The heat of the summer is upon us. With water temperatures in the Yampa fluctuating daily between 60 and 70+ degrees, we are beginning to experience some of the conditions that accompany warm water. The midday siesta is upon us, and early starts are becoming the norm.
The Stagecoach tail waters, Sarvis Creek area, and Pleasant Valley are still fishing well through the day, with more consistent temperatures and flows due to proximity to the reservoirs.
Chuck Lewis and any spots downstream from Chuck Lewis are best targeted early and late. With the water temperatures now being conducive for algal growth, in certain areas, deep name thing has become more trouble than it’s worth. A good way to beat the algae and still fish sub-surface is with a hopper dropper rig. Try a heavy bead head as your dropper, such as a Copper John, or Hotwire Prince in size 16 or 18. These flies are heavier than dubbed body nymphs, and will get down faster at the heads of the riffles, where a lot of the fish are holding now during feeding windows. Streamers have been very effective on darker days as well. With fish holding farther and farther up in the fast water, more aggressive retrieves will move fish, and help avoid the algae as well.
The Yampa through town is officially below 200 CFS, and the tuber hatch is in full swing. Avoiding the downtown stretches during peak heat of the day is wise, as Steamboat's tubing industry tends to dominate the river through this period, especially on the weekends. With these lower flows the only floatable stretches are from Pumphouse down. The lower Yampa is proving to be excellent right now due to a lack of fishing pressure in comparison with the upper stretches. Hopper dropper rigs with rubberleg droppers has been a good bet, as well as streamers in tan, olive, and white. Those who have time to invest a whole day in a float owe it to themselves to play on the lower Yampa right now.
People looking to fish still water can find good activity in the high country. Attractor dries, leeches, and caddis tend to be sure baits to aggressive, unpressured wild trout in the mountains. Fishing still water lower down in the valley like Steamboat Lake State Park and Stagecoach, is starting to prove difficult. For those attempting these bigger reservoirs, fish early and late. Ants and beetles on the surface, and olive or black leeches stripped subsurface will get the job done before and after the heat of the day.
The Elk is fishing well, with its headwaters in the Zirkels, cooler water temps are more stable throughout the heat of the day. Christina is a great option, but the early bird gets the worm with the best runs being high traffic areas. Get there before your buddy and you might stick a few. Keep driving up Seedhouse Road to find a stretch all to yourself. Heading up the hill is a great way to beat the heat. With aggressive but spooky fish, well-placed casts with your favorite attractor dry is usually the most fun approach. You may not see lots of fish on the Upper Elk, but they are wild and beautiful. If it is a pure cutty you're after, accessing the upper forks through Diamond Park is a great option, or some of the high reservoirs in the Flat Tops are a good option as well.
Fishing this spring and summer so far has been a bit interesting with non-traditional water flows and extreme heat in the early season. With the Trico hatch picking up and flows stabilizing, we should be on the edge of a consistent fishery through our second chunk of summer and into fall. The difficulties we have encountered in fishing high water this spring don’t come close to comparing to the hardship of the river closures we were already experiencing this time last year, so let’s keep it in perspective. We will take all the water we can get!
Tight lines, and remember to take care of those trout when handling them. We are already entering into a stressful heat event for our lower valley fisheries, so make sure to take extra care when releasing. Also, if you’re struggling out there and need some direction, come see us at Straightline and we’ll help you out. Cheers till next week!
-Written by Ben Rock