Fly Fishing On The Rio Grande River In
Rio Grande means Big River in the Spanish language.
It is a big river for sure. It is 1885 miles long and the
second longest river in the United States. Fly fishing
the Rio Grande River from its headwaters downstream
to the San Luis Vally is probably the most overlooked
and under fished trout water in the state. Well over half
of the river is in a desert environment and doesn't get
knee deep anywhere. However, that is a completely
different picture of the Rio Grande than the one you
would capture in the San Juan Mountains of Southern
Colorado. There, it is a small mountain stream with a
beautiful background of above timberline terrain.
The stream flows down from the San Juan Mountains
into the huge San Luis Valley. It quickly becomes too
warm for trout to exist as it crosses the almost flat
valley. It crosses the Colorado state line into New
Mexico where it drastically changes again. There it
cuts a huge gorge through the earth, and once again
becomes the home of cold water loving trout.
Not far north of Santa Fe it becomes so dry at times it
disappears. This section of our Perfect Fly website
covers only the portion of the stream in Colorado. The
section in Northern New Mexico is under a separate
The Rio Grande starts from melting snow in the rough
and tough San Juan mountains. The area is one of the
most remote and uninhibited areas there are. It is
surrounded by peaks that reach up to 13,000 feet.
Throughout its course down to the valley, it changes
character several times. You can fish a wide variety of
different types of water. It ranges from hike in waters
that you can roll cast across to wide waters big enough
to float in a drift boat.
The wild trout can become a little selective at times.
Matching the hatch and/or about what is going to hatch
can be very important at times if you expect much
success. Although the river is fairly easy to fish, it isn't
a push over.
The techniques, fly fishing strategies and tactics you
use to catch trout on the Rio Grande River varies
greatly with the section of the river you are fishing. It
has a very diverse range of water types ranging from
smooth flowing, slick water pools to deep runs and
riffles. Much of the water consist of heavy pocket
water. To be consistently successful fly fishing the Rio
Grande you have to be able to use a great variety of
methods selected for the type of water your fishing as
well as the species of trout you are pursuing. Trout
can range from being highly selective to quite
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing: 71/2 ft.,
3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Copyright 2016 James Marsh
The season is fairly short for the portions
of the stream in the higher elevations.
May to mid-June is runoff time.
Rio Grande River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Rio Grande River and in all stages of life
that are applicable to fishing. If you want to
fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a
much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The aquatic insect populations varies
depending on the section of the river you
are fishing but those listed below are
plentiful throughout most of the stream from
its headwaters to its lower section.
Prior to the runoff, the main hatches
consist of Western March Browns and
Blue-winged Olives. The March Browns can
get caught up in the high runoff water
depending on the exact time it occurs. The
BWOs can start as early as late February
and early March but April usually is the
most consistent time for the hatches to
begin. About six different species, mostly
Baetis, species make up what is called
There's also a Fall hatch of the
Blue-winged Olives. It usually takes place
from late September through the month of
Midges are very plentiful in the Rio Grande.
Imitations will work well anytime and
become more important when the water is
too cold for most other insects.
Small black winter stoneflies hatch in the
early season, even when there's snow on
the ground. These are mostly found in the
fast pocket water.
Salmonflies are present in some sections of
the river and begin to emerge in early June.
They are often caught up in the Spring
runoff. You will find some hatches of
Golden Stoneflies become to come off in
late June to early July. Sometimes the
runoff effects the fishing conditions during
the hatch and on other years it misses it. It
all depends on the snowpack. These are
found only in the fast pocket water
sections. The hatches can last into the first
LIttle Yellow Stoneflies are plentiful in
fast water sections in late July and early
The first caddisflies to hatch are the Little
Black Caddis, called the Mothers Day
hatch in most places in the West. This
hatch starts in mid April and last about a
month. In is a sparse hatch but can be
In late June and early July, there's three or
four different species of caddisflies called
Spotted Sedges that begin to hatch.
