November is here and winter is starting to take hold on our rivers. While many are waxing their skis and hanging up their fishing gear, this is one of our favorite months to get out on the river. Colder weather means empty rivers and frankly, better fishing!
In November, we will start to see some of our freestones freeze and our tailwaters will start to become our main focus. Early November will still provide plenty of opportunities on our freestones (Colorado, Eagle, Arkansas, Roaring Fork) but as the month progresses and more and more water freezes, tailwaters like the Blue and South Platte will become our main playgrounds! It's a great month to get away from crowds, so go explore! With winter setting in we will downsize our tippets, our bugs and start looking for deeper water to find fish. November is the month where we start focusing on deeper water rather than faster lies. The fish are lazy like us, and in the winter they aren't going to work harder than they want to. Strikes also become more subtle so having a keen eye out for strikes is always important. November truly is one of our favorite months to fish and in this fishing outlook you’ll find info on- Kokanee Salmon, our local reservoirs and our transition from freestone to tailwater fishing!
The Kokanee Craze - Phone calls have been picking up here in the shop about where to catch Kokanee Salmon. When fishing for Kokanee Salmon, big flies typically do best. Think large Copper Johns (10-16), San Juan Worms (8-12), Eggs (14-18) and large hot headed leeches. You will find these fish podded up in deeper water so we typically walk the banks until we see a pod of fish and start there. With the deeper water that they tend to hold in, adding extra weight is always an important step. If you aren't ticking bottom, you aren't deep enough.
Green Mountain Reservoir does not hold the population of Kokanee that it once did, and while they have started to restock them in the reservoir, Kokanee can be difficult to find above Green Mountain Reservoir. However, people still find pods of them. Cover water and look for the deepest parts of the river, that's where you will find the Kokanee.
The Blue River above Dillon Reservoir is another place where you can find Kokanee Salmon. While the fish are a lot smaller than in other locations, they are plentiful and easier to find. Try the steps below Breckenridge or Gold Hill trailhead.
The Dream Stream is another excellent option for catching Kokanee. While it will be crowded as people try to catch big brown trout, you can typically find fish and space in the mid or lower river. Please watch out for spawning brown trout, typically they hang out in very shallow water. Find the pods of fish in the deeper water and have some fun!
The Kokanee run will start to peter out as the month progresses. The fish will eventually die in the river so the earlier you can catch them the prettier and fistier they are. The opportunity to take advantage of “a poor man’s Alaska” only happens in the fall so get after it while the getting is good!
If trout are more your cup of tea, November also provides one last shot at our stillwaters. By Thanksgiving most of our reservoirs will begin to freeze, so the earlier in the month you can go the better. These reservoir fish will do their best to eat as much as possible before the lakes freeze over and forage opportunities dwindle. Fishing streamers and leech patterns is a good idea this time of year since it provides a big meal for the trout who know a long cold winter is coming. If you prefer indicator fishing, using bigger flies like eggs and big chironomids is never a bad idea since those fish are looking for protein before it disappears. For those who struggled to find space to fish in the summer, this is an excellent opportunity for solitude and some of the biggest fish of the year will be caught in our stillwaters in November. Our reservoirs in South Park are excellent spots to try your hand.
If you are a fisherman who prefers to fish rivers rather than lakes, November typically signals a transition from freestone fishing to tailwater fishing. Tailwaters stay ice free through the winter since the water is much warmer coming out of reservoirs than the water that isn't controlled by reservoirs. We are lucky to have a year long fishing season here in Colorado and that is largely due to the number of tailwaters we have in the state. The Blue in Silverthorne, Dream Stream, 11 Mile Canyon and Williams Fork are all excellent winter fishing options. When fishing tailwaters it is important to downside bug selection, tippet size and focus more on getting a drag free drift. One of my favorite tailwater November rigs is a Mayers Mini Leech (14) or flashtail egg (16) to a #20 Barr's Emerger or #18 Darth Baetis to a #20 Tailwater Tiny or #20 Olive Zebra Midge. This rig gives the fish the option of lots of protein and realistic bug offerings all at once. I typically fish my lead fly on size 4x fluorocarbon and the rest on 5x fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is an absolute necessity in the winter since it is so much more transparent (and sinks) compared to monofilament. These fish see year round fishing pressure and are well educated. Sight fishing can be crucial in tailwaters and you will find most of your fish transitioning to deeper water as temperatures cool and they look to save energy. One of our favorite sayings for this time of year is- “don't leave fish to find fish.” The fish will pod up at low flows in deep water and once you find one, you can typically find quite a few more. Focus on small stones, eggs, baetis and midges. The biggest thing with tailwaters is it's more about getting a drag free drift than anything else.
Mind the Redd
Brown Trout will continue to spawn throughout November so please be conscious not to step on spawning beds or fish to spawning trout. These fish are creating the new fish that we will fish to for generations to come and it is best to let them be. Sure, you may see the biggest fish of your year on the spawning bed but there is no sport in fishing for that fish. Find the deep water below the bed and you may find the biggest rainbow trout of your year!
We wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those that shopped with us and took out our guides in October. We are lucky to be a part of this community and please come say hi this winter!
10 flies for November