Winter showed its true colors at the end of October with the first big snow storm and even some ice forming on small lakes and creeks. This cooler weather does not indicate the end of good fishing. If anything, fishing can be very rewarding late fall or early winter. Rivers are a lot less crowded, and the fish are feeling less pressure, leading to more eats. A lot of those eats have been on smaller-sized flies, but don't discount the large stonefly attractors, egg patterns, and streamers. Fish like to pack on pounds before the rivers and lakes get caped with ice. Covering lots of water with a streamer is a fun way to search for those pound-packers. At the same time, fish will become lazier as November progresses. This means holding in slow, deep water where they won't have to expend as much energy. The saying goes, "The difference between a good day and a great day of fishing is one split shot." Adjust your depth until you start getting more consistent bites. 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 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.
In my opinion, reading water becomes more important as we get into the winter season. Fish will hold in very specific places, unlike in the summer months where fish like to spread out and can almost be found in any type of structure. Locating a run with deeper depth, slower water speed, and some structure will be the ticket for the next couple months. As I've mentioned many times before, steer clear of spawning trout on redds. They seem like an easy target, especially when the fishing might not be great. Do what's best for our fisheries and avoid these vulnerable trout.
When streamer fishing this time of year, I like to use a versileader or sinking tip fly line to get your flies down in those deeper runs. With fish getting more lethargic, you'll have to pester them by stripping streamers low and slow right in front of their faces. The same goes for fishing nymph rigs. Make sure you are getting down deep enough and set on any small indicator movements. Trout can eat and spit out your small nymphs in a matter of milliseconds.
November is typically the month where you can get one last shot at our state's 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 trophy lake fish. 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 as well as Grand County are excellent spots to try your hand.
Ice fishing is on the horizon and we are fully stocked up on all the ice gear you could need for a successful hard water season. Whether you're wanting to target large lake trout on Williams Fork Reservoir or arctic char and smaller rainbows and browns on Dillon Reservoir, we will have the right tools for you. I can assume we will start ice guiding once we see safe ice (6 inches or more), typically happening at the end of December depending on weather conditions. If you're interested in going out with one of our professional ice fishing guides, give us a call at the shop and we can get you on the books!
10 flies for November