Welcome to the Trouts Frisco/Mountain Forecast!
With February upon us, it’s hard to not think about spring being right around the corner. The sun's angle is getting a little higher, the days are a bit longer and we have some periods of warming temperatures. This signals a transitional period for me and gets me thinking about getting on the water more and more. Now, it doesn’t seem so far fetched for a drift on the Colorado River or fishing to rising trout with Blue Wing Olives. Winter by no means has left us but it’s grips are loosening a little and this motivates me to get on the water and see all that Colorado has to offer.A few places I think about visiting this time of year.
The Arkansas from Buena Vista to Canon City:
The Arkansas is quite possibly my favorite place to fish as we start this transitional period. Temperatures tend to lean more towards Front Range weather and the Arkansas River valley’s geology is something to behold after being locked in snow for the past few months. With warming temperatures, this freestone starts to come alive. Fish will still be stacked in the deeper holes and runs, but with daily midge hatches, fishing activity can ramp up during the middle of the day. This is also one of the first freestones to see the year's first Blue Wing Olive hatches. I’ve had some tremendous early season dry fly fishing on the Arkansas River and I will frequent this river's fishing opportunities many times in the months to come.
The Colorado at Parshall below the Williams Fork confluence:
This is another river I will fish frequently over the next few months. This section feels like an oasis in the frozen snowy ground of Grand County. The Colorado on this section is full of aquatic life and holds many fish. Midge hatches and rising fish are a normal daily occurrence on this section of river. Then with the transition of spring you may see larger Rainbows start moving up the river looking for their spawning grounds. Make sure you also take a peek at the Williams Fork if you’re up for the hike in. The fishing can be a little more technical and challenging but when you hook into a fish in the 18-20 inch range in this small stream, the fight can be quite exhilarating.
The South Platte below Spinney Mountain Reservoir (The Dream Stream):
February kicks off the Rainbow and Cutthroat migration out of Eleven Mile Reservoir up into the “Dream Stream”. While news of this also brings the crowds of people looking for some fresh lake run fish, there are plenty of bends on this river section. If you don’t mind walking, you may just find a little less fished hole, stacked with fresh fish. Fishing for these “fresh“ fish is totally acceptable, but please keep in mind that their successful spawn ensures the next generation. So be easy on the fish, return them to the water quickly and keep an eye out for and stay off of spawning beds.
The Colorado from Dotsero to Kremmling:
This may be a little early to start thinking about fishing this section. But, until you drive the Trough Road and see if there are any open sections of water, you will never know. This is by far one of my favorite spring fishing destinations as we start to see holes in the ice and bank ice dropping. The fish are stacked up heavily in holes and runs and are fat and healthy from months under the ice. If you find one of these stacked holes, look for hours of fun and some feisty fish.
The Wild Card*- The Yampa below Stagecoach Reservoir:
Believe it or not, I had never fished this Colorado tailwater until the other day. This is a small stream tailwater with just a short public section up by the dam. The numbers of fish and unique geology make this destination a worthwhile experience. Expect a forty minute hike in, in the winter. If you have a fat bike, as some locals did, I am sure you could shave that down to fifteen or twenty. Small flies and tippets are a must and don’t be surprised if you see some rising fish to midges and Blue Wing Olives. We sure did!
Little Black Sloan
With the transition into spring, small stoneflies will start to be moving around in the rivers. This pattern and it’s little yellow sister are great patterns on Colorado Freestone’s in the months to come. Also, don’t rule it out on your local tailwater, as it is a very realistic and fishes well in clear water.
Flashback Pheasant Tail
In my opinion, one of the most versatile patterns of all time. This pattern in its larger sizes looks like a small stonefly or drake nymph, in its medium sizes, it can look like everything from caddis to mayfly nymphs, and in its small sizes, midges and baetis. In the next months to come, having this fly in its original pattern, flashback and tungsten beaded patterns will put fish in the net.
Flash Tail Egg in Salmon Egg
Since we have been talking about Rainbow Trout on the move for their spawn, we should have a favorite egg pattern in the mix. For me salmon egg or pink is my favorite color in the spring. However, have yellow, chartreuse and orange in your box, as sometimes a change up is needed or the water is a bit off color and you need to bring some extra attention to your fly.
This fly has quickly become a favorite of mine. All the colors should have a place in your fly box, but during the winter months my favorite color has been the gray. With its light color and a bit of a collar it can look like an emerging midge. This color In fact caught quite a few fish on the Yampa for me recently.
Mercury Black Beauty
Another fly that does quite well for me through the winter months is the Black Beauty, Mercury Black Beauty and Tungsten Black Beauty. The Mercury Black Beauty falls right in the middle of these two patterns. Not as small and muted as the black beauty and not as heavy as the zebra midge. Add in the glass bead to give a little flash or bubble and this is a great pattern to fish in varying conditions.
Flows:The Arkansas at Salida- 208 CFS
As I have been talking about the feeling of transition in the weeks to come, the weather looks to be of the wintery sort for the next ten days. A couple good storm systems will bring much needed snow to the Colorado rockies. In the first part, we will see some high temperatures in the twenties and some lows in the teens, with the potential for a significant snow storm. As we move through the first storm system, highs will move back to the thirties and lows to the twenties, with a chance of snow on most days. Watch the weather at your destinations of choice and look for the best opportunities for travel and the fishing.