My name is Shaun and I am totally new to fly fishing. I live in Denver and I am starting a journey into the diverse world of fly fishing. I have been going to local shops, reading a lot on the internet and in books, and have gone to a few free classes at Orvis. I finally decided to take the (financial, emotional, intellectual) plunge, so now I have the basic gear and have mentally prepared myself to start fishing. I must admit that it is quite daunting and scary to start fishing (I don't know quite why?), but I plan to go to a river/lake very soon to begin. First question, does anyone know where a newbie such as myself should try fishing locally, say 1 hour from Denver? Also, I am going on a trip with my wife to Utah (SW) and California (Sequoia, Death Valley, and Yosemite), so do you have any suggestions for where I could go fish in these places? When I get back from my trip I am taking a day long intro course by Trout Unlimited (As a side, is anyone else here a member and what do you think of it if you are?). I am convinced that I should probably hire a guide at some point this summer to give me some guidance and pointers so I don't waste too many years trying to be a decent fly fisher. Any suggestions for guides in Colorado? (man, I am asking a lot of questions, aren't I?)
One thing that I am getting hung up on is flies and fly sizes. How do you keep track of your flies? Because some are so small, it seems like a novice can easy become quite confused. Also, does anyone suggest certain flies for Colorado in the spring, summer, and fall? From reading on this forum, it appears that the Royal Wulff, Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Griffith's Gnat, Deer Hair Caddis, Copper John, and Royal Coachman are all pretty good flies? Any thoughts for how these do in Colorado? It seems that I should buy most of these in sizes 12-18/20? Any suggestions would be helpful for where to purchase these? Online I have found some discounters, such as Blueflycafe.com, that have some great discounts on flies. I can't justify paying $2 per fly at places like Orvis, but the guys who work there are really knowledgeable and nice, so maybe it is worth it?
Thanks in advance to any responses. I realize that people on this forum are really experienced and knowledgeable about this sport, so I figure I can learn quite a bit from your thoughts.
First off welcome to Colorado, to the forum and to the wonderful pass time that is fly fishing.
Sounds like you are starting off on the right foot by reading all you can get your hands on and joining TU.
Having all the questions you have is not unusual. There is much to learn, even after you think you know it all.
I would suggest using a guide service for your first trips. They can answer all the questions you've posed and give you great insight into how to approach Colorado trout fishing.
Blue Quill Anglers in Evergreen and Flies and Lies in Deckers both have excellent guides and will be your major resource for many of your future FF needs.
Here are links to their websites. South Platte Outfitters - Deckers Colorado - fly fishing on the Platte River Colorado Fly Fishing with the Blue Quill Angler Fly Shop
Good luck and keep us posted on your adventures.
Shaun, welcome to the forum. You've gotten great advice from Yat and SOL (Welcome to the forum to you too SOL!)
The shop Yat recommended, Blue Quill Angler, has free sessions on Saturdays, as well as an Intro Fly Fishing 101 course (for 150 bucks) that might be a very good investment of your time and money. The course covers flies, casting, knots and rigging rigging in doors and a full day onstream. Streamside experience will be very helpful in showing you how to fish dries nymphs and streamers, how to recognize "lies" where fish hold in streams. Ideally, if you could do something like that before your trips, rather than later, it'll really help when you go to fish different streams in unfamiliar territory.
TU is also a great way to get into the sport, and you'll get a lot out of it. Most chapters have casting and tying clinics, group trips to local water as well as informative meetings.
As far as flies go, I think your best bet is to let a good local shop recommend some patterns for you. Generally they'll be better quality in terms of how they're tied and materials used than discount flies for 50 cents that you'll find in some online places, but more expensive at around 2 bucks a pop. (This is especially so for dry flies, and for matching specific hatches where size and coloration can vary from river to river and local "non-standard" patterns often have an edge. If you wanted to save a few bucks somewhere, you might want to order nymphs and streamers from discount places on line.)
Orvis also has a 20 flies for 9.95 deal going on online. (The patterns are all standards and decent quality.)
The flies you mentioned in your post are all standards, but there is some duplication in the patterns you listed (Royal Wulff/Royal Coachman and Deer/Elk Hair Caddis) and though you'd want flies in the sizes you mentioned, specific patterns might be better in certain sizes. I would vary a bit to get a selection of flies of different sizes and types (dries for fast and slow water), and different layers of the water column and types of flies (dries, nymphs, streamers). There are tons of options for flies in patterns and sizes, but a decent asortment to build on might look something like this:
Fast water dries:
Royal Wulff or Trude size 16 (good attractor for rough water)
Elk Hair Caddis (Tan) size 14 (a good rough water pattern and caddis imitation)
Stimulator (Yellow) size 10 or 12 (A stonefly imitation and good rough water fly)
Slow water dries:
Parachute Adams or Parachute BWO (Blue Wing Olive) 16-20 ((imitates a variety of small mayflies throughout the country)
Griffith's Gnat 18-20 (imitates many small flies)
For specific hatches you may have, local shop tied patterns would be best. Check with shops to make sure you have these hatches on the water you fish, but some examples might be:
PMD (Pale Morning Dun) Sparkle Dun 16 (a major hatch throughout the West)
Western Green Drake size 12 (a major hatch on many Colorado rivers)
RS2 18 (this can be very effective fished on a short 6-8" piece of light tippet tied to the bend of a dry fly)
Green Emergent Sparkle Pupa 14 (a good searching fly below riffles)
Bead head Pheasant Tail 18 imitates many small mayfly nymphs
Bead Head Prince 12 good for many large nymphs and searching
Muddler Minnow size 10 (imitates sculpins found in most western streams, and in a pinch, can be greased with dry fly floatant to imitate a grasshopper.)
