With a number of super productive tailwater fisheries conveniently located within an hour of many of our most renowned ski resorts, running the slopes and fishing prime runs is not only doable in Colorado, it’s highly recommended. While the fly selection will generally be limited to smaller flies like midges, scuds, mysis shrimp (fishery dependent), and worms and you’ll be using some smaller tippet (5 and 6x), but, many times the biggest fish of your year can be caught during these winter months. Generally, the best time to be on the water in the winter is when the ambient air and water temperatures warm up. That doesn’t happen until about 11 AM and generally falls off around 4 PM. Which happens to give you enough time to get a couple of runs on the slopes beforehand and hit the apres-ski scene with some killer stories from your combo ski/fish day. Check out our five favorite spots to carve up powder and catch trophy trout!
If you time it right, nymphing and dry fly fishing on the Eagle in mid-winter can be outrageous. Get your morning runs in on some of Vail’s 5,000 acres of trails and hit the slow, deep runs and pools in the afternoon. The Eagle River runs through Vail and good fishing can be found throughout the valley if the conditions are right. Healthy freestone rainbow and brown trout populate this beautiful undammed river.
Looking to carve fresh powder in the morning and land the biggest fish of your life in the afternoon? The Pa-Co-Chu-Puk tailwater section of the Uncompahgre, located less than an hour from Telluride, is the place to do it. Sight fishing for the massive rainbow and brown trout is the name of the game. It won’t be easy, but if you manage to net one of the beasts that lives below Ridgeway Reservoir, you’ll be the talk of the town.
We all know that Steamboat’s slopes are second to none. Located just 20 miles from Steamboat Springs, the Stagecoach Tailwater of the Yampa provides perfect winter trout habitat. Short riffle runs, pools and pockets hold particularly healthy rainbow trout. There are also browns and brooks, but the Stagecoach rainbows have taken well to the scud rich diet and it shows. These fish are often measured in pounds, not inches.
The angling skier has a couple of options along the Blue River. A little more peace and solitude can be found on the Upper Blue River near Breckenridge or you can travel downstream to the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir in Silverthorne. Both sections provide ample opportunity to catch healthy rainbows, but if fishing for trophy-sized trout is on your mind, then the Blue below Dillon is your spot. Mysis shrimp and midges keep the Blue River’s rainbow trout population well fed. There aren’t many places where you can buy a new pair of Nikes and catch a 20 inch trout. The Dillon section is one such river.
Located within an hour of Aspen’s finest trails, the Frying Pan River below Reudi Reservoir is the home to some truly big rainbow and brown trout. These fish gorge on mysis shrimp and midges all winter long and it shows. Blind nymph the “Toilet Bowl” right below the dam for some of the biggest fish you could possibly imagine. Plenty of sight fishing opportunities are available below the Toilet Bowl in the flats and the Big Bend. A steady diet of mysis shrimp give these fish a little extra color and they are well worth checking out after carving some turns in at Aspen in the AM.