It’s July 7th as I write this, and the realities of a below average winter snowpack are showing themselves in different, yet equally troubling ways. We have rivers flowing at below average levels, with water temperatures becoming an increasing concern. We’ve seen hot and dry weather throughout June and into early July, with wildfires burning at an alarming rate and intensity. We haven’t seen a summer like this since 2012, and I think we all suffer from a little short-term memory as to how summers like these can play out.
All in all, there is little debate that this summer is pinpointing the troubling times that can beleaguer fly anglers. But instead of focusing on all the negative, let’s flip the switch and talk about the great fishing opportunities that are available to anglers in Colorado, and how best to maximize your time on the water.
Tailwater fisheries refer to any river flowing below a dam release reservoir. The significance of these fisheries is that they offer a consistent flow of water, at normally lower water temperatures than their freestone counterparts (rivers without any dam release influence). Throughout the beginning of the summer season releases from most of our mountain reservoirs were very minimal as water managers planned for the remainder of the year. But luckily we have seen flows most Tailwaters steadily increase in the past week, increasing flows and dropping water temps on many of our famed trout fisheries. Throughout the remainder of the summer, Tailwater fisheries will be a consistent option when looking for productive trout fishing, so be sure to always consider these rivers when planning your time on the water.
Let’s address the topic we hear most about in-store and online, that being water temperatures. Given our current river levels, we are seeing some drainages reaching unhealthy temperatures during the afternoons and evenings. As such, anybody fishing during this time of year needs to be familiar with the river they are fishing, and know what the current conditions have been in terms of water temperatures and flows. This information can be obtained at either of our Trouts Fly Fishing locations or any local fly shop in the area where you are fishing.
Anglers should be armed with a thermometer to measure the water temps throughout the course of the day and be familiar with the levels noted in the graphic above. Knowing when to get off the water is paramount during summer seasons like this, as we all need to be stewards of the rivers we love and cherish.
The good news is that we have been seeing cold nighttime temperatures in the foothills and high country, and these are helping drawdown water temperatures. This means that from sunrise to 12 pm - 3 pm is the prime time to be on the water, and recent reports from guides and customers have been nothing but stellar.
When in doubt, go higher! No, this isn’t a slogan for our state’s pot industry, but a good mantra for any angler seeking solitude and quality fishing. Mid Summer has always been a prime time of year to strap on your backpack and head up into the high country for some small stream and alpine lake action, and this year is no exception. High country lakes have thawed and turned over for a few weeks, and fishing in these remote areas has been phenomenal as of late.
If you’re new to Colorado, or not quite sure how to access these remote fisheries, feel free to give either shop a call, or even better stop on by for our local knowledge and expertise.
Being in Colorado, we’re all a bit spoiled when it comes to fishing for fish other than trout. And for good reason, with the abundance of world-class fly fishing within a few hours of the Denver Front Range. But there are countless fishing opportunities East of the Rockies that can be an angler's savior during summers like this. From panfish and crappie to smallmouth and largemouth bass, to carp, wipers, and catfish, the warm water fishing opportunities are there for those who are willing to look.
While our main purpose in visiting the Colorado High Country may be fishing, it is important that we all remember to support the numerous Colorado communities that are suffering from this summer’s wildfires. When possible, I have always believed it imperative to not abandon these towns and businesses, but instead, support their economies by visiting and fishing when appropriate and possible. While wildfires are devastating and life changing for far too many, they are a natural part of nature and one that we cannot escape and must ultimately embrace.