How to Make the Most of Summer Fly Fishing

shore fly fishing in summer

By Tyler Banker

Summer fly fishing is one of our favorite seasons at Minturn Anglers and we wanted to put together a guide to help you make the most of your time on the water this year! The rivers are bigger, the bugs are bigger, the days are longer, and believe me we could go on. Whether you’re planning a big trip to a new stretch of river you have never fished before or just restocking the box to go back to your honey hole, we have everything you need for your next adventure! As the rivers start to raise and the bug life becomes more plentiful it can be daunting to gear up for a new season. Hopefully, some of these tricks and tips can help you on the water this season. 

Gearing Up for Summer

Now first things first before you ever hit the water it is important to check on all that gear that has been sitting in the garage all winter. It’s safe to assume that the rod and reel are still functioning just as you left them but if you have been pushing off upgrading your setup now is the time to do it to make sure you are ready to go when summer gets here. I know the rod I am most excited to fish this year is the R.L. Winston Air2. Minturn Anglers just started stocking the full line of Winston Fly Rods and all of us here are looking forward to putting them through the paces on the South Platte and Eagle rivers.

If your rod and reel are good to go then the next box to check is your fly line. There is nothing worse than gearing up and looking forward to your first trip of the summer just to cast and find out your fly line is sinking or cracked. What we look for out of a good summer line is one that does a little bit of everything. It’s not uncommon for anglers in Colorado to have the opportunity to fish dry flies, nymphs, and streamers or hoppers in the span of one day on the water so having a fly line that can cast all of these types of flies is helpful.

If you are going to carry multiple rods while fishing then we recommend looking at some of the more niche lines that cater specifically to the type of fishing you are doing with that rod and reel setup. For example; if you are setting up a rod for dry fly fishing we would recommend a  Scientific Anglers Trout taper or a Rio Perception where if you are looking to setup a rod and reel for summer streamer fishing or warm water we would lean towards and Scientific Anglers MPX or Rio Grand that’s going to have more power and weight in the head to help throw those bigger flies. 

Once you have your rod and reel ready to go and your fly line is fresh and floating the last check is to make sure your waders are still going to keep you dry and that your boots are still in good shape. The water at the beginning of the summer is still chilly as the snow continues to melt off the mountains so stepping into the river without checking your waders can result in a real cold start to your day. If you bought your waders from a reputable manufacturer like Simms or Orvis then they have a warranty attached to them and you can send them back to that company for a patch job or some new neoprene socks but keep in mind that this process does take time and you may be without your waders for a few weeks. If you are looking for a new pair to replace your leaky ones the new Simms G3 wader has been a favorite of Minturn Anglers guides and shop staff over the last year. 

wade summer fly fishing in stream

Picking and Planning for your Summer fly fishing destinations:

Now that you are all geared up we can get to the fun stuff, where are you going to fish? Here in Colorado we are truly fortunate to have so many different options when it comes to fly fishing and a lot of them are easily accessible from Denver. What makes the summer our favorite time of year to fish is the diversity of fish we can target as well as the seemingly endless different stretches of river, creeks, and reservoir banks to explore. 

If you are looking for great option close to home and to maybe try a side of fly fishing you haven’t before then spending some time on the local reservoirs like Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Quincy, or Aurora can be a super fun way to get out this summer without trekking an hour or more into the mountains. Most of the local reservoirs and lakes around Denver have a good population of stocked Rainbow Trout and are also full of Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Bluegill among other species that are all great fun to target with flies. With access to many of these warm water fisheries being so close this can make for the perfect way to sneak in a few casts early morning before work or just after dinner in the evening. 

If you are looking to get out of the city a little bit and get that true mountain trout fishing experience then yes, you may have to drive a little further and work a little harder getting to the water but the good news is that there is no shortage of pristine mountain river and small creek access as you head West of Denver. We may be biased due to the fact that this river flows right behind our Minturn shop, but our favorite river in the Rockies is the Eagle. Access can be found just about 2 hours West of Denver on I-70 and from the Headwaters near Red Cliff to where it ends at the confluence of the Colorado River you have about 40 miles of beautiful Freestone to explore. The Eagle is just one of many great options you’ll find as you head West. We also love exploring the Upper Colorado River, Roaring Fork, and different stretches of the South Platte to name a few others to add to your list. 

summer fly fishing in river

Effective Flies and Tactics for Summer Fly Fishing 

The diverse bug life in our rivers and reservoirs is one of many things that makes summer fly fishing special. As the water warms and the days get longer we will begin to see healthy populations of caddis, stoneflies, craneflies, and a dozen different species of mayflies popping up in all of our major river systems and creeks. With this in mind, you want to make sure you have a good selection of dry fly and emerger patterns so that you are prepared on the water for any hatch you may run into. Your best opportunity to throw these top water rigs will typically be morning and evening leaving the hottest hours of the day for you to nymph some of the deeper water. 

The warmer months like June, July, and August tend to be the best window for terrestrial rigs and nothing says summer like large foam hoppers and beetle flies. Our favorite way to fish these big hoppers is with a bead headed nymph or emerger patterns tied off the back of the hopper so we can target fish on the surface as well as the surface film, or the top few inches of the water. If you find yourself in a good mayfly or caddis hatch where the bugs on the water are too small to track then these hopper patterns can work well as the top fly in a hopper and dry fly dropper rig. This way you can follow the larger terrestrial pattern on the water and use it as an indicator, an indicator that the fish might just eat! 

One thing to keep in mind, especially as we get into the hottest part of the summer, is water temperature. We think that a good thermometer is an essential part of every anglers vest or pack and keeping an eye on the water temperature is an essential part of keeping the fish healthy in the rivers and lakes that we love to fish. For a quick reference, with water temperatures under 65 degrees Fahrenheit you are good to go and the fish are happy. Much warmer than 65 degrees and you want to start to think about getting off the water, and if you are on the water and see temperatures at or above 67 degrees you need to stop fishing and give those trout a break! Species of fish like bass and bluegill handle hot summer water temps much better than trout so this is a good time to switch the game plan up and try to target some warm water species. Most of these fish are strong and happy until the water gets into the 80s and that’s rare for us here in Colorado. 

We hope that this quick rundown of summer fly fishing gear and tactics helps you while you’re out on the water this season. There are just over 100,000 miles of river and 4,000 or so lakes and reservoirs in our beautiful state and hopefully, you can find your new favorite fishery this summer while you’re out exploring. As always for any additional information or if you have any questions feel free to give us a call at either of our fly shops or better yet come by and see us! Good luck out there this summer!

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

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Tyler Banker

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