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Recommended Fly Assortment for Colorado Alpine Creeks and Lakes
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Josiah Vandervelde

Locale: Florida
Recommended Fly Assortment for Colorado Alpine Creeks and Lakes on 05/06/2014 14:28:35 MDT Print View

I'm a newb fly fisher and have been pulling bass out of Florida lakes preparing for an upcoming trip to the Maroon Bells area to do some backpacking and fly fishing with my family. I have a 5wt rod that I plan to bring and was wondering about sample fly selections for the trip. I'd like to keep things simple but still cover the bases.

What patterns do you recommend? What sizes? How many of each size? (8 day trip including two zero days)

Edited by eternalnoob on 05/07/2014 06:32:29 MDT.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Flies on 05/07/2014 03:38:39 MDT Print View

I have no experience with Colorado trout so I hope someone else pipes up. I will say that I used an elk hair caddis, more than anything else in the Sierras. It worked well enough that I didn't bother much with anything else.

I also carried some various terrestrials, but the only one I actually used was a tiny black ant, which worked well but was harder for me to see.

I also had a general assortment that I didn't use at all.

How many of each you will need will depend on the water you fish, how much you fish, and your personal skills. I went through maybe 6 or 7 lost flies in a week of fishing the small streams that I hiked past.

Josiah Vandervelde

Locale: Florida
"The Plan" on 05/07/2014 12:33:57 MDT Print View

This is what I've come up with so far. It may be overkill. Some of these I already have, most I would be purchasing.

Midge Dries #16-20
Elk Hair Caddis #14-18
Parachute Adams #14-20
Blue Winged Olive #12-20
Simulator #8-16
RS2 #18-22
Hoppers #10-12
Ants #14-18
Beetles #12-14

Midge Pupa #14-20
Midge larva #18-22
Beadhead Prince #14-18
Pheasant Tail Flashback #14-20
Copper John #14-20
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #14-18
Scuds #14-18
Woolly Bugger #6-10
Eggs #14-16
Soft Hackle #16-18
San Juan Worm #12-16

What do you think? Something important I'm missing? Are some of these patterns unnecessary at those 10,000ft elevations? Is there overlap? Am I over-thinking it?

Edited by eternalnoob on 05/07/2014 14:22:11 MDT.

Gaute Lote
(glote) - MLife

Locale: Norway
good to go on 05/07/2014 12:45:20 MDT Print View

for just about any trout, char and grayling location anywhere on this planet, I would say :-)

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: good to go on 05/07/2014 13:05:25 MDT Print View


62 flys by my count, demonstrates precisely why I fish tenkara.

....end drift

Edited by greg23 on 05/07/2014 13:08:53 MDT.

Josiah Vandervelde

Locale: Florida
Re: Re: good to go on 05/07/2014 13:26:06 MDT Print View

I have no desire to carry/use every fly ever tied by man. I'd prefer to have a few patterns that really work.

I would say though, that my personality is one where I think I'll enjoy trying to figure out what the trout are eating and throw them some vaguely similar pattern. I don't think that all 62 flies will see the tippet, but this trip is also a good chance to let me figure out what works for me and pair down my selections from there.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Re: "The Plan" on 05/07/2014 13:34:37 MDT Print View

"Am I over-thinking it?"

I'd say yes, but it is up to you what you think you need. You could catch fish if you took only one or two patterns. Tenkara enthusiasts apparently often use only a single pattern. You can do the same with a western rig if you want.

Flies don't weigh much or take up much space though so if you feel the need or if it just makes you happy take all you want. If keeping it simple makes you happy then do that.

I am no expert though, in fact I am a very new to the sport novice. On the other hand that didn't stop me from catching scores of small trout during my last trip.

Josiah Vandervelde

Locale: Florida
Re: Re: "The Plan" on 05/07/2014 13:52:17 MDT Print View

Thanks guys. This is all good information.

