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5 Things You Need to Know Before Fly Fishing Colorado [PICS]

Photos by Mike Malchow and Brad Smith

If you have ever thought about fly fishing Colorado, make sure you know these five things before you do. 

Recently, I found my myself in the middle of the Rocky Mountains trying to do my best to imitate a real fly fisherman and catch a few mountain trout. The trip was an amazing success but it had little to do with me. In fact, there were several factors that all had to come together to even give this trip an ounce of luck.

The following list should get you on the right track if you try to follow in my footsteps and go fly fishing Colorado.

1. Know a good fly shop

Luckily, on my first day in Colorado, I found myself in Silverthorne talking with the guys from Colorado Angler.  I’ve been to a lot of fly shops. Snooty attitudes, judgmental questions, and seemingly intentional jargon that is designed to go over your head is the name of the game. I find these types of shops rather frustrating.

Colorado Angler couldn’t be more of the opposite. These guys were more than accommodating and went out of their way to ask questions to help put me on fish as quick as possible with the right flies, at the right times, on the right water. This step literally made the entire trip.


2. Know where to find a guide

I’m not a guide type guy. However, when I’m in over my head and I know it, a guide is just the way to go. The learning curve is dramatically reduced and the ability to catch fish goes way up. With this is mind, I fished with Colin Hill, a guide for Colorado Angler. We did a float trip down the Arkansas River and crushed trout from the launch to the end of the day. The knowledge gained from this trip paved the way for the rest of the time in Colorado. His enthusiasm, knowledge, and overall expertise not only helped me on this trip, but everywhere I will fly fish in the future.

3. Know how to roll cast

Roll casting is something I just don’t have to do much in my home state of Indiana. I fish a lot from boats and kayaks and usually never had the need. However, on the small mountain streams and rivers of the Rocky Mountains, often times in a canyon or gorge, a roll cast is the only cast possible. Knowing how to effectively roll cast before you go fly fishing Colorado will put you on more fish the second you hit the water.


4. Know your water

This part is something you just might have to learn from experience. Again, this is where a guide like Colin Hill could come in handy, but luckily for me, I fished with Mike Malchow, a childhood friend of mine, who spends almost every day fishing somewhere in Colorado.

If you don’t have friends in Colorado, this is where the fly shop comes in handy as well as Google, stream maps, and internet fishing reports. A few Google searches can tell you what streams and rivers are hot and what is working.


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5. Know the weather

This might be a no brainer, however, I was caught unprepared. I had rain gear, warm clothes, summer clothes, waders, and jackets. After all that, the weather still caught me by surprise. The mornings were freezing with snow, the afternoons were warm in the 60s, and the evenings dropped off the table. One morning included weather so warm I was wearing a Huk Raglan with a flannel, expecting a warm day, only to be caught walking back to the truck covered in falling snow. All I can tell you is to bring more clothes than you think you will need.


After these five things, fly fishing Colorado still requires so much more than that. These quick tips will get you on the right track, but experience and just getting out there to do it is the best way to learn. Regardless of your fishing experience, knowledge base, or gear there is a trip in Colorado that will fit your style. Guys like Colin Hill and the folks at Colorado Angler can make sure of it.

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All photos by Mike Malchow and Brad Smith

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5 Things You Need to Know Before Fly Fishing Colorado [PICS]