Spring in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains is a beautiful thing; leaves and grasses are beginning to green up, wildlife is out and about, and hungry fish are waking up from Winter ready to feed. Spring fly fishing in Colorado can really be broken into two categories: early Spring fly fishing, where temperatures have begun to warm but flows are still at or near winter minimums, and late Spring fly fishing, where snowmelt runoff dramatically raises water levels.
Early Spring Fly Fishing
Early Spring generally begins sometime in March and continues until May when river flows begin to rise. During this time, fish are becoming more active thanks to longer sunlight hours warming the water, and bugs are beginning to move around and potentially even hatch on warmer days. The first bugs of the year to make a consistent appearance are generally Blue Winged OIives (BWO’s), which fish will key in on and devour as soon as they can. On warm afternoons, BWO hatches can occur, prompting the fish to feed on the surface for the first time of the season and making for some superb sight fishing with dry flies if conditions are right. This early Spring shoulder season is one of the more under-appreciated times of year to fly fish in Colorado, and anglers that are willing to trade choppy Spring skiing for a day on the water are often well rewarded!
Late Spring Fly Fishing
Late Spring fly fishing is characterized by runoff, where melting snow in the high country causes river flows to increase and water color to stain. While some anglers falsely believe fishing is bad during runoff, it can actually be an angler’s best friend. The rapid increase in flows funnels trout food such as aquatic annelids and worms into the river; combine this with an increase in aquatic invertebrate movement as waters warm, and the fish have an all-you-can-eat buffet of bugs to feast on. Furthermore, off-color water really helps to lower the fish’s guard, allowing anglers to size up their flies and tippet and to get closer to their target than normally allowed. While wading can be treacherous during high-water and is ill-advised, high flows will send fish towards the banks looking for a break in the current, and anglers can often fish during this time of year without even setting foot in the water.