Black and Olive Bead Head Woolly Buggers size 8 ( a good fly for deeper water (pools, lakes, ponds and high water/off colored streams and rivers)
This is just to give you an idea of some different flies/sizes/types that might be effective out your way. A good local shop can zero in with specific recommendations.
Good luck and welcome to the forum. Looking forward to your trip reports!
I would also suggest picking up Fly Fishing Colorado by Marty Barthalomeoux (sp), this book has helped me out on available waters and techniques for said water. Good luck in your quest, enjoy the ride.
You have gotten some excellent advise from the above people and with myself also being a beginner living in Denver, I have very little to add in the way of fly selection.
However for suggestions on places to fish I would purchase the book, Fly Fishing Colorado: A No-Nonsense Guide to Top Waters by Jackson Streit. It provides great details on the area, equipment to use, known hatches, which flies to use and when for each fishing location in the book. As for local places within an hour of Denver, Deckers (I-25 South to Happy Canyon Rd) is certainly a popular spot and is about a 90 minute drive from downtown. Cheeseman Canyon, just south of Deckers is also a good local place. In the opposite direction there is the Big Thompson (in between Loveland and Estes Park).
As for guides, I highly recommend the Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen (just got back from a guided trip with them last Saturday) and as mentioned by someone else, they also offer free Saturday clinics and an Intro 101 class for $150 bucks which is well worth the price. If you do not want to travel to Evergreen, then Trout's Fly Fishing on 6th & Marion in Denver also offers guide services but I have do not have first hand experience with dealing with them-- however I did stop by to browse just the other day and the owner/manager was extremely welcoming and friendly. Trout's are also having a free beginners fly-fishing seminar on Thursday 28th May and with this they are offering guide prices on all flies and 10% off terminal tackle-- so this could be worth a couple hours of your time and it is certainly local if you live in the downtown/Capital Hill area like myself.
I know this is mundane information, but I hope it as been of some help.
Thank you to everyone for your suggestions and information! Once I get back from my road trip I think I'll hire a guide for a day in Colorado. My knowledge is completely inadequate when it comes to flies, reading water, knowing hatches, tying knots, and for that matter casting. I am overwhelmed by the different names, types, sizes of flies, and when I get some good on the water experience, I think I'll have more confidence in what I am doing.
I really love the outdoors, and this seems like a great activity to take in different aspects of the ecosystem. I like to hike and backpack, so I figure this will fit in nicely with my other favorite outdoor activities (except golf ). I also imagine that fly fishing will encourage me to be a stronger advocate for conservation and the leave no trace ethic. If we don't take care of our environment, future generations won't get to appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of that nature provides. As I read about trout behavior, for example, I learn to appreciate aspects of the world that before I was ignorant to. It is nice to be humbled by a new activity.
I look forward to participating more on this forum as time goes on. Someday I might actually have knowledge to impart onto others who are just starting out.
Well good luck, you should have a lot of fun. One thing about hiking and backpacking that you'll really enjoy is that the fishing is generally a lot less "technical" - smaller streams, less need for long casts or to "match the hatch" with specific flies. The fish are generally pretty eager and will whack stuff like Elk Hair Caddis and high floating easy to see flies like Royal Wullfs and Trudes.
As far as reading water goes, the main thing is to cast to "seams" where two or more current speeds meet. You'll see them around the "V" created by rocks that break current, along banks where faster water meets slow, and in the heads and tails of pools. You'll often see foam and bubble lines that will tell you where the seams are. Polarized sunglasses are a good idea to cut glare and to see in the water-- as well as for eye protection while learning to cast.
If and when you decide to spring for a guide, emphasize up front that you want to learn- with less emphasis on the catching--- hopefully you'll catch fish too, but it'd be helpful to get some on the water coaching on stuff like "mending" line to get a drag free presentation, some nymphing tactics etc. If you plan to do most of your fishing by wading, it would be best to get a guided wade trip rather than a drift boat trip even though you won't cover as much water. (Unless you can use a drift boat to get to spots where you can get out and wade which might be the best of both worlds.)
And you're right on about the fly fishing/environment connection- there's nothing like being outdoors, and learning about stuff like the lifecycles and hatches of the various insects, the birds and other critters you'll see, and the awesome beauty of the places you'll fish to appreciate the environment's complexities and its timeless rhythms.
Take all that comes in stride. You'll have good days--- and other days where trees are grabbing all your flies. But as long as you're outside you won't have any bad days.
Man, this forum has folks full of great ideas! I am glad that Google brought me here. I really like the concept of fly fishing while backpacking. It sounds so romantic and adventerous. Also, the idea that fish would be less picky about my presentation/fly selection would be great. Any advantage I can get is good for me. Also, those streams in the high Rocky Mountains are so quiet and pristine, unlike many of the rivers next to main roads.
When I do get a guide I want one to show me the basics of fishing and not to just go catch fish. I want this to be a life-long activity, and it isn't just about the outcome (catching fish). It seems to me that fly fishers do it not to catch fish but generally because the enjoy the process and experience of being on the water. A good catch is always nice but doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for enjoyment or appreciation of the great outdoors. I am damn lucky to live in such a beautiful state. I should take full advantage of such a place.