The Advent of Winter Fly Fishing – December Fishing Report

7 December 2016
Comments: 3
7 December 2016, Comments: 3

The Advent of Winter Fly Fishing – December Fishing Report


It must be the temps that are keeping people off the river these days…because is certainly isn’t the fishing.  It is hard to believe that absolutely NO ONE likes the idea of layering up and heading out into the wet and snow for a day of Colorado mountain thrills.  If that were true, skiing wouldn’t be so popular.  We won’t complain about it though, this just means we don’t have to share the seriously fantastic fishing we have had lately.

Now we get it, some may not like the idea of hopping into a pair of waders or a boat in December.  Really though, have you actually tried it?  A thermos of coffee (or a flask of chosen spirits) can do wonders for the day.  We are even offering a great guide trip special this winter where we are taking advantage of the warmest parts of the day (when fish are most active).  This trip is a great option when you need a break from a week of local skiing to recover those sore legs but don’t want to commit a full day to the river.

Our winter season is a time to be out on the water with good solitude and good trout.  Make sure you stop by the shop or give us a call at 1-888-347-4346 for the scoop on all our local fisheries.

You can also check out our frequently updated river reports page for the most up to date information.

River Reports:

San Juan River Quality Waters – The Quality Waters are numero uno this time of year for getting into lots of trout.  Lower flows will mean smaller tippet, small flies, and delicate presentations are in order.  Fish will be rising to midge hatches all winter long as the San Juan is one of the only rivers around where consistent dry fly fishing can be had through the dead of winter.  A winter float with a warm drink of choice is a great way to experience December fly fishing.

Animas – Midday has seen some incredible fishing on the Animas as of late.  Nymph rigs fished deep are hooking most trout, but we have seen a few fish still willing to commit to a streamer.  With the Animas as well as any winter trout fishing, if you catch one fish; don’t move.  Trout will stack up in the winter.  Finding a fish or two indicates that you have found a good spot with good depth and cover for wintering fish.  The great thing about the Animas is that it provides a great midday fishing option when we need to break up the monotony of the winter routine.


San Juan River In Colorado – You probably knew that the banks of the San Juan in Pagosa Springs are littered with hot springs.  You probably also knew that these thermal hot springs flow into the San Juan and provide hot water for the main flow in the dead of winter.  You probably also knew that because of this, trout will sit below these hot springs in the deeper holes (hey trout like to pamper themselves in geo-thermal pools too), and chow on whatever floats by.  I am glad you knew this already.

Rio Grande – This is not the best time to fish the Rio, mainly because it is covered in ice.  If you can find open water, drop a heavy nymph rig in.  Otherwise, wait until warmer late winter temps.

Piedra – Much like the Rio, the Piedra is mostly inaccessible.  What is accessible is either on private or covered in ice.  If you do have the opportunity to fish the Piedra.  Find the deepest, darkest holes and drop in your heaviest nymphs.

Upper Dolores – Again, mostly ice by now.  Fish open water with lots of weight or wait until spring.

Los Pinos – Below Vallecito:  The lower Pine is very low and clear right now.  Fishing will be extremely difficult with skittish fish.  You will need delicate presentations and small flies.

Above Vallecito: Snow and ice will make this trek very difficult.  Most of the river will be frozen over.

Creeks and the High Country – Covered in snow and ice.

Local Lakes – If you like ice fishing, local lakes will be frozen enough in the next few weeks to cut a hole and drop a line.

Andy McKinley
Andy manages Duranglers Flies and Supplies online store and web content. When he is not plugging away in the basement of Duranglers, he can be found in the shop talking weird flies, throwing spey casts for few fish, eating pizza, drinking coffee, painting, and raising a family in Southwest Colorado.

His fly fishing writings have been published on blogs such as the Daily Drake and Simms Wading Room.

3 responses on “The Advent of Winter Fly Fishing – December Fishing Report

  1. A couple years back, my buddy and I went to Cheesman Gulch in December. After making the long hike in, we were shocked to see fisherman shoulder to shoulder, even people waiting on the banks for their turn. Sure saw a lot of big browns caught, though.

  2. Ted says:

    Nice article! It’s been my experience that in cold weather I don’t catch huge numbers of fish, but the fish I do get are usually bigger. Thanks for putting in the time and for the recommendations.

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