Fishing Report: As winter runoff looms, conditions can change daily
Weather continues to be the story of Colorado fishing this week. Spring has arrived, but not without a fight, both a boon and a bane for winter-weary anglers.On the bright side, almost all major reservoirs are free of ice. Blue Mesa Reservoir in the frigid Gunnison Valley is the latest entry on the open-water list and, typically, ice-out anglers have enjoyed some success catching lake trout (mackinaw) as well as rainbows and a few browns. Exceptions include Steamboat and Pearl lakes in northwestern Colorado, which received unusually heavy amounts of snow.On the other side of the Continental Divide, a late-spring cold front dropped temperatures and brought a dusting of snow and slick roads to the Front Range. On Tuesday, daytime temperatures in Vail, among other mountain towns, were higher than in Denver. While warm-water fishing was just starting to come around on many eastern-Colorado lakes, the return to subfreezing nighttime temperatures likely set it back a little.Stream fishermen on both sides of the Divide are faced with the annual spring runoff. Virtually all free-flowing streams on the Western Slope are turbid at best, “blown out” at worst, with the melting snow. Some anglers are hoping cooler days and nights will extend the days before the true runoff; other are resigned to the inevitability of virtually unfishable conditions until mid-June at the earliest. The heaviest snow pack was in northern Colorado. That is reflected in the current river conditions. The Colorado and Yampa rivers at present carry the heaviest runoff. The White River is discolored, and the lower Roaring Fork is high and off-color from its Crystal River tributary. Conditions probably will deteriorate in a matter of days.On the Eastern Slope, the Arkansas, South Platte, Big Thompson and Poudre rivers generally were fishable early in the week. Though conditions can change daily, and local inquiry is advised, the celebrated caddis hatch on the Arkansas appeared to be on or slightly ahead of schedule. Blue-wing-olive mayflies, small stoneflies and a scattering of caddis had been evident on the other Front Range rivers.Even so, the runoff appears imminent. Soon enough, the sections of rivers below a dam will offer the best prospects for stream fishermen. The several sections of the South Platte, the Fryingpan below Ruedi Dam and the Blue River below Dillon Dam will become even more important to anglers.For the complete, statewide fishing report, visit http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Reports/StatewideConditions/.Denver MetroClear Creek (above Hwy. 119) – A lot of fish in this are willing to be hooked, but hurry before the runoff begins. Use small Black Beauties, size 19-22; Disco Midges, size 16-20; and small black Pheasant Tails, size 18-20. For dry-fly action, use blue-wing-olive patterns on rainy or overcast days. Find the deep holes, find the big fish. Clear Lake – No current reports about the lake off Guanella Pass are available. The lake is stocked with catchable-sized rainbow trout and also has brook trout and a few browns.NorthwestBlue River (below Green Mountain Reservoir) – The flow below Green Mountain Reservoir has been cut back to 109. The river below the dam is clear and fishable but tributaries have discolored the lower portions. Fishing has been fair to good on egg patterns, San Juan worms and small emerger patterns for some large fish. Spin-casters are throwing No. 7 Rapalas. The tailwater is subject to periodic security closures. Three other public access points are available on BLM land downriver to the confluence with the Colorado River, but they are narrow and anglers are warned to stay off adjoining private property. For current conditions call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.) – Consistent flows from Dillon Reservoir (101 cfs) have helped maintain good fishing in the tailwater section. Below Straight Creek, the water may become off-color around noon during the warmer days. In clear water, the usual Mysis Shrimp, midges, Baetis nymphs, and micro egg patterns are the mainstay. In off-colored water, use a San Juan Worm or bigger egg pattern as attractors, followed by small, Flash Back Pheasant Tails, Zebra Midges, Flash Back Barr’s Emergers, RS-2s or UV Midges. As you go down stream, try BHPTs, Copper Johns and small stonefly nymphs. Hopefully some blue-wing-olive mayflies will appear soon. Colorado River (below Parshall) – The fishing above Kremmling still is fairly good with flows of 981 cfs, but the river is off-color because of the runoff. At Parshall, use small emerger and egg paterns, but be mindful of spawning rainbows and try not to stress the fish. Plenty of good-sized browns also are being caught. At Kremmling, on the public accesses, spin-fishermen are doing well throwing Rapalas and Blue Fox spinners. For current conditions, call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle) – The Colorado River below Glenwood Springs is running high and heavily