"LISTEN, IF YOU'RE GOING TO DRINK a beer on the boat, crack it, sit down and drink it. Then when you’re finished, get back to fishing,” said my buddy. “You can’t drink beer and fish at the same time – especially on this river right now.” That little gem of advice was shared as we pinballed in a raft down a whitewater stretch of a river on-the-drop. The fishing was fast and furious. Casts had to be accurate, mends had to be made surgically and dry fly drifts were typically short-and-to-the-point. Most of the time I had myself corked tightly into the raft’s lean bar and casting frame. And of course, we T-boned a few rocks along the way which would have sent a beer can overboard or to the raft’s floor – for sure.
But, when everything came together the trout were hungry and the strikes were powerful.
There are certain sections of special rivers in Colorado that can only be floated – and in many cases fished by the public – for a very short window of time each year as rivers drop from peak springtime flows. Too early, and the river is still blown out and the fish are not in a feeding-frame-of-mind. Too late, and the rivers are no longer passable as they flow through private property.
It’s kind of like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”– the temperature of the porridge needs to be just right.
The Yampa, the Rio Grande, the Eagle – are just a few of these examples.
Some years I’m lucky enough to fish these sections of river and in other years, not so much. Most of the time, it is by invitation only. Or sometimes, a last-minute cancellation creates an open seat in the boat.
After a recent float I had a moment to think about how special these short windows of opportunity really are. Not only can the fishing be amazing as fish start to relax and push further off the banks, but the people I get to fish with tend to be pretty amazing as well. Sometimes I will go a year-or-three without visiting, and when I get back in the boat conversations pick up right where they just left off, the same jokes get cracked, the same laughs happen – and it’s like we just saw each other last week.
And when I say these windows are short and small when these rivers are on the drop – sometimes we’re talking a matter of weeks. And when the drop is complete and these rivers are no longer navigable – fishing on these sections are over, closed to the public.
Until next year – or maybe the next.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Kurt Olesek