Education and Outreach / Watershed Education / Adult Education and Community Outreach / Beginner's Guide to Fly Fishing in the Roaring Fork Watershed

Beginner's Guide to Fly Fishing in the Roaring Fork Watershed

Compiled by RFC for participants of our Fly Fishing Clininc, but useful for anyone who wants to get into fly fishing!


What am I fishing for?

Rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish in the Roaring Fork Watershed. Cutthroat and brook trout in high mountain lakes and small streams. Anglers will occasionally catch native flannelmouth or blue suckers in the lower Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers. Also there are carp in the lower Colorado River, near Rifle, and pike, crappie, perch and sunfish at Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap reservoir.


Where do I go?

Fly shops will be your best source of info for fishing locations, but be sure to pick up local maps and books written by Mike Shook: - they are handy to have on hand when exploring local rivers.

Fishing rivers during spring and early summer in Colorado can be a little tough due to runoff. You can always fish the Fryingpan River (year round), though it can be a bit more technical fishing.


What do I bring?

Suggestions for what to bring/buy – in order of importance

  • Fishing license
  • 4, 5, or 6-weight fly rod with reel spooled with matching line
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Nippers
  • Hemostats
  • Net with rubber net material
  • Pack/vest to hold items
  • Small box of flies (fly assortments: and
  • Tippet material 1x, 3x, 4x, 5x and 6x should cover nearly every fishing scenario. If you only want to buy one spool, buy 5x.
  • Fly floatant is nice for dry flies, but not necessary.
  • Weight – putty or lea-free split shot – use while nymphing or streamer fishing to get fly to sink more quickly
  • Indicator to use while nymphing
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray


What fly do I use?

Use your newly found knowledge of aquatic insects, turn over rocks to check out nymphs, observe the insects flying in the air or crawling around on the banks. Try some different kinds of flies, and you can always inquire at your local fly shop.

      Here are the three set-ups we introduced during the clinic. Good places to start.

  • Dry Fly (use floatant)
  • Nymph (and indicator attached 1.5 times the depth of the run you’re fishing)
  • Streamer  


How do I attach my fly, tippet, etc.?

Fly to tippet –Improved Clinch Knot. Tippet to Leader – blood knot or double surgeon knot.

Leader to Line (if not a loop to loop/handshake connection) – Nail Knot.


I lost my fly/got impossibly tangled…what now?

Cut your losses! Use nippers to cut the tippet or leader close to the fly/tangle and tie on a new one!


Other resources:; Practical Fishing Knots by Lefty Kreh & Mark Sosin


We hope this gives you the motivation and confidence to get out fly fishing!

Answers provided by Kara Armano and Rick Lofaro

Contact Us

Roaring Fork Conservancy

PHONE: (970) 927-1290

PO Box 3349
Basalt, CO 81621

22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621

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