Fishing today with the future health of the river, fish in mind
So far the summer has been a great one for fly fishing in Vail Valley and beyond.
Conditions have been ideal for almost a month on most of our local waters. Hatches have been strong and the fish are in great shape. The fishing this week will similar to last week with hatches tapering off a bit, but still keeping trout eager to eat dry flies.
Morning fishing has been very good, while afternoons may see a lull in the action. Flows have been bumped up on the Colorado River, mitigating severely-low water flows.
The Roaring Fork and Eagle are clear and dropping with ideal water temperatures and plenty of willing trout. The High Country is a great escape from the heat with lakes and small streams loaded with brookies and cutthroats.
As we progress into summer, however, especially with the intense heat we have been experiencing, our trout become more vulnerable. Flows are dropping and water temperatures on lower elevation rivers are climbing. Our finned friends are in no immediate danger like last summer, but care should be exercised with our current weather patterns.
Certain simple steps can be taken to ensure we are enjoying and protecting the resource our rivers provide.
Lead by example — catch and release
Catch and release works to provide anglers the opportunity to catch trout more than once. In order to work effectively, we as fly fishermen must lead by example. Debarb your hooks. Leave some water and trout for the other anglers out there.
We all enjoy the sight of a trout clearing the water with an impressive jump, but when playing fish, try not to extend the fight just for entertainment purposes. Trout expend a bunch of energy fighting and lactic acid quickly builds up in their muscles. Avoid exhausting the fish even if it means you may lose or break them off. Landing trout quickly means they are returned to the water healthy and with energy to spare.
Keep in mind large trout are more fragile than the small ones and have a harder time recovering from a fight or time out of the water.
Always use a landing net, preferably one with a fish friendly rubber bag. Dragging a trout onto the bank where it can flop around on the rocks will injure it quickly while the net cradles the fish and helps to protect it from getting jarred and bumped.
The trout can remain immersed in water while in the net as well, giving a steady supply of oxygen to the gills before it is released back into the river.
After removing the hook with a pair of forceps while the fish rests in the net, many anglers never even handle the fish directly which is great.
Tips for getting a great photo and protecting the fish
Capturing an image of your catch is a time honored tradition, but care must be exercised when taking photos of trout.
First, have things ready to go before the trout is removed from the water. This means wetting your hands to keep the fish’s protective slime layer intact, turning your camera on and thinking about the background and angle of the sun.
Utilize your fishing partner’s help. When everything is ready, quickly cradle the trout in both hands supporting its underside. Don’t squeeze. You’ll drop the fish. Lift gently and snap a quick shot before returning the fish to the immersed net before release. Face the trout into the current to swim away to be caught another day.
Brody Henderson is a senior guide with Vail Valley Anglers and can be reached at 970-926-0900.