I don't intend to take everything on the above list. I am hoping to narrow it down significantly. Those were just flies that from my research seemed liked good patterns.

I have no doubt that it's possible to be successful with just one pattern on relatively unpressured alpine lakes, but I do think I'll enjoy trying a few patterns and finding what works well in a given situation.

That said, I don't want to have a vested interest in so many patterns that I spend the whole day tying knots when I could be catching fish. :)

Here's a reduced list just given my own (ignorant) analysis.

Midge Dries #18
Elk Hair Caddis #14-18
Parachute Adams #14-18
Hoppers #8-12
Ants #14-18

Midge Pupa #18
Beadhead Prince #14-18
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #14-18
Woolly Bugger #6-10
San Juan Worm #12

Edited by eternalnoob on 05/07/2014 14:29:36 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Re: "The Plan" on 05/07/2014 14:35:30 MDT Print View

I think I would add a couple mini-muddlers. Also some mini-split shot for some really swift water where you want to get down. A few bare hooks, likely size 10 and size 12 will let you add any live bait you find along the stream banks. Often, rolling rocks over will produce some good sized stone fly nymphs and maybe a helgramite or two. You cannot really cast these except delicatly, but they often work on a downstream drift.

Kevin Buggie
(kbuggie) - M

Locale: NW New Mexico
Re: "The Plan" on 05/07/2014 15:08:57 MDT Print View

From my experience in Colorado's highcountry you can't go wrong with a minimum of just 3 types of flies (I fish mostly with tenkara in streams):

#16 Yellow Stimulator (covers your basic attractors, caddis, hoppers, and strike indicator for the nymph)

#16 Parachute Adams (Covers mayflys, and everything else small and floating)

#14 Brown/black gold-ribbed hare's ear nymph

6 of each should fit in a tiny container and keep you fishing for a week.

Add a smaller dark woolly bugger if your after big browns or want more options for lake fishing.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Lakes? on 05/07/2014 16:40:51 MDT Print View

Personal preference, but I found creeks much more fun to fish than lakes, in my limited experience with alpine fly fishing. Besides being more fun to fish I found them typically more productive too. Funny thing was that almost everyone seemed to be only fishing the lakes.

Again, I'll say that my experience is pretty limited, so I don't know if that is typical.

Josiah Vandervelde

Locale: Florida
Re: Lakes? on 05/07/2014 19:02:40 MDT Print View

The fly fishers in our group won't have 100% say on where we camp, stop, etc. We'll won't be doing many miles, so there should be lots of fishing to be done, but groupthink will determine much of the itenerary, so I plan to fish wherever I can.

Edited by eternalnoob on 05/07/2014 19:03:49 MDT.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: Recommended Fly Assortment for Colorado Alpine Creeks and Lakes on 05/07/2014 21:43:42 MDT Print View

You might google "Rich Osthoff" and "fast sinking scuds" for alpine lakes Rich sells fly's and writes some interesting books

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
flies on 05/08/2014 10:02:54 MDT Print View

I have been unusually successful in the sierras with two flies. 1) birds nest, particularly the style that have flashy material on the abdomen. I will often use the crystalized drying stuff rubbed onto the fly to create silvery air pockets the fish see under water. 2) brown stone flys.

Ralph Cutter wrote a book called "Fish Food" that is a really good read and will help you understand whats important and whats not.

Darren Graff
(Packfan) - F

Locale: Sierra Nevadas
Flys on 05/08/2014 23:05:19 MDT Print View

Olive green nymph

Jay Johnson
Focus on presentation on 05/09/2014 22:16:59 MDT Print View

Think more about presentation and different depths of the water than worrying too much about patterns. Like most people who enjoy tenkara, I also agree that presentation is more important than a pattern. I also do not fish one fly, simply because I like to tie different things and I would get bored tying only one pattern.

If you see fish rising, use dries and soft hackle wet flies. If its a creek, focus on drag free drifts, if it's a lake try landing the fly as delicate as possible, if that doesn't work try to entice the fish with some movement by skittering the fly across the surface. If you aren't getting any hits on the surface with the dries, try an emerger pattern or a soft hackle wet fly. Let your fly sink down, then slowly rise towards the surface... you'll probably get some strikes as the fly is ascending. If its a creek using this method, do short drifts and slowly rise towards the surface for your next cast, don't bring the fly out of the water too fast or you will miss out on some opportunities.

If you don't see anything rising to the surface, throw on some nymphs and go deep. Even if you don't see anything rising, throw on a terrestrial and give that a go. Alpine lake trout get a lot of their food from random things blown into the water. Scope out the surroundings too. Look for structure or where the wind is blowing. If you see a downed tree in the water, there's probably fish there. If wind is blowing the water in one direction, most of the food source will probably be in that corner of the lake and there will probably be fish there. You might be able to see fish circling a certain area and predict their movement into certain spots.

Ive never done it but you can try doing a dry and wet fly or nymph at the same time, fishing more than one part of the water column at once. Use flies that can multi task - a CDC & Elk or Elk Hair Caddis can be a Caddisfly, mayfly, or even a small grasshopper. A parachute ant could be mistaken as an ant or a mayfly. Killer Bugs (or similar patterns) could be mistaken for caddis larvae/pupa, crane fly larva, worms, or just something randomly delicious.

Whatever box you bring, you might as well fill it. Id rather come back from a trip with a bunch of unused flies rather than cut my fishing short because I only brought a handful.

Dave Marcus
(Djrez4) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Recommended Fly Assortment for Colorado Alpine Creeks and Lakes on 05/15/2014 09:54:05 MDT Print View

Most of the fishing in the Bells is lake fishing. You won't lose too many flies there, but for an eight day trip, I'd suggest that bringing 40 flies is safe and conservative. I wouldn't bring that many, but that's me. At 40 flies, my box would have 7 caddis, 7 gnats, 6 kebari, 5 killer bugs in size 14 and five in size 10, and five killer buggers in the traditional pink/tan color and five in black, all size 14. All of them catch fish and you can cover almost any conditions with those 4 or 5 patterns.

Be careful with the bare hook advice. There are a lot of lakes and streams in Colorado where live bait is prohibited. I don't know if the Bells is one of those locations, but call the local ranger station and ask.

I tie a size 12 day-glo green elk hair caddis that works really well. I've had less luck with more traditional colored ones. My buddy tied one on during his very first fishing experience and caught at least a dozen 8-10" browns.

Green Elk Hair Caddis

I also tie a size 14 gnat with peacock herl and white or bright hackle that works well.


For wets, I use variations of two flies:

a kebari-style fly with sparkly gold or silver thread (found at Michaels) and white hackle, size 14;


various colors and sizes of Utah killer bugs or killer buggers. I tie these on scud hooks, some with hackle and some without.

Killer Buggers Killer Bugs

Edited by Djrez4 on 05/15/2014 14:05:31 MDT.

Jackson Dockery

Locale: a county over from springer mountai
my box on 05/20/2014 07:02:59 MDT Print View

here is my morrel
This is the selection I take plus or minus some regional flies and Tenkara flies.

Foam ants
Elk hair caddis
Stimulators - mimic hoppers & stones
Humpys- my favorite
Para Adams
Blue winged olives
Hairs ears
Pheasant tails
Rainbow warriors
Wooly bugger's
Shiny bugger's
Micro bugger's
San Juan worms

If you notice any deficiencies please tell me what else I need.

Edited by ferrulewax on 05/20/2014 07:11:49 MDT.

brian H
(B14) - M

Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day..." on 05/20/2014 17:38:58 MDT Print View

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

"Ask a man for relationship advice and you get a funny look.
Ask a man for fishing advice and you'd better pull up a chair!"

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Give a man a fish on 05/23/2014 04:39:38 MDT Print View

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.