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Fly Fishing Colorado in December

by | Oct 31, 2022 | Fly Fishing

Fly fishing Colorado in December is a special treat for anglers who can get on the water. As most folks who travel West this time of year set their sights on the ski hills, there are fewer people on the rivers. Plus, fishing, in most cases, is associated with summer and warm weather. But we’re here to tell you that fly fishing Colorado in December is a really incredible experience if you know where to go.

Fly Fishing Colorado in December

Along with fewer people, the fishing can get really hot during the last month of the year. January, too, for that matter! This is especially true in the southwest part of the state where many rivers don’t freeze over during the winter months. Yet as water temperatures continue to cool, fish are still feeding actively. 

Let’s talk about where to go and what flies to use.

Fly fishing Colorado in December is a special treat for anglers who can get on the water when everybody else is on the mountain.

Where to Fly Fish in December

Another great attribute to fly fishing Colorado in December is the late start you can make. Eat a big breakfast, rig your rods according to the streams and bugs you’re fishing, and make sure all your gear is packed and ready to go. You can do all this in front of the fire while the day warms a few degrees. Then, it’s go time!

Animas River

The Animas River, which flows right by our headquarters in Durango, Colorado, stays open year-round. There’s a lot of benefit to this whether you’re a local or just visiting. You can fish one day and ski at Purgatory the next. Or take some time to soak in the Durango Hot Springs. Being that most of our Animas River Properties are close to downtown, you can break for lunch at one of the many local restaurants. 

Properties to Fish

Animas Springs River Ranch. Twenty minutes south of Durango with 4,200 feet of river, this section is a productive fishery in just about every weather and river condition. Please note that this property does require that a guide accompany you.   

Bardin Ranch. Fifteen minutes south of Durango with 7,000 feet of fishable water. You can fish the Bardin for days and not cover the whole section thanks to a large number of holes, structures, and fish.

Sisson Waters. This stretch of the Animas River is as far south you can go in Colorado yet it’s only 30 minutes from Durango. It’s 2,000 feet of stellar water. Guests who book Sisson also get access to The Massive Hole just up the road.

Flies to Fish

You can never go wrong stripping streamers through the many deep holes you’ll find on the Animas River. Prince nymphs or red copper johns drifted under a Chubby Chernobyl can also catch fish in December.

Fly fishing Colorado in December is a really incredible experience if you know where to go.

Gunnison River

The Gunnison River is also a great winter fishery. The towns of Delta and Montrose are close by with multiple restaurants and hotels.More often than not, fishing the Gunnison River exceeds expectations. 

Properties to Fish

High Hilton Ranch. Just below the Gunnison River Gorge, with nearly 7,000 feet of accessible shoreline, the High Hilton Ranch is a place best fished for multiple days. Plus, this ranch is surrounded by other private properties with a hard-to-access piece of BLM land next door. If you’re already on the High Hilton, accessing the BLM is easy and gives you even more places to fish. 

Flies to Fish

What insect hatches that do happen during December and all the colder months on the Gunnison River consist mostly of blue-winged olives (BWOs) and midges. So look to some smaller patterns like a pheasant tail or brassie around size #18-22.

Arkansas River 

The Upper Arkansas River near Salida can provide some really great fishing opportunities. First, because you’re on private property (if you’re fishing with us) and it’s winter, you won’t see anybody else. Second, you can catch some really big, wild trout on the Arkansas River in December. You will deal with more snow, ice, and cold weather at this latitude, so move slowly in and around the river.

Properties to Fish

Overlook Retreat. This is a stretch of Gold Medal Water with multiple public fishing areas around the property. So you get this section all to yourself and can easily slip up to public access to hit more holes that likely haven’t been fished in weeks. This property does offer a guest house so please call us first if you’re interested in staying. (202) 577-4498 

Flies to Fish

Caddis and stoneflies are the go-tos on this section of the Arkansas River in December. While you may see an occasional midge hatch, we still suggest sticking to caddis and stones all day. A #18 beadhead sparkle caddis pupa or a green caddis larva fly pattern are always a great option. As is a #10 twenty-incher when you’re ready to cast large stoneflies. 

You can never go wrong stripping streamers through the many deep holes you’ll find on the Animas River.

Winter Fly Fishing Gear

In Colorado, as many people know, the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Be sure to dress in layers if you plan on fly fishing Colorado in December. And think wool too. 

Sweat-wicking base layers that quickly remove sweat from your skin will keep you warm and dry. A mid layer hoodie followed by a waterproof shell will allow you to easily cast and prepare you for whatever the weather does. Consider a wool cap or beanie to keep heat from escaping your head. Gloves are a good option as well if you plan on getting your hands wet. You might even stick a few hand warmers in your pockets to get feeling in your fingers back quickly after netting and releasing a fish should you opt out of water-repellant gloves.  

Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and snacks. If you have to make room for one or the other, always go with water. While it may not seem like you’re thirsty when it’s cold, your body needs constant hydration as much now as it did in the summer. 

Safety is always top of mind when fly fishing Colorado in December. Snow and ice can turn an easy path into a treacherous trail, especially along the river bank. So watch where you step and move slowly. Carry your cellphone in a waterproof or chest pocket where it’s easily accessible. And be sure to let someone know where you’re going to fish and for how long. We want to make sure everyone on the water has a great time no matter when they’re fishing.


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