EAGLE COUNTY — While many cursed the cold air this week, anglers enjoyed the clear water it brought to the Eagle River.
The cold and snowy conditions have stalled the big spring runoff — and it will be big this year, according to the water content measured in this year’s snowpack — meaning rivers are still able to be fished with relative ease. But if you’re going to take advantage of the conditions, then you’d better do it now, says Jim Daniels with the National Weather Service.
“Overnight lows are fairly key to runoff,” Daniels said Thursday. “On some nights this weekend and heading into next week, even at your higher elevations around there, overnight low temperatures might not be below freezing for all that long, so you’ll have a longer period of melting.”
Once the big periods of melting occur, fishing on the Eagle River will be difficult due to the ferocity of the rushing water.
“After this cold snap, flows on the Eagle River are going to ramp right back up and blow everything out, and I expect that to last through GoPro weekend (June 6-8),” said local angler Mark Sassi. “Then, from early June until mid August is when you’ll see prime fishing conditions return again.”
For now, the pre-runoff can be an exciting time, says David Budniakiewicz with Minturn Anglers.
“The fish will get dirty water one day, and cold, clear water the next, so they’re a bit confused and kind of figuring out where they want to hang out,” Budniakiewicz said. “While they’re doing that, they’re not eating much. Once they get a couple days in a row, or like in our case this week, two or three cold days in a row, that runoff slows down and they get consistent flows, they’ve figured out a spot to hang out, and now these fish are hungry.”
Budniakiewicz said locals, and folks with the time and means to travel quickly, can really take advantage of pre-runoff fishing.
“We can say, ‘Look, we’ve got two or three days of 30-degree weather coming up, why don’t you come out with us on that third day?’” Budniakiewicz said. “And depending on the day, we can float the Eagle, and if you’re floating the river down the middle, and you’re chucking streamers or stone-fly patterns toward the bank, that’s where the fish are.”
WADE A MINUTE
But the wade fishing is good, too, say local anglers.
Edwards resident Chuck Nash says he’s heading out on Sunday, and he’ll continue to wade fish on the banks of the Eagle during the runoff.
“Just keep it close to the bank and you’ll be OK,” Nash said.
Budniakiewicz says while pre-runoff fishing is often fantastic, often times it’s not enjoyed by their typical clientele, which will visit during the prime summer months.
“That’s why we offer offseason specials and things like that, to encourage people to get out and experience the pre-runoff,” he said. “We do a two-person special for wade fishing, buy one trip and you get to bring a second person for free. ... It’s cool because you basically get first licks at these fish. But it’s not going to last that long. We’re really just looking at this next week or maybe the week after.”