Fall fishing is officially here. The cranes and the geese are grouping up and starting their migration south. The bull elk are bugling at their ladies. Puffy vest are coming out, and wet wading socks are getting put away. And yes, big browns are preparing for battle.… hopefully with your five weight!
The Yampa River watershed made it through the tough season just fine this year. Although the river is flowing at a fairly low 80 CFS, our nighttime lows have been consistently in the 40s and even dipping regularly into the 30s. This is kept the dissolved oxygen content plenty high for happy, healthy trout through the heat of the day. Our daily water temps in the Yampa have been consistently between 50 and 60°. This temperature range is pretty prime for trout fishing.
The bug report on the Yampa is pretty similar to the last couple weeks, however the timing has changed a bit. Tricos are still the primary daily hatch, and are still going strong. Bugs are still numerous and consistent, however the 1 to 2 hour hatch has pushed back to afternoon. The colder fall mornings we are having has affected the temperature of the river and therefore the timing of the bugs. What was a nine or 10 o’clock hatch a month ago is now a one or 2 o’clock hatch. There are some other mayflies active throughout the day such as Mahoganies and Blue Wings, but these insects are more opportunistic overcast emergers. You may see a couple of these larger mayflies on a sunny day that didn’t get the memo, however fishable hatches will really only take place with some good cloud-cover. The Trico hatch is still a daily guarantee, whereas the other hatches are conditional right now.
The other surface bite that continues to produce is the late-afternoon Hopper hatch. I urge anglers addicted to throwing large terrestrials to wait to throw the big bugs til at least 2. A hopper is a fantastic way to present Trico droppers, both surface and subsurface. Run Trico emergers just subsurface of your hopper in the morning before the hatch. This is an effective and fun way to present these tiny insects in the riffles before and during the hatch. I have found the better trout prefer them mid-water column in the riffled runs over dredge rigs deep. You may get some interest in the hopper early but don’t count on it, it is really just a less intrusive strike indicator for running those Tricos. The hopper bite will continue to slow down as fall conditions increase, but have faith, they will eat them through the whole month of October. Peak water temperature right now is about 5 o’clock in the evening. On days they are eating big bugs they will do it till the sun goes down, so throw them late!
The Mahogany hatch continues to improve. Aside from the five minute Green Drake hatch we have in Pleasant Valley in the spring, this is hands down my favorite! While the Tricos provide predictable action through the late summer, Mahoganies provide windows of epic surface activity when the conditions allow. One can certainly nymph with them at any point of the day and be successful, but catching a hatch demands some weather. Over the next month or so the best fishing will take place during the worst forecasts. If you only have one day to fish, choose it wisely. Nasty fall days not only bring the mahoganies out, but they also get those big browns moving around too!
Speaking of big browns, the season is upon us. Most of the females I have been seeing this week on the river have been egg laden. Males are starting to get charcoal bellies and pumpkin warpaint. They are in pre-spawn right now. Fish are starting to congregate in holes and runs near redding areas. With the hormonal shift happening in the browns and cooler water temperatures, the streamer bite is starting to turn on in a big way.
October is a great streamer month, if you haven’t thrown them all summer, bust out your 6 or 7 and get some. It’s getting good! With the brook trout and brown trout beginning their spawning rituals, the egg bite is starting to turn on. Egg patterns will continue to fish better by the day starting this weekend. There is a bout of tasty fishing weather coming in Friday and Saturday. Then, this time next week, temperatures will plummet. Nighttime lows dropping into the 20s will kickstart the Spawn in a big way.
There is still plenty of surface and subsurface opportunity. Those throwing dries should have an assortment of Trico spinners, Mahogany Duns, Blue Wing Olive Duns, and Hoppers. Fish your Tricos early and your Hoppers late. Throw the others opportunistically as you see them with overcast conditions. Subsurface, streamers are getting better and better. Throw them early and late. Nymph Rigs are liking Golden Stones, Eggs, Mahogs, BWO emergers, and spent Tricos.
The bite is pushing later and later. Sleep in, make breakfast, stall a little more, then go fishing. If you’re on the water at 8 right now... someone lied to you... or you’re hucking meat.
Next week, as we get deeper into fall conditions and the spawn, we will address some of these topics further. I want to dive into how to effectively but responsibly fish the spawn, and egg fishing techniques.
Tight lines, have fun, be nice!