Well, it has been quite the year! As I have said before, I don’t think any trout got COVID. Thank goodness for that… Being outdoors and on the water this year was a blessing, allowing us to concentrate on flies, casts and nature and to forget everything else for a brief while. Our 2020 fishing season was very good. Conditions started off great after runoff. The lack of rain made fishing difficult later in the summer in the smaller watersheds like South Park. During this time, the larger drainages like the Colorado, Arkansas and Eagle fished well, aside for a brief time in August when warm water temperatures made for tougher fishing conditions.
Looking forward, things do not change much year to year in terms of winter fishing. Tailwaters will be the most reliable throughout the shortest and coldest days. The closest options to Summit County include the Blue River (below Dillon Res), the Williams Fork (below Williams Fork Res) and the Dream Stream. Further drives, but equally as promising tailwaters, include Eleven Mile Canyon, Cheeseman Canyon, and Frying Pan. The Arkansas, Roaring Fork and the Colorado below the Williams Fork and the Roaring Fork confluences also generally stay open and fish well during the winter months, unless there is a long cold snap. As we move into late February and early March, the larger rivers like the Eagle and Colorado begin to open up and fish well again. If an overnight trip is possible think about the San Juan River in New Mexico or the Green River in Utah.
When deciding when to fish, check the weather and try to fish on the warmer days. There is no need to start fishing early in the morning – 10 AM is perfect. In the winter, trout tend to gravitate to deeper “winter holding pools.” Key in on these deeper pools with some current, not too fast and not too slow. Generally, smaller flies and 5x / 6x fluorocarbon tippet are the ticket. Try a double nymph rig with a larger fly (# 16 Tungsten Bead PT) down to a smaller midge or baetis pattern at the bottom. Adjust your indicator depth and split shot weight for the depth of the hole. Make sure that your flies are drifting through the bottom of the water column, as that is where the fish are feeding.
While winter fishing has its challenges, the solitude, fresh air and the hopes of hooking a nice fish, more than make up for the it. As with any winter activity, you must be prepared with the proper gear and clothing. Dress in layers with a good base layer (our favorite is Patagonia Capilene) and always bring a windproof shell and fingerless gloves. Winter fishing is beautiful, plus you don’t have to deal with mosquitos, lightning, sweltering hot days or bears!