Cutthroat Angler's Fishing Outlook for May
By: Harlan Kimball
Spring has finally started to show itself and with that comes more rivers, creeks, and lakes to fish. Warmer temperature have been lagging in higher elevations causing a slow start to our runoff season. No complaints here, as this will help keep flows and water temperatures more stable as we progress into summer. During this period of warm and cool weather, be sure to keep an eye on river and creek gauges as flows will fluctuate. Dramatic increases on the graph will result in off-color runoff conditions. If temperatures cool and the gauge drops expect to see better water clarity and in turn, better fishing conditions. Now, this doesnt necesarily mean you should shy away from a river or creek that has a bump in flows. What it does mean is that you should be prepared with larger flies, tippet, leader and splitshot. Throughout May, fish will continue holding in the deeper pools and runs, but with an increase in flows fish will be seeking out slower water closer to the banks of the river. With that in mind, there's no need to wade deep and fish the middle of the river. Stay closer to the bank and fish the edges.
This time of year, our mind wanders to Colorado stillwaters that have been locked up for the past 6 months and the anticipation of something large being brought to the net. Most of our reservoirs and lakes have thawed enough to be fishable, but some of the higher elevation stillwaters (above 10,000ft) are lagging due to the colder temperatures. In the spring, the warmest water is found in the shallows and with that brings an increase in bug life and an abundance of minnows feeding on that bug life. Large predator fish will follow these shorelines to gorge on those minnows and bugs. Sight fishing the drop offs and flats can make for some exciting sight fishing opportunities. Although, with Colorado's infamous winds, you'll find yourself blind casting throughout most of the day. Don't be surpised if you find yourself casting a million times. If you put in the work on stillwaters, the rewards will follow. What time should you start fishing? We've found the most productive time of day for larger stillwaters will be dawn and dusk.
Productive stillwater flies:
- Balanced Leeches (Black, Olive, Brown)
- Jumbo Juju Chironomid Red or Zebra #12-16
- Chiron Bomber Black/Silver #12-14
- Tim’s Chromie Red #14-16
- Picky Fish Damsel Olive #12
- Streamers: Yellow/Rust Gonga, Home Invader, Sex Dungeon, Crystal Bugger
Rivers and Creek Update:
As our lakes and reservoirs thaw, creeks are following the same trend. Additional water from pre-runoff opened many of our local creeks and has made for some productive early season small water. Ten Mile Creek, Gore Creek, and much of the South Platte headwaters are all worthy options for this time of year. Fishing small nymph or hopper-dropper rigs will be the most productive method for catching. Keep it simple and fish small nymphs and streamers in the deeper pools and buckets. Water temperatures are still low, so it will be uncommon to see fish in the shallow riffles until things begin to warm up.
As for our larger freestone rivers, we are beginning to see signs of runoff. Overnight temperatures are remaining relatively low causing a slow start. Although lower sections of the Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas are seeing off color water and bumps in flows on warmer days. Don’t be caught without your dry fly box as hatches of Blue Winged Olives have been prevalent on overcast days (especially on the Eagle). Stoneflies, caddis larva/pupa, midges and baetis will be the go-to bugs for May.
Productive creek and river flies:
- Two Bit Stone #14-16
- Tungsten Pheasant Tail #14-18
- GB Caddis Pupa #14-16
- Charlie’s Chronic Caddis #14-16
- San Juan Worm Wine, Red, Tan
- Prince Nymph #12-16
- Schmidt’s Caddis BWO Olive #16-18
- Rainbow Warrior Red/Black #16-18
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