Getting the Fly Box Ready for The Flat Tops Wilderness

As March approaches, I feel cabin fever setting in. Maybe I’m just tired of the short days, sick of looking at the same bobcat and coyote tracks avoiding my traps. Or maybe it’s seeing the bull elk close to the road with both sets of antlers teetering on his head but shed season won’t be open for months. My father always hated the month of March, claiming it to be the worst month of the year. I think I would agree with him. There isn’t much to do. There’s nothing to hunt, the water is still semi iced up for fishing, and the weather switches on a dime. You come across some of those teaser spring days that make you anxious for sunny/warm weather, but winter always finds a way to slap you with a big snow storm. To take my mind off this hated month, and day dream of fishing the high alpine lakes and streams… I tie my own flies.

I dabbled with tying my own flies when my grandfather got me a fly tying kit at the age of 12 for Christmas. I had no idea what I was doing and made some hideous looking creatures. But, I’ll never forget when I caught my first trout on one of my home made flies. I called my grandfather right away and told him the big news. Then in college I had a friend group with aligning interests with my own. We hung out and talked hunting, fishing, and the outdoors. We all joined the fly fishing club and my “creature patterns” morphed into named flies that people would recognize when I showed them.

Five years have passed since sitting in the entomology classroom on Thursday nights tying flies, but the scattering of hooks, threads, and feathers on the table hasn’t changed. I don’t fish the rivers of Colorado much. I’d rather saddle up a horse and go far into the wilderness and never see another person. The fish are easy to catch, their color is unrivaled, and landing a 20” cutthroat isn’t out of the norm. Because these fish see so little fishing pressure, matching the hatch isn’t as critical as floating down the Frying Pan River when switching from a size 12 to a 14 can make or break your day. Matching the hatch will just take the average day (a first timer up here always call it a great day) in the wilderness to a phenomenal day.

I carry a small fly box with me because weight and bulk is important when fishing far into wilderness areas. I have a handful of go to flies and I stick with them! Whether you decide to tie up your own, order online, or stop in at the local fly shop in town, make sure to have these in your fly box when you’re at the wilderness trail head.

*** Note*** the hatch specific fly patterns change with the hatch. In the Flat Tops Wilderness area the hatch is about 6 weeks later than the hatches along the rivers.****

Dry and Attractor Patterns:

Yellow humpy



Terrestrials (Hoppers and beetles)

Parachute Adams- blue-winged olive specific hatch specific

Parachute BWO – blue-winged olive specific hatch specific

Elk hair caddis-caddisfly hatch specific


Pheasant tails

Hares ear

Prince nymph

Copper John

San Juan worm



Wooly bugger

Muddler minnow

Fresh Water Clouser

Jig Bugger

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By Jimmy Oswald

Jimmy grew up in Pennsylvania hunting with his father and grandfather. He has worked on two privately owned ranches in Texas guiding deer and exotic hunts. Jimmy spent a summer in Alaska working for a salmon aquaculture company and has guided many hunts in Colorado for elk, mule deer, black bear, and mountain goats. He has also traveled to British Columbia with hunters for grizzly and to “The Dark Continent” where the African wildlife, culture, and beauty has captured his love for adventure.

Jimmy earned a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science Pennsylvania State University.

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