How long does Colorado’s fishing season last? That’s a question posed countless times to fly-fishing guides throughout the state.
The answer is that we don’t really have a season. This is because we are fortunate to have some of the better tailwater fisheries in the country.
A tailwater is where a river runs below a bottom-release dam. This is important during the winter because most reservoirs freeze only on the surface. During the coldest months, when the ice thickens up to two feet, there is still water flowing underneath.
So even in the middle of January, water running through a bottom-release dam provides anglers with fishing access.
A common misconception in the fishing community is that when the temperatures drop, the trout grow lethargic and there aren’t any bugs hatching for fish to eat.
If that’s the case, why risk frostbite to chase after fish that won’t eat or fight hard?
I’m here to tell you these are inaccurate notions. The truth is that trout can fight harder in winter than in summer. The reason is that cold water contains more oxygen and is healthier for cold-water species.
Concerning bugs, the fact is that midges hatch year-round, and they aren’t the only insect available for trout. Stonefly nymphs, scud shrimp, annelids (worms), baetis nymphs and even caddis larvae are living on the bottom of the river and are potential meals for trout during the cold months.
A productive way to fish is with a two-fly system, using light leaders and tippet such as a 6x. Your first fly should be an imitation of the larger nymphs to grab the trout’s attention, and the second should be an imitation of the much smaller midge.
The plentiful food supply and lack of fishing pressure during the winter have made for some of my more productive days on the water, and many of my fondest fishing memories.
Cold-weather fishing is becoming increasingly popular with skiers who now spend part of their trips standing in the water, rather than riding over the top of it.
So put on your warm coat and gloves, and get out there and play in the snow! Odds are you will have complete solitude and some truly epic fishing.