August Fly Selection
by JD Miller

  • The Red Ass
  • Black Dandelion, size 18
  • Crystal Ant, size 14
  • Cinnamon Flying Ant, size 16
  • Red Ass, size 16
The long, hot days of August often render many of Colorado's "premiere" rivers unfishable most of the day because of high water temperatures and sluggish trout; especially during the last few drought plagued seasons. But that doesn't mean that dynamite fishing can't be had; the angler just needs to work harder to find it. That is why August's fly selection features 4 patterns personally picked to give you success in your favorite high country lake.

When anglers hear the term "alpine lake," most think of a small pristine lake filled with small brookies or cutts. While that is often the case, the persistent angler often finds surprises at the end of his line -- like the 2' long rainbow a friend of mine reeled in on an alpine lake not far from Boulder last summer. While the chances of seeing a fish like that aren't very good, the enjoyment of spending a day deep in the mountains of Colorado fishing in solitude isn't a bad consolation prize.

At altitudes above 9000 feet the feeding season is short so the trout have to take every meal they can get. The height of this feeding frenzy arrives in August when the flying ants hatch and give the trout a virtual 24-hour buffet of food to snack on. While elevation and sun exposure will affect the longevity and intensity of this hatch, I have found that it often lasts up to six weeks with the trout feeding on the ants the entire time.

When fishing alpine lakes, there is usually no reason to be on the water before the sun hits the water to warm things up a bit. I like to get on the water around 10am and start with a searching wet fly pattern like the Red Ass, working the fly in "fishy" spots like the inlets/outlets and shelf lines around the lakes. Vary the retrieval rate and depth of the fly until you find the "hook up" zone. The fish will develop a cruising pattern around the lake in search of food; the key is to identify that pattern and keep your fly(s) in that zone.

The flying ants will begin to hatch midday and last all afternoon and sometimes into the evening. Calm, windless days provide much better surface action as the trout have an easier time locating the bugs on the water. Colors vary from a light cinnamon to coal black and range in size from a 10 all the way down to a 22. I like to cast my fly towards the direction of a rise and let it sit for 8-10 seconds before giving a slight twitch to the fly. The trout will usually take the fly in a lazy "roll" rise as it continues in its cruising path, so it is important to set the hook with a slow, smooth rod lift to ensure you don't set too early.

Colorado has more alpine lakes than any 10 anglers could fish in their lifetimes, but some of the best areas to find high country lake fishing include Rocky Mountain National Park, The Flattops Wilderness area, and the Weminuche Wilderness area just north of Durango. All of these areas are roadless, so if you want to explore them you have to lace up the hiking boots. If hiking isn't for you, get yourself a map of the White River National Forest or Grand Mesa and find some lakes close to the road.

See you on the water!