Champagne powder, no lift lines, and epic terrain. These are the reasons skiers and snowboarders come to Crested Butte each winter. For fly anglers, the snowy months are equally as enticing, due to quiet rivers, postcard scenery, and the very real opportunity to catch the trout of a lifetime. Learn about our “secret season” of winter fishing here on the Taylor River, and you could have the best of both skiing and angling all within a half hour from your front door!
Fish the Storm
Our best days of winter fly fishing are during overcast snowstorms when insulating clouds keep the air temp warmer. The cloud cover will help trout feel less vulnerable and ultimately feed more aggressively. Also, as air temps warm, insect activity increases, meaning Blue-Winged Olives and Midges will be on the menu. Typically from 11am to 3pm offers up the warmest part of the day with the most potential for feeding trout. This is good news if you’re a skier too, since you could ski powder in the morning, and hunt giant trout in the afternoon!
Winter Rigging and Tactics
I’ll rig a tandem nymph rig to include a BWO nymph and a midge larva for the majority of my winter pursuits on the Taylor. Be sure to use minimal weight or, as I prefer, a weighted lead fly with a black bead or hidden bead to avoid spooking picky fish. Try Miller’s D-Midge in Purple, seen here. I’ll also space my flies and any weight out considerably more than I normally would, at least 18 inches. Once rigged, the key on the Taylor is to look for trout actively on the feed. Take your time to get into position, as fish will shut down if you move frantically. Once you cast upstream of your feeding target, mend early so your flies can attain depth and a dead drift. Remember that takes can be subtle, so if you think the fish ate, it probably did. Once on, play trout efficiently, applying maximum pressure to the fish at all times. This will tire the fish quickly, resulting in a shorter fight and a healthier release. Remove any gloves (latex are OK) before reviving the fish facing upstream and releasing the specimen under its own power.
Fly fishing in the winter necessitates a few pieces of handy gear that will make your time on the water much more enjoyable.
- Latex gloves: These cheap gloves keep your hands dry and protect a trout’s delicate slime layer for releasing fish.
- Layers: Even on a cloudy day when temps are warmer, weather can still change quickly. Have multiple layers so you’re ready for anything from whiteout to balmy.
- Snacks: Nothing keeps you warmer than snacking all day. I like to keep snacks in my front wader pocket so they are easily accessible throughout the day.
- Hand Warmers: Stick a pair in your wader pocket to keep your core warm and your snacks toasty. If you get cold feet, loosen your wading boots enough to slip a pair of toe warmers between your socks and neoprene wader feet.
Fishing the Taylor River tailwater in the wintertime can truly be a magical experience. From small crowds to big fish, it’s worth the short drive from Three Rivers Resort to wet a line. If you’d like to learn more about this “secret season” consider a guided trip with me this winter to learn the intricacies of our wonderful fishery. Stay warm out there and I hope to see you on the water!
About the Author
Patrick Blackdale is the Assistant Outfitting Manager, and a fly fishing guide at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colorado. He guides on all of the local rivers including the Gunnison, Taylor, and East Rivers. Three Rivers Resort is the perfect base camp for a variety of fishing adventures. The resort offers cabins, lodge rooms, and vacation homes plus a full fly shop and Orvis Endorsed guide service with premium leases for private fishing on local ranch lands. Contact at 970-641-1303 or www.3riversresort.com.