The Yampa River and its tributaries are fishing great right now! At the 5th Street bridge, the Yampa River is measuring 120 CFS, and showing a temperature fluctuation most days between high 50s and high 60s . These conditions are leaps and bounds better than the conditions this time last summer. While the time release snow melt is long over now, the extra water we had this spring seemed to keep our river conditions stable through the heat of summer. We can certainly expect another heat spell in late August, but it should not be enough to cause a river closure. We are already experiencing colder nights which should continue into September and alleviate critical conditions this late summer.
Due to our abundance of water and more manageable temperature fluctuations, the fishing has been remarkably better than the last couple years at this time. As opposed to hitting the water at the crack of dawn and being off the water before noon, The bite is much more consistent throughout the day this August. With the Trico hatch generally showing up around nine or 10 o’clock, it helps that the water temperatures are conducive of feeding trout then. There has been an abundance of pseudos active before the Tricos. These two hatches lend themselves to a small subsurface a.m. fly selection.
Pre-Trico hatch, fish are best targeted in deep slow water, generally congregating right in front of the tail outs of deep pools and runs. These are the same locations fish will be staged eating spinners after the hatch, and can be targeted on the surface between 9:30 and noon or so. During the hatch, rigs of multiple Trico emergers have been effective in the riffles and ledges, targeting fish staged subsurface eating their emergent form on the way up. Whatever your favorite midge emerger pattern is, that should do the trick. Try a large attractor pattern as your lead fly such as a worm or stone. The attractor nymph will get your Tricos noticed by some of the pickier fish unwilling to move on to such small food items.
The grasshopper fishing continues to improve, and should do so all the way through September. With an abundance of water this year the grass is tall and the hoppers are plentiful. We need things to dry out a little to push the hoppers out of the grass and onto the river banks. It seems counter-intuitive to wish for less green and more brown in our landscape, but that is often what it takes for the hopper fishing to pick up. Frankly I am in no rush for steamboat to turn brown again, but I also have no illusions as to the fact that it will soon enough. At least better hopper fishing tends to be synonymous with our dry season.
Although the bite is continuing later into the afternoon then the last previous seasons have allowed, we are still seeing a distinct shut down some days around two or three. With continuous overcast weather, this lull in the action can be avoided. So, if you have only a day or two to fish a week, watch the weather. Right now, the worst weather you have in your fishing forecast window is going to be the best option. Streamers and dry flies have been fishing phenomenally well on overcast rainy days, and phenomenally poorly on bluebird days. This is a general trend with trout fishing, however I have been surprised how reluctant fish are to eat a hopper this season when the sun is out.
Caddis and larger mayflies have been good searching patterns, and targeted fish seem to be best approached with small black dries. You do not have to throw a size 22 Trico spinner to move a fish sipping Tricos. Try an ant or midge in 16 or 18. These often move fish in a pattern of sipping spinners better than an exact imitation will.
The next hatch of mention is going to be the mahoganies! This hatch is my personal favorite of the year, and tends to bring some of the biggest and smartest fish in the river to the surface. I speak of this hatch now a little early because it is important to recognize the pre-hatch migration patterns of these mayflies. Many of our favorite hatches become prominent food sources well before we see them emerging. There is a lot of subsurface mahogany nymph migration going on right now, and your favorite size 16 and 14 nymph imitations will start fishing productively well before the actual hatches begin. Try a pheasant tail soft hackle v size 16! I don’t expect to start seeing the first mahoganies on the surface for a few weeks yet, but it is important to recognize the opportunity to fish these bugs subsurface starting about now. Considering the subsurface migration and behavior of certain hatches before they are abundantly obvious is a great way to capitalize on an obscure food source before everyone else on the river is on board!
Cheers and don’t be a stranger on the river. Tight lines til next week.