It’s that time of year on the Rio Grande – well, or so we thought. I suppose this should actually say, it seemed like it was “that” time of year a couple of weeks ago, but as the spring rains and winter melt began, snow kicked back in gear, dumping inches upon inches in the southern Colorado high country and headwaters of the great Rio Grande.

But as the (hopefully) final storm of the season has passed, we can now say, that “that” time of year is back!

The Rio Grande is a river with so much to offer anglers – especially stretches between Creede, CO and Del Norte, CO. With the river flowing at a good clip during the spring runoff, it’s time to pack the adventure wagon, fuel up the rig, and fill up those fly boxes!

Here are 5 must-have flies for long (or short) days on Colorado’s Rio Grande:


Keeping a few wooly buggers of various sizes in the fly box is a good idea for any day on the Rio Grande. Whether you twitch ‘em, strip ‘em, or let ‘em drift through the current, the browns and ‘bows tend to find them attractive regardless of the day or conditions. I like having something flashy to them – like a weighted bead for a “head” or some shine and shimmer around the body.




Kills it. Period. Regardless of the season, bring along various sizes (between 6-10) light tan, dark brown, and green “turds” (as one of my angler buddy’s likes to call them). Use them with an indicator 12-18 inches above and a dropper 8-12 inches below. And speaking of droppers…




Tandem rigs are the way to go, in my opinion. Sure, when you’re first starting out you might get caught up in yourself, but practice makes perfect. While this was my go-to back east in the small creeks of Pennsylvania, on the Rio Grande, I like using this inconspicuous dropper in a grey, slightly shimmery body color. In the winter, tie your own with a tungsten beadhead or throw some weight on to fish it low and slow – same in high water/spring runoff.




Get classy, guys n’ gals. For those of you that think nymphing is the bait caster’s fly fishing style of choice, you’ll be more than thrilled to pick up a pocket load of Parachute Adams’. The Rio Grande (and its tributary, the South Fork) has some killer hatches throughout the summer and an Adams will be your go-to fly. Drift it along the slack water and deeper pools and those ever-sought-after cutties might just make an appearance, especially on the South Fork.




Another go-to fly suggested by a local guide friend. Tying a chubby on during those summer months is sure to please. They’re flashy, dry, and maintain a good float cast after cast.

These 5 flies are definite go-to’s for a lot fly fisher guys and gals on the Rio Grande, but matching the hatch and having a couple of your favorite rainy day/hail mary patterns is also a good idea if the waters are blown out or the trout are tired of seeing some of the more common patterns. Some others to consider adding to the lineup are red and tan San Juan Worms, Green Weenies, black and red Zebra Midges, and, of course, some big ugly streamers to lure those trout looking for a good chase.

If you like to shop local, make sure you stop by 8200 Mountain Sports down in South Fork, CO and tell Joel that Ryan sent you 😉 And after your time on the water, consider hitting our local Del Norte brewery, Three Barrel Brewing Co., for a celebratory (or condolences) brew.

Tight lights, y’all.


About The Author

Guest Blogger

Colorado-based gal. Photographer. Writer. Adventure seeker. My name is Ryan Michelle and I'm an avid outdoorswoman, passionate photographer, writer & life-long adventure seeker. My words and images share the stories of who I am & the truths of my world. I grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania & spent many years exploring the backwoods of my home state along miles of streams & singletrack. In 2009, I fell in love with the west after a short stint in the Colorado high country & found a home in a southern CO alpine desert by 2014. My life is fueled by adventure & a passion to seek answers to unknown questions - the questions that draw our souls into the wildest of places where we can truly learn what it is to Live. I have had the opportunity to contribute words and images to great projects and publications like Southwest Fly Fishing, Trout Unlimited, Denver Outfitters and more. View more at: &

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