The Colorado Angler Fishing Report – December 22, 2016

December 23rd, 2016

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 river, simply scroll below to read 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.

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 – Friday 8 am – 6 pm

Saturday 7:30 am – 6 pm

Sunday 8 am – 5 pm


Recent Update: December 22, 2016


It’s official.  With the passing of the Solstice yesterday, we are now in the depths of Winter.  Overall we have seen a mild start to it, with just a couple of short lived cold snaps creating some uncomfortable conditions for a day or two, before it warms back up to a reasonable temperature.  However, with over 3 feet of snow over the past week, things have gotten downright seasonal and tactical.  Moreover it’s the drop in air temperature that is having the greatest impact on angler comfort.  Fortunately, we haven’t seen any cold spells last very long before giving way to milder temps.

We are looking at numbers in the 30s and 40s this week, so don’t be afraid to get out on the river, its not unbearable out there.  On the other hand, weather and conditions for each individual fly fishermen can vary, so take a look at the weather forecast near the spot you are thinking about fishing, and decide if its worth going for yourself.  The days have only seen a couple hours of sunshine, depending on where you fish, keep the lack of sun in mind.  If you choose to hike into a canyon, bundle up as well as have some layers on reserve.

A couple of “must-haves” on the river for the cold conditions are: warm and wind resistant gloves, hand warmers, Buff headwear, wool socks (protect your feet), Ketchum Release tool (for limiting handling of fish in sub zero temperatures), ice off paste, boot spikes, good base layers, thin leader and tippet sizes and small bugs.  Being comfortable is key while fishing in the winter.  Make sure to adjust your tippet size for the lower and clear flows that are typical for this time of year. It might be time once again to make sure you have some 5x with you at all times and dare we say, a spool of 6 or 7x for certain locations.

Happy Holidays to everyone out there, whatever the specific ones you celebrate.

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: 76 cfs.
Conditions:  With the cold Winter temperatures continuing in the high country, icy conditions on freestone rivers will definitely push the town stretch of the Blue to the forefront for the next several weeks.  Tailwater conditions remain as the bottom release is here to stay for the remainder of the season.  Look for the feeding to be mostly subsurface once again, on the typical tailwater patterns for Midges and Baetis.  As well, now that we are continuing to see a bottom feed there will once again be Mysis entering the river from the lake.  Although, the bug fishing has been more consistent than the shrimpin’, as these lows flows won’t have enough velocity to pull a tremendous amount of Mysis from the lake at any given time.  Specifically, Midge larva and pupa in the #20 and smaller range.  Black, Red and shades of Brown have been solid along with some flashier colors producing at times.  Low and clear flows will also require a return to finer tippet and leader, at least 5x but, even better if you can throw 6x.  Even though flows are low, don’t overlook the need for weight at this time of year.  Still one of the greatest factors separating nymph fishermen from successful nymph fishermen is misreading the amount of weight for the situation.  There may still be the opportunity to throw dries here in town, if you are committed to that sort of thing.  However, it will be very sporadic and not likely to be wide spread.  If you happen upon rising fish, emergent Midge imitations in Black, Grey and Chocolate have worked for us.  Traffic on the river has been day-to-day, with some days virtually deserted while others standing room only.  Hard to say why but, it seems as if up until recently milder temperatures have kept more freestone options available.  Now as we pass through the shortest days and coldest temperatures of the year, those options will freeze over, pushing more anglers onto less open water choices. 

Town Flies: Flossy Worm, 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, Kingery’s Cap’n Hook, Rojo Midge, Tube Midge – Black or Red, RS-2 – Black or Dun, WD40 – Black or Chocolate, Two Bit Hooker, Zebra Midge, Otter Soft Milking Egg, Bead Eggs, And work in a streamer every once in a while, as well. Often over looked but, randomly deadly.

Blue River Below Green Mountain

Flow: 214 +/- cfs.
Conditions:  Flows continue to run at their Winter levels, which will be the low flow for the season.   This has effectively shut down the float season for the Blue, but at the same time returned the canyon to a viable wade fishing destination once again.  Crossing the river is now possible for most waders, more than doubling the amount of access downstream.  Look for nymphing to be the most consistent approach throughout the day as the cold and dark character of the canyon will limit all but sporadic hatches of Midges.  Although Baetis and Midge larva and pupa imitations with be the most productive patterns to throw, there can also be some decent action at times on a multitude of flies due to the diverse food supply here.  Typically, we would rig up with either a Midge or Baetis as the trailing fly and in front of that run anything from a Stonefly, to a Baetis, or a Drake or searching nymph imitation.  Even though those larger bugs may not be hatching at this time of year, their nymphs are in the river and may be migrating, molting or become dislodged and end up drifting and available.  At this time of year look for fish to be sheltering in water that allows them to conserve as much energy as possible such as deeper and slower runs, as well as the tail outs of pools and flats or along the inside edge of eddy lines.  Drop your tippet size down to 5 or 6x and make sure to use enough weight to get it down to those fish holding tight to the bottom.  If you haven’t fished this spot in the winter, be prepared for an icebox scenario.  With the combination of an inversion and a canyon the blocks out direct sunlight, this spot can be 10 to 15 degrees colder than here in Silverthorne.  Dress warmer than you think you need to.  And definitely be careful on the climb down to the river from the parking lot, nothing ruins a day like doing the “slide for life” into the river before you even wet your line. 