These are the most plentiful of the
caddisflies and the different species
hatch throughout most of the Summer and
on into the early Fall.
The next most important caddisfly hatch
are the Green Sedges. They hatch from
May through September, depending on
the species. Imitations of the Green Rock
Worms, or their larvae, work year-round.
In late June, usually before the runoff
ends, Pale Morning Duns will start
hatching. The PMD hatch will last most of
the summer and other than BWOs is the
most consistent mayfly hatch.
In some areas of the fast water you will find
a few Pink Ladies that hatch in August and
September. Many anglers call these
mayflies Yellow Quills.
In the late Summer, August and
September, terrestrials can play an
important role in the trout's diet. Imitations
of grasshoppers, ants and beetles will
become important flies. Many sections of
the Rio Grande are surrounded with grass
and hay fields.
Sculpin are very plentiful throughout the
river. There are some other types of
baitfish and minnows but sculpin are by
far the most important in the food supply
for the trout.
Streamers that imitate sculpin, such as our
Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin, will take trout
year-round. It is best to fish streamers in
low light situations such as early and late
in the day and during heavy overcast
situations. The are especially good for
taking larger, pre-spawn brown trout.
Summer is the best time to fish the river.
Early fall can provide some excellent
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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We have Perfect Fly
each of these other
fine trout streams.
Click the links for fly
of the streams,
species of fish, a fly
fishing guide, a fly
fishing report, hatches
trout flies, fly fishing
gear and equipment,
USGS stream data,
local weather and
much, much more
The river is in good shape from a
stream level standpoint but the
middle and upper sections are
getting very cold with water
temperatures in the thirties. That is
too cold for much opportunity. Fish
the lower section of the river where
the water temperature is around
forty degrees. Midges, creams and
reds, and BWO nymphs should
work. Be sure to see the above
current fly fishing report including
stream levels, weather, hatches and
other important information by
clicking the above link.
10/16/15 It doesn't get any better than this on the Rio Grande in the fall season. Good stream
levels and weather exist. Rain is on the way and will change things, so keep a close check on
the levels. Brown trout are in the pre-spawn mode and aggressive.
10/23/15 Brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage in the lower and middle sections of the river.
Our Brown Sculpin Streamer will fool these very aggressive fish. October Caddis are nearing
the peak of their hatch and bringing trout to the surface to eat the egg layers.
10/30/15 Good conditions exist right now on the Rio Grande. Stream levels are good and the
weather is cool and dry. Blue-winged olives are hatching good and in two sizes, 16's and 20's.
There are still some October Caddis hatching in the lower river sections. Tomorrow is the last
day of the season.
11/13/15 The trout fishing season in closed. Give us a call or send us an email (numbers and
address on your right under fly options).
03/11/16 We base fly selections on facts as to what is the most plentiful and available food at
the time, which is what will give you the highest odds of success. We don't go by what Joe
Blow caught yesterday on a purple people eater. If you call or email us, we can provide useful
information for that next trip to the Rio Grande. We have taken samples of the food,
developed hatch charts, and can tell you what your best options are as to how, when, and
where to fish the Rio Grande. Send us an email and let us help you. The address is:
Counting down, there is less than a week to go before the 2016 season opens for fishing the
Rio Grande River. It is always good from the first day with little Black Caddis and some
Skawala stoneflies hatching. March Browns are in some sections on opening day. Let us help
you plan your next trip there. We can also predict the best times to go to get in on the best dry
fly action. Send us and email at:
04/22/16 The season started on the 15th and at the end of the first week reports from out
customers are fair. The stream levels are high, the water temp still in the mid forties and
slightly stained. It should get better very soon with hatches of Little Black Caddis and March
Browns starting up. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching good now.
04/29/16 The river is still on the cold side, averaging about 45 to 47 degrees at the highest. It
needs to reach 50 for a few days to kick off the little Black Caddis and other insects. This past
week, two customers reported catching several trout on little BWO nymphs, size 18, and
Brown sculpin streamers.
