If you're looking to get out and wet a line, there are few places better than Colorado. Whether you're looking to chase wild trout in the high country, spend the afternoon on a local river, or take your kid for a quick trip to a nearby reservoir, Colorado has it all...and more. The opportunities are nearly endless, and they exist year round. Many people associate fishing with summer, and they aren't wrong. However, there are some excellent fisheries that are worth investigating during the other parts of the year.
The winter can be an excellent time to go fish, and I don't just mean through holes in the ice. Colorado has many reservoirs, and while the reservoirs themselves with freeze over with the dropping temps, the river sections below the dams will, in most cases, stay open and flowing all year. These are known as tailwater fisheries, and Colorado is famous for them. These tailwaters can support not only high numbers of fish, but also very large fish. And while most people are focused on skiing, snowshoeing, and other more traditional winter sports, the fishing does not go away. The fish do not disappear.
And although it make take a little more determination and hard work, it can be that much more rewarding in the end. We are also fortunate enough here in Colorado to usually have more than a few days during the winter that are unseasonably warm, inviting us to take a day off from the slopes and spend a day on the water instead. Another, and quite possibly the biggest, reason to go fishing during the winter is to avoid the crowds. If you're looking for a way to escape into nature yet avoid the throngs of people can be so difficult to get away from, the riverbank might be just the place for you.
The colder water temperatures in the winter will make the fish more lethargic and less likely to chase their food. They are looking to conserve energy while still being able to find enough food to survive. Look for fish to be holding in slower, deeper runs. Many times they will be hugging the bottom waiting for food to float right to them. You also don't need to worry about being up at the crack of dawn, the fishing will improve as the day, and water temperatures, warm up. The most productive fishing during the winter will be between 9 and 3.
Here are a few of my favorite tailwaters to fish during the winter.
South Platte River near Deckers and Cheesman Canyon - This is one of my favorite places to fish year round. This area provides an excellent opportunity for anglers of all abilities. Trout are plentiful here and there are a lot of convenient pull offs to fish from. The river here will stay open for several miles throughout the winter. Above Deckers is Cheesman Canyon, which can be another excellent winter fishery. This section however can also be very difficult to catch fish. There are some very big fish in the canyon, and although they might be tough to catch, it's hard to beat the scenery of this section.
Taylor River - Just below Taylor Park Reservoir there is a section of the Taylor river that is fishable year round. This section gets pressured pretty hard and the fish that live there are well versed on how to stay off the end of your line. That being said, there are few places in the state that hold fish as big as the ones here.
Frying Pan River – This is another area that holds some monster trout. You will have the chance to catch rainbows, browns, cutthroat, and brook trout. The flows out of Ruedi Reservoir keep this river open year round. This is another location that is not a secret, so don't expect to have the river to yourself, but at least you'll have someone around to take a picture if you do land that fish of a lifetime.
Written by: Kevin Main