Gazette Article - How To Properly Handle Trout!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Springtime Fishing - The Blue River

I recently fished the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir in the town of Silverthorne. The flow was sitting around 250 cubic feet per second c.f.s. and I was a man on a mission. That mission was to find and land one of the legendary Mysis shrimp fed, 10 lb rainbows that I've heard about. That mission was an epic fail, but I did learn a lot about the river system as it runs through the scenic towns of Breckenridge and Silverthorne.

Photo by Jon Kleis

If you are after the legendary pigs below Dillon dam, your best bet is to be on the water after they let the flows go for spring runoff. Most of the brutes hide from eager anglers just past the fence line that marks where the private water below Dillon Dam begins and where the drooling fishermen are actually allowed to fish ends. Large releases of water from Dillon pushes those big fish down stream into public water.

Flows can reach well over 2,000 c.f.s. during big releases that make the river tough to fish for walk and wade anglers. Ideal flows to fish the Blue below Dillon Reservoir are after runoff when it is anywhere between around 300-500 c.f.s. Even though the conditions weren't ideal for catching big fish, I still had a great time on the Blue before the snow on the surrounding mountains starts to melt and the river swells.

Photo by Kristen Patrocky

Dillon reservoir is a massive body of water surrounded by the towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, and Silverthorne. It was built over the original town of Dillon in 1963 after relocating the hydro-electric plant. It is a city of Denver water supply and the species of fish that inhabit the lake are Rainbow trout, a wild population of Browns and Kokanee salmon, Suckers and Char. Fishing has suffered in Dillon Reservoir due to the year-round cold temps, which are not ideal for the healthy biomass necessary for fish to grow.

The Blue River below Dillon Reservoir is three times the size of the upper Blue even during low releases. Mysis shrimp inhabit the reservoir and under the right conditions they get blown through the dam, which kills them and then makes them an easy meal for opportunistic fish. Mysis shrimp are solid protein so to give you an idea of what it's like to be a trout eating these underwater crustaceans, it would be the equivalent of us drinking an egg, tuna and soy shake every five minutes. We would all look like WWE wrestlers in a month. And that's typically what Mysis fed trout look like except they fight less like a WWE steroid faker and more like a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.

Blue Below Dillon
Photo by Kristen Patrocky

I always fish a shrimp pattern in tailwaters where they can be found even if they aren't getting blown through the dam because the trout are conditioned to look for them which makes the Mysis a great attractor pattern on standard tandem nymph rigs. Good Mysis imitations to use are Sand's Epoxy Mysis, Murphy's Ices Mysis, and Craven's Mysis. I didn't land a single fish on a shrimp pattern but the Ices Mysis certainly got the trout's attention enough to help me get 7 gorgeous rainbows to the net in an hour on my size 26 Red Zone midge fished as a dropper.

Murphy's Mysis
Murphy's Mysis Photo by Jon Kleis

Epoxy Mysis
Epoxy Mysis Photo by Jon Kleis
Kleis's Red Zone Midge
Kleis's Red Zone Midge photo by Jon Kleis

When I got to the river I started from the pool below the highway 70 bridge and worked my way up to the dam without seeing many fish and with only a few hookups. I continued to braved the extreme cold and snow and worked my way back down river behind the outlets past where I started from the highway. It didn't take long before I found a pool loaded with 12-18 inch rainbows that were eager to take my red midge pupa imitation until the wind and cold sent me running back to the car to get warm.

Photo by Kristen Patrocky

The Blue as it runs through Breckenridge starts out like a classic freestone headwater and is home to small Rainbows, Browns, and Brookies that will take egg patterns, baetis, and midges in the spring. Good baetis imitations are RS-2's, JuJu or Splatte Baetis and Barr's Emergers. Bring you warm jacket and gloves because if you can't tell by the photos it gets chilly. Breckenridge is a beautiful ski town with all the shopping, art, and culture you can handle. “Breck” is definitely a great place to take your family and let the wife and kids play while you wet a line. There is no shortage of cafes and restaurants (most of which are right next to the river) to meet up and refuel while you chat about your day.

Photo of angler fishing the Blue through Breckenridge

One of my favorite places to visit is a restaurant that sits right in the middle of the river and is literally shaped like an old school dredge boat and is appropriately named the Dredge. You can't fish on the property of the restaurant but they do allow you to walk along the sides of the building and feed the fish. They have a dispenser for fish pellets on the back of the “boat” and if you throw a hand full of them off the side and into the water the odds of you seeing an 8-10 lb Brown or Rainbow jump clear out of the water while racing to the prize are good. And trust me nothing motivates you better than seeing a fish that big leap clear out of the water even if it's someones pet.

Photo by Jon Kleis
pellet race
Fish and goose racing to a pellet!

no fishing
No Fishing?!

The town of Silverthorne is a whole other beast. The shopping is more geared towards people that like to shop at the Gap and Calvin Klein, and throughout the major shopping outlets there are scattered fast food pickups and affordable hotels. The town itself isn't as scenic as Breckenridge but the views of the mountains are just as spectacular.

What really made this trip fun was the time spent with the family getting to explore new water and walk through insanely gorgeous Breckenridge. It's easy for anglers to get stuck in a rut and fish the same old places. It doesn't really inspire us to get out and see what our gorgeous state has to offer when the cost of gas is 4 dollars a gallon but it occurred to me that it doesn't take a whole lot of money to get out and escape. And for our family this was a really fun mini vacation that recharged our batteries and I'd rather do this ten times in a year then spend a week in the summer on the beach getting sunburned.

Anglers Covey rebuilt it's website and one of the unique features that I love and helped out with is the various maps and condition reports along with a short description for at least 60 new places to fish within a 2 hours drive from Colorado Springs. Just go to and look for the “where to fish” link on the right hand side of your screen. I encourage anyone looking for adventure to stay right here in Colorado. If you have any questions or would like to book me for a guided trip on the legendary South Platte River, shoot me an email at Tight Lines!


  1. I just hate it when fishing near the foot bridge and tourists are pointing out the fish to you as if you didn't have a clue...

  2. haha! thats the second person thats told me that this week.

  3. Hi Jon,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Blue River to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)

  4. I am new to fly fishing and want to try it out without having to drive to Colorado or Arkansas. Any advice for a newbie would be appreciated.

    phlebotomy schools CO

  5. fishing
    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *