Gazette Article - How To Properly Handle Trout!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Escaping The Crowds In The Fall

Fall in Colorado means you can count on beautiful scenery, unpredictable weather, and new residents waiting for the snow to fly before buying a good set of tires -resulting in extremely spooky entertainment just in time for Halloween...  As we dress up like monsters and go trick-or-treating, our rivers and lakes swell with genuine monsters looking for a "bite" to eat.  I say genuine monsters, because many of these fish seem to have come out of a twilight zone esq worm hole that we can only guess exists without any living proof -except for the occasional Nessy sighting.

Monster in size and stature fall fish are toothy and colorful, boasting vibrant shades of red, yellow, and brown.  The best part about fall fishing is that, with a few exceptions, you don't have to worry about crowds.  I say with a few exceptions because the South Platte river gets hammered with fishing pressure.  One stretch in particular gets more pressure than the others, and that is the South Platte below Spinney reservoir affectionately referred to as the "Dream Stream".  If you're not a fan of combat fishing (a.k.a. fighting through crowds of people in an attempt to get on a good spot) then you might consider the Dream Stream to be more of a nightmare during the spring and fall.

Brown Trout and Kokanee Salmon are fall spawners, and as many of you know, 11mile Reservoir is home to some insanely huge trout and a population of Kokanee, many of which migrate up the South Platte River below Spinney to spawn.  It goes without question, that when brown trout migrate to spawn, they are the most accessible, and that gives us as anglers the best chance to catch trophy fish.  Spinney Ranch is an amazing place, but I think many people miss out on great opportunities fall fishing in Colorado provides us.

I have two huge pet peeves as a professional guide and angler.  First, is when people talk poorly about other people who fish the Dream Stream this time of year. Yes, I understand the frustration that comes from seeing the "Dream" so crowded during the spawn. Consider that if you catch a Brook trout, Brown trout, Mackinaw, or a confused Cutthroat trout anywhere else in Colorado this time of year the odds are good you're harrassing a spawning fish, and that includes most lakes and reservoirs. My second pet peeve is when people think that the only two places you can consistently catch big fish in the fall are the Dream Stream or Taylor rivers. There are trophy fish all over Colorado, and October is a great month to get out and look for them.

The Arkansas River below Pueblo dam is another great place to fish in the fall if you're trying to escape the crowds. The Nature Center and the Valco Ponds areas are the most popular places and seem to be the most productive. Click here to view map of the Valco Ponds area. This place gets a ton of fishing pressure in the winter because of pueblo's slightly warmer climate, but during the fall you'll be lucky to see another angler all day. If you're after big browns the nature center area is the place to be. White streamers are still on the menu here. Anglers looking to throw tandem nymph rigs should use Baetis emergers such as gray Sparkle wing RS-2's in a size 22, and any kind of small red or black midge are used as your dropper.

Tyers click on the photos to enlarge and see recipe.

Rampart Reservoir is a short thirty-five minute drive from Colorado Springs and is a great place to fish for fall spawning Lake Trout a.k.a. Mackinaw.   "Lakers" as they are sometimes referred to, prefer cooler water temps.  Because water gets cooler the further down you get in the water column Lake trout spend most their lives at a depth of forty to sixty feet where they are comfortable.  As the water temperature drops in the fall, these fish that can weigh up to 60 lbs, move shallow to spawn.

Lake trout were stocked in Rampart to control the sucker population which they do well. They also seem to put a dent in the trout population wherever they are stocked; there's an ongoing joke in places like Rampart that when the stocking truck comes they're ringing the dinner bell.  Spring after ice-off, and in the fall before the freeze are the best times to fish from shore.  I can't begin to tell you how fun it is to strip huge streamers to huge fish. If you need proof, then pay close enough attention, and you will see that there is an ever growing cult of guys that only fish this way.   Throw white streamers and orange egg patterns at these extremely aggresive fish.  Meat Whistles, Zuddlers, and the Striptease are great streamer patterns to have in your box.

Tyers click to enlarge and see recipe

These are only a few of my favorite places you can go, where the fishing is absolutely epic in the fall, and crowding is at a minimum.  If you're interested in more fishing destinations to escape, here is my short list of the many places that seem to fade into the mist during fall:

Tomahawk SWA
Badger Basin SWA
Brush Hollow Reservoir
Monument Reservoir
Rosemont Reservoir
Tarryall Creek Below Tarryall Reservoir
Cheesman Canyon
Almost the entire Arkansas River
Nichols Reservoir
Beaver Creek below Skaguay Reservoir
Antero Reservoir

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