The Yampa and Elk are coming down fast! With peeking flows just a few weeks ago, our rivers came down faster than expected. However, looking at flows the last couple of years we are fortunate to have so much water this season! Floating the Yampa has been tremendously productive this spring and early summer, with large terrestrials including grasshoppers just now starting to fish well.
The upper floats including town, and anything above the confluence of the Elk, are now too skinny to navigate without scraping. The extra water the elk provides should allow those floating the lower sections 2 to 3 more weeks of navigable flow. Those anglers itching to put the nymph rigs away can focus on streamers and dries, the river is ready. Sparkle minnows and white streamers will move fish on sunny days. Tans olives and black will move fish on overcast days.
When hucking meat do not be afraid to throw shallow, with rising temperatures the fish are pushed higher and higher into the riffles, And will respond to a more aggressive retrieve the shallower the water is.
All of the high mountain lakes should be accessible and fishable at this point. Some short-lived post holing may occur above the tree line in the Zirkels, But most still water in the mountains is ready for those who prefer a pack rod and some hard-to-get-to wild brookies and cutthroat. Small leeches subsurface, and terrestrials and caddis fished blind on the surface, will do the trick in most back country watersheds.
The Elk River, like the Yampa, is coming down quickly. From backpackers looking to hike the upper forks, to those fishing the ranches closer to the confluence, the river is ready. Subsurface, stoneflies, caddis larvae, and an assortment of mayfly nymphs will be productive. For those selecting dry flies, terrestrials such as Beatles and grasshoppers are getting better by the day. Tan and yellow caddis are good options as well, doubling as a yellow Sally if needed. Streamers fish tremendously well on the elk, particularly zonkers and sparkle minnows, in white or olive.
The Yampa River is providing anglers with lots of options right now. Hoppers and terrestrials are fishing better by the day. Shallow nymphing the riffles is a better bet than deep dredging the holes. As temperature and feeding opportunity push fish into shallower faster water, fishermen are wise to follow. Our early blue winged olives have tapered off, but still fish well subsurface. Caddis, yellow sallys, and pale morning duns, are still abundant from late morning through the afternoon condition dependent.
The PMD‘s will be the first to start tapering off here soon enough. This week provided the first of the tricos. Small hatches in the morning should translate into large hatches through most of the morning here soon. For those who like to play the somewhat frustrating game that is trico fishing, start tying small and have your 6X ready. These little black mayflies will be the only game in town here soon enough! Put on your readers and embrace them! They keep the trout eating and us fishing for them through the hot month of August.
Speaking of heat, despite high recent flows, the Yampa is heating up quick. With daily temperature fluctuations already between high 50s and 70°, mid day heat stress is probably already occurring, and certainly will be an issue soon. Algae growth is already accelerating due to warm water temperatures, and trout behavior is already reflecting these conditions as well. The midday shut down is starting this week, and anglers are wise to fish early and late. Hoppers are a great way to beat the heat mid day. Work grassy high banks, patience pays! One may work a lot of water fruitlessly with a grasshopper to find the one spot with multiple fish willing to eat it.
Lastly, river etiquette demands a moment of our time. On the human end, this concept has become a bit more ambiguous over the last couple of years. With more and more people fishing the same amount of public water, Both walk-wade and floating, pressure on the river is at an all-time high. The days of picking a stretch to have to yourself have slowly evolved to maybe finding a hole. With the days warming up and more and more fishermen coming to town, I feel the best approach of an angler can take is patience. Have a plan B and even C, Because whether you like it or not, there is going to be someone fishing your spot. I have realized it is easier to let it go and just embrace the new faces on the river then to fight it. When giving other anglers room is no longer an element in river etiquette, then perhaps we devote that energy towards handling fish properly, picking up garbage on the riverbank, educating new fisherman… etc. cheers!
Tight lines till next week. Ben Rock