The Yampa River is in pretty good shape right now. Things were getting a bit skinny last week with water down in the 70 cfs range. With decently low nighttime temperatures, the bite was not suffering from low dissolved oxygen content, but skinny water tends to yield spooky trout. The release we received from Stagecoach a couple of days ago has helped pump levels up a bit. The 20 to 25 cfs has really improved conditions coming into the fall bite.
The real benefit of this little bit of extra water is related to the brown trout spawn. Big wild browns are one of the Yampa River’s most precious resources. I think many anglers would agree that promoting the health of our brown trout population is paramount in the Yampa valley. I have fished with countless people who have traveled around the world hunting trophy browns and end up back here in Steamboat chasing their best fish. There are many many many epic rainbow trout fisheries across the west, but it is absolutely the big browns in the Yampa that keep our serious anglers returning. This little recent bump in flow is going to allow these precious mature browns to redd in their usual spots. Less water often pushes fish out of their typical and ideal riffles and into relatively new areas. Of course nature always finds a way, but it is very good news that we have the water for these fish to procreate comfortably.
This morning the Yampa was flowing at 96 cfs and is experiencing daily temperature fluctuation between mid 40s and mid 50s. This is the sweet spot. The last couple of weeks have been slightly lacking in prime overcast skies for those looking to head hunt with various mayfly patterns, but the subsurface bite has more than picked up the slack. Anglers willing to blind cast mahogany dries and cover water are moving fish consistently when the weather allows.
The Trico hatch is still our most consistent mayfly hatch of the day. Although it is now tapering off, these are some of the only bugs that don’t care if the sun is shining. Rain, snow, sun, or shade, these little devils seem to pop on a daily basis, providing regular and predictable fare for the trout. With sub 30 degree nights, The Trico hatch tends to be in the afternoon. Subsurface emergers continue to produce before the hatch, and sunken spinners continue to produce throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Mahogany nymphs and emergers will produce all day, as the fish are as eager to see them as we are.
Blue Winged Olives are starting to replace the Trico hatch as the dominant small mayfly in our valley through mid and late fall. This umbrella term for a mayfly species really represents at least a half dozen different bugs on our local river. Breaking them into two digestible categories, you have proper BWOs ranging from about a 16, on the huge end, to about a 20. These will pretty consistently pop when mahoganies are popping, just add cloud cover.
The other category of baetis is called pseudocloeon or “pseudos” for short. Ten of these things could have a picnic on the back of a proper blue winged olive. These bugs are truly tiny, and depending on the day, can make Trico’s look like heavy weights. If you are a glutton for misery, investigate this hatch. There are a few patterns as big as a 22 that effectively imitate these pseudos, and smaller yet for that matter, I just can’t condone fishing with hooks that tiny. If you can’t get them to eat something bigger than that I promise it is not the fly. Regardless of your interest in the sadomasochistic pursuit of the pseudo hatch, it is interesting to know they’re out there. Some mornings when you swear the Tricos are popping off a little early, look closer, it is probably this form of micro baetis. There is a certain pleasure in proper diagnosis whether you are inclined to throw the things or not.
Streamers continue to improve as temperatures drop and attitudes increase. They have been producing better early and late, and of course on those cloudy days. If you are seeing those mahoganies, you are probably on the river during the right conditions to throw streamers as well. Be mindful of your pressure when huckin' meat this time of year. Getting to the river before 10 and pounding water with streamers can be a great approach if you only have a few hours early on. If you are pounding the same areas you intend to “match the hatch” fish later, you are simply killing your chances for epic dry fly or nymphing sessions on the same piece of water later on.
There is truly something to be said for that second or 3rd cup of coffee right now. Getting to the river at 8:30 in the morning because you just can’t wait to go fishing is the last thing you want to do right now. Let the fish wake up and start eating before you start ringing your breakfast bell.
With the weather forecast over a week ago, we were expecting a little more severe winter conditions this week then we have seen. The Browns are definitely starting to redd up, but a little slower then the inclement weather would have pushed them to. Egg patterns are absolutely fishing well right now and will continue to improve on a daily basis. If they are not producing for you in the morning return to them in the afternoon. They tend to fish remarkably better later in the day.
More on this bite to come as the topic becomes more appropriate a little further into the Spawn.
Tight lines, sleep in, be nice. Cheers!
-Written by Ben Rock