Vail Valley fishing report
Vail, CO Colorado
Fall has always represented change.
It’s the transition between life at its fullest and during its sleepiest. Autumn is a time where people and animals begin the change to a slower pace and prepare for short days and another long snowy winter.
Recently, we’ve seen frost in the mornings and this is the sign that fall is on its way. This is great news for fly fishers. September and October are one of our times of the year to fish. Crowds have thinned and the fishing picks up from the dog days of August.
Fish, just like people react very similarly this seasonal change. They begin to prepare for the change in temperature, depletion of light and food. We, as humans seem, to become frantic and take advantage of every warm day by cramming in bike rides, hikes, free concerts and stocking up on farm fresh produce that won’t be available come late fall.
Trout also stock up on food, eating every terrestrial that lands in their feeding lanes, any and all BWOs and micro caddis that emerge in foam pools. Even minute midge larvae are not ignored. And all though humans don’t respond to the change in season as a reason to spawn and reproduce … fish do.
It is their last chance to ride bikes, hike and enjoy free concerts, so to speak. The prelude to the brown trout spawning season is a few weeks of very intense feeding to bulk up in preparation for the energy expenditure and the cold months of winter. Browns also become highly territorial and will attack smaller fish that come too close. This is why streamer fishing with large bulky baitfish patters is so effective in the fall.
Brown trout spawning is synonymous with the coming of winter. The further into September and October, the more active they become. Brown trout start migrating out of the large bodies of water and into smaller tributaries where it is safer for them to conceive their young.
From here they will start pre-spawning ritual. This includes moving into riffles and staking out the best gravel beds and then into the act of laying eggs where they will wait until water temperatures are too cold or too shallow to survive in.
Fish create areas on the river called redds where they will spawn. These are areas where the river bottom has been cleaned and scoured of derbies and moss. What is left is small area of clean gravel in which eggs can be deposited and safely hide within from predators.
At some point between first ice-off and high water the eggs begin to hatch into fry or small trout. In the vicious cycle of food chains; the eggs and the fry are free reign for food. Often times when trout are spawning you will see other species of fish eating the eggs that did not make it to the redds.
And when the fry hatch, before aquatic insects are heavily hatching they are free game for food. While it is considered unsportsmanlike to fish for trout that are actively spawning due to the ease of catching them, it is fair game fish downstream of spawners where other trout are lined to catch any freely drifting eggs or insects.
As fall gets closer and the days get shorter and cooler, the brown trout will begin to spawn and become more active trying to achieve they two most important things needed for their survival. One, put on weight to survive through the winter and two reproduce to carry on their species.
When your fishing this fall take the time to learn what the redds look like and try your best to stay out of them and not walk on them. Just as this is their future for survival it is just as much the future and survival of the sport we all have grown to love. Give nature a chance to catch up.
We have been fishing our local waters very heavily all summer so give the trout a break this fall when you see them chasing each other around in shallow riffles. In doing so you’ll ensure another age class of fish will flourish next year.
Miles Comeau is a guide for Alpine River Outfitters in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-0900.