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Best Winter Flies for Trout-on Colorado Rivers

Winter fly-fishing on Colorado”s rivers and streams can be challenging and rewarding. Use these best winter flies for Colorado rivers to catch those finicky trout waiting down below. These flies are all recommended by local river guides and have been tested time and time again to entice even the most lethargic of winter trout. Make sure these are in your fly box for a successful day on the river this winter.

Winter fly-fishing means that the food source is more limited than during the rest of the year. Focus on Nymphs (wet flies), Dry Flies and Streamers during this time of year to insure success.

Nymphs or wet flies are designed to look just like the immature insects that live underwater for a short period; an “emerger” is a unique type of nymph that looks just like a maturing bug that’s moving to the surface of the water. A nymph fly is one of the best ways to fly fish because during the cold winter months, most feeding occurs under the water. Nymphs are the bread and butter of winter fly-fishing and are a great way to land trout at this time of year.

Dry flies in contrast, float on the surface of the water and look just like mature insects such as midges, caddis flies and mayflies. These flies work best on rising fish so wait till later in the day to use them, when water temps have warmed because a cold, lethargic fish won’t rise, they will be looking for easier meals.

Streamers are larger lures that work their magic below the surface of the water. They are specifically designed to look like leeches, minnows or other small bait fish. Keep in mind that streamers can be challenging and learning how to cast and retrieve a streamer can be difficult, so you may need some practice to really get the hang of it.


See Also: Winter Fly-Fishing in Colorado


Best Winter Flies for Trout


Copper John Copper John Fly Fishing

The Copper John is a heavy attractor nymph that really entices cold water fish because it imitate a trout’s #1 winter food source, nymphs.

  • Red and Chartreuse are favorite winter colors and just about guarantee that you will be pleased with the results.
  • Popular in the winter but this is a year-round fly, as trout feed off nymphs of all sizes in all seasons.
  • Packages come in multiple fly numbers and fly sizes and colors. Choose the assortment that works best for you!
  • These flies are the same quality you’ll find at your local fly shop at 1/2 the price.
  • Made with name-brand Daiichi hooks, these flies can easily handle dozens of strikes.

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Griffith’s Gnat

This is an amazing fly that consistently ranks in the Top 25 dry flies of all time. It is so successful because it is one of the best Midge patterns ever invented and fish love to eat Midge flies.

  • Griffith's GnatThis popular dry fly is designed to look like a mature insect.
  • High-Quality fly professionally hand tied
  • This is one of the most productive attractor or midge fly patterns ever made.
  • Made with high-quality hooks to land fish easier.
  • 3 size assortment means you can always match what the fish are feeding on.
  • Sizes: 16, 18, 20, 22 (3 of each size)
  • These flies are exactly what you need on your winter fishing day, especially in the afternoons when water temps begin to rise and so do the fish.

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Jujube Midge Zebra Jujube Midge Zebra

Midge and emerger fly patterns are specifically designed to look like small subsurface and emerging insects in rivers, lakes and streams. They are designed to imitate the early stage of life for flies that lay eggs in the water.

    • Small sized flies and patterns can be very effective.
    • Perfect for picky eaters.
    • The Jujubee Midge Zebra is a very successful Midge & Emerger fly pattern
    • Constructed of high quality materials
  • Flies are skillfully, hand-tied with precision
  • The is a very popular fly-fishing pattern
  • Emergers are generally fished like a dry fly on the surface or water film (on top of and slightly below the surface.)
  • A very durable fly
  • Other colors that work well in the winter are Red, Black, and Purple.

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Disco Midge Disco Midge

The Disco Midge is a Nymph (wet fly) that look like an immature insect that live underwater for a short time. Midges are a great option for trout, because they’ll take them regardless of season or hatch.

  • For winter fly-fishing success try Disco Midge flies in sizes 20 and 22.
  • These flies imitate the midge hatches that occur all winter so it looks just like what a trout expects to eat for dinner.
  • This Disco Midge has an extra advantage in its flashy design that catches the light and the attention of the fish.
  • The flies small size makes fish even more likely to strike since winter midges and other insects are usually smaller and this is exactly what the trout expect.
  • The 12-pack of flies ensures that you always have a few on hand.

