Packer’s Top 10 Flies for Fall on Colorado Freestone Rivers

Written by: John Packer, Fly Fishing Outfitters


Fall is a great time to catch colored-up brown trout in Colorado.
Photo courtesy John Packer

As the days begin to get shorter and nights cooler, many Colorado anglers start to think more about elk and deer than about trout. But there’s still some fantastic fishing to be had, and now the rivers are less crowded. In fact, late fall into early winter provides those who know some of the best trout action of the year.

Colorado is blessed with much milder weather then our neighbors to the north, to go along with the incredible diversity of fisheries. The hatches may become fewer and or farther between, but the fish are still very actively feeding. The brown trout are in full spawing mode, and the crowds of summer have all but vanished, meaning more for the rest of us. Many seasoned anglers find fall fishing somewhat frustrating because you don’t see many big hatches. Thats where the knowledge of your friendly fly shop can really pay off.

Here is my list of recommended flies that every angler should have in their box from October until the snow flies. On any given day and under certain conditions, any one of these flies can make you a hero. Well not to the Trout.

1. Barr Emerger BWO (sizes 16-22)
Arguably the best blue-winged olive emerger there is, hands down! Originally concocted by Boulder’s own John Barr, this is a year-round go-to pattern for any angler. Try a beadhead version as a dropper below a dry, or dead-drift a flashback or plain version. The Barr Emerger also works great on tailwaters.

2. Craven’s Juju Baetis (sizes 16-24)
Another of the best Baetis patterns developed in Colorado, it’s a darker cousin to the Barr’s and tied with epoxy, making for a very durable bug.

3. Tungsten/ Beadhead Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail (sizes 14-22)
This best-selling pattern can represent a multitude of offerings, from midges to caddisflies. At this time of year, it’s a go-to dropper for many guides/anglers because of its ability to get into the feeding zone quickly along the banks and in the pockets.

4. Rainbow Warrior (sizes 18-22)
Another small but very effective Trico or midge imitation, this fly comes in pearl, red, and black. Black far and away out sells the other colors, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good. A more complex recipe of threads, dubbings and a bead give this fly a very buggy look that our trout find irresistable.

5. RS2 (sizes 16-24)
Rim Chung’s most famous fly has spawned many variations, but nothing works like the original in gray, black, or olive. It’s a great pattern for those looking to start tying flies.

6. Roy’s Special Emerger (sizes 18-26)
I was introduced to this pattern by the man himself, Roy Palm, back in the day at Frying Pan Anglers, and I am very much a disciple who has spread the word of its amazing capabilities to catch even the most finicky trout. It can be fished deep, on the swing, or dead-drifted behind a more visible dry (my favorite way to fish it).

7. Parachute Adams/Adams Wulff (sizes 12-24)
If you can only carry one dry fly in this box, it would have to be the Parachute Adams. The reason is simple: you can have this pattern in a number of colors and also in a Wullf style that many anglers like because of its ability to support a beadhead dropper. A guy came in the shop on a 30-degree, snowy day and told me how many fish he had just netted using the Purple Parachutes I sent him out there with.

8. Tequeely (sizes 2-8)
Fall is the most prime time of year for streamers here in Colorado, especially on the larger freestone rivers, such as the Colorado and Roaring Fork. When anglers come into our shop looking for that go-to streamer pattern and I shove a Tequeely in their face, I get some pretty skeptical looks. But here in the Centennial State, the Tequeely should be the state streamer. Its is mostly used as a lead fly in a tandem streamer rig. This Las Vegas showgirl-looking, unnatural, rubber-legged, and heavily tinsled freakshow is boss.

9. Sculpzilla (sizes 2-10)
A streamer pattern so great, I even named my fantasy football team after it! It’s an articulated fly that comes in a multitude of sizes and colors that will fit the bill for any conditions you are fishing, be it big, small, or still water.

10. Royal Wulff (sizes 12-20)
The Royal Wullf is propbably my favorite go to dry fly. It does’nt matter the hatch or no hatch. Lee Wulff should get sainthood for creating that pattern!

John Packer owns and operates Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon, Colorado. He is also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

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