Winter Fly Fishing Tips: Vail Colorado

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Eagle River Rainbow Trout Winter Fly Fishing Colorado

Eagle River Rainbow Trout Winter Fly Fishing Colorado

New Year Fly Fishing Tactics

Fly Fishing during the winter months in Vail Colorado is always an option no matter what month it is. The Eagle River, which is the artery of the Vail Valley, stay open in some areas year round. Most of these fishing spots are in close proximity to a water treatment plant in Avon, Edwards, Eagle & Gypsum Colorado. While the fishing window of opportunity is shorter during the winter, anglers can still find plenty of fish when presenting the right flies in the right type of water.

As you can imagine the water temperatures during the Winter are very cold, the majority of Trout find their way into the slow deeper runs and pockets of the river. Theses are the areas anglers should focus their efforts on. Often these runs have shelf ice along the edges where Trout will hide. These ice shelves provide protection from birds of prey in the gin clear water. It is important to focus your drifts along these ice shelves so your flies travel next to as well as under these areas. Don’t be afraid to jump on the ice (if it is thick enough) to spook some trout into uncovered water. We have seen a lot of fish come swimming out below the ice after making some noise above them.


There is no rush to get on the water when fishing during the winter. In fact most of our guided trips do not leave the door until 11 am. This allows the weather to warm up and the overnight slush to subside. we find that the best window is between 12-2:30. Anglers can find fish before and after these times as well but the magic hours are in the middle of the day.

Choosing the right flies while Winter Fly Fishing is a simple task and you can narrow it down to a few patters. Although it is not the most glamorous technique in fly fishing, nymphing is going to be your best shot at finding trout during the Winter. Midges of all sizes and colors are going to be the dominant food source and on some days you will see a few midges begin to hatch during the warmest parts of the day. Midge sizes range from #18-24 and popular colors are Olive, Red, Cream, Black & Purple. Occasionally our guides will run an attractor like a Pink Squirmy Worm, Egg or Pheasant Tail as a lead fly to attract Trout to the smaller midge offering trailing behind. On some days these attractors hook a lot of fish right out the gate. But, you will find that after landing a few fish on the attractor fish become smart to it. If you are confident in running a 3 fly rig while nymph fishing, we like to use a jig fly as our anchor on the bottom. Jig flies allow anglers to add weight without pinching on more lead/tin/putty to get your flies deeper in the water column. They also ride with the hook point up which results in fewer snags. Our common set up consists of two midge patterns above a jig fly. Each fly will vary in color unless we find that one color is working better than another.