COLORADO: Flashy Lures More Visible to Trout in Still-Roily Water

For river fishermen across Colorado, the wait goes on. Virtually all free-flowing rivers still are running bank-full and off-color, and even the South Platte tailwaters, which for a number of weeks provided the best stream-fishing conditions in the state, have risen to above-average flows for early July as the reservoirs above them have filled.

Even so, the end may be in sight. While plenty of snow remains at high elevations, many veteran river watchers believe the flows have crested. Though conditions can vary from day to day, hour to hour, reflecting weather changes and dam operations in a particular basin, such observations appear to be supported by the river-flow graphs on the Colorado Division of Water Resources website.

If so, rivers will gradually begin dropping and clearing. Fishing will remain more challenging through the transition to more-typical seasonal flows, but anglers still can enjoy some good times on the higher water.

Spin-fishermen might have an advantage in marginal conditions. Flashy lures will be more visible to trout in still-roily water. Bladed spinners of the Mepps, Panther Martin and Rooster-Tail variety also will send out vibrations through the water that will be detected by the fish.  As a rule, spin-casters can effectively cover more water than fly fishermen and they need not be as concerned with drag, the unnatural drifting of the lure in the currents.

Fly fishers still can find some good opportunities, however.

“I don’t care how high the river is, as long as it’s reasonably clear,” more than one fly fisherman has observed.

Colder water temperatures might have delayed some early summer hatches, but sooner or later, they will come off.  Dark, Pteronarcys stoneflies are a signature hatch on rivers such as the Rio Grande, portions of the Colorado and the lower Gunnison.  Smaller, Yellow Sally stoneflies are common on many rivers including the South Platte.  Pale-morning duns, Tricos and some late blue-wing-olives are the primary mayflies, and several varieties of caddis will hatch, on-and-off, throughout the summer.

Terrestrial insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and crickets become especially important to trout when the water is close to the river banks, and streamer patterns suggest a large mouthful of food to the hungry fish.Kim Clemens fly fishing at Trappers Lake enjoying the scenery and wildlife close-up. Credit Nick Clemens.

High-water trout will be feeding in slower water away from the rushing main currents. Look for them in the pockets of water behind rocks, in eddies near the banks, shallow riffles and quiet pools.

Regardless of their fishing method, wading anglers should be safety conscious. Equipment should include wading soles appropriate for a potentially slippery river bottom, a wading belt and possibly a wading staff, along with a healthy dose of discretion.

Most of all, in the year of the runoff that would never end, anglers looking out across a raging river should remember that nothing lasts forever and this, too, shall pass.

Division of Wildlife

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