Top 10 Winter Flies for Colorado Rivers

Written by: Mike Lanzarini, Breckenridge Outfitters


Breckinridge Outfitters guide Mike Workman shows off a fine winter rainbow.
Photo courtesy Breckinridge Outfitters

As soon as the snow starts falling in the high country in Colorado, most anglers stow their rods and hang up their waders in exchange for their skis and warmer clothing. I can’t say I’m not partially guilty of this myself, but winter fishing offers opportunities that most anglers choose to ignore.

The beauty of winter fishing is the simplicity. Hatches are much less diverse than those of the summer months. No need to worry about carrying more than a few dries, while nymphing reigns supreme. The water is clear, the flows are low, and the fish are still eating. If you know a thing or two about winter bug activity, you know there are really only two choices: midges or Baetis. And that’s the beauty of it all. Not much changes from summer to winter nymphing, but there are few adjustments that I make in my winter setups. Here are a few things I do to help put more fish to the net in the cold months.


The author (left) with a sweet Colorado rainbow, which fell for a tiny nymph.
Photo courtesy Mike Lanzarini

First, that trusty 9-foot leader you’ve been using all summer needs to be a little longer. The clear water and lower flows will help these fish see just about everything around them, and your fly line will be spotted quite easily by their wary eyes. So I opt for a 12-foot leader and attach my tippet sections accordingly. That bright neon indicator bubble you’ve been using all summer will also be spotted fairly easily, so I switch to a natural colored yarn. Takes will be more subtle in winter, and yarn is far more sensitive than bubble-style indicators. Last, your tippet sizes will obviously have to be a touch smaller than summer months, and I find it helpful to put away that spool of Super Strong Nylon and grab my spools of Mirage fluorocarbon.

Hopefully these tips help you put more fish to the net during these upcoming winter months. Make yourself as comfortable as possible, and don’t worry about getting out at the crack of dawn. Have an extra cup of coffee, play with the dogs a little longer and enjoy your favorite stretch of river to yourself. Tight lines!

[Click the name of each fly to be taken to a place to buy, a recipe, or a video.]


1. Pat’s Rubberlegs (Black, size 14)

2. Psycho Prince (Purple, size 20)

3. Flashback Barr’s Emerger (sizes 22 and 24)

4. Juju Baetis (Black, size 22)

5. Mercury RS2 (Gray, size 24)

6. Miracle Nymph (White, size 22)

7. KF Flasher Midge (Black, sizes 22 and 24)

8. Tungsten Zebra Midge (Black, size 22)

9. Jujubee Midge (Zebra, size 22)

10. Buckskin Natural (size 20)

Mike Lanzarini guides for  Breckenridge Outfitters, in Breckenridge, Colorado.

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