You don't hear much about fly fishing in Colorado during the winter months. But it can be pretty good, even on some of the freestone rivers during warmer periods. This trip started off with plans to primarily fish the Frying Pan below Ruedi. A quick trip by the local flyshop to get my license, some last minute flies and a quick rapport with the shop manager on how the fishing has been. Plans quickly changed when I heard how good the Fork has been fishing. I decided to go ahead and check out the Fork as I only had half a day to fish. I was glad to be on the water and even happier to be on the Fork after just a few drifts I was already hooked up with a feisty brown. The rest of the afternoon found steady action with the fish taking either an egg or the small dropper. For the dropper I mixed it up between small 20-22 pheasant tails, rojo midges, and foam wing emergers. Even though it was snowing fairly heavily the fish didn't mind. Anywhere you found slack water you could count on some fish being there. The sky started getting dark fast and the day ended to quickly, but it was a good way to start the trip.
Friday morning started off extremely cold on the Pan. Air temps at 6 degrees and a fairly swift wind had the wind chill in the negatives. It was beyond cold, I sprayed the rod guides with some pam cooking spray to help minimize water freezing up in the guides. It didn't help much, at those temps everything freezes instantly. I fished the flats and it was loaded with fish. A lot of spawning fish to avoid but plenty of fish staging behind them eating eggs and small jujubee midges. The fish kept the blood warm for a little bit but after a few hours the hands just got to cold. Your typical vampire movie shows scenes of vampires being killed and turning to stone and then just crumbling to pieces. That's how my hands and fingers felt, like solid pieces of glass just waiting to be shattered with the slightest bump. I remember setting the hook on one fish just for the rod to fly out of hand as I had no feeling or touch to keep control. Lucky the rod fell into the crease of my elbow and not in the water and I was still able to land the fish. A nice 18" cuttbow with beautiful colors from feeding on mysis shrimp. I had plans to spend all day up there. I looked at the toilet bowl but fishing an area the size of your average swimming pool with 4 other guys didn't really appeal to me. Eventually the cold and frozen guides got to me and I decided to call it a day early. It was around 11 am and still 17 degrees. I decided to head back to the valley of the Fork were the temps were warmer and the fishing just as good. I finished the day up there, the fishing was slower than the day before but 30 degree temps were a whole lot more manageable.
Day 3 started off fishing a new location on the Fork. A steep snowed covered trail leading down to the river made for some excitement, good thing for studded wading boots. The fishing started off slow, but the sun was out and it was a beautiful morning to be on the river. Generally speaking it is best to fish shadows as that is were the fish will be lying. In cold weather and water fish will normally move up into the sunny shallows to get some warmth from the sun. I rolled 2 really good rainbows that quickly shook the hook. Was able to land one nice brown. I think this spot will be really good in the summer and fall. With the deep water and long runs it should hold some really nice fish. After mid morning I changed locations. Just a few drifts at the new location I hooked and landed a really nice 19-20" rainbow. The fish on the Fork are some of the prettiest rainbows I've seen. For the rest of the afternoon a steadily picked up fish. Most taking a peach egg over the dropper midge. The fishing was regularly interrupted by a flock of geese, mallards or goldeneye's flying over head.
Well on day 4 my luck ran out. The weather turned cold and ice started forming in the river. If you've never seen it; it kinda looks like bubbles at first but its clumps of ice. The ice clumps will vary in size from a golf ball to a grapefruit. They will flow through the whole river and are concentrated enough to were you will be unable to fish as your flies will get hung up in them. Today was only going to be a half day as I had a flight to catch later in the afternoon. So I spent a few minutes just watching the river and reflecting on the blessings of the last few days.
I've been using the New Zealand Strike Indicator for a year or so now. I really like it and am happy to say its one of the few products that live up to its advertisement. For small flies like midges it is super sensitive and will detect even the slightest of strikes. Definitely a product worth checking out.
Great stuff man you have me Trump with 6° but my hunting trip with 13 in a tent LOL. Great fish! As if I did not have enough free time already and it seems like my free time has expanded substantially more we will have to run back up there this summer!
Loc: Nashville, AR
Very nice! Thanks for posting these. They give me hope. I'm planning a trip to Southern Colorado next Thanksgiving. My sister has bought a house in Durango. She's invited my wife and me. I was a little afraid that the fishing would be somewhat limited at that time of year. I think not, though. The temperatures seem to average in November, there, slightly colder than here in Southern Arkansas in mid-late January, which is our best trout fishing time. What do y'all who have Colorado experience think about the Piedras in late November? Is it reachable? I'm sure it's way too late to go to the higher country where the cutthroat live. I'm sure I can fish the San Juan, as well. I think it's about an hour and a half away. Being as I'll be with family and need to be a respectable guest, I'll probably only get one or two days of fishing in. If it's just one day I'll probably try to hit the SJ. I think the SJ tailwater's about an hour and a half away, something similar for the Piedras.