Eight of Colorado Anglers’ Favorite Flies

When choosing fly selections, pay close attention to color, size, shape and behavior of the natural insects and other critters that fish are feeding on.
Fly Fishing the Dream Stream.
Fly Fishing the “Dream Stream.” Photo by © Nora Logue/CPW.

When fly fishing, almost everything works, some of the time.

We are smarter than fish, right? Then why, at times, is catching them so hard? Matching the hatch is basic Fly Fishing 101, a skill that every beginner angler must learn. Often when a hatch is happening, fish become very selective and refuse insects that are not the most abundant. When choosing fly selections to be used on your local streams, you should still pay close attention to color, size, shape and behavior of the natural insects and other critters that fish are feeding on at a particular time. Sampling native species is a great way to aid in your fly selection. Try to incorporate as many natural characteristics into your flies as you can while considering the key elements in fly design.

Here are eight of Colorado anglers’ favorite flies and their inspirations.


Terrestrial or flying ants. copyright Marjorie Leggit

Inspired by: Terrestrial or flying ants.
Description: Various sizes and colors. Foam ants also work well.
How to use: Best times to use are typically May through September, mid-morning or after when the ground is warm and ants are more active. Match size to local ants, but use smaller ants in calm waters and larger patterns in swifter waters.


COPPER JOHN illustration. copyright Marjorie Leggit

Inspired by: Stoneflies or mayflies.
Description: The copper body adds weight to the fly helping it rapidly descend to where the big fish lay.
How to use: This unique style of weighting a fly also allows the fly to roll across the river bottom in a natural fashion.


SCUD illustration. Copyright Marjorie Leggitt

Inspired by: A small freshwater shrimp-like crustacean. Description: Various shapes, sizes and colors. One of the most popular being the orange UV Scud.
How to use: Scuds swim with short bursts of speed and they swim in an erratic manner, almost sideways, so your retrieve should be on the jerky side.



Inspired by: Grasshoppers and crickets.
Description: Natural materials provide a lifelike appearance but may sacrifice buoyancy and durability in comparison to synthetic materials.
How to use: Let fly float but simulate the struggle of a drowning grasshopper. Or fish tandem with a Hopper-Dropper rig consisting of a bouyant grasshopper fly and a submerging fly such as a Copper John. This combo is most effective in late summer or fall.


Goddard Caddis illustration. COPYRIGHT MARJORIE LEGGITT

Inspired by: Adult caddis.
Description: Hollow deer hair achieves a realistic caddisfly shape and great buoyancy.
How to use: A rough water fly, it is fished upstream as a dry fly, mending line to obtain the longest possible float.


WOOLLY BUGGER illustration. Copyright Marjorie Leggitt

Inspired by: Minnows, leeches or nymphs.
Description: Typically black or dark olive.
How to use: Can be fished anywhere in the water column, it probably is more often fished close to or down on the bottom. Some start with dead drifts then switch to jigging motions on the strip.



Inspired by: Stonefly or caddis nymph.
Description: Widely used throughout the world with many variations.
How to use: The most common method of fishing this popular fly is on a dead drift. The nymph is cast upstream and allowed to drift within the current.



Inspired by: Adult mayfly.
Description: A must-have dry fly in a variety of sizes. The white post gives the angler a visual reference in all types of water.
How to use: Find a turbulent run or sunken structure and cast across and upstream of this target. Gently allow the fly to drift downstream towards your target mending the line so that the fly achieves a drag-free drift for as long as possible.

Article compiled by Wayne D. Lewis • Illustrations by © Marjorie Leggitt

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