Author: Will Rice
Trouts Fly Fishing just wrapped up our annual hosted trip to the Rio Grande River. This trip has proven to be a great fly fishing adventure in the past and this year it was no exception.
The big question on everyone’s mind as we packed up our gear and headed out the door: with the abnormally high flows this year across the state, what was the river going to look like and more importantly… would we find the bugs?
After a five hour drive from Denver we arrived in Creede Colorado with enough sunlight on the books for an exploratory mission to one of the many feeder creeks in the Rio Grande river drainage. It was a true small water backcountry experience.
With daylight slipping away we were able to put enough pieces of the puzzle together to find a few fish.
After that it was back to home base in preparation for a full day float the following morning.
Once again we met up and headed out with our friends from Duranglers who really know this river. As we ran the shuttles for our float trip it was immediately clear that there was still a lot of water in the system. In addition to big water, we had quite a bit of wind. On our initial look around at the put in, there were very few bugs out and the water temperature was cold. We spent the morning throwing streamers and moved, hooked and landed quite a few browns.
At lunch we started to see the insects that we had come so far to find - Pteronarcys californica. If you have ever seen a salmonfly hatch you know it is a sight to see – and something you never forget.
First off, they do not appear to be skilled aviators. They’ll race across a river horizontally aiming for one bank only to crash hard onto the river’s surface. From there, it is a mad flutter as they try to make it to the closest bank for safety. More often than not… they don’t make it. Other times, while trying to find a mate, they’ll simply slip and fall from a branch hanging above the river. The Rio Grande has a strong population of brown trout that really take advantage of the salmonfly’s poor flying and navigation skills.
So, after lunch we switched up and started throwing dry flies – and I mean BIG dry flies.
In addition to browns, the Rio Grande also has a population of rainbow trout and we were lucky enough to see a few of those as well.
As far as the river goes, the water clarity was off color with the exception of 12”-18” off the bank. With the high water, strong gusts of wind and different obstacles on the river, I was happy to be in the boat with guys who were really skilled on the sticks.
The most productive time of the day seemed to be from about 10:00am in the morning until about 1:00pm in the afternoon. We didn’t see a ton of fish rising to the natural salmonflies but they were certainly ready to crush an imitation if you found the right pocket and drift close to the bank.
As far as productive fly patterns go, the orange Chubby Chernobyl was probably the most effective fly. We also had luck with the Chubby in purple, the El Camino, and the always classic Sofa Pillow. Most of the fish we caught were on the dead drift but we also moved and hooked quite a few on the “twitch and skate” technique. We fished with 6 wt. fly rods, floating lines, and stout tippet (2X and 3X fluorocarbon for dries and 0X for streamers).
Hitting a salmonfly hatch is not always easy. But, when you do it is an event that you will not soon forget. Trouts Fly Fishing would like to thank John, Cory and Spencer from Duranglers for their river skills as well as hospitality – we’d also like to thank our clients who joined our trip for their sense of adventure.
Our next hosted trip is just three weeks away. If you would like to experience a unique Colorado fly fishing adventure yourself, give us a call about our Hosted Trip to the Rawah Ranch July 11-13th. We have two (2) spots available. Call the shop at 303.733.1434 to make your reservation.