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Juju Baetis Juju Baetis

The Juju Baetis should always be in your fly box.  This nymph at a size 22 is recommended for winter fishing on Colorado rivers.

    • High quality materials
    • Professionally hand tied flies
    • This wet fly is fished below the water surface and it imitates insects and worms.
    • Appeals to a wide variety of fish species including trout, bass, crappie, sunfish, bluegill, carp, and more.
    • It can be fished by itself, or in combination with a dry fly pattern.
  • Multi Packs are a great way to always have a successful fly in your box

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Wooly Bugger Wooly Bugger

A challenging fly to fish, Wooly Buggers are designed to imitate all minnows, bait fish, large swimming insects, and leeches. Because it is so versatile it is a very important and effective fly patterns to have.

  • an assortment of 6 Woolly Bugger streamers; size 8
  • Professionally hand tied with the finest of materials
  • Perfect for brook, cutthroat, brown, rainbow trout
  • Woolly Buggers are an excellent all-purpose streamer with great action
  • This pattern should definitely be in your box, it is the Go to for streamers for finicky trout.

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Psycho Prince

The Psycho Prince offers  a unique combination colors and materials that fish seem to find irresistible.

Psycho Prince

    • Psycho Price is a great attractor fly that entices trout
    • Bright colors and flashy materials easily catch a trout’s attention and the bead head gets the fly down deep and reduces the amount of split shot needed.
    • Successfully imitates a wide range of aquatic insects
    • A great lead fly in a two fly setup that really gets noticed.
  • This fly is available in a wide range of sizes that can imitate everything from a midge emerger to a big stonefly.

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Pat’s Rubber LegPat's Rubber Leg

This simple but effective nymph fly is a good winter choice because stonefly nymphs are a very reliable source of food for trout year-round.

    • 4 Pack includes – 4 Trout Fly Fishing Pat’s Rubber Leg stonefly wet flies (size #8)
    • These flies are weighted, featuring wiggly, rubber legs that flutter at the smallest disturbance, making them irresistible.
    • They are durable, and drop well into the deeper feeding levels of cold water fish
    • Great for winter but perfect for year-round use as well.
  • A fantastic stonefly pattern that produces trout all year. Go for tan/brown pattern for golden stoneflies or solid black and brown.

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RS2 GreyRS 2 Fly

The RS2 s another Mayfly emerger fly pattern designed to imitate the small subsurface and emerging insects that live in the rivers. This is an effective emerger, but as Orvis says” it shouldn’t be treated as a traditional emerger. Fish it as a nymph for best results. Present at the holding level of the fish underwater, instead of a traditional emerger presentation.”

  • Constructed of the very best materials available
  • Skillfully hand tied flies
  • The Umpqua Mercury RS-2 Flashback Gray should always be in your fly box
  • This fly will fool even the most wary trout
  • Can be fished on its own, or tie it off the hook of a dry fly pattern.
  • Try to match the hatch by inspecting the insects in the water and choose a pattern that looks most like them
  • Black, and olive RS2 also work very effectively.
  • Works great for both for midges and small mayflies.

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Midge Fly Collection midge-fly-collection

When you can’t or don’t want to decide on just one fly, then try the Midge Fly Collection, it has some of the most popular, most effective nymph and emerger flies all in one convenient collection. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up for successful winter fly-fishing in Colorado.

Midge Fly Collection – 12 Trout Flies + Fly Box

  • 12 Midge Nymphs & Midge Emergers (Chironomids)
  • Great for a variety of waters & seasonal conditions
  • Affordable & long-lasting flies
  • Includes a 6-compartment fly box to store them in.
  • Here are a dozen of the most likely flies to hook up with when fish are only taking the “little stuff” (read that as winter), plus a 6-compartment fly box.
  • Includes 1 each of the following:

#22 Olive Flashback WD40
#20 RS2 Grey
#20 RS2 Olive
#20 Beadhead Rubberleg Brassie
#22 Black Beauty
#22 Pheasant Tail
#20 Beadhead Flashback Pheasant Tail
#20 Brown Frostbite Chironomid
#20 Flashback Skinny Nelson
#20 CDC Midge Beadhead Emerger Olive
#20 Red Blood Midge
#20 Griffith’s Gnat
plus a Fly Box

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See Also: The Year’s Top Rated Fly Rods


When heading out to go fly-fishing in the winter make sure you stop by your local fly shop to get the skinny on the types, patterns and sizes recommended for your stretch of water for that day. These local guides live and breathe fishing and they know exactly what is going on every day and up-to-the-minute.

