer Float, Tung Psycho May, Poison Tung, BH Biot Midge, Rainbow Warrior, Red Neck Midge, Darth Baetis, Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Conditions: Ice. Closed for the season.

Flies: Cheetos

Delaney Buttes Lakes

Conditions: Icing up, probably not completely safe just yet.

Flies: Marabou Jigs