Trouts Journal

Finding Elbow Room

Ivan Orsic / Oct 29, 2021

As fall begins in Colorado, so does the anticipation of the fabled brown trout running 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 the angler's brains. Look, I am no different than anyone else in that regard. Big and aggressive browns out on the hunt for easy calories are something I will be hunting 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 offers the best shoulder-to-shoulder fishing experience in the state of Colorado over the next few months. With that experience comes the horror stories of riverside arguments, parking lot incidents, and some of the most embarrassing meme-worthy situations for the fly fishing community.

If you weren't aware, over the next couple of months, brown trout will migrate out of every lake or reservoir. All simply preparing for their yearly rituals across any stream or river within Colorado. While they won't be trapped by a dam in a four-mile stretch of river, there will be plenty of trophies to be had.

Over these next few months, there will also be endless debates on ethics or unethical tactics when targeting these migratory fish. Before we move on, I think it is crucial to remember, folks, I am not here to preach and tell you you shouldn't fish the Dream this fall. I simply am here to say to you brown trout in every fishery in Colorado do the same thing as they do at the Dream. If we agree that this is the case, the rest of this blog will be devoted to helping find a little elbow room this fall. Oh, and not ending up on one of those Instagram meme pages.

Number 1 - Colorado Tailwaters

Sure brown trout are the prize of fall, but what is wrong with some big fall rainbows mixed in? Nothing. I'll admit this though, The Dream Stream concentrates crowds off of other generally crowded riverbanks. Places like Deckers, the Blue, the Frying Pan, and even as far a the Yampa (The voluntary closure on the Yampa ends October 31st) or Taylor will all fish exceptionally well over the next couple of months.

Let us be honest; it is a rare day if you show up to any of the rivers mentioned above and have them to yourselves. And with the growing interest in the sport, those rare days get even rarer as time goes on. However, you will find more open water in the coming months while everyone is locking in on Dream Stream pumpkins. While the Dream certainly gets the most attention out of these tailwaters during the fall months, it is wise to not forget about those other rivers. 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. You just have to be willing to pay for a little more gas in the truck.

Number 2 - Colorado Freestones

Streamers are great. Streamers are actually really great, and Colorado freestones in the fall are tailormade for streamers. Whether you are in a drift boat, raft, or walk wading, rivers such as the Arkansas, Roaring Fork, and the Eagle, need to be on your mind this fall. As the weather begins to cool down, crowds this time of the year will be very light compared to the summer traffic these rivers see. 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 more extensive river system

This is where you have the most opportunity for exploration. I like to call these places the "What if's." We want to believe that there are places within the state of Colorado with big fish that have yet to be tamed. Too often, in Colorado, 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. You have to be willing to put in the work.

If you are unsure about how to figure these rivers out, it is honestly pretty simple. Suppose a Stillwater or more extensive river system has a resident population of brown and brook trout. In that case, they will migrate into feeder and tributary bodies of water. Simple as that.

When it comes to "When," "where," and "how far," it can vary year after year. These sorts of missions aren't easy. 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. I can also promise you that if you put in the leg work, pick a few different places, and take the time with them, it will eventually pay off. There is an old saying that, "Knowledge is Power," while the rewards might not be immediate - nothing is in this sport; if you put in the time, you slowly find what you are looking for.

In closing, I totally understand the draw of the Dream and I will never fault anyone for wanting to go give it a shot. Nonetheless, if you find yourself frustrated in the parking lot at 1 PM, ready to complain about crowds because someone has been sitting on a hole you wanted to fish, remember you have options - A LOT of options.

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