Trouts Journal

Combat Runoff Part 1: Stillwaters

Ivan Orsic / May 22, 2017

There is a myth around Colorado that during runoff fly-fishing comes to an end. In reality that isn’t the case at all. In Colorado we are blessed to have an abundance of options to fish 365 days a year. While runoff may shut down some of our favorite freestones and their tributaries, we still have tailwaters, stillwaters and warm-water options. Even our freestones can come into play. While one river may still be rising, another could have already peaked with flows coming down and water beginning to clear. Because we have so many options to fish, this is the time of the year to really utilize your resources and make plans accordingly. Some very useful tools this time of the year are going to be our websites Fishing Information tab. Here you will find update date flows for a wide variety of river systems across Colorado. Another great resource is going to be the DWR website that gives you access to every gage station throughout Colorado. With these tools you can compare flows and get a better understanding of where to head. I guess what I am trying to say is, in reality fishing during runoff can be some of the most rewarding of the year. You may just have to think a little outside the box. Over the next month we will be putting together a four part blog series about how and where to combat runoff. This first piece is going to be focused on stillwaters.

In Colorado we have countless reservoirs that offer great options to spend a day with a fly rod while giving you the opportunity to catch some really big trout in the process. Most of us are familiar with some of them, places like Spinney, 11-Mile, the Delaney Buttes and the Wyoming Prairie Lakes near Laramie. Look, I know how intimidating pulling up to a huge body of water without any visible structure can be. However, just like any place you fish, putting in a little time can go a long way. Here are 3 tips that will make stillwater fishing a little bit easier.


There are so many factors that come into play when identifying where fish will be in a still water, from wind direction, to points, to coves, you can spend an entire day moving around the lake without ever really being in the right place at the right time. When I am going to a new still water, I make it a point to identify 4 or 5 good dropoffs before I commit to a certain spot. No matter where you are fish will be cruising near these dropoffs consistently throughout the day. Wind is usually something we hate as anglers, however when fishing still waters it can really help you. A mud line will usually form along the banks during the wind, extending out into those dropoffs. These give you cover, stirr up bugs so you don’t have to cast very far and really trigger fish to feed aggressively along the dropoffs you have already identified. Keep it simple at first, once you find some money dropoffs, you will begin identifying other areas for success such as weed lines, coves, etc.


Think of changing your flies depth as you would changing patterns when you’re fishing your favorite trout stream. Fish have the option to cruise just about anywhere they’d like in a stillwater and it can vary, day by day or even hour by hour. Bug selection when still water fishing can remain rather simple, if you are fishing nymphs, Leeches, Scuds, Chironomids and Damselflies are really all you need. If you are stripping streamers back, you don’t need to think much beyond Crawfish and a few streamers you have the most confidence in. Fish generally aren’t too picky in still waters, the biggest challenge is finding them. I like to adjust my rig every 25-30 minutes or until I begin getting consistent bites. If you are fishing with a few friends, I highly suggest everyone fish different patterns and depths to start. This will speed up the process of finding what level the fish are feeding.

Patience, Patience, Patience:

I can’t preach having patience when fishing a stillwater enough. The ebb and flow of this kind of fishing can drive just about any angler crazy. There will be times when the wind starts to howl and you haven’t gotten a bite in an hour. Don’t let that break your spirit. A wise man once told me, you can’t catch a fish if you don’t have flies on the water. You have to keep faith that eventually it’s going to happen because eventually it is going to happen 100 percent. At some point throughout the day it will get hot and you will be hooking up every 10-15 minutes, so don’t be the one, “that should have been there yesterday.” There isn’t any trout strike that gets my adrenaline pumping like seeing my indicator take off or getting a grab when I am stillwater fishing. Fish in lakes tend to be on the bigger side, so the unknown of every take should excite you enough to keep at it.

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