Now that the summer is in full swing, we’re happy to report that the local rivers and streams are all in really good condition. Although we are in a drier year than most, the reservoirs in Summit County give the rivers enough water to stay in good shape. With water levels around their lowest of the year, you will run into ideal fishing conditions. Right now opportunistic fish are actively feeding on the surface on all sorts of dry flies.
In addition, while it’s good to be aware of higher water temperatures to avoid injuring the fish (see previous blog), it’s a rarity that those unsafe temperatures are reached in the high country. It’s high season for fly-fishing in the Rockies – come join in on the fun!
If you fished a particular river a few months ago and are just now coming back out for the first time since then, you may not recognize it! Pockets and holes in what would have been under half a foot of water appear in the lower water. Trout aggregate in these pockets, which raises your chances of drifting past fish. Deeper, cooler holes are the best area to go after those large trout as they opportunistically feed on a variety of dry flies throughout the day. Keep an eye out for undercut banks and overhanging branches.
Make sure to key in on areas like these, as trout love to keep out of the sun and hide from predators. Also, if you are planning on fishing the Blue, always be sure to check in on the flows coming out of the dam. The amount of water can change instantly and a dozen extra CFS will change the way you should approach fishing it. Just give us a call for current conditions – it’s right in our backyard!
Right now, the classic late summer patterns are now in full swing, in addition to a whole bunch of different hatches, and the terrestrials are at their most effective. Ants, beetles and especially grasshoppers will be excellent on any river or stream. Keep an eye out for insect activity on the walk out to the river. If you scare up a few grasshoppers - you’re in luck, any size hopper pattern should be effective.
Part of the excitement about fishing with grasshopper imitations is that fishing this way is easy: easy to cast, easy to spot in the water and easy to set the hook on aggressive fish looking for a large meal. Splashy presentations are not a deal breaker with hoppers, so they are especially ideal for beginner anglers. Wading is also less difficult in the lower water. All in all right now is one of my favorite times to get out on the river for some easy-going and fun fishing.
If you are striking out on the surface, the usual caddis nymph and annelid imitations underneath might do the trick. Keep the hopper on and tie a length of tippet (see previous blog on dropper presentations) to get yourself the legendary hopper/dropper setup. The large grasshopper imitations will serve as a great strike indicator and if you get a foam one, almost unsinkable. This is ideal for any larger and heavier nymphs you might want to try out. Stop into Cutthroat Anglers on your way out to make sure you have plenty in your box.
While float trips are always a fantastic way to see and fish rivers, wading is at its best right now. The lower waters allow you access to previously impossible to reach areas of the river without skittering downstream. (“Skittering” is my term for getting too deep in the current and sliding across the slick streambed down river in a controlled drift.) I’ve skittered many times, as I’m sure you have. In all seriousness, as a wader, you will have much more access to the river than in any other time of the year.
You can also take advantage of the late summer weather patterns in the High Rockies. “Monsoon Season” involves afternoon rain and thunderstorms. The cooler temperatures and cloudy skies are ideal conditions for afternoon fishing. If you encounter a simple drizzle, you can stay on the surface and should be just fine; the natural conditions still would have flying insects. In fact, the early onset of rain can be exceptionally productive.
Ants, grasshoppers and other terrestrials will get swept into the river and trout are instinctively looking for these larger meals in the rain. The more rain there is, the less floating insects will work, however.
If you start getting into some serious rain, think about switching to an annelid (San Juan Worm etc.) as heavy rain like this will cause them to come out of the ground. It’s not likely, but if the river starts to swell and becomes discolored, consider a streamer to attract an opportunistic trout. Use the weather to your advantage. Be careful of lightning though - I’m okay with bear or moose but I’ll pass when it comes to lightning – no thank you! It’s relatively rare, but be prepared for the possibility nonetheless.
All in all, right now is a perfect time to enjoy fishing in the Rocky Mountains. Clear rivers, feisty fish and warm weather combine to make a trip to Summit County fantastic. As always, stop by Cutthroat Anglers to get the latest scoop and resupply on your way out to the river. Prepare all you want, but nothing beats local knowledge and experience. Conditions are constantly changing. Good luck and we hope to see you soon!
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