05/06/16 The river is high and dirty right now. This situation is likely to continue through the
next week. There is rain or snow forecast everyday and of course, some runoff as well. There
just isn't much good opportunity for fly fishing right now. What the levels and when it does
drop and clear, the action will be red hot.
0513/16 The Rio is in a full blown runoff mode. The river is high and stained badly and will
likely remain that way for the coming week. In addition, there is a chance of rain or snow every
day for the next week. The best option at this time is to plan your next trip. When it drops and
clears, it offers some of the best fly fishing Colorado has to offer.
05/20/16 The Rio Grande is muddy and high as the sky. It is runoff time in Colorado. That is a
sight to see but not a place to wade and fly fish. It is the time you should take to plan that next
trip and that just happens to be one of our specialties. Be sure and check the latest hatches,
stream conditions and weather by clicking the weekly updated fishing report link above.
05/27/16 The Rio Grande is high and muddy due to the Spring runoff. This is likely to continue
for a few more days with little to no fly fishing opportunity for trout. This is normal at this time of
the year and the only can you can expect for sure is that when it does clear up, the fly fishing
will be excellent.
06/10/16 Same story, same verse, doubt it will get better and could get worse. The runoff is
going full blast and higher than last week at this time. There isn't any fly fishing opportunity on
the river. We just hope the early start to the runoff means it is going to end early, but we will
have to wait and see. It all depends on the weather.
06/17/16 The levels are much lower than the past week. It appears the mean old runoff is
coming to an end. We think the stream will be back in good shape soon. They can be fished
now but the water is still too high to safely wade. It is highly stained in some sections and
almost clear in others. There are a lot of insects hatching already.
07/01/16 The Rio is down a lot but still too high to safely wade in most sections. The water
levels are up some due to recent rain. There is more to come from today through Monday, but
then the river should start falling fast. There are a lot of hatches taking place but vary from
section to section. When it does get a little lower, it will be a prime fly fishing destination.
07/08/16 The river is in very good shape from its headwaters downstream to the
Colorado/New Mexico state line. There are numbers stoneflies, mayflies and caddisflies
hatching. Don't expect to see them all in one place at the same time, but the river is bug
heaven right now. There are a lot of trout being caught by our customers. It is as good as it
07/15/16 The big river is in great shape providing good wading conditions in all sections. The
hatches vary greatly from the headwaters to the Colorad/New Mexico state line with a little of
everything hatching. Three good reports came in from customers this past week and the
forecast for the coming week looks very good. The upper and middle sections probably
provide the best opportunity now, but it is all in good shape.
07/22/16 Conditions for fly fishing the Rio Grande are as good as they get. The uppermost
headwaters, middle river and lowest section to the New Mexico state line are all in good shape.
There are a lot of insects hatching but vary some with the section of water you are fishing.
There are lots of stoneflies, Goldens and little Yellows, Pale morning duns, tricos, Yellow
Quills, Spotted sedges, Green sedges and more.
07/29/16 The river is getting a little low but there is a chance of rain everyday for the next
week beginning tomorrow. There are a lot of hatches taking place but keep in mind, they vary
greatly from section to section. Send us an email and we can help you with that. The stream
should be coming us but for now, stay hidden from the trout. They ae easy to spook with the
08/05/16 The river is currently in good shape with stream levels running about normal. They
are rising and it is raining as I write this report. Be sure to check the levels. There are flash
flood warnings out for the next two days. It is going to be cooler. There are still a lot of hatches
taking place and some customers are doing okay on terrestrial imitations.
08/1216 It isn't often that we can report the Rio Grande is in great shape from its headwaters
to the lowest section in the state of Colorado, but we can now. Stream levels are good in all
sections and some hatches are taking place. The hatches vary with the elevation and section
of water being fished. Terrestrial imitations of ants, beetles and grass hoppers are also
08/19/16 Conditions are very good from the headwaters to the New Mexico state line. Our
customers are sending in some good reports. The hatches vary with the elevation but there ar
still plenty of them. Caddisflies are everywhere and consist of three different species. Tricos
are hatching big time in the middle and lower sections. The levels are a little low but there is
rain forecast everyday.
08/26/16 The river is in very good conditions from the headwaters to the state line. The
weather forecast shows a chance of rain everyday this coming week, which should keep the
stream levels up and hopefully, in good shape. The weather is going to be a little cooler.
There are lots of hatches taking place. There are still some PMDs, and little Yellow stoneflies
in the higher elevations and caddisflies in all sections of the river.
09/02/16 The river is in great shape throughout its length. The water levels are good and the
weather and water temperature much cooler. Conditions are about as good as they could be.
Our customers are reporting some good catches. Fish are being caught in the headwaters to
the lowest section of the river in the state. Several hatches are taking place but they vary from
section to section.
09/09/16 Everyone wants some solitude but yet in a place they can catch a lot of trout. There
are few such places in the West, much less Colorado, but the San Juan River is one of them.
You can have a lot of water too yourself in many sections of the river. The stream is in good
shape from its headwaters to the lowest section in the state. Insects are still hatching but they
vary with the section and elevation.
09/16/16 The river is in very good shape with good stream levels and cooler water. Our
customers are reporting some good catches. Trout are being caught from the headwaters to
the lowest section of the river in the state. As a matter of fact, it is fishing good in New Mexico
as well. Hatches vary greatly with the section or elevation. Terrestrial imitations are also
working good - hoppers, ants and beetles.
09/23/16 The river is in very good shape from the highest elevations of the headwaters to the
New Mexico state line. Our customers are reporting some good catches. There are lots of
insects hatching with the cooler weather. October Caddis, Mahogany duns, Blue-winged
olives, larger baetis, are hatching. Stream levels are at a normal level and the water clear.
09/30/16 The river is in very good shape from top to the New Mexico state line but we think the
middle and lower sections are the better choices right now. The trout are a little larger on the
average and there are more hatches taking place. Stream levels are good in all sections and
wading possible most places. October Caddis, Mahogany duns and Blue-winged olives are
10/07/16 The river is in very good shape with lots of trout being caught. Browns are in the pre-
spawn stage and aggressive. They are taking streamers like the Brown sculpin and Matuka
sculpin readily. There are hatching of October Caddis, Mahogany duns and Blue-winded
olives taking place. Fishing is good in all sections of the river.
10/21/16 The river is in good shape in all sections. Our customers are catching some very
large brown trout. They are in the pre-spawn stage and aggressively taking our Brown sculpin
streamer. There are still some October caddis and lots of Blue-winged olives and Mahogany
duns hatching. It is a very good time to fish the Rio Grande.
10/28/16 The river is in excellent shape for the last week of October. There are good hatches
of Blue-winged olives taking place. The stream levels are in good shape for wading. Brown
trout are spawning or in the pre-spawn stage. Please don't wade through their redds.
11/04/16 The stream levels are still in good shape. It is raining as I write this and will continue
through tomorrow. It is turning colder. Blue-winged olives are hatching good and our
customers are catching good numbers of trout including some large ones. The Brown and
White Belly sculpin streamers are catching the larger trout.
11/11/16 The conditions continue to be very good with very few anglers taking advantage of
the good fly fishing opportunity on the Rio Grande. The stream is in good shape from the
headwaters to the state line. We received two good reports of good numbers of trout caught
this past week. Blue-winged olives are hatching good.
11/25/16 The river is in good shape but running low. That isn't a bad thing. It allows easy and
safe wading in most sections. The water is getting cold and the upper middle and uppermost
sections of the river are only in the high thirties, water temperature wise. Blue-winged olives
and midges are the only hatches. The brown and white belly sculpin streamers continue to
catch the larger trout.