If you are planning on fishing the Eagle River, Gore Creek or the Colorado River near Vail, Colorado check in with these local guides to get information and any items you may have forgotten.


Vail, Colorado Local Outfitters

These local outfitters have been fishing these local waters for years and really know their stuff.



Comments photo of a fly rod, fly fishing flies and a book about flies

What do think are the best winter flies for catching trout.  Do you winter fly-fish in Colorado or someplace else?  What are the biggest differences you see between winter flies and fly-fishing in the summer months?  We would love to know your thoughts and comments.


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8 Comments

  • Bryan

    This is exactly what I was looking for. I am just getting into fly fishing and went about 4 times this summer.  I would like to go this winter but am a little intimidated by the cold and just not knowing what I need.  This article was a perfect primer about the flies to use for winter fishing. I’m wondering if you were to take just 3 of these out with you, which would be your top picks that would be good to match all occasions? Do you have any other tips for a brand new angler?

    • ThinkVail

      Hi Bryan, Thanks for your kind comments and your great question about winter flies.  Unfortunately, you cannot just choose 3 flies for any occasion.  What the fish are biting on is always changing and those trout, especially in winter, are stubborn and finicky.  Check out the banks of the river you are fishing to see what hatches are releasing and try to match your fly to the size and color of the insects you see there. It is also useful to duck into a nearby fly shop and pick their brains about what flies and techniques are working that day. Fly-fishing guides love to geek out about fishing (in a very good way) and they will have a ton of tips, and equipment advice for you.  For more information and advice check out the post Best Winter Fly-Fishing Gear to Stay Warm and the post Winter Fly Fishing in Colorado both will give you more information and guidance!

  • abioye olalekan

    Great article about the best winter flies to catch trout.  I agree with your list but I would like to add some flies that I also think are great at catching trout in the winter in Colorado and should be in every angler’s fly box. I love Egan’s Rainbow WarriorEggs,  (I know a lot of people hate these, but they are awesome at catching fish!) Brassie and Pheasant Tail.  I really liked your list I just wanted to add my 2 cents!

    • ThinkVail

      Thanks so much for the comment and I am happy to hear that you liked the fly suggestions on the Best Winter Flies to Catch Trout post.  I also loved the additions you made and feel like they would fit right in line with the other winter flies on this list.  Thanks so much for adding your 2 cents, we appreciate it and will benefit from it.

  • Kenechi

    Hi great article about winter flies, I plan to fill up my fly box with some of your fly suggestions. I just moved to the Vail area in the fall.  I use to fly fish all the time back in Massachusetts but haven’t done it for years, and I never did it in the winter.  I never knew you could fly fish in the winter here either, so I am kind of excited to give it a go.  My question is, do you know any local fly fishing shops or outfitters that I could go to to try on gear, and get information and instruction from? 

  • Muhiyb

    This flies are really looking awesome, and thanks for the info on which flies work the best for catching trout during the winter. I am not against buying winter flies when I need them, but I really want to learn how to tie my own fies.  Do you have any advice for tying flies? I am particularly interested in learning to tie midges, R2s and Griffith’s Gnats. Thanks for any info you can offer.

    • ThinkVail

      Hi Muhiyb,

      Good luck in tying your own flies, it is a very challenging and very rewarding endeavor to undertake.  I would suggest that you checkout the Orvis video series on tying flies, they are very detailed and complete and they make it look so easy. Have fun and I hope your flies catch you a lot of trout.  Here is the link to the Orvis video series: https://howtoflyfish.orvis.com

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