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Spring Fishing in the Rockies

Posted by Yakoda Supply on

by Hurley Kane, Guide for Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder, Colorado


Spring has sprung. Daylight savings, warm temperatures, buggy afternoons, happy fish and spring training for the Rockies all point to the unofficial start of spring. For the majority of the winter months anglers have been imprisoned to busy tail-waters and frustrated by frozen guides, but the thaw has started and season has begun! Our freestone rivers have slowly begun to wake up. A consistent warming trend in the weather has opened up many more angling possibilities across the Front Range. Areas of opportunity are the lower reaches of: Boulder Creek, The St. Vrain and its branches, the Poudre and some parts of Clear Creek. Other rivers that have been having a fantastic start to spring are the Colorado, Eagle, North Platte and the Arkansas. The next 6 weeks of fishing can be some of the best all year. I have heard it called many things, pre-runoff, spring fishing, the hidden season, whatever the hell you call it, it is one of my favorite times of the year to fish, and for good reason…. feed bag on!

Midges will continue to dominate the food source for many of our local fisheries. However, with each passing day and each increase in the mercury, the mayfly species know as blue winged olives become increasingly popular as a trout’s main food source. As the weather warms the lower elevations and our snowpack has yet to feel the heat, anglers can expect to have a field day with manageable flows, active bugs and hungry fish. After a ‘long’ winter on a sparse diet of midges, many fish will go into a feeding frenzy when these mayflies arrive. Fishing a BWO nymph on your rig is certainly in your best interest from now until about mid June. A BWO, midge combo is deadly under an indicator as well as a stonefly, mayfly combo. My go to rig is a girdle bug to an olive Rs2, this can catch fish in just about any river in the state if fished properly! As the hatch intensifies and fish start keying in on adult duns on the surface, fishing a realistic imitation like the Para-extended body BWO or a sparkle dun will do you wonders.  There is nothing like the first dry fly eats of the year!

As the water temperatures increase so does the fish’s body temperature, and being cold blooded they will feed more actively in warmer water about mid forties. This in turn can make them more willing to come to the fly, whether that means eating a dry fly off the surface, chasing a well-placed streamer or even moving three feet to eat your nymph! Start looking in feeding lanes rather than deep winter holding lies for fish.  Good places to start are mid current seams, foam lines, riffles and runs. Streamer fishing can be lights out this time of year as well. The fish are hungry and willing to work for a meal, feedbag on! I have been having a hell of a time fishing white and lighter colored streamers lately, the Goldie has bagged several nice fish this month. This fly has just the right amount of marabou, really making it come alive in the water.



Spring also brings the annual rainbow spawn. Similar to the browns in the fall, rainbows seek out gravel bars to lay and fertilize their eggs. What does this mean for us anglers? A couple of things: Firstly, do your best to stay off the spawning beds of fish, you will know it when you see them, a patch of polished gravel with a slight indentation. Also fishing to actively spawning fish is bad juju in the angling community, please be respectful. Beyond ethics, the tactics of fishing during this time of year may land you your biggest fish of the season. If fish are spawning in the river you are fishing, an egg is a great idea for at least one of the flies on your rig. Yarn, beads, hot heads, you name it; it is a good idea. Some anglers will scoff at the idea, but it catches fish…I will let you be the judge. High in protein, fish will glut themselves on eggs if given the opportunity. Another bit of advice is to fish the deep holes close to the gravel bars. This is typically, where the big dogs will be lounging until the time is right to make their move.

There is no better time to be outside than early spring in Colorado. The sights, sounds and smells of winter slowly loosening its grip are unparalleled in their beauty. The summer crowds have yet to arrive and runoff has yet to swell our rivers, there is no better time than the present to wet a line or go for a hike. One last piece of advice, plan for the unexpected, the weather changes rapidly during springtime in the Rockies, so layer up and be prepared!


Top 5 Dry Flies

Parachute Adams #14-22
Para-Extended Body BWO #18-22
CDC Comparadun BWO #18-22
Sparkle Dun #18-24
Sprout Midge #20-24

Top 5 Subsurface Flies

Chocolate Foam-back Rs2 #18-22
Bling Midge #20-24
Juju Baetis #18-22
Girdle Bug #6-10
Chartreuse Glo-bug #16-22

Top 3 Streamer Patterns

Articulated Goldie
Sparkle Minnow
TB Leech

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