Currently the Taylor River at Wilder is fishing as well as I’ve ever seen it. The combination of relatively low flows, cloudy afternoons and peak hatch activity is perfect for the angler and excellent dry fly fishing can be had throughout the day.
A reminder that in Gunnison County we are still under Stage 2 Fire restrictions. This means no outside burning or smoking until the restrictions are lifted. Please be careful out there and at the first sign of smoke or fire in the backcountry please call 911 immediately. (As of July 17, 2018, the fire restrictions have been bumped down to Stage 1.)
That being said, over the last few days we have seen the arrival of the monsoons with some hard mid afternoