Late season fishing: Look for the riffles
This week, the fly-fishing around Vail remains very good.
Cooler weather has dropped water temperatures and local trout are feeding well. The best wading options are on the Eagle River from Edwards down to Eagle while float fishermen are enjoying a solid hopper bite on many miles of the Colorado River between Pumphouse and Dotsero. Anglers who enjoy the high country should get out there and enjoy the last few weeks of productive fishing on high elevation creeks and lakes.
Because it is late summer, some trout are becoming a little harder to catch. They’ve seen a lot of flies and they are fat and happy after a couple months of binge feeding. To find trout that are in an eating mood this time of year, anglers should look for trout in the most productive water in any given stream.
There is never a sure thing when it comes to fly-fishing for trout. Weather changes, off color water, no hatch, angler pressure and trout that are simply not feeding can create difficult conditions. Even with all conditions pointing towards great fishing, there are times when catching fish is difficult, but if anglers look in the right places they can come closer to a sure thing.
To find trout that will be the most willing to eat flies, look for riffles. All water is not created equal as far habitat and food production in a river and riffles provide ideal habitat, lots of food and good security for trout. Moderate speed and moderate depth is the key with choppy but not rough current in the two to three foot depth range.
Riffles give trout everything they need. Broken surface water creates security cover from airborne predators. Riffles are also cooler and very well oxygenated. Aquatic insect activity is high in riffle habitat and prey is constantly drifting through a trout’s feeding zone. Trout in deep, slow holes may be motionless and resting with no interest in feeding, but trout in riffles are there for a reason. That reason is to eat.
Another reason anglers should always seek out riffles is that they are relatively easy to fish when compared to other water types. For instance, slow, glassy pools require long casts, a gentle presentation and perfect drift but the broken surface of riffles allows a close approach and because the moderate water speed is uniform throughout the length of a riffle it simple to achieve a good drift. A little swing and drag on your fly is not a bad thing in a riffle as bugs are often actively swimming towards the surface while hatching.
A good starting point
Trout in riffles are often willing to move a chase flies with little regard to absolute dead drift. Because these fish are aggressive in nature and many insect species drift by them daily, riffle trout are rarely as selective as fish in other water types. Consequently, fly choice is sometimes not as important and general attractor type patterns work very well. Hits on nymph rigs with indicators are obvious and dry fly strikes are hard. Start at the bottom of a riffle and work upstream. A lot of fish can be landed in a single piece of riffle water during a good hatch.
There is no better place to introduce novices to fly-fishing for trout than in moving water. Guides often seek out choice riffles to teach beginners how to fly-fish. Lots of productive waters sustains lots of happy trout. Luckily, here in Vail Valley, we also have rivers that have abundant stretches of ideal riffle water. The Eagle and Roaring Fork have riffles around every corner and the Colorado has many long, attractive riffles that concentrate feeding fish.
Brody Henderson is a senior guide for Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards and can be reached at 970-926-0900.