Steamboat Springs The cap of snow gathered atop Mount Werner began to melt through last week, the brown scars underneath a depressing sign for any hoping to hit the slopes soon or in any sort of top-to-bottom fashion when the chairlifts are finally fired up later this month.
Torre Saterstrom didn’t grimace. Instead, as he has done all autumn long, he grabbed his equipment and took to one of Steamboat Springs’ few truly all-season sports. He spent an early late-fall afternoon fly-fishing in the Yampa River.
“It’s great,” he said, his grin plenty wide enough to be obvious from the river’s banks.
As the final major fall hunting season window closes and mountain bikers give up on Steamboat’s often soggy trails, fishing in the area changes, but it never stops.
Thursday was a slow afternoon at Steamboat Flyfisher as Keith Hale shifted his gaze back and forth from the traffic on the street in front of his new shop — heavy thanks to the Lincoln Avenue construction — to the high-definition television blinking above the service desk — The Weather Channel, where it looks warm.
A steady trickle of customers made their way in, however, picking up the gear necessary to tackle a whole new season.
Locals insist that fall is just as good as the rest of Steamboat’s fishing seasons. It is different, however.
An early summer fishing trip on the Yampa is defined not by the kayakers drifting across the surface, but the insects hatching from the river bottom.
The fall, by comparison, is defined by what isn’t happening. The insects of the summer have broken out and buzzed off, so fly-fishing flies designed to mimic them and lure a hungry trout on to a hook aren’t likely to be as effective.
“Basically, in the summer time you get the bugs hatching, bugs that live on the bottom,” Hale said. “You get fish to eat those on the surface. This time of year, there aren’t a whole lot of hatches, so you’re mostly fishing below the surface and with streamers.”
Fall weather often calls for larger flies, or, as a trout sees it, a fat steak for a trout looking to fatten up for the cold months ahead.
“You’re just throwing something that’s big and meaty,” Hale said.
Although fishing doesn’t have to get any more difficult when the weather turns, finding the right spot can be more important.
In the spring and summer, trout can be found in many parts of the river. Come fall and winter, however, they’re more likely to coalesce in certain areas.
“It can be easier to find them because they sit together in the same holes,” Hale said. “Convincing them to take a bite might be more difficult, but in the summer the fish are a lot more spread out.”
Fish are plentiful in the Yampa and the Elk rivers, and there are plenty to be had at Stagecoach Reservoir, as well.
In fact, the South Routt lake was stocked with 40,000 10- to 12-inch trout last week.
“The fishing has been pretty decent lately,” reservoir administrative assistant Kimi Hollwedel reported Friday morning. “People are still catching 4- to 6-pound trout in pretty much all areas of the reservoir, though some spots have been hotter than others.”
The tail waters below the dam, as usual, remain a popular and fertile area for fly fishers.
In the reservoir itself, there are plenty of pike in addition to the new trout.
“Spring and fall are the best times to fish for pikes,” Hale said. “They spawn in the fall and are moving up from the shallows. They’re definitely not in the very deep areas right now.”
That’s good news at the reservoir, as fishing there these days comes with a hitch.
The boat ramp is closed because of an aquatic nuisance species protocol. All fishing will have to be done from the shore.
Hollwedel said areas along the dam could offer appropriately deep water to nab some pike on warmer days, as would the Keystone area, just below the park office.
“Fishing here is good year-round,” she said. “Ice fishing season is just around the corner, too.”