The Colorado Angler Fly Fishing Report – March 26, 2017

March 26th, 2017

The Colorado Angler Fly Fishing Report

 

Plan your next fishing trip knowing you’ll arrive without any surprises. Our professional fishing reports are updated weekly with stream and river flows, recommended flies, equipment, and special fishing tips for the most important fly-fishing destinations in Colorado. To see a detailed fishing report for a specific river, simply scroll below to read more specific information on a particular stretch of river. Make sure to check those out for your river of interest, as they will be able to answer questions pertaining to hatches and flies.

Understanding how fisheries change during the year, as well as how to approach them is key to growing an angler’s skill set. We hope you use this invaluable information to your advantage. Please feel free to call us at The Colorado Angler, at any time to discuss any questions and concerns you may have about the current conditions. Or stop by and see us in the Summit Place shopping center in Silverthorne, next to Blue Moon Bakery, Exit 205 on I-70, then south 1 block.

Call: Toll Free 855-CO TROUT (268-7688)

Winter Hours:

Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm

Saturday 7:30 am – 6 pm

Sunday 7:30 am – 5 pm

 

Recent Update: March 26, 2017

 

Finally, a return to a more traditional Spring weather pattern.  And by that, we mean a pattern where it actually snows every couple of days in between all the fantastic sunshine that has made for an incredible early start to the season.  This will be the first of a couple of big changes affecting conditions.  With this type of weather cycle, look for a change not only to stream flows but, clarity as well.  Overall we should see a slight decline in stream flows, as the cooler temperatures will slow the melt to the snow pack.  We are seeing just that on the Colorado, Arkansas and Eagle.

However, clarity will have the potential to become a little less stable at times.  Snow at this time of year tends to have a relatively short shelf life.  Once the storms clears out and the sun returns, a good deal of that new snow at lower elevations, along the valleys and roadways will melt and run into the river, bringing with it a little added color.  This typically will be short lived, with only a day or even a couple of hours of impact to the clarity.  As well, it can be localized in it’s scope and you might be able to work around it by moving up or down stream.  Once that new layer of snow is gone, clarity to should return to some semblance of normal until the true run-off starts, usually around the third week of May.

The forecast over the next couple of weeks looks like more of the same and that is great news to anglers.  Although it may be a little frustrating to wake up with a fresh layer of snow on the ground after several weeks of early spring, it will help insure that our snow pack lasts into summer, providing the source of healthy rivers through August.  Not to mention that a snow day could provide the ideal overcast skies for encouraging surface feeding on Midge and Baetis hatches that have been emerging across local rivers.

The other noticeable change to conditions around the high country will be the drop in flows on the Arkansas.  Late this past week, water managers determined they had made adequate space in Twin Lakes to capture snow melt this spring and ended the release that had boosted flows over the past few months.  With this development, look for flows along the river to be about half of what they were at the start of the past week.  This will be good news for wading anglers and Brown trout fry, while not so good for early season float anglers looking for something different.

General ideals on approach.

Fishing continues to provide better than average results for this time of year but, that is all relative. Keep in mind that it is still March and water temps and hatches are still a little behind air temperatures. Early in the day, continue to focus your attention on the water that shelters fish with less effort/energy exertion, such as deeper runs and slower seems adjacent to the main channel. As the day warms you may find fish in some locations moving out of those sheltering lies and into the slightly swifter currents adjacent to the main channel or just below a riffle in order to feed on drifting nymphs. While nymphing continues to be the most consistent approach across the area, there are scattered pockets of surface activity to be found. With Midge hatches widespread and early Spring Baetis starting to show up on the Colorado, Roaring Fork, Eagle and Arkansas. Considering how bright it has been lately, we are anticipating the potential for some fairly good dry fly action later next week when clouds return to the forecast.

Detail reports below will give more specific information on a particular stretch of river. Make sure to check those out for your river of interest, as they will be able to answer questions pertaining to hatches and flies.

 

Blue River Below Dillon Reservoir

Flow: 81 cfs.
Conditions: Spring Break has arrived. Combine that with the unseasonably warm early March that we are having and it is safe to say that river traffic on the Blue tailwater has been brisk.  Although, it has been inconsistent with regards to time of day for that traffic.  There are still periods of the day that seem wide open if you are willing to be flexible.  Low tailwater conditions should remain for at least the next month or two, as the bottom release is here to stay until Denver Water decides that there is enough snow-pack to warrant a purge of the stored water in the reservoir.  Look for the feeding to be mostly subsurface, on the typical tailwater patterns for Midges and Baetis.  As well, because we are continuing to see a bottom feed there are Mysis entering the river from the lake.  Although, the bug fishing has been more consistent than the shrimpin’ at these low flows, once they make the decision to get ready for spring by releasing more water, we will begin to see a tremendous amount of Mysis pour into the river from the lake. Black, Red and shades of Brown have been solid along with some flashier colors producing at times.  As flows remain at these winter levels, tippet size needs to stay light. 5 and 6x seem to be getting the job done, either mono or fluoro.  Even though flows are still low, don’t overlook the need for weight at this time of year.  Still one of the greatest factors separating nymph fishermen from successful nymph fishermen is misreading the amount of weight for the situation.  Try at least a BB size split shot to help you get down.  There may now be the opportunity to throw dries here in town, if you are committed to that sort of thing.  However, it will be very sporadic and not likely to be wide spread.  If you happen upon rising fish, emergent Midge imitations in Black, Grey and Chocolate have worked for us.  Traffic on the river has been day-to-day, with some days virtually deserted while others standing room only.  Hard to say why but, it seems as with the milder temperatures there is more open water elsewhere, thus providing more options and keeping town tolerable.  Going forward into the spring the air temps will be rising and so will traffic. 

Town Flies: Flossy Worm, Red Neck Midge, Glassy Brassie, Mirage Zebra Midge, Desert Storm, Rainbow Warrior, Black Beauty, Brassie, UV Emerger, Biot Midge, Lil Spanker, Tungsten Psycho May-Black, Kingery’s Cap’n Hook, Rojo Midge, Tube Midge – Black or Red, RS-2 – Black or Dun, WD40 – Black or Chocolate, Two Bit Hooker, Zebra Midge, Otter Soft Milking Egg, Bead Eggs, And work in a streamer every once in a while, as well. Often over looked but, randomly deadly.


Blue River Below Green Mountain

Flow: 240 +/- cfs.
Conditions:  Flows continue to run at their Winter levels, even though it has been rather Spring-like, which is still the low flow for the season.   Crossing the river remains possible for most waders, more than doubling the amount of access downstream.  Look for nymphing to be the most consistent approach throughout the day as the cold and dark character of the canyon will limit all but sporadic hatches of Midges.  Although Baetis and Midge larva and pupa imitations will be the most productive patterns to throw, there can also be some decent action at times on a multitude of flies due to the diverse food supply here.  Typically, we would rig up with either a Midge or Baetis as the trailing fly and in front of that run anything from a Stonefly, to a Baetis, or a Drake or searching nymph imitation.  Even though those larger bugs may not be hatching at this time of year, their nymphs are in the river and may be migrating, molting or become dislodged and end up drifting and available.  At this time of year look for fish to be sheltering in water that allows them to conserve as much energy as possible such as deeper and slower runs, as well as the tail outs of pools and flats or along the inside edge of eddy lines.  Your tippet size should be around 4 and 5x and make sure to use enough weight to get it down to those fish holding tight to the bottom.  If you haven’t fished this spot in the winter, be prepared for an icebox scenario.  With the combination of an inversion and a canyon that blocks out direct sunlight, this spot can be 10 to 15 degrees colder than here in Silverthorne.  Dress warmer than you think you need to.  And definitely be careful on the climb down to the river from the parking lot, nothing ruins a day like doing the “slide for life” into the river before you even wet your line. 

Flies: Big bead heads: Deep Dish Green Drake, Hare’s Ear, Tungteaser, Pheasant Tail, Stubby Stone, Twenty Incher, Rubberlegs, Psycho Prince, Green Drake Nymph, Duracell Jig, Flossy Worm. The Smaller Stuff: Aero Baetis, RS-2, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, Barr’s BWO, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Juju Baetis, Red Neck Midge, Tube Midge, Biot Pupa, Mirage Zebra,Otter Egg.

Floaters should note: The river volume on this stretch of water can change on an infrequent schedule and often. It is important to know the flow before you launch and make an honest assessment of your ability and watercraft capability. Please respect private property rights along the river. At 1,500 cfs the bridges are impassable. Under 500 become questionable for clearance of certain boats.


Colorado River Above Kremmling (Parshall)

Flow: 275 cfs. +/-
Conditions:  Flows remain steady with the aid of the Williams Fork Tailwater release, making this a solid year-round destination for wade anglers, let alone this remarkably warm early Spring.  By now the river is wide open through the public water access points from the Willie’s all the way down through the Reeder Creek BLM site.  The Breeze Unit/Kids Pond/Parshal Hole tend to get the majority of attention through the Winter due to their proximity to the tailwater and subsequent open water but, there are some great early season opportunities just downstream at Sunset and Reeder.  As with most of our action right now, nymphing will be the most consistent approach using a tandem rig under an indicator.  However, committed dry fly anglers should still be able to find a riser here and there with the increase in insect activity.  That will be mostly Midges but, keep an eye out for micro Winter Stones and Baetis are right around the corner.  As for the nymphing, while you should focus on Baetis and Midge larva and pupa imitations, there can also be some success on small searching nymphs such as Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns, as well as Stonefly imitations and Egg patterns.  Low and clear flows will necessitate tippet from 5 to 6x either in mono or fluorocarbon.  Don’t overlook the importance of using enough weight.  Make sure to have enough to get your flies down to the depths where fish will be sheltering to conserve energy.  As well, you want to start off in deep runs, tail outs of flats or the inside edge of eddy lines.  These types of lies will allow for almost no exertion from fish.  Then as the sun warms the water and insect activity picks up, look for trout to move a little closer to current lines to feed on drifting nymphs.  While you may see some activity early in the day, more likely that action is going to be most consistent from late in the morning to mid afternoon when the day is at its warmest. As the days are getting warmer be ready for Baetis season to kick off shortly.

 

Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Hurless Stone Nymph, Flossy Worm, CDC Pheasant Tail, Bead Prince, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead Nymph, Lil Spanker, Tungsten Hackled, Buckskin #16-20, Pheasant Tail #14-22, Black Copper John #20-22, Small Prince Nymphs, Black Pheasant Tail, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, Tungsten Micro Mayfly Brown, Tungsten Juju Baetis, Aero Baetis, Root Beer Float, Zebra Midge, Red Neck Midge, Biot Midge, 5-0 Midge, WD40, Pure Midge Larva


Colorado River Pumphouse to Dotsero

Flow:  745 cfs. @ Pumphouse
Conditions:  The above average temperatures have all but cleared the river of ice, with just a few chunks hanging on in the shadier locations.  This is a good 3 to 4 weeks ahead of schedule and a welcome sign to winter weary anglers.  Yet the river has not fully transitioned into Spring completely, as water temperatures will still be a little behind that advance.  With a continuation of above average temperatures in the near future we expect those to start creeping up and generating a wider range of insect activity.  Results have be most consistent using nymphs and midge patterns.  We continue to fish classic tandem nymph rigs with minimal weight.  Between Pumphouse and Dotsero, look for sunny and deep spots with slow moving water.  Midge larva and pupa along with Baetis nymphs behind a beaded searching pattern or even a standard Pat’s would be as good as any rig to start with at this time of year.  With the Middle Park inversion having an effect on air temperatures, overnight lows here can take a little while to rebound during the day.  That being the case, don’t be too impatient with the action, it might not be until late morning/early afternoon before fish respond to your flies. And be prepared to encounter your fellow anglers out there.  Weekend traffic has certainly been above average for March but, with the lack of a decent powder day in the past several weeks there’s just a little bit of cabin fever going on.  Further downstream in the Cottonwood to Dotsero area, there have been some reports of good early season streamer action.  That can be day-to-day though, so be prepared to rally with a nymph rig if the meat eaters aren’t responding. 

