This fishing season has been an interesting one with some more extreme conditions. Due to our low level of snow pack this last winter, and a dry spring, our rivers have experienced extremely low and warm water conditions. There are still plenty of productive fishing options, but fishing earlier in the day, and avoiding some of th warmer stretches of the Yampa has been imperative, not just for productive fishing but also supporting the ecology of the river.
With temperatures ranging from mid 60’s to mid 70’s in the Yampa River, the stretch through Steamboat Springs has been closed for most of July and will remain closed for the foreseeable future, however there are still fishable areas. The tail waters below stagecoach reservoir were just re-opened due to slightly increased flows and cooler temperatures coming out of the dam. The usual regiment of small nymphs and dries will produce: RS2s, WD-40’s, Tail Water Tinys (sizes 18 to 22, in gray, black or olive) as well as an assortment of scud patterns and smaller caddis larva like Buckskins and Frenchys. On the surface fish can be caught on Blue Wing Olive patterns, caddis (in tan and olive 16 and 18) and even hoppers in the afternoons. Pay attention to the hatches and try a small Griffith’s Gnat on the pickier fish.
Just downstream of the tail water Sarvis Creek is fishing well also. Try the same patterns you are fishing on the tail water, but add Stoneflies to the mix. Pat’s Rubber Legs (in black and brown) as well as Golden Stoneflies can move fish as your lead fly on a nymph rig. Streamers will move fish early and late, but the midday heat is not conducive for productive streamer fishing.
The Yampa River is fishing well below the confluence of the Elk, however being off the river by midday is essential. Not only does the fishing slow down around noon, but the few fish that are still eating will struggle to recover from being caught. Stone Fly Nymphs and Sunken Tricos are producing subsurface, and Hoppers and Trico Spinners will get it done on the surface.
The Elk river is still fishing well in the mornings before the heat of the day, with Hoppers, Streamers and Nymphing as productive options. Small white and or black streamers like Zonker‘s and leeches are fishing well early. Small hoppers, and size 16 and 18 Caddis have been productive on the surface, as well as your favorite ant and beetle patterns
Shallow nymphing on the Elk has been productive in the riffles. Don’t be afraid to fish the shallow and fast stuff, as that is where most of the fish are. Lead with a Stone Fly and follow up with Caddis or Mayfly nymphs, and 5X Tippet is key with crystal clear skinny water.
High mountain lakes and streams are a great option this season with the warm weather. The water stays cooler the higher up you go, so those willing to hike to get to their fishing destinations will be rewarded with action throughout the day. High mountain fish are not picky, grasshoppers, beatles, ants, and Caddis will all get it done, however the anglers approach to the stream or lake must be stealthy. If you are not catching fish in the high country it is likely because you are spooking them before you even start fishing.
Approach the fish from downstream and maintain a low and stealthy silhouette. If you see them they probably see you! Despite the difficult conditions this year there are still plenty of great options, but remember to be responsible and respect the advertised river closures. Try to be off the Yampa and the Elk during the midday heat and handle trout as minimally as possible. Catch and release only makes sense when the fish survive!
Tight lines and good luck.
Written By Straightline Guide Ben Rock See more photos from Ben's fishing trips here