Vail Valley fishing report
Vail, CO Colorado
You either love or hate tailwaters and for good reasons; you love them because when the water is blown out during spring runoff, it’s crystal clear and the flows have been the same since November.
You hate the fact that you’re sharing the same hole with everyone and their uncle.
In the dead of January when every river in the High Country is frozen, you love the fact that the water is flowing and does 365 days a year. And January through April is probably the best time for fishing tailwaters. If you can get past the freezing-cold air and your eyelets icing over every other cast, in addition to your freezing fingers, it’s great.
Otherwise you really hate it.
It’s a love of tailwater tamers that there is an abundance of food all year long. And since the water comes from a reservoir you can count on the food supply being consistent with what you fished in July.
It helps if you fish food sources that are found in still bodies of water, because it eventually makes it from the lake to the bottom of the damn and into the rivers. Try using scuds, mysis shrimp, leeches, emerging mayflies and midge patterns.
Anglers will pass out at the sight of how big fish in tailwaters get. The constant food supply and water temperatures give trout optimal living conditions and allow them to grow into the 30-inch range. The downside is the amount of pressure these fish receive during peak fishing seasons. It becomes an art trying to catch fish this big; 6X and 7X tippet, tiny flies and patience like none other.
And if you do hook one, you’ll be sure to be broken off a few times before you seal the deal.
The upside of heavy pressure is that in the fall and winter people forget that fishing is great and the fish feel little to no pressure. You can fish a 4X leader with a double San Juan worm setup and cast with leisure knowing that the trout will eat just about anything that moves in front of them.
All in all, tailwaters are some of the best fishing resources that not many people think about. They offer everything an angler needs – plenty of food, big fish, constant water flows, they never freeze and when people forget about them, they are secluded and void of anyone other than yourself, and maybe that other guy with the same great idea.
On our local rivers, the rainbow trout spawning is getting hot. Small mayflies, stoneflies and midges are very prevalent. Running a large stonefly with a smaller midge or BWO pattern behind is a good set up. Run an 8-9 foot leader with about 12-14 inches between flies. Use lots of weight for the deep holes and dredge the flies across the bottom.
On bright sunny days with little wind, watch the shallow riffles for risers. Using a bead head pheasant tail with an emerging BWO or midge behind it and little or no weight; drift the rig through the riffles so the flies are about 4-6 inches below the surface.
MIles Comeau is a guide for Alpine River Outfitters in Edwards. When he’s not out fishing, he can be reached at 970-926-0900.