Steamboat Springs This week's rain pushed the Yampa River up over the tops of boulders in downtown Steamboat Springs and transformed the water to the color of cafe au lait.
Barring a significant cold snap in late April, the river is unlikely to clear up again until late June. The change has sent anglers scurrying for tailwater fisheries -- the sections of rivers immediately below dams -- where the water remains clear and unaffected by runoff.
The closest option to downtown Steamboat is the tailwater section of the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir. Kenny Loose of Steamboat was nailing trout after trout on midge pupa Friday. He observed that, among the fish he caught, the females were fighting harder than the males.
Loose, a fishing guide with Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, was using a small foam strike indicator to detect strikes without spooking the fish. He made constant upstream mends in his line to ensure the fly would not drag in the current as it passed over the trout.
Another fisherman had immediate success with a bright little midge pupa pattern known as the Rainbow Warrior. The fly is tied with red thread underneath a clear glass bead.
Jeff Ruff of Steamboat Fishing Company theorized that the Rainbow Warrior was working because the fish haven't seen it much before. Sometimes heavily fished trout are more likely to take a fly that looks a little less familiar than the standard patterns that drift by them day after day and often get them into trouble, he explained.
The fish also are becoming wary of large fluffy strike indicators. Ruff fishes without an indicator. He just watches the junction of his fly line and leader for signs of a strike. Even more effective at Stagecoach is sight fishing to a trout you can see in its feeding lane beneath the shallow water. When you observe the fish you have targeted opening and closing its mouth, or moving out of its lane to take a nymph, set the hook, Ruff said.
Another option is to fish a small dry fly, like a baetis parachute above the midge pupa. The dry fly also will bring occasional strikes.
There were a few mayflies on the water Friday, but the fish were keying on the midges, taking both emergers and adults.
Ruff said anglers who have been fishing the town stretch of the Yampa throughout the early spring often struggle to adjust when the they move to the tailwater. The anglers who have been using glo bugs and San Juan worms in downtown Steamboat are accustomed to seeing their strike indicator dive beneath the water or even begin to swim upstream when they have a strike.
That won't happen in the river below Stagecoach, Ruff said. The strikes will be subtler. Many anglers who go home without experiencing success probably had more takes than they realized, Ruff said.
One reason for missed takes is that anglers haven't adjusted their tackle to suit the water. While nymphing at Stagecoach, your leader should be much shorter than normal, Ruff suggested. He also advises placing a strike indicator just 20 to 24 inches above the fly because of the shallow water below Stagecoach.
It's also a good idea to have a few Rainbow Warriors on your side.