Flies: Lil Spanker, Juju Baetis, Split Case BWO, Mayfly Micro, Root-beer Float, Two Bit Hooker, Zebra Midge, Glassy Brassie, Black Mirage, RS2, Redneck Midge, Blood Midge, Black Copper John, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Duracell, San Juan Worm, Huevos


Colorado Below Glenwood Springs

Flow: 2270 cfs.
Conditions:  A great option at this time of year, as flows are fairly low and relatively clear, giving the river an angler friendly condition, both for wading and floating.  At an elevation around 5,700 feet, the climate along the lower river can offer a nearly year round freestone option, with just a 5 or 6 week window that might produce ice flow in the channel.  Results have been most consistent on nymph patterns fished as part of a traditional tandem nymph rig.  A wide mix of imitations are still in play including Stoneflies, Baetis, Midges and searching patterns.  Although the river is near seasonal lows for the year, it is still a big river that can intimidate anglers on their first trip to fish it.  Just remember to break it down into smaller pieces as you look at it and not try to fish the entire river at once.  It is big water more ideally covered with a boat and wading can be a tough endeavor the first time or two but, once you get dialed in on where to access and where the fish are holding, results can be solid for both wading and floating anglers.  Make sure to be thorough in your covering of water types while searching for where fish are active.  Big pockets, inside seams of riffles and eddy lines all provide good feeding lies for fish.  Clarity at the moment continues to be mostly fish-able but, there will be times that upstream snow melt shuts it down.  This is a spot where you may not get “gin clear” water very often but, that is actually a good thing.  If you are not used to fishing water that carries a certain amount of color to it, here is a good general rule for the lower river: Green is good, brown is down. Whether it’s a foot, or four of visibility, as long as it has a greenish tint to it, you should be able to find feeding fish.  With that being the case, take advantage of the situation to bump up your tippet size to 3 or 4x to give you a little edge in landing what you are able to hook.  This stretch consistently produces some of the nicest Rainbows on the Colorado River and late winter and early spring is a great time to get out and explore this overlooked location.
 

Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs, Tungteaser, Bead Prince, Twenty Incher, Iron sally, Tungstone, Delektable Bug-Golden or Brown, Duracell Jig,Tungsten Pheasant Tail, Bead Hares Ear, San Juan Worm patterns, Zebra Midge, Lil Spanker, Tung Psycho May, Big Spanker, Rainbow Warrior, Magic Fly, RS-2, Bead Eggs, Otter Egg, Flossy Worm


 

Arkansas River Above Buena Vista

Flow: 153 cfs. @ Granite
Conditions:  Starting to see an improvement in the upper valley.  Action has been picking up over the past several weeks in the stretch below Balltown, where Lake Creek dumps in and keeps the river ice free.  That stretch will continue to be the better option for now but, we are seeing the river break up in the public access above there, through Hayden Meadows/Kobe.  However, we wouldn’t get too crazy about the action there just yet.  Water temps at nearly ten thousand feet are still on the chilly side.  Instead focus your efforts on that water between Balltown and Granite.  Being this high up in the drainage, things are still going to be a little less intense than farther down river in the Salida area but, we have been seeing decent results and no crowds.  Tandem nymph rigs anchored with either a small Stonefly, Mayfly or searching nymph followed up with a Baetis or Midge larva/pupa will offer the best set up to prospect for fish.  Look for fish to be holding in some of the deeper runs, with slower currents and a little bit of depth for cover.  As with most freestone options available now, no need to rush out there at the crack of dawn.  Wait until mid-morning and fish the warmest part of the day.  Remember these areas are at or near 10,000′, make sure you have the proper attire and equipment for the cold weather. 

Flies: Aero Baetis, Tung Psycho May, Juju Baetis, Poison Tung, Pure Midge Larva, Red Neck Midge, Biot Pupa, Mirage Zebra Midge, Duracell, Copper John, BH Pheasant Tail, BH Hare’s Ear, Lil Spanker, Hot Wire Prince, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead Jig, Flossy Worm, Silver Bullet, Sparkle Minnow.


Arkansas River Salida Area

Flow: 278 cfs. @ Salida
Conditions: We have found the most consistent open water in the valley from Stone Bridge down to Salida, where there is a greater exposure to sun to help keep the river open.  However, the past couple of weeks or so has been very warm in the Salida valley and the action in the canyon stretches of Brown’s Canyon and on down into Big Horn Sheep Canyon is hitting it’s stride.  This is one of our favorite early season destinations, both for it’s action and lack of crowds.  While some rivers may be limited for public access, the Ark offers dozens of miles of public wade and float access at this time of year.  Midges are wide spread from Hecla down and the Baetis are starting to pop from Salida down stream.  Results have been best from late morning into late afternoon.  Early in the day, focus your efforts on the winter holding water such as deeper and slower current runs, or in eddies just off the seams.  As temperatures climb late in the morning/early afternoon, look for fish to venture out into a little more current to feed on drifting nymphs.  Clear water along with the slow lies will call for finer tippet in the 5 to 6x range.  Fish a tandem nymph rig with a mix of searching nymphs, small Stoneflies and Mayflies as the lead followed up with a small Baetis nymph or Midge larva/pupa.  Once this high pressure ridge breaks down and we see some clouds return, the dry fly fishing should pick up and provide plenty of surface action. 

Flies: Beadhead Pheasant Tail, Beadhead Prince, Beadhead Hare’s Ear, Red or Chartreuse Copper John, Hot Wire Prince, Iron Sallie, Psycho Prince, Hammerhead, Duracell Jig, Zebra Midge, Poison Tung, Rainbow Warrior, Poison Tung, Brassie, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Mirage Midge, Red Neck Midge, Biot Pupa Midge


Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs

Flow: 704 cfs.
Conditions:  Starting to see an impact from the warm temperatures over the past couple of weeks, as the Crystal is adding a good bit of color. However, there is still plenty of action to be found.  Both in the lower valley, where clarity may be suspect at times, as well as the upper river where things still have the appearance of a productive trout stream.  As with the lower Colorado, the tint of the color of the river is the key, with the greener shades being generally productive and the brownish colors being less.  Spring fishing on the Fork has been very good the past few weeks, with Midges and an increasing Baetis emergence offering plenty of food for post Winter trout.  Nymphing has been consistent all day long and offers the best chance for success day in and day out.  But, there are some robust sized BWOs coming off in the early afternoon.  Midges and Baetis will be the bulk of the actual active insects, but with a very diverse biomass in the river don’t hesitate to drift Stonefly, Caddis and small searching patterns along with those hatch matching imitations.  Late morning to mid-afternoon will be most productive once the water has a chance to rebound from overnight lows, with a little bit of sun on the water being a positive scenario.  The public water through Glenwood will enjoy the warmer temps on the river but, don’t overlook the access up in Basalt where tailwater flows from the Frying Pan can give a little shot of life to the river up valley, not to mention the cleaner water. 

Flies: Midge Emergers, UV Emerger, Tungteaser, Beaded Pheasant Tail, Pat’s Rubber Legs #8-10, Psycho Prince, Tungsten Yellow Sally, Tungstone, CDC Prince, Hot Wire Prince, Standard Pheasant Tail, Tung Psycho May, Split Case BWO, RS2, Frenchie, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Duracell Jig, Root Beer Float, Foam Wing RS2,


South Platte River, Middle Fork

Flow: 20 +/- cfs.
Conditions: Starting to open up and offer pockets of decent action. Although, this is still a higher elevation than you think and water temperatures are on the low side. Focus on the deeper lies that offer shelter from the current yet availability to drifting food.

Flies: Beaded Prince, Duracell Jig, Hammerhead Jig, Red Collar PT, Beaded Pheasant Tail, Big Spanker, Zebra Midge, Mirage Midge, Red Neck Midge


South Platte, Dream Stream

Flow: 72 cfs.
Conditions: Stream flows have bumped back up after plummeting a couple of weeks back.  This is good news for the potential of a successful spawn. That is if we can keep too many people from wading through beds, or just as bad, harassing fish while they spawn by hooking them.  This spot seems to suffer from the largest collective ignorance of any in the state.  And by ignorance, we are hoping that it is just that, people are uninformed on the damage that they could be doing, rather than indifferent to the damage that they are causing, all in the name of a photo of a big fish.  We have all seen it happen.  There are anglers that stand over spawning beds and cast at fish trying to procreate.  If you don’t already know, this is the single most stressful time of the year for any fish.  Any additional stress on that fish very well could cause at the least an unsuccessful spawn and at worst, death.  With the lure of big fish in shallow water it’s too much for uneducated anglers to resist.  If you must go, PLEASE do not fish to fish that are actively on spawning beds.  There are still resident fish in the river, as well as fish that are in water that is not conducive to spawning.  Please think about the long term health of our fisheries. 

Flies: Loop Wing Emerger, Pure Midge Larva Black or Pale Olive, Black, Red, Chartreuse Copper John, Juju Baetis, Buckskin, Caddis Larva, Poxybiot Nymph, Desert Storm Chartreuse, Tube Midge, Poison Tung, Zebra Midge Black/Silver, Barr’s Emerger BWO, RS2, Poxybiot Nymph, Egg Patterns, Cap’n Hook, Disco Midge, San Juan Work variations


Williams Fork River Below Dam

Flow: 72 cfs
Conditions:  Releases from the Dam remain low and clear.  Midges are starting to take over in the volume for most active insects at the moment but, there are still some pockets of Blue Wings on individual days .  Tandem rigs with a mix of those Midges and Baetis, along with the odd Caddis and small Stonefly imitation or San Juan Worm and Egg patterns have been seeing the most consistent results.  Bump tippet back down to 5 and 6x along with moderate amount of weight.  Look for water types that offer good cover from predators and avoid fishing over spawning fish.  Being a tailwater, the water temperatures are much more stable in their daily swing, thus offering the potential to see action throughout the day. (You don’t have to wait for water to warm up as it comes out of the dam at the same temperature day or night and the fish have acclimated to that.) Which is good since you generally have to get there early to beat the traffic.

 

Flies: Split Case BWO, Poxy-Biot Nymph, Buckskin, Flossy Worm, Little Brown Bug, Two Bit Hooker, Flash Back Pheasant Tail, Tungsten Micro Mayfly, Big Bear Baetis, Tungsten Psycho May BWO, Pure Midge Larva, Rainbow Warrior, Rojo Midge, Biot mayfly Emerger, #20-22 Green Copper John, Zebra Midge, RS2’s, 5-0 Midge, UV Emerger


Eagle River

Flow: 323 cfs at Gypsum
Conditions: Spring has sprung and the impact of that has hit the river.  The past week or so has seen a total degradation to clarity in the stretch downstream from Milk Creek below Wolcott.  For the most part, that stretch is unfishable but, now that we are returning to this weather pattern that includes some clouds and cooling temps, there may be pockets where clarity improves enough to offer some chance at success if you are in the right place at the right time.  Nymphing has provided the most consistent results, with solid steady action on Midge and Baetis imitations along with beaded searching patterns and mid-sized Stones.  As water conditions have been varying, so has the range of tippet size allowing for anything from 3 to 5x. Look for fish to be sheltering in water that offers them a little more cover from predators, such as deeper runs and moderate current with some fish moving into pocket and tail outs of runs as the water warms later in the day.  With a lower elevation and wide open valley to offer plenty of sun, the Eagle sees a nice swing in water temperature over the course of the day from Minturn down to Dotsero, providing a lot of room for anglers to spread out on when clarity allows.  The rating for the Eagle is a little lower than it is actually fishing right now.  However, with the diminished access due to dirty water we don’t want to oversell the overall experience, because it isn’t as good as it could be with the entire river in play. 

Flies: Iron Sally, Duracell Jig, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Tungteaser, Bead Head Hare’s Ear, Psycho Prince, Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Buckskin Caddis, Lil Spanker, Big Spanker, Root Beer Float, Tung Psycho May, RS-2, Zebra Midge, Biot Midge, Red Neck Midge, Mirage Zebra Midge, Standard Pheasant Tail 18-22, G6 Caddis, Lite Bright Caddis, Tube Midge, Desert Storm, Barr’s Emerger, Juju stuff, Spaghetti and Meatballs.


Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Conditions: Closed for the season.

Flies:


Delaney Buttes Lakes

Conditions: Ice

Flies: Eggs, Hale Bopp Leech, Squirrel Leech, Egg Sucking Leech, Rojo Grande, Jumbo Juju, Zebra, CDC Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, Duracell Jig, Hammerhead Jig etc