Fishing Yampa's prime fall conditions

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Jed Collins, left, from Steamboat Flyfisher, guides Larry Ginsburg, visiting from Florida, on a wade-in trip Thursday morning on the Yampa River. Ginsburg's wife, Karen, casts a line in the background.

— Steamboat's top fishing guides have reason to look forward to what's left of autumn.

"All the fish are still here - and the people are gone," joked Steamboat Flyfisher's Jonah Drescher. "Like any other animal, with the cold nights, the fish know the winter is coming and can be voracious knowing they're not going to have a lot to eat. Late September and the beginning of October are my favorite times to fish in Colorado."

Rich Evans, a guide for Straightline Outdoor Sports, explained that the conditions are ripe for catching 14- to 20-inch trout.

With water temperatures dropping and the Yampa at levels well above its 96-year median, Evans said fish will be seeking bigger flies in their search for protein. They even will be attracted to crawfish patterns. In this search for food, drifting sculpins or streamer patterns of wooly buggers that mimic baitfish are good ways to attract a strike. For larger fish, anglers should consider a larger-diameter tippet and heavier leader with a higher pound test strength rating.

But with the days' warmer weather, bugs are still hatching enough for active surface fishing.

"That window will last as long as the hatches, probably about two weeks," Evans said. "Then, there will be less surface action - the fish will key in on smaller flies. Water temps will drop and they'll conserve more energy."

Simply put, the time for catching a big brown and rainbow trout from the surface is now.

Evans pointed out the 54- to 64-degree optimal feeding temperature period that typically occurs between mid-morning and early afternoon.

"The hatches will be in order, you need to keep a keen eye on them," Evans said, mentioning the predominance of Baetis family mayfly hatches and noting the effectiveness of Blue Winged Olive and Mahogany Dun patterns.

Finally, Evans reminded avid fall anglers to avoid the cleaned river bottom beds that brown trout use to spawn in the fall and that wet-wading is no longer a realistic option - think about wearing a heavier sock or fleece underneath waders.

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