Routt County fly-fishers proceed with caution during mud season

Leah Vann
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Flyfisherman John Haslup casts his line into the Elk River in North Routt County last season.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A snowy winter will bode well for Steamboat Springs anglers this summer.

While mud season is tempting for the eager, it’s also a time to be cautious and mindful of the high-flowing conditions of the rivers. The current is not only dangerous for humans, but it’s also a time of year that fish are under a lot of stress.

“This time of year you really look at the lakes,” Jeremy Gilmer, a fishing guide with the Yampa Valley Anglers said. “These fish are already stressed out due to spring runoff. Fishing is possible in high, dirty water, but it should be in the back of your mind that these fish are already struggling and not to add any unnecessary stress.”

Gilmer advises to be good river stewards, picking up trash to keep the Yampa clean, while also being mindful of its ecosystem. Spring is spawning season for many species of fish, including the rainbow trout.

“If we kill these fish while they are making babies, then we won’t have a lot of fish left down the line,” Gilmer said. “It’s about being ethical and not fishing while they are spawning.”

Since rivers are flowing at a higher rate with the rise in temperature, the water is murky, making it harder for fish to find food. They tend to congregate in slower areas. However, there is one option for Routt County fly-fishers who are looking to fish in a river.

“The best place right now is the Stagecoach tailwaters because the water they release out of the reservoir doesn’t run as fast as the other rivers,” Bucking Rainbow Outfitters owner John Duty said. “I would say another option would be some lakes, but most of the other rivers will be running dirty and too big to do much fishing.”

Hiking to lakes like Stagecoach Reservoir are advantageous this time of year since the ice just melted off the surface. According to Steamboat Flyfisher’s website, Steamboat Lake’s ice had not melted as of Thursday.

“When the ice first comes off, the fish are cruising and very hungry,” Steamboat Flyfisher owner Johnny Spillane said. “So it’s a really good time to be there, fish haven’t been fished most of the winter.”

Seasoned anglers eager to get started might find the tailwaters crowded with too many people this time of year and search for out-of-town rivers like the Green River in Utah or along the Colorado River in other parts of the state. Shorter day trips to the White River in Meeker are also an option for locals.

As for other lake options in the area, Gilmer proposes heading to the Green Mountain Reservoir, Grand Lake, Lake Granby and Flaming Gorge.

Both Duty and Spillane said mud season is a great time for people looking to get started in fly-fishing. It’s a time for people to learn before the upcoming season.

Bucking Rainbow Outfitters offers three-hour fly fishing clinics at Fetcher’s Park for $125 per person. Steamboat Flyfisher offers guided fly fishing trips for one person at $275 and two people at $350. Yampa Valley Anglers offers river float trips starting at $525 for a full day and $425 for a half day for two people.

Steamboat Flyfisher will host two-day clinics twice in May, including one women-only clinic. The clinic includes one day of classroom instruction and a day of a fishing. Both clinics will be posted on its Facebook page.

As the summer draws near, locals are excited to dip their toes after a successful winter. Being patient for the right conditions will be helpful in the long run.

“We’re all happy to see water,” Gilmer said. “We need to let the rivers plain out and come back to normal. It’s really important to understand it’s their home, and we’re intruding on their place.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.