It's no secret, snow has been hard to come by in the high country this winter. But, this week...this week brought some fresh powder to our mountain playgrounds and just in time for the long MLK Day weekend. I'm not much of a skiier, but I think it's safe to assume that snow reports that read "Powder" are generally good, right?
I fancy myself a reasonably smart guy and I understand that many of you might be heading up to the slopes this weekend to carve some freshies into that sweet pow-pow (that's something skiing people do, right?). So, with that in mind, my recommendations for some prime time winter fishing will match those resorts which are seeing the shreddiest of conditions. The weather forecast for this holiday weekend looks stable and pleasant for January (highs in the mid to upper 30s - lows in the teens with a lot of Colorado sunshine). Any long weekend needs a little variety and if you want to escape the slopes for a day or a couple of hours, here are my thoughts on what should be fishing well close to your favorite resorts this weekend.
Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir - OpenSnow.com projects 11" of new snow falling at the Steamboat Resort over the next five days. Seems like a nice place to ski this holiday weekend. If you want to sneak away, the tailwater section of the Yampa is always a worthwhile destination for some winter fishing. The flows below Stagecoach recently bumped from 34 to 43 CFS. While it certainly isn't a massive bump, I like fishing tailwaters after any bumps in flow. More food is present and available for fish to eat and they behave accordingly. I would still expect the Yampa's rainbow trout to be selective, so 5 and 6x are a must. Scuds, midges, RS-2, and small attractors like the Rainbow Warrior will be productive.
Middle and Lower Eagle River - Headed up to the Vail Resort to catch some of the projected 9" of new snow in the next five days? Consider the Eagle River as a quick afternoon getaway. While it is a true freestone, this river can still be very productive during the winter months. With the higher daytime temps and ample sunshine all weekend, the Eagle should provide a nice opportunity to escape those afternoon crowds on the slopes. I'll be honest, if I were just fishing this weekend, the Eagle wouldn't be high on my list. With the recent snow and some lower overnight temperatures, many sections of the Eagle will be frozen over this time of year. However, finding open water is possible, especially below wastewater treatment plants. Look for slow runs, tailouts, and water that gets sun throughout the day and you should find fish stacked up and eager to eat a variety of nymphs from midges and blue-wings to larger stones and attractors. The Eagle can also produce some quality mid-winter dry fly fishing if the conditions are right (Sun is key!), so don't hit the Eagle without your favorite midge, midge clusters or tiny Parachute Adams. I love the Griffith's Gnat, a classic dry, that can also be fished under-weight and an indicator as a nymph or emerger.
Blue River below Dillon Reservoir - With 9" of new snow projected for Breckenridge over the next five days, the Blue River would be an excellent choice for some productive apres-ski fishing this weekend. To me, the Blue River below Silverthorne is it's most appealing during the winter months. With sunny conditions expected on Saturday and Sunday and flows holding steady at around 110 CFS, ample opportunities for sight fishing to some large rainbows will be available all weekend. Headed to dinner, why not hit the Blue beforehand with your pick of Flossy Worms, Mysis, Jujubee Midges, RS-2s, Black Beauties or Brassies. Nothing like catching a trophy rainbow sandwiched between some prime gnar shredding and a fantastic meal.