August has arrived and we have eclipsed the “halftime” of our busy trout season here in Colorado. July was blessed with a heavy monsoonal flow, contributing to a low fire danger throughout the state and for the first time in a long while, Colorado is easing out of drought. The downside to the rain is that when we receive significant rainfall (>.5” rain) over the 2020 burn scars, (East Troublesome, Grizzly Creek, Williams Fork), these tributary streams have been running quite muddy and have been dirtying the Colorado River from the headwaters all the way past Glenwood Springs. Whereas prior to the fires, we could count on the river to clear in 12-24 hrs following a deluge, it has been taking 2-4 days to clear depending on how much water has fallen in the watershed. While dealing with this is an inconvenience and has necessitated flexibility in our angling, it is exactly what the burn scars need to heal and grow grass, shrubs, and trees that will allow the soil to heal and act as a natural filtration system for any debris.
As of July 21st, Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon is back up and running after being down for several months. This prompted the long-anticipated release of water from Green Mountain (Lower Blue River) and Williams Fork Reservoirs. These tributary tailwaters are releasing cold clear water and the moderate flow has shown some great fishing on drakes, especially under cloud cover. As a corollary, the Upper Colorado has been fishing well with decreased water temperatures. This prompted a revision from CPW in their voluntary fishing closures, which now begins just downstream of the town of Burns at Red Dirt Creek. For the most up-to-date info on all of CPW’s closures, click here.
The bad news about the hatches across much of our rivers is that generally low and warm water prompted much of the bug life to hatch early this year and so hatches have been sparse as of late. This means that the bugs you do see coming off become more important than ever. It also means that terrestrial patterns will be very important as well. Grasshoppers are becoming more prevalent everyday and we are seeing fish size increase in their interest in these morsels. Don’t discount the prevalence of flying ants on our rivers as well. These guys will emerge and fly after heavy rain so timing your approach can pay dividends. Even though I have been observing flying ants in red/black, a true black with a wing seems to be the best for me.
I also like to tap into the preferences of the fish in a particular watershed. In this way, you can very often entice a larger fish to eat. For example, the Arkansas River fish have a proclivity toward golden stoneflies in various sizes and shapes so I will often search with golden patterns, even in the absence of a perceived hatch. On the Roaring Fork, it is always about the drake. Cripple style flies have been best fished in grey and brown varieties.
Red quills and tricos are very important this time of year but be prepared for fish to spit your trico nymph very quickly. We like Charlie Schmidt’s TDJ trico. For the dry fly enthusiast, fishing the trico spinner fall can be extremely fun and challenging. It’s very cool to see some of the larger fish suspended rhythmically rising in a steady foam line filled with spent spinners. While foam eddies often provide the highest concentration of feeding fish, seeing your fly and getting a perfect presentation can be challenging, especially without a reach cast. If you’re striking out in a foam eddy, it may not be your fly, but rather your presentation. Look instead at the very bottom of a tail-out. Often right before the next drop or riffle, you will find fish feeding on the spinners where the water starts to organize again in slow-moderate current. These areas still require a stealthy approach as the fish are often feeding in 6-12” of water, but the current is relatively uniform and fly visibility is less of an issue. You can also hunt individual fish, which is very exciting and more effective. When planning a day of fishing trico spinners, remember that the spinners fall at 68F. So if you’re out prior to that, expect to be dropper fishing or plying the banks with terrestrials.
As you head higher up in elevation, the fishing has been at its prime for the season. It’s creek and lake season in the alpine; you just need to plan your day according to the weather forecast. The Climate Prediction Center is calling for another month of average temperatures and above-average precipitation. This means getting out early when the weather is clear and getting out before thunderstorms catch you off-guard. Alpine lake fish are extremely sensitive to barometric pressure. If in the midst of a monsoonal flow, your fishing may be quite tough as their swim bladders fill as the pressure drops. They fall deep into the lake and do not resume their customary bank-edge cruising. Static nymphing in deep water with leeches, scuds and midges will be your best bet in these situations, but being on the lake early when it is clear is your best bet for sight fishing.