As fall begins in Colorado, so does the anticipation of the fabled brown trout run in the Dream Stream section of the South Platte River. The allure of finding a giant kyped up, colorful gator, of a brown trout takes over angler’s brains. Look, I am no different than anyone else in that regard. The idea of big aggressive browns out on the hunt, looking to pile on the calories before or after they do their baby making dance is something I will be searching for along with everyone else. However, one place I don’t get overly excited about this time of the year is the Dream. Trust me, I get it, the Dream absolutely presents you with the opportunity to catch a fish of your lifetime. It also presents the best shoulder to shoulder fishing opportunity in the state over the next few months. With that comes the horror stories of river side arguments, parking lot incidents and some of the most embarrassing situations in the fly fishing community. There are also going to be endless debates on what is ethical or unethical when you are targeting these migratory fish that move into the Dream for the sole purpose of reproducing. I am not here to preach and tell you shouldn’t fish the Dream this fall and why that is. I simply am here to tell you brown trout in every fishery in Colorado do the same thing as they do at the Dream. Over the next three months brown trout will be migrating out of every lake or reservoir or just simply preparing for their yearly rituals in any other stream or river across Colorado. While they won’t be trapped by a dam in a four mile stretch of river, they will be there, and there will be plenty of trophies to be had. So the rest of this blog will be devoted to help finding a little elbow room this fall.
Number 1 - Other Tailwaters
Sure brown trout are the prize of fall, but what is wrong with some big fall rainbows mixed in? Nothing is wrong with that if you ask me. One great thing the Dream Stream crowds do, is get people off of other generally crowded river banks. Places like Deckers, the Blue, the Frying Pan and even as far a the Yampa or Taylor will all fish exceptionally well over the next couple months. While it is a rare day if you show up to any of these places and have them to yourselves, you will find a lot more open water in the coming months while everyone is locking in on Dream Stream pumpkins. Lets not forget that all of these fisheries are home to healthy Brown Trout populations as well. While the Dream certainly gets the most attention, it is wise to not forget about these places. Whether you find yourself in the middle of a classic BWO hatch at Deckers or enjoy a surprisingly productive streamer day on the Frying Pan, the opportunities are there for the taking.
Number 2 - Freestones
I like streamers. I actually really like streamers and Colorado freestones in the fall are tailormade for streamers. Whether you are in a drift boat, raft or walk wading, places like the Arkansas, Roaring Fork, Eagle and Colorado need to be on your mind this fall as the weather begins to cool down. These fish will be on the prowl in attempts to pack on pounds and be very aggressive in the process. Crowds this time of the year will be very light in comparison to the summer traffic these rivers see and if you don’t think you can find big fish in these waters you’re sorely mistaken.
Number 3 - Any Stream or River that runs into a stillwater or is a Tributary to a bigger river system
This is where you have the most opportunity for exploration. I like to call these places the “What if’s.” As anglers we all want to believe that there are places that haven’t been discovered yet, with big fish that have yet to be tamed. Too often, in Colorado do I hear, “there aren’t any secrets here anymore.” In reality, there are countless amounts of these places that can take years, upon years to get dialed in. It’s honestly pretty simple, if a stillwater or bigger river system has a resident population of brown and brook trout, they will migrate into feeder and tributary bodies of water. There is no doubt about that fact. When, where, and how far, are all things that can vary year after year. These sort of missions aren’t easy and I can promise you, you will have days where you don’t see a fish and wonder why the hell you are out there chasing it. However, I can also promise if you put in the leg work, pick a few of these places and take the time to walk and fish them continually mixing up the time you are there and how you are approaching them, you will eventually have a payoff that can’t be matched by catching a nice brown at the Dream that has more than likely been caught 15 other times. There is an old saying that, “Knowledge is Power,” while the rewards might not be immediate if you put in the time, you slowly find what you are looking for.
So again, I totally understand the draw of the Dream and can never fault anyone for wanting to go give it a shot, but when you find yourself back in the parking lot at 1 PM frustrated because someone has been sitting on a hole you wanted to fish all morning or because you could hardly find any space on the water period, remember you have options. Don’t let an off day from work turn into a nightmare, get creative and get after it this fall.