Just about every year at the same time, it gets me – the fishing bug strikes again. The days are getting longer, the air is warmer and my favorite spots that have been locked in by ice all winter are finally starting to thaw. The only advice for winter fishing is “tiny, tiny, midges” but as we move into spring it’s time to switch it up. It’s time to dust off the cobwebs and dig a little deeper into our fly boxes to get after those trout as they start to become more active. When it comes to spring fly fishing, these 10 flies will exponentially increase your chances for success. Without them, you just might find yourself with an empty net.
10 Essential Patterns for Spring Fly Fishing
There’s a reason you’ll find this classic fly in any self respecting fisherman’s lineup – it works and it works well. In early season use smaller sizes (18-22) to mimic Blue-winged Olive or Pale Morning Dun nymphs. Use it as a dropper for a smaller RS2 or midge, or fishing them off the bottom using split shot on your leader.
2) The RS2
The RS2 is another classic emerger pattern, great for Colorado tailwaters. One great thing about emerger patterns like this is that they can be fished anywhere in the water column. They work great trailed behind a larger dry fly, and for best results fish it as a nymph off the bottom.
Designed by John Barr, this nymph patter is a staple for spring fly fishing in Colorado. Used alone or as a dropper, this heavy nymph will get down into the water column quickly. Try fishing it in fast runs and riffles so the fly sees enough action to attract fish.
4) Glo-Bug Eggs
Some people shy away from egg patterns, but the simple fact is that during the spring, Rainbows and Cutthroat fill the water with their eggs and fish simply can’t resist going after these. If nothing else seems to be working for you, these might be your golden ticket. I find the best luck fishing eggs down long runs, casting from the start of the run or just upstream of it. This helps prevent having too much line out and maximizes your chances of setting the hook when the time comes.
Midges aren’t just a staple of winter fishing, they’re present in the water all year long, and actually account for over half of the bugs in the water you’re probably fishing. This naturally makes them a great addition to your spring fly fishing arsenal. Keep them on the smaller end – sizes 18 and up.
The start of the PMD hatch in Colorado is one of my favorite times of year. From early June onward through the summer, fish these dries in during the mid-morning hatches. Though they are typically found in pale green colors, I often find more success with orange or even pinkish patterns in sizes 16-22.
Love it or hate it, having the San Juan Worm in your box can make or break a fishing trip. After a big rain, worms come to the surface and wash in from the river banks. If the water is on the murky side or after a recent big rain, the San Juan worm will be your best friend. Don’t bother with them if it’s been dry for some time and the water is crystal clear.
The BWO hatch can start as early as March and you won’t want to miss out – especially if you’ve grown tired of nymphing for the past 4 months. Don’t let the weather forecast keep you inside this spring – the greatest days fishing BWOs are the cloudy ones, often right before a storm moves into the area. Sizes 16-18 work best.
The Parachute Adams doesn’t imitate any one species of fly, but is a great all-purpose dry fly during spring. It’s horizontally wound hackle imitate an insect’s legs on the water, and its vertical “parachute” makes it extremely easy to follow on top of the water. Similar to other dries in spring, try sizes 16-20.
Streamer fishing in spring isn’t overly complicated – go with darker colors in darker water and white or lighter colors in clear water. I usually go with a Sculpzilla. Forget what typically worked for you last year and try to slow things down a bit. Fish your streamers deep and slow near the bottom of larger pools, or even try dead drifting them from downstream – only stripping to keep the line tight.