Crested Butte and Gunnison County Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing for trout in the Elk Mountains of Colorado is one of the most unique angling experiences in the American west. From float fishing on the Gunnison River to targeting cutthroats in high-alpine streams, Crested Butte and Gunnison County have it all.

Let’s look at the four seasons to fly fish in Crested Butte and break down what to expect throughout the year.

Spring- March, April, May

Coming out of a long Colorado winter, trout are often hungry and enthusiastic to find a hearty meal. Days become longer, and temperatures are more conducive for bug activity. 

Further, the primary summer tourist season hasn’t kicked off yet, making springtime fly fishing one of our favorite things to do in Crested Butte. 

From when the ice begins melting in mid-March until the end of April, nymph fishing deeper runs is the most effective. Find the slowest and deepest sections of water and get your flies deep. 

Golden Stones become somewhat active by mid-April, and you’ll notice fish will begin changing their holding patterns. On the warmest of days, dead drift your nymphs through some shallower water to test when and where trout have moved to. 

Weather can change drastically from day to day, so we recommend being prepared with clothing and gear to keep you warm and dry. Read our article here on what to wear when fly fishing. 

Dry fly fishing with Midges in April can be productive, and as we get into May, the Caddis begin to dominate the bug scene. Spring run-off can often limit fishing choices in May as rivers become too fast and deep to fish. When many rivers are raging, focus on lower-elevation creeks to have the best chances of catching a trout.

Summer- June, July, August

Summertime begs us to spend as much time as possible on the rivers. It is also statistically the most fruitful time of year for fly fishing in Colorado. The lineup of mayflies, caddis, and terrestrials creates consistently great fishing opportunities throughout the warmest months of the year.

In early June, our largest River systems (the East, the Taylor, and the Gunnison Rivers) will still be in spring run-off mode, making them challenging to fish. We recommend creative angling techniques, such as dead-drifting streamers near the river bank for the best opportunities when stream flows are high.

Otherwise, we advise anglers to target trout on smaller, lower-elevation streams. Contact us here to learn more about hiring one of our talented guides to show you the best spots. 

Or, if in doubt, check our Taylor River and Gunnison River fishing report for details on if stream flows are conducive to productive fly fishing. 

From late June through August, stream flows will typically be on the decline, and Crested Butte trout angling will be second to none. All fly fishing techniques, including nymphing, dry fly fishing, streamer fishing, or a combination thereof, are on the table in July and August. 

This time of year is the bread and butter of Crested Butte angling, and we encourage you to get out to enjoy some of the best fishing in Colorado. We recommend a 9-foot, 5-weight rod for most angling applications throughout the summer. Stop by our fly shop located at 307 Elk Ave downtown Crested Butte to inquire about our selection of angling gear from Scott Fly Rods, R.L. Winston, and more!

Fall- September, October, November

Fall fly fishing is defined by dropping water levels and small-size Mayfly hatches. Blue-winged Olives and Pale Morning Dun hatches will have fish waiting for the right time of day to feed. Mornings will be cooler, and bug activity will be minimal until mid-morning most days. 

Sleep in, grab some breakfast, and don’t rush anything in the fall. 

Dry fly fishing can be excellent during the right conditions, with a dry-dropper set-up being particularly productive. Additionally, water clarity will be at an all-time high on most streams, requiring stealthy approaches in almost all cases.

Further, brown trout begin getting active before their spawn in October, and streamer fishing will pick up once again.

Please avoid fishing redds to help protect our fragile river ecosystem. Click here to learn more about how to identify a redd. 

Kokanee Salmon enter the valley from Blue Mesa Reservoir from September through October and offer a shift in the angling opportunities. The landscape morphs from green to brilliant fall colors, and the brown trout put on a show to match the changing seasons. 
Many argue this is the most spectacular time for Colorado fly fishing!

Winter- December, January, February

By early December, the harsh winter climate in Crested Butte takes hold of the valley. Cold temperatures, short days, and frozen rivers will eliminate many of our fishing choices. 

Thus, we are primarily limited to angling on our tailwater fisheries (Taylor River, Gunnison River at Gunnison Forks) to find feeding fish in unfrozen water. 

When winter fishing in Crested Butte, only target the deepest and slowest of holes and runs. Fish will be holding in these spots until April, making it relatively easy to identify where the fish are. Trout will be extremely picky, however, and conditions will demand a perfect dead drift in the proper water column.

Midge patterns dominate the fly choices, and shrimp patterns can be productive on the Taylor River.

Hatch Chart

FLY Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
All X X X X X
Blue Winged Olive X X X X X X
Pale Morning Dun X X X
Green Drake X X X
Slate Drake X X
Red Quill X X X X
GrassHoppers X X X
Ants X X X X X
Beetles X X X X
Golden Stonefly X X X X
Salmonfly (Gunnison Gorge) X X X
Little Black X X
Trico X X X
Midges X X X X X X X X X X X X
Mysis Shrimp (Taylor River) X X X X X X X X X X X X
Streamers X X X X X X X X X
FLY Months
All Jun – Oct
Blue Winged Olive Mar – May, Sep – Nov
Pale Morning Dun Jul – Sep
Green Drake Jun – Aug
Slate Drake Sep – Oct
Red Quill Jul – Oct
GrassHoppers Aug – Oct
Ants Jun – Oct
Beetles Jun – Sep
Golden Stonefly Apr – Jul
Salmonfly (Gunnison Gorge) May – Jul
Little Black Mar – Apr
Trico Jul – Sep
Midges Year Round
Mysis Shrimp (Taylor River) Year Round
Streamers Mar – Nov