Harlan's Fishing Outlook for December

 Published by: Harlan Kimball 

Bring on winter! ...Orrr flee to warmer weather, cold drinks and hungry saltwater fish. December brings two types of fly fisherman; the one that sticks it out and enjoys the solitude of cold rivers and ice shacks or the one that books as many saltwater trips as possible without going completely broke. For some, the ability to do both is what keeps us sane through the ice cold months. Luckily, we still have a lot to look forward to for the month of December. Hunting picky tailwater fish, last-minute stillwater fishing, and the start of ice fishing season! 

Be ready for freestone rivers and creeks to cap over with ice this month (if they haven't already). Places like the upper and middle Arkansas, upper Eagle, and Colorado River are all seeing more ice/slush flow as well as some deeper holes already capping over with ice. Tailwaters are going to be your best bet for finding open water and willing fish. The Blue River in Silverthorne and below Green Mountain Reservoir will stay ice free throughout the winter and offer great nymphing and even some dry fly fishing opportunities. Williams Fork tailwater is also a great hike-in option for people that don't mind put some steps in to find productive fishing. 


In terms of what tactics for the month of December, think “low and slow.” As we've mentioned before, fish like to pod up in the slow and deep pools when water temperatures begin to drop. Be sure you are adjusting your nymph rig regularly to match the depth of water you are fishing. Typically, we like our nymphs to be ticking the bottom before you get halfway through your drift (but not dragging the bottom). This will ensure your flies are getting down to the feeding zone through the majority of your drift. Winter dry fly fishing can actually be more common than some think. Unfortunately, you'll have to go quite small and boring when fishing midge and baetis dries. We had a successful day of dry fly fishing the Blue River in town last week using a Brook's Sprout Baetis and a Morgan's Midge in size 20-24. 

As of 11/29 ice is building everyday on most of our high elevation reservoirs and lakes. By no means would I consider these places to have "safe ice" just yet, but we are getting very close. Smaller lakes like Officer's Gulch and Clinton Reservoir seem to be capped completely with around 3-5 inches of ice and some decent brook trout and cutthroat trout being caught on small jigs.  Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain still have some freezing to do with just some of the inlets capped over with anywhere from 2-5 inches of ice. If you ask me, 6 inches of clear ice is my threshold to be out but everyone is different and should only attempt ice fishing with the proper safety tools (spud bar, ice picks, etc) and confidence in your ability to read ice conditions. 

While we fly-fish guide year around, we will also begin our ice fishing trips sooner than later. Give us a call at the shop to get your ice fishing adventure on the books! 970.262.2877

Favorite Flies for December:
1. Black Pheasant Tail 18-20
2. Rainy's Real Meal 18-20 
3. Barr's BWO Flashback Emerger 20 
4. Two Bit Hooker Brown 14-18
5. Winterbaetis Emerger Black/Chartreuse 18-20 
6Matthew's Sparkle Dun 18-22
7. Bling Midge Brown, Charcoal, Tan 20-24

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