Epic Fall Fishing
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By Deborah Olsen
Fly fishing at sunset on the Yampa River, across from the community center. Photo by Deborah Olsen
Usually by the first of August, the Yampa River flows lazily through Old Town Steamboat Springs.
But this is no ordinary year. At the end of the July, the spring runoff finally slowed enough that tubing was allowed on the river. Could blue-ribbon fishing be far behind?
“As a joke back in May, I said it’d be autumn before we’d be fishing the rivers,” says avid fly fisherman Andrew Jacobi.
The result of the prolonged high waters is a compact fishing season, when early-season, summer and fall hatches may occur nearly simultaneously. “It’s all happening at once. We need to be mindful that our days are limited. We need to fish every time we get the chance,” Jacobi says.
“This should be one of the best falls in the 19 years I’ve been guiding,” says fishing guide Jarett Duty, co-owner of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters.
The heavy snowmelt has left local waters cooler and more oxygen-rich than in a normal fall. Brown trout, one of the most common species in the Yampa Valley, are fall spawners. “This year, the browns will be able to naturally disperse and find their own areas to spawn. The newly laid eggs will have the best chance to hatch, and the water will have enough oxygen for the fish to catch their breath after a fight with an angler,” says Tim Kirkpatrick of Steamboat Flyfisher.
Additionally, ranchers need to draw less water from streams to irrigate their fields, and the cold, wet spring has caused them to delay cutting their hay. When haying does occur, the grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and ants that live in the fields are displaced – often into streams, where fish feed on the protein-rich insects. “Fall fly fishing with big terrestrial flies is just about every angler’s nirvana,” Kirkpatrick says.
To take advantage of the epic fall fishing, anglers won’t have to go far. “There’s going to be extraordinary fishing right through the downtown corridor,” Duty says.
“I probably do 90% of my fishing on the Yampa downtown, on public waters,” Jacobi says. “On the whole stretch from Walton Pond right through downtown, you’d be hard-pressed to fine a bad spot to fish.”