Flies: Big bead heads: Deep Dish Green Drake, Hare’s Ear, Tungteaser, Pheasant Tail, Stubby Stone, Twenty Incher, Rubberlegs, Psycho Prince, Green Drake Nymph, Duracell Jig, Flossy Worm. The Smaller Stuff: Aero Baetis, RS-2, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, Barr’s BWO, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Juju Baetis, Red Neck Midge, Tube Midge, Biot Pupa, Mirage Zebra,Otter Egg.

Floaters should note: The river volume on this stretch of water can change on an infrequent schedule and often. It is important to know the flow before you launch and make an honest assessment of your ability and watercraft capability. Please respect private property rights along the river. At 1,500 cfs the bridges are impassable. Under 500 become questionable for clearance of certain boats.

Colorado River Above Kremmling (Parshall)

Flow: 215 cfs. +/-
Conditions:  Flows remain steady with the aid of the Williams Fork Tailwater release, making this a solid winter destination for wade anglers. Depending on the volume of that release and the overnight temperatures the amount of open water can vary but, it is fairly stable down to the first run or two below the bridge in the middle of The Breeze Unit State Wildlife Area.  As with most winter fishing spots, nymphing will be the most consistent approach using a tandem rig under an indicator.  While you should focus on Baetis and Midge larva and pupa imitations, there can also be some success on small searching nymphs such as Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns.  Low and clear flows will necessitate tippet from 5 to 6x either in mono or fluorocarbon.  Don’t overlook the importance of using enough weight.  Make sure to have enough to get your flies down to the depths where fish will be sheltering to conserve energy.   As well, you want to start off early in the day in water types where that is easy for trout to do: deep runs, tail outs of flats or the inside edge of eddy lines.  These types of lies will allow for almost no exertion from fish.  Then as the sun warms the water and insect activity picks up, look for trout to move a little closer to current lines to feed on drifting nymphs. While you may see some activity early in the day, more likely that action is going to be most consistent from late in the morning to mid afternoon when the day is at its warmest.  Now that we have passed the Winter Solstice and the days will be getting longer, we can see a light at the end of the tunnel but, it will still be several weeks before overall temps climb enough to open up additional water. 

Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Hurless Stone Nymph, Flossy Worm, CDC Pheasant Tail, Bead Prince, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead Nymph, Lil Spanker, Tungsten Hackled, Buckskin #16-20, Pheasant Tail #14-22, Black Copper John #20-22, Small Prince Nymphs, Black Pheasant Tail, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, Tungsten Micro Mayfly Brown, Tungsten Juju Baetis, Aero Baetis, Root Beer Float, Zebra Midge, Red Neck Midge, Biot Midge, 5-0 Midge, WD40, Pure Midge Larva

Colorado River Pumphouse to Dotsero

Flow: 519 +/- cfs. @ Pumphouse
Conditions: Flows have fluctuated some the past couple of weeks, therefore, the ice has not made it impossible to fish near boat access ramps.  There is maybe a foot of ice on the river’s edge in most places, but very doable fishing.  Gore Canyon at Pumphouse is a much different story, however.  With very little sunshine finding the river in the canyon, there has been a lot of ice accumulation.  If you are going to head in the direction of Pumphouse, stay down stream of the kayaking structure.  Your most productive fishing will be between that drop off and Little Gore Canyon using nymphs and midge patterns.  We continue to fish classic tandem nymph rigs with minimal weight.  Between Pumphouse and Dotsero, look for sunny and deep spots with slow moving water.  Midge larva and pupa along with Baetis nymphs behind a beaded searching pattern or even a standard Pat’s would be as good as any rig to start with at this time of year.  With the Middle Park inversion having an effect on air temperatures, overnight lows here can take a little while to rebound during the day.  That being the case, don’t be too impatient with the action, it might not be until early afternoon before fish respond to your flies.  The Colorado River could be a very rewarding place to fish.  It most certainly is gorgeous this time of year! Floating the Colorado for the year is over unfortunately due to the canyons not being passable.  We will patiently have to wait until hotter days and higher flows.  Until then, enjoy some good wade fishing while it lasts! 

