Gene Cook: Great fishing demise


Every time I come home from fishing on the Yampa, I intend to write this letter. Perhaps now is the right time.

I have fished the Yampa for the 58 years that I have lived in the community. Now, I am completely puzzled by the river. Historically, I have found rising trout all along in the river at various times during the day from midsummer to early winter. It has been very productive for the dry fly addict.

Now, I find no activity in the river. Nothing, zilch, zero, nada. Have the pike eaten all of the trout? I still consider the pike to be a trash fish, fit for nothing. The days of the blue ribbon trout stream must be all behind us.

With the frenetic operation of the Steamboat Springs Chamber to bring in more spenders of any kind, surely we can have a productive recreational floating business and a great trout fishing stream, too. In the past, regular restocking has been done. Now I see no evidence of such replenishment.

What has happened to the restocking activity? Can someone who understands the river advise me and reassure other dry fly fishermen? Time is passing, and the word about our great fishing demise will be out. I hope that doesn’t have to be.

Gene Cook

Steamboat Springs


Scott Ford 2 years, 8 months ago

Hi Gene – I appreciate your perspective and concern. I have also asked myself the same question, “What has happened to the Yampa?” I am puzzled as well. Folks that tell me they had a great (day/evening) on the river – whereas for me it is more of a disappointing hit and miss experience over the past several years. In part this is why they call it fishing and not catching.
The reality is that there is a host of challenges facing this fishery ranging from Whirling Disease, Northern Pike, lack of replacement stocking and recreational tubing.

During the summer months the Yampa River through town is best characterized as an amusement ride. Evidence of this is that Disney named one of their ride attractions at Blizzard Beach Water Park, Teamboat Springs. Where do you think they got the idea to do that?

Several years ago I was involved as a representative from Yampa Valley Fly Fishers in the development of the River Management Plan I think that was commissioned by the City and Colo. Division of Wildlife. From my perspective we screwed up by limiting commercial tubing operations to only below 5th Street – thinking this would take the pressure off above 5th. It was assumed that only a few local kids would tube the river above that point. Wow – were we wrong! The ticket for this river amusement ride is a $21 blow up tube from Walmart to Sports Authority and now even Walgreens.

The commercial tubing operations collect a user fee from every tuber. These funds are used for river clean-up, structure and habitat improvement. I think that there may be some merit to charging a small fee on the retail purchase of tubes. A dollar per tube fee could go a long way. Also I think allowing the commercial tubing operations access above 5th Street would be a viable option to explore. One of the uses of this fee on retail tubes could be to stock the river occasionally during the summer.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by other members of City Council.)


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

The philosophy in city government and Forest Service that it matters whether someone does something as an individual vs with a paid guide or paid service makes no sense. It makes no sense that commercial tubing is prohibited on a section of river which allows noncommercial tubing. Not having to share with commercial tubing companies makes the upper section more attractive to individual tubers. It never made any sense to hope that banning commercial tubers from a section of river would do anything other than increase private citizens use of that section.

If tubing puts too much pressure on a section of river then institute fees on that section to reduce usage. Charge $5 fee per tuber whether commercial or private citizen for the upper section. And keep below 5th street free.

Adding a special tax for tubes sold in the city limits is just more complex government rules that now has to decide what might be used to float the river. And that is a lot of work just to raise some money.

I also note that a lot of money was used to move rocks in the river to provide a better habitat for fish (and a better ride for tubers and kayaking). How sure are we that it is working? Might it have worsened the situation due to whatever complex interactions?

I would also survey the river above and below downtown to see if the apparent problem with the fishery is a general problem facing the river or limited to downtown. Maybe tubing has nothing to do with it.


Eric Meyer 2 years, 8 months ago

I thought the fees just went into the general fund, just like the trail impact fee from all the races up on Emerald. I strongly agree that the fees from the river users (and from the trail users) should go back into improving those assets. Float fished all the way from Chuck Lewis all the way through town really early Sunday with a friend. I thought it was the hot water keep them down. Saw some decent fish, just figured it was not the right time or pattern.


Larry Desjardin 2 years, 8 months ago

I was thinking the trout simply wised up to my hopper-dropper combo.


jerry carlton 2 years, 8 months ago

Everybody should have been there yesterday or tomorrow! Today is never the right day.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

My rommate pulls quality trout out of the Yampa through town all the time -- including a 27-inch Brown recently; it hung over both of his arms, before he threw it back.

He used to be a fly-fishing guide, knows what he's doing, but says he's learning all the time. I guess there are several facets to fly fishing, beyond the tackle: The art of the presentation -- selecting the right pattern -- and being able to read the water, so you know where they'll be.

I know it can be done -- now I just need to learn how to do it!!


Fred Duckels 2 years, 8 months ago

For most of my life whenever I drove past a stream or pond I could see fish rising in a glance. Those days seem to be gone.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

Mom says there aren't as many birds as there used to be. Folks in Missouri say the fireflies aren't as numerous as they used to be. The bees are disappearing, and those are the key to life and pollen, or so I'm told. Yup, the world is falling apart before our very eyes. And WE didn't make it happen. Just Nature's course. Pretty soon the sky will be falling -- oh wait -- it IS!! Call me in the morning.


Rick Pighini 2 years, 8 months ago

Some of the best fishing I've ever had was on the Mt Werner rd side of the river during the fourth of July weekend when tubers were everywhere. I don't know why but I caught a fish behind every rock. But I think all the big fish eventually find their way up to the tail waters of the catamount dam. That's literally the best fishing in the world up there. You need a eight weight rod and within a couple of hours your too tired to fish anymore. Maybe we need a fish weir or dam after the chuck Lewis area so we are not helping the rich catch all the fish we are all buying.


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