Can it be? Is winter finally gone!? There is no snow whatsoever in the extended forecast. We may have finally shaken it for good… game on! Much of what you see below may be almost identical to last month’s forecast, as Punxsutawney Phil got it right for once, and we had the second snowiest March on record, leaving some progress on hold. We can put all of that behind us now and look forward to an April of warmwater bounty.
March provided a much-needed steady influx of water through the urban corridor. Increased flows from the deluge of snowmelt received in the past three weeks has kept the river clean of early weed growth and added plenty of cover to keep pressure down. This week, we will see increased ambient and water temps, stimulating feeding in the species of warmer preference (carp & smallmouth) but remaining cool enough for the small sample of trout and walleye in the system to stay quite active. Transitional mediocre clarity near the end of a big snow melt or rain day is my absolute favorite, as carp push up into skinnier water than normal under the cover of the increase in flows and turbidity and fueled by a nice metabolism bump from the warmup, feed more aggressively than is the norm for winter carp. Check out Will Rice’s recent article on the blog for more tips on fishing off-color water in the DSP. Outside of water influxes, expect good clarity on the river, perfect for sight fishing, but demanding of stealth approaches and quality presentations. As we get closer to spawn, the DSP carp population is putting on weight quickly, both from aggressive eating and fast-growing egg sacks in the females. The biggest carp of the year are caught in April, and it is the best time to break the High 20’s to 30lb mark!!!
Small Lakes and Ponds:
From zero to 60! Our small bodies of water will see major changes over the next week. Lots of sun and warmth will jumpstart your local park pond, and all of their inhabitants will be on patrol, looking to regain calories lost over the long winter. Just like March, you need to embrace the “slow and small” mantra - as water temps, while much warmer, are still not ideal. Find structure, and you will find fish. Submerged logs, christmas trees, docks and buoys, all provide cover, and an ambush point, making a meal attempt less of a drain on precious calories. Finesse presentations are key as the metabolism of these fish is still quite slow. Jigging Senko-style worm patterns, crayfish, and jigged buggers near structure is the ticket. Carp fishing in small ponds should be epic in the coming weeks, as fish feed aggressively before the spawn in mid-late May.
This is by far the BEST time of year for targeting trout and walleye in large Front Range reservoirs. Most large impoundments are stocked regularly with trout, and are favorable to holdovers, so you can find some surprisingly large trout close to home. Targeting these stillwater trout is much the same as you do in your favorite South Park stillwater impoundment. Twitching leeches and buggers can produce remarkable numbers. After the next few warm days, chironomids should be in full swing, and more importantly on the minds, and in the bellies of your neighborhood rainbow trout.
As we mentioned last month, the star of the show from now until late April is the walleye! As water temps approach the low 40’s, walleye move to riprap dams to spawn. Before the spawn they feed aggressively to prepare, and some of the largest walleye of the year are caught during the pre-spawn period. Keep in mind that walleye prefer to feed in low light, so night fishing and overcast days are your best bets. You will need some specialized gear and tactics to chase Walleye on the fly in Colorado:
1. Some level of sinking line to target specific depths, and continue to present at that depth when a pattern is established. I like the Airflo Stillwater Camo Intermediate for shallower impoundments, and the Scientific Anglers Sonar Intermediate/Sink 3/Sink 5 for deeper lakes.
2. Line management when fishing on the snaggy riprap dams of Colorado’s reservoirs is crucial, and a stripping basket, like the Orvis Stripping Basket can be a game changer.
3. Lastly, it will be dark when you are fishing, and you’ll need a good headlamp to tie nots, and more importantly, safely walk the riprap. The Loon Nocturnal Headlamp is a great choice, and plenty bright.
Walleye fishing is all about the pause. Vary your stripping and include painfully long pauses (sometimes 4-5 seconds) until you find the pattern that they prefer, once dialed, that pattern should produce until there is a weather, temp or lunar change. If you would like to dig in more to the barometric and lunar effects on fish behaviors, there are a ton of resources on the web, and it is a dangerous, but crazy interesting rabbit hole to fall into. In walleye fishing, crappy weather is a good thing, if it’s too nice, they probably won’t be active. The old saying goes “no wind, no walleye…..”
Rick's Flies for March Warm Water
Carp: Umpqua Jigged Wooly Bugger - Peacock
Bass: Solitude Jigged Dead Drop Minnow (Available at Denver Shop)
Bass: Umpqua Geezus Lizard - Crayfish (Available at Denver Shop)
Walleye: Umpqua Clouser Minnow
Trout: Umpqua Chironomid Pupa
Everything: Umpqua Pops Bugger in Crystal (Available in Denver Shop)