Flies: Lil Spanker, Juju Baetis, Mayfly Micro, Root-beer Float, Two Bit Hooker, Zebra Midge, Glassy Brassie, Black Mirage, RS2, Redneck Midge, Blood Midge, Black Copper John

Colorado Below Glenwood Springs

Flow: 1570 cfs.
Conditions:  A great option at this time of year, as flows are fairly low and clear, giving the river an angler friendly condition, both for wading and floating.  At an elevation around 5,700 feet, the climate along the lower river can offer a nearly year round freestone option, with just a 5 or 6 week window that might produce ice flow in the channel.  Results have been most consistent on nymph patterns fished as part of a traditional tandem nymph rig.  A wide mix of imitations are still in play including Stoneflies, Baetis, Midges and searching patterns.  Although the river is near seasonal lows for the year, it is still a big river that can intimidate anglers on their first trip to fish it.  Just remember to break it down into smaller pieces as you look at it and not try to fish the entire river at once.  It is big water more ideally covered with a boat and wading can be a tough endeavor the first time or two but, once you get dialed in on where to access and where the fish are holding, results can be solid for both wading and floating anglers.  Make sure to be thorough in your covering of water types while searching for where fish are active.  Big pockets, inside seams of riffles and eddy lines all provide good feeding lies for fish.  Clarity at the moment is as good as it gets on this stretch and with that you may want to drop down to 4 and 5x for your rig.  This stretch consistently produces some of the nicest Rainbows on the Colorado River and Fall is a great time to get out and explore this overlooked location.

Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Tungteaser, Bead Prince, Twenty Incher, Iron sally, Tungstone, Delektable Bug-Golden or Brown, Duracell Jig,Tungsten Pheasant Tail, Bead Hares Ear, San Juan Worm patterns, Zebra Midge, 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: 238 cfs. @ Granite
Conditions:  Flows have stepped back up over the past month as the winter water transfer down to Pueblo is under way.  This is a minor improvement of sorts, as the higher volume and slightly warmer water have actually opened up a short stretch of the river from Balltown down through Granite. (Anything above that will be pretty much iced over and out of play until Spring.)  But where there is open water, it may yield a little bit of action.  Keep in mind it will be a methodical and steady approach as insect activity at this elevation will be limited at this time of year.  Tandem nymph rigs anchored with either a small Stonefly, Mayfly or searching nymph followed up with a Baetis or Midge larva/pupa will offer the best set up to prospect for fish.  Look for fish to be holding in some of the deeper runs, with slower currents and a little bit of depth for cover.  As with most winter options, no need to rush out there at the crack of dawn.  Wait until mid-day and fish the warmest part of the day.  Remember these areas are at or near 10,000′, make sure you have the proper attire and equipment for the cold weather. 

Flies: Aero Baetis, Tung Psycho May, Juju Baetis, Pure Midge Larva, Red Neck Midge, Biot Pupa, Mirage Zebra Midge, Duracell, Copper John, BH Pheasant Tail, BH Hare’s Ear, Lil Spanker, Hot Wire Prince, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead Jig, Flossy Worm, Silver Bullet, Sparkle Minnow.

Arkansas River Salida Area

Flow: 352 cfs. @ Salida
Conditions:  Flows have rebounded a little here as well, as water managers are transferring water down stream to Pueblo.  This has actually helped access along certain parts of the river by breaking up shore ice that had formed during a couple of recent cold snaps.  We have found the most consistent open water in the valley from Stone Bridge down to Salida, where there is a greater exposure to sun to help keep the river open.  Action continues to be strong enough to offer a decent destination away from the crowds on some of the more popular winter fisheries.  Although, it will be a narrow window of time between noon and 3:30 when temperatures are most agreeable.  Focus your efforts on the winter holding water such as deeper and slower current runs, or in eddies just off the seams.  Clear water along with the slow lies will call for finer tippet in the 5 to 6x range.  Fish a tandem nymph rig with a mix of searching nymphs, small Stoneflies and Mayflies as the lead followed up with a small Baetis nymph or Midge larva/pupa. 

Flies: Beadhead Pheasant Tail, Beadhead Prince, Beadhead Hare’s Ear, Red or Chartreuse Copper John, Hot Wire Prince, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead, Duracell Jig, Zebra Midge, Poison Tung, Rainbow Warrior, Brassie, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Mirage Midge, Red Neck Midge, Biot Pupa Midge

Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs

Flow: 575 cfs.
Conditions: Flows are low and clear offering good wade fishing throughout the valley.  A good option through the Winter with only a brief interruption from late December into late January.  Although nymphing will offer the best action daily, there are still pockets of rising fish to be found when cloud cover and emerging insects provide the right conditions. Midges and Baetis will be the bulk of the actual active insects, but with a very diverse biomass in the river don’t hesitate to drift Stonefly, Caddis and small searching patterns along with those hatch matching imitations.  Late morning to mid-afternoon will be most productive once the water has a chance to rebound from overnight lows.  The public water through Glenwood will enjoy the warmer temps on the river but, don’t overlook the access up in Basalt where tailwater flows from the Frying Pan can give a little shot of life to the river up valley. 

Flies: Tungteaser, Beaded Pheasant Tail, Pat’s Rubber Legs #8-10, Psycho Prince, G6 Caddis, Tungsten Yellow Sally, Tungstone, CDC Prince, Hot Wire Prince, Standard Pheasant Tail, Tung Psycho May, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Duracell Jig, Root Beer Float, Foam Wing RS2,

South Platte River, Middle Fork

Flow: 20 +/- cfs.
Conditions:  Pretty much iced up for all practical purposes.  Check back in the Spring

 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: 87cfs.
Conditions: Stream flows have bumped back up after plummeting a couple of weeks back. This is good news for the potential of a successful spawn. That is if we can keep too many people from wading through beds, or just as bad, harassing fish while they spawn by hooking them. This spot seems to suffer from the largest collective ignorance of any in the state. And by ignorance, we are hoping that it is just that, people are uninformed on the damage that they could be doing, rather than indifferent to the damage that they are causing, all in the name of a photo of a big fish. We have all seen it happen. There are anglers that stand over spawning beds and cast at fish trying to procreate. If you don’t already know, this is the single most stressful time of the year for any fish. Any additional stress on that fish very well could cause at the least an unsuccessful spawn and at worst, death. With the lure of big fish in shallow water it’s too much for uneducated anglers to resist. If you must go, PLEASE do not fish to fish that are actively on spawning beds. There are still resident fish in the river, as well as fish that are in water that is not conducive to spawning. Please think about the long term health of our fisheries. 

Flies: Loop Wing Emerger, Pure Midge Larva Black or Pale Olive, Black, Red, Chartreuse Copper John, Juju Baetis, Buckskin, 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 Work variations

Williams Fork River Below Dam

Flow: 75cfs
Conditions: Releases from the Dam remain low and clear.  Midges are starting to take over in the volume for most active insects at the moment but, there are still some pockets of Blue Wings on individual days.  Tandem rigs with a mix of those Midges and Baetis, along with the odd Caddis and small Stonefly imitation or San Juan Worm and Egg patterns have been seeing the most consistent results.  Bump tippet back down to 5 and 6x along with moderate amount of weight.  Look for water types that offer good cover from predators and avoid fishing over spawning fish.  Being a tailwater, the water temperatures are much more stable in their daily swing, thus offering the potential to see action throughout the day. (You don’t have to wait for water to warm up as it comes out of the dam at the same temperature day or night and the fish have acclimated to that.) Which is good since you generally have to get there early to beat the traffic.


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: 189 cfs at Gypsum
Conditions:  Definitely low and clear right now but, action continues to offer enough of a reason to get out on the river.  Please give the fish a break and avoid fishing anywhere near spawning beds.  There have been reports of numerous dead browns along some stretches of the river where anglers have been seen fishing over spawning fish.  Resist the temptation for the low hanging fruit and give the fish a chance to reproduce.  These are wild fish that need to be successful in their quest in order for the river to remain the awesome fishery that it is.  Fortunately for anglers the Eagle is one of the few rivers in the central part of the state that has a fairly even distribution of Browns and Rainbows. With the predominately sunny weather that we have seen this Fall, nymphing has been most productive, either under an indicator or as a dry-dropper rig. Midges are comprising the majority of insect activity right now and imitations for them have had the most consistent results. However, with the diverse cross section of hatches this river enjoys over the course of the year we would encourage you to add a Caddis, Stonefly, Baetis or searching nymph to your set-up in tandem with your favorite Midge pupa. Conditions dictate 5 and 6x tippet for the best results. Look for fish to be sheltering in water that offers them a little more cover from predators, such as deeper runs, pockets or as the water warms – heavy flows. With a lower elevation and wide open valley to offer plenty of sun, the Eagle sees a nice swing in water temperature over the course of the day from Edwards down to Dotsero, providing a lot of room for anglers to spread out on. 

Flies: Iron Sally, Duracell Jig, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Tungteaser, Bead Head Hare’s Ear, Psycho Prince, Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Buckskin Caddis, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Root Beer Float, Tung Psycho May, RS-2, Zebra Midge, Biot Midge, Red Neck Midge, Mirage Zebra Midge, Standard Pheasant Tail 18-22, G6 Caddis, Lite Bright Caddis, Tube Midge, Desert Storm, Barr’s Emerger, Juju stuff.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Conditions: Close for the season.


Delaney Buttes Lakes

Conditions: Ice

Flies: Eggs, Hale Bopp Leech, Squirrel Leech, Egg Sucking Leech, Rojo Grande, Jumbo Juju, Zebra, CDC Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, Duracell Jig, Hammerhead Jig etc