With record snowfall in the mountains of Colorado, the question about runoff and the fishing possibility has been coming up frequently. This is always a question that plagues fly shops in the productive yet forgotten spring fishing season. Many anglers often dismiss April thru June as too cold or too muddy to fish. This can be true on some days, especially this last April, with so many cold and snowy days up in the mountains.
The reality however, is the rivers are coming to life with bug activity and spawning movements. These are the months in Colorado, that give us some of the most famous and prolific hatches of the year; the “Mothers Day” Caddis Hatch; the Salmon Fly Hatch; and Blue Wing Olive Hatches on many rivers throughout Colorado.
Cold days are of course always a deterrent and will keep most inside dry and warm, but the statement that you cannot fish in the high water season has always bothered me. High water does cause problems fishing your favorite hole, like you always do, but let me promise you there is always somewhere to fish!
In high water times, the rivers are swollen and wading, let alone crossing, is really out of the question. Your best option is walking the bank and fishing what is right in front of you. If you fish often, you may know that troubles in the high water season can be found, but the reality is that there are many great fishing opportunities right at your toes and I do mean toes. With toes in mind, I mean short casts and fishing at your feet, along the edges of the river, in back eddies, pockets and behind rocks. There may not be many of these, but each one will hold fish and to quote from and article I just read “I don’t mean a few fish; I mean all of them. Every cotton-pickin’ one in the river.” These little pockets hold many fish in a small area and should be worked until every fish has been caught in the pocket. Make sure you take your time and don’t move on after the first couple of 12-inchers, there may be a hog waiting for the right presentation.
This kind of bank fishing means presentation and rigging are also not very special. I typically use a short nymphing rig, dry dropper set up or if I want to move more water maybe a streamer. I usually like to fish a large dry fly attractor; then drop a large stonefly pattern behind it and maybe trail a third smaller nymph. This time of year, there is a lot of food in the water; from stonefly nymphs, mayfly nymphs, caddis and more and with the water off color, you can usually throw larger patterns.
A comment I hear a lot from people visiting or new to the sport; is that they heard from “someone” that the fishing was not good this time of year, because of the run off. I always ask who told them that, and they often say their waiter, bar tender, etc. This always amazes me; and I usually ask if they would take my word about a profession I knew nothing about. So as we get into the high water season, please take the time to ask your local fly shop of the fishing possibilities, or take a guided trip and take it from the professionals, that this is truly a great time to be fishing! You wouldn’t ask me for a haircut; would you?
Ezekiel Hersh, Blue River Anglers