The Best Time to Fly Fish Estes Park

Fly Fishing the Rocky Mountains: Fly Fish Estes Park Year-Round

There are many reasons to fly fish Estes Park year-round. But the different seasons bring different approaches and every angler seeks different things out of fly fishing in Colorado. From fly fishing tailwaters in the winter to Rocky Mountain National Park fly fishing in high mountain lakes and the surrounding area. There are countless options in our area and it would take a lifetime to explore them all. Keep reading for more information on the best time to fly fish Estes Park.

man fly fishes on a snowy bank on a spring day in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fly Fish Estes Park: Spring

Spring brings a variety of conditions for fly fishing the Rocky Mountain Mountains, sometimes all in one day, and can make for an interesting season to fly fish Estes Park. Weather can be sunny and mild, to snowy and windy. This creates a challenge in planning but if you time it right, spring can be some of the best fly fishing of the year. In March and April, pre-runoff conditions present a situation when the water is low and clear. Since the trout have been under ice for the past few months, they are hungry and very willing to eat a well-presented fly. Fine long leaders and tippet are the ticket this time of year. Using an array of midges and emergers with delicate presentations can bring many fish to the net. The cloudy, and sometimes snowy, days actually produce the biggest BWO hatches, so don’t be afraid of a little inclement weather when you fly fish Estes Park in the early spring.

Later in April and into May, the water starts to rise and the fish are looking for the bugs that get swept up in the first bit of runoff. This is the time that bigger patterns like Stonefly nymphs, San Juan worms, and Blue Poison Tungs are going to become part of your arsenal for Colorado fly fishing. As the water starts to warm, streamers become a good option as well.

Late May and early June is runoff time. I can’t tell you how many times people ask “are the streams blown out up there?”. The answer to that is: there is always good fishing, you just have to use the right flies and fish in the right places. When the water is high, the fish are on the edges and any other slack water they can find. They are looking for bigger meals so rig up accordingly and put on a little weight on to get it down.

man and boy fly fish in a high mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fly Fish Estes Park: Summer

Summer is when there are the most options to fly fish Estes Park. In late June, the water levels start to drop and the high mountain lakes start to thaw out. This is the time of year when you can really do some exploring for the native cutthroat of the area. July and August is the dry fly peak of the year for fly fishing Colorado. There are many different aquatic flies hatching as well as terrestrials galore. This includes the Big Thompson Canyon to the east of town all the way up to the highest alpine lakes and streams. As mentioned above, summer is the season for alpine lake fly fishing. Ants, Beetles, and any number of aquatic insects are all on the menu for the wild native cutthroat of the high country. In the meadow sections and pocket water, late summer is hopper season. Well-placed hoppers along the bank will result in epic rises from opportunistic trout and provide an exciting time to fly fish Estes Park.

man fly fishes on a fast moving river with yellow larches in the background

Fly Fish Estes Park: Fall

As the leaves start to turn gold signaling the start of fall, the Brook and Brown Trout start their spawn. As the days get shorter, the excellent fly fishing does not slow down. It is our favorite time of the year to fly fish Estes Park. With Elk bugling in the distance, hungry trout feed hard as they know the ice is coming and their meals in the winter will be few and far between. Dry-dropper setups will bring many beautiful trout to the net on these epic fall days. In early fall, you can fish the high mountain lakes before the ice comes and late fall brings the Brown trout spawns, where territorial males will attack streamers that are anywhere near them. The non-native Brook trout also spawn in the fall, and feeds with abandon this time of year. With their brightly colored red bellies, they are surely a sight to behold.

two men and a dog fly fish in the winter time in Colorado with snow on the banks

Fly Fish Estes Park: Winter

Winter brings ice and snow to the alpine areas of the state which makes for an unique time to fly fish Estes Park. But the solitude of winter brings a different kind of fly fishing experience. The tranquility and the beauty of fly fishing on a snowy river is second to none. This time of year, all of the bigger bugs are gone and the trout are feeding almost exclusively on midges. Size 20-26 Rs2s and Juju Baetis as well as Mole flies are what is on the menu now. Rigging up with long leaders and size 6X tippet is the best approach for consistent results in the tail waters around the state. Tailwaters are where you will find the most open water and best access from December through February. Even though the water temperatures are low and the fish are a little more sluggish, they are still feeding through the middle part of the day. Trout need to feed year-round and a well-placed size 22 midge in their line of sight will get a reaction.

Someone once said the best time to fly fish Estes Park is any time you get the chance. And that is pretty much true. There are different approaches to fly fishing and every angler seeks different experiences in each season. But for those anglers who are willing to try new fishing spots and explore, Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park offer good fly fishing opportunities year-round. So the next time you’re in town, stop by and book a trip with our Colorado fly fishing guides and we will show you the best side of whatever season it happens to be.