Mother River needs Run Off.
Big water is her spring cleaning and while the water can be "ripping"angry, muddy and very dangerous; high water is very beneficial to everything in the riparian zone. As Fly Fishermen the effect of high water on the fishes and how to catch them in changeable water is the challenge. If you are not planning on sitting out "shoulder season", an understanding of the three phases or moods a freestone river goes through during run off can help you to continue to fool fish, just in new neighborhoods.
Phase one begins with a bump in flow. A big one.
Early signs of run off will only change flows on a freestone in 5-10% bumps and that will not normally move fish from their perfect little places. As weather patterns change and get warmer we will start to see daily rise in flows that are over 50%, which must sound a lot like a tornado siren to a trout cuz they all start to run for the shelters. When fish are moved from their comfort zone and begin setting up refuge camps along the bank they make mistakes and when this happens you need to find a brother with a boat and your streamer box, quick like. Fish are shoved from the safety of fancy condos directly into the slums where eating is more like dumpster diving than free delivery. Instead of living on easy street they now share space in wheelbarrows, bathtubs and truck-bed sized holes trying to weather the coming storm while eating crap instead of cake. Place streamers here.
Phase Two is the Remodel.
"Mud Season" here in Vail is often referred to as remodel season. People leave town after a busy ski season and a contractor shows up and remodels the hut while they are on vacation. The river goes through the same thing during the highest flows of run off. While the fish are off on vacation in the ghetto, the river is busy cleaning and rearranging things for when the water subsides and her friends move back in for the summer. This is when you wade fish from the safety of the bushes, that's where the fish are too. It's during this time when you can really get a sense for how hungry trout get when the refrigerator door is welded shut. Get your favorite big, bright and heavy ass nymph patterns out for this phase and be ready to lose both flies and fish to big flows and the fresh landscaping that's freely tumbling around down there.
Phase Three is the Homesteading.
Once flows peak and begin to slowly drop, the water warms and clears up drastically. Depending on the weather, flows drop really consistently and you can often forecast rate of drop, water temps, insect hatches and with good past data; when fish head back home. Water conditions are often perfect for hatches before fish leave the slums so they may stay around. A back alley with a feeding lane will hold fish longer than some rest area with empty vending machines. At some point the fish know its time to head back to the neighborhood where they will go through their yearly homesteading process. The biggest and baddest will get the best property and the rest will fill the many new Burroughs that run off creates. While a well placed streamer will work for a time before the fish head for home; they often are keyed on the abundance of bugs. This is a great time of year to tune up your short range dry dropper game while wading the last of the high water. The boats become more important as flows drop. This is where you find your boy again, but this time bring all your dry flies and your favorite 4 weight.
Yeah other things got remodeled this month. Join me and the Colorado Angling Company family on a freaky little deja vu journey beginning Memorial Day weekend in a new fly shop in an old spot in Minturn.
Whats behind that blue door?