discolored, and is not fishable. Call the Taylor Creek Flyshop in Basalt for current river conditions at 970-927-4374. Colorado River (near Granby) – Fishing below Parshall remains fairly good. Spring is finally here. Streams usually are fairly clear early in the morning, but on warm afternoons, rivers will have some color. Egg patterns, San Juan worms, small nymphs, black midges, Wooly Buggers and Copper Johns have been working well. The stream flow below Windy Gap last weekend was 410 cfs. In the immediate Granby area and downstream to the bridge at the west end of Byers Canyon, bait fishing is permitted and two fish may be kept. For current conditions call Budget Tackle in Granby at (970) 887-9344. Fryingpan River – The Frying Pan is clear and flowing at 289 cfs below Ruedi Reservoir. Mysis shrimp are coming through the dam in very good numbers, with large, 5-pound-plus fish becoming more commonplace. Midges and BWO’s are the dominant food sources in the upper river. Caddis and small stoneflies also can be found on the lower river. Dry-fly fishing is slowly picking up with the heaviest hatches taking place on the middle and lower river. Good flies include: Tim’s Mysis, Sands’ Epoxy Mysis, Poxyback Baetis, Pheasant Tails, Zebra Midges, RS-2s, Jujubees, Johnny Flashes, Shuckin’ Midges, BTS Baetis, Electric Caddis, Buckskins, Poxybiot Stones, Ethawing Caddis, and CDC Caddis. Grand Lake – Water movement at the East Portal kept open-water fishing conditions in that area most of the winter. Early birds do best fishing the drop-offs before sunrise. The channel between Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake has been available for open-water fishing all winter and has been doing well. Some ice remains, but open water is expanding rapidly. For current conditions call Budget Tackle in Granby at (970) 887-9344. Green Mountain Reservoir – Open water has appeared on about one-half of the reservoir. Some fly fishermen have been working the inlet area. Ice-out also is a good time to fish for lake trout, but ice along the drop-off to the shoreline and mud pose some problems in getting to the water. The north and west ends of the lake still have some ice, which appears to be deteriorating quickly.Rifle Gap Reservoir – The lake is full. The water temperature is 54 degrees. The east Rifle Creek inlet is still somewhat cloudy from snowmelt, but many have had good luck fishing for trout and northern pike. Try deep-running crankbaits or streamer flies for pike. Trout have been hitting Panther Martin spinners and streamer flies. Fishing for bass and walleyes remains slow. The boat ramps and docks are in the water. The catch-all in this lake seems to be a perch-imitation type of lure. For walleyes use a deep-running lure or jig. The regulation on walleyes at Rifle Gap now reads, “Bag, possession limit and minimum size for walleyes is 3, 18 inches long.” The 2006 fishing regulations, fishing information and State Parks Annual passes are available at the visitor center. Rio Blanco Lake – Fishermen have been catching some crappie and bluegills on red, white and chartreuse crappie jigs. A few northern pike were taken last week on crankbaits. For current conditions, call Wyatt’s Sporting Goods in Meeker at (970) 878-4428. Roaring Fork River – The Roaring Fork is clear and fishing well from Aspen to Carbondale. Below Carbondale, the river is discolored. Current river flows are at 73 cfs in Aspen, 721 cfs in Basalt, and 1,540 cfs in Glenwood Springs. Good midge hatches are taking place on the river near Aspen, with decent BWO, caddis, and small brown stonefly hatches occurring below Basalt. Nymph fishing is still the most consistent, and has been very good using San Juan Worms, Princes, 20-Inchers, Flashtail Eggs, and Poxyback Stoneflies as attractor patterns. Successful dropper patterns include RS-2s, Zebra Midges, Biot Midges, Beerhead Baetis, and Bat-wing Emergers. We expect the lower river to remain high and unfishable this week. Call the Taylor Creek Flyshop in Basalt for daily river conditions at 970-927-4374. White River – The river has come up and is discolored, suggesting the runoff is under way somewhat earlier than usual. Fishing is difficult and few have been trying it. For current conditions, call Wyatt’s Sporting Goods in Meeker at (970) 878-4428. Williams Fork Reservoir – With the lake free of ice, fishing is heating up. Big pike are in the shallows and lake trout are being caught in deeper water. Fish the fingers for trout and pike in the flats. Try off the points for big lakers. For current conditions, call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Williams Fork River – The flow is down to around 100 cfs and the fishing is excellent. A lot of rainbow trout are running up the Williams Fork, and plenty of browns are feeding on the eggs. Drift egg paterns or small nymphs to entice the browns. Be mindful of the spawners and try not to stress them too much. For current conditions, call the Fishin’ Hole in Kremmling at (970) 724-9407. Yampa River (Stagecoach through Steamboat) – Fishing in the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir has been good with midge and occasional blue-wing-olive mayfly activity reported. But as essentially the only fishable clear stream in the vicinity, on some days it has been crowded. The runoff has begun around Steamboat Springs. The river likely will be unfishable until mid-June at the earliest. Call the Steamboat Fly Fishing Company at(970) 879-6552 for current conditions. SoutheastArkansas River No. 3 (Through Pueblo) – Flows have been up and down, and early in the week were around 400 cfs. Even so, warm, cloudy days have produced some good hatches of blue-wing-olive mayflies, and trout have been feeding on the surface. If fish are not rising, double bead-head nymph rigs have been effective. Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns have been among the most effective. Frequent stocking of this stretch makes for excellent fishing. Between 30,000 and 40,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout are stocked annually, along with some larger brood fish. Some 20-inchers reportedly were taken last week. Habitat improvements have created deeper pools and structure for the fish to thrive in even when releases from Pueblo Dam are minimal. Standard fishing regulations and limits are in effect on this section of the river. Arkansas River (Buena Vista to Salida) – As of last weekend, flows in Browns Canyon were 350 cfs, with 3-4 feet of visibility. Blue-wing-olive mayflies continue to be the primary food source in this reach, with good hatches on cloudy days. Size 18-20 blue-wing emergers should be fished behind bead-head nymphs or blue-wing dry patterns. Go to http://www.arkanglers.com for more info. Arkansas River (Leadville to Buena Vista) – Flows in the Hayden Meadows area are about 150 cfs, with flows at Granite in the 290 range. Blue-wing-olive mayflies are starting to hatch in this reach, particularly on low-light days. Fish a size 18-20 blue-wing nymph or dry with an emerger trailing. For more info, visit http://www.arkanglers.com. Arkansas River (Salida to Canon City) – Current flows are 365 at Wellsville and 400 at Parkdale, with 3-4 feet of visibility and rising water temperatures. As of last weekend, caddis were hatching from Parkdale upstream to Texas Creek and in localized instances as far up as Vallie Bridge. Look for the bugs to hit Salida this weekend with blue-wing-olive mayflies still hatching in good numbers. Go to http://www.arkanglers.com for updated reports. Clear Creek Reservoir – Clear Creek is open and the boat ramp is accessible. Fishing from a boat along the south shore using Kastmasters or Montera Marvels is working best. Shore fishermen are successful fishing with night crawlers and rainbow or orange Power Bait. Fishing from shore is best from the boat ramp to the dam. Eleven Mile Reservoir – The reservoir is open to boating 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. The bag and possession limit is 10 kokanee salmon and four trout, of which only two can be 16 inches or greater. No limit applies to northern pike. Trout action is fair. Trout are currently spawning, providing the year’s best opportunity for a trophy catch, if patient, using hot-color Power Baits, various jigs and spoons, and night crawlers. Pike fishing is poor using Rapalas and sucker meat. South Platte River (btwn Spinney and Eleven Mile) – The river is open to catch-and-release fishing with artificial flies and lures. Trout are spawning in the river, providing opportunity for trophy catches in deeper pools using orange and yellow egg patterns, No. 18-20 Scuds, San Juan Worms, No. 20-22 Miracle Nymphs, No. 20-22 Black Beauties, and No. 18-22 Copper Johns. SouthwestGunnison River (below Crystal Dam) – The East Portal Road is open. The flow is 709 cfs, well below its early season average. The water is getting some color from Cimarron Crek and from Cirro summit as it drains into the Cimarron. Fishing has been pretty good, especially if you know where and how to fish it when it’s off-color. Egg patterns, scuds, BWOs, Adams, Pheasant Tails, Flashback Pheasant Tails and midges have been the best fly choices. During the spawning season, tread lightly on the redds. For current conditions call the Cimarron Creek Flyshop at 970-249-0408. Gunnison River (through the canyon) – The flow is 704 cfs and the water is off-color from Chukar Trail downstream to the confluence because of runoff below Crystal Dam. Fishing conditions are below par because of the murky water. Some success can be had with a No. 10 Madam X Parachute, brown stoneflies and No. 10 Half-backs. Baetis mayflies are coming off. Look for better conditions soon. No motorized craft are allowed above the North Fork tributary. Other restrictions include: Gold Medal Water, catch-and-release, flies and lures only. No rainbow trout may be kept. The Gunnison River Pleasure Park is offering ferry service to help anglers access the upper river. Call 970-872-2525 for current information.
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