Spring Fly Fishing
It felt like spring here in Colorado today. After a dreary, cold, rainy morning, the skies cleared and it turned into a beautiful 65 degree day, and it’s only supposed to get better for the next few days. I mentioned last night that I am anxious to get out to one of my favorite lakes this weekend, but I am having second thoughts about that. I am thinking maybe one of my favorite rivers instead, like maybe the South Platte in Waterton Canyon, which is only a ten minute drive from my house. I will have to see how some things go on Friday, and Saturday my son has a lacrosse game in the middle of the afternoon, so I’ll have to play things as they evolve.
April is one of the best times for fishing here, and in other locals similar to where I live. The bass fishing will pick up soon, and the trout fishing will be at its best before the spring runoff starts. For those that don’t know what spring runoff is, it’s when the streams and rivers become flooded with the snow melt coming from the high mountains. This year the snowpack is lower than average, so the runoff should be over by mid June. The year before last we had so much snow in the mountains that the runoff didn’t end until late July. Either situation is not good for the fish; they are programmed to breed their young at a certain time of year, just like any other wild animal, and the adverse conditions of drought or flood will affect the next year’s crop of fish.
Regardless of the snowpack, April is a good month to get out on a river as the snow is still high in the mountains. Nymph action will be good with pheasant tails, bead head Prince nymphs, gold-ribbed hare’s ears, and some stonefly patterns as your lead fly, and a small black copper john, small olive pheasant tail, or zebra midge as your second fly. One thing to keep in mind is the development stage of aquatic life at this time of the year and how the levels of sunlight affect the body color of some insects, like blue wing olive larvae that may be a lighter color of olive right now. But that’s really only for particularly finicky fish if you fish a heavily pressured area, which a lot of people do in the spring.
As the days and the water temperature continue to warm, emerger patterns will be effective. My favorites are the Barr’s Emerger, RS-2, and a few special ones I have created on my own that I have no name for. At this time of year I still fish an emerger as the second fly behind a bead head nymph, but I will adjust the depth of the flies with my strike indicator as needed to find the right depth for the feeding fish. For those who may not have a preference or are new to fly fishing, I highly recommend adjustable strike indicators, not the kinds that stick onto your line with adhesive as they can’t be easily adjusted to change your fly depth. Being able to change your fly depth is one of the most important details about fly fishing success.
Finally, the conditions will come and go with the weather this time of year, but dry fly fishing will be a good option in the coming month, especially into the first few weeks in May. It is an amazing thing to witness as the hatches begin in lower elevations, and then travel up a river almost daily. The Arkansas River in Colorado is well known for its Mother’s Day hatch of caddis flies at that time of year, literally creating clouds of bugs coming off the water. The only problem is getting a fish to be attracted to your fly when there are a bazillion of the real things right in front of them.
Now that I have written this, I really want to get out on a river this weekend, we’ll see how things go. At some point I have a house and yard to take care of instead of chasing fish and getting ready for turkey season. I think I need a maid or something.