Fly-fishing for trout in the Yampa River is very good right now.
March, with its brilliant sunshine and longer days, brings some of the best skiing of the year. But people who spend all of their time on the slopes will miss some of the best fishing of the year.
Anglers have been catching big trout in the Yampa for several weeks, as mild temperatures have warmed the water enough to break up the ice.
A Centennial man caught a 27-inch brown trout Feb. 23 from private water in the Yampa upstream from Steamboat Springs. But anglers also were catching rainbow trout and rainbow/cutthroat hybrids longer than 20 inches from public waters immediately below Stagecoach Reservoir.
The big trout in the tailwaters below Stagecoach and other dams are a little finicky right now, Jarett Duty of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters said. But the trout in the downtown section of the river are less so.
"A lot of people are fishing in town right now," Duty said. "People are catching fish on size 16 nymphs, but they're also taking them on size 10 olive leeches."
An informal survey of anglers' catches in town is reflecting a 50/50 split among browns and rainbows, something Duty found surprising.
Duty suggests using a nymph that is tied sparsely in brown or black dubbing to imitate the small stoneflies that hatch on warm days on the Yampa this time of year.
At the tailwater below Stagecoach, which is part of Stagecoach Reservoir State Park, it's a different story. Guides taking clients out are suggesting a 7.5-foot leader with a 6X fluorocarbon tippet, he said. Some anglers may use finer 7X tippet, but the guides have not found it necessary.
Duty recommends that anglers try natural-colored olive scud patterns and avoid patterns tied with sparkling filaments.
Whether the fish have grown wary of flashy patterns is open to debate, but "they haven't keyed on them as much," this winter, Duty said.
If the scuds fail to attract a strike, don't stick with them for more than a half dozen casts, Duty suggested.
The fish below Stagecoach are on one pattern one day, and another the next day. Other patterns to try include RS-2's, WD-40's and the Brooks sprout midge in sizes 18 to 20.
Later in the day, anglers are having success with egg patterns and "micro worms" similar to the San Juan pattern.
For anyone who hasn't discovered pre-runoff fishing in Routt County, now is the time.
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