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Pre Run Off/ Shoulder Season Fishing

Spring is here! Kind of. Over the next few weeks in the Rockies, water temperatures, clarity, and weather will fluctuate wildly. This is especially true in a heavy snow pack year like the one we're currently in. Water conditions have quite an impact on trout and fishing for them. Keeping a few things in mind can help maximize your success on the water.

1) Water Temperature

Snow melt will not only stain the water, but cool it down drastically. Keeping this in mind try to target the slower/deeper tanks (pools) when the water is sub 50 degrees. Currently guiding/fishing personally most of the fish we're finding are still in "winter water". On warmer days we are finding some fish in the riffles, but they're usually connected to the slower deeper runs and pools. Thinking about what band of the water column trout are feeding ( usually the lower 1/3 this time of year) can greatly impact your success. Keep a look out for insects as a hatch can get the trout feeding off the surface or keeping into the upper 2/3 of the water column.

2) Water Flow/Clarity

Spring is a time of change, specially water flow and clarity. Usually a big spike in flow will cold shock fish and force them back into the deeper slower pools. This is especially true of freestone rivers. Flow spikes can also stain the water heavily. Remember this is all relative depending on your local fisheries. They're all different. On my local river, the Rio Grande, fishing is still fair down to 12" of visibility. During these conditions I tend to favor patterns with hot beads (orange, pink, or white) beads in my experience tend to show up well in stained waters. I also like to fish flies with uv materials, again using elements that will show up well in stained water. Higher flows will often require heavier flies, but not always. Almost all of my nymphs are tied with tungsten beads. For higher faster flows I lean on the heavier beads in sizes 3.3 and 3.8mm.

( a box loaded with UV/Hot bead flies ready for stained water)

3) Weather

A classic Western joke goes something like this, "If you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes." Haha, what a gut buster. I digress. This old quip holds weight, especially in the spring time. Early spring in the Rockies can have temps as high as the 50s/ 60s during the day and as low as the teens (or lower) during the night. If you can try to choose a day with the highest overnight low the day before you can fish. Higher ambient air temperature will aid in warming the water temps the day before you choose to fish. Spring can also be a great time to catch a BWO/Midge or Caddis hatch. Cloudy days are best for blue wing olives (bwo), a small may fly that trout love to snack on.

Heres a video of fishing the Rio Grande early season and the changes I made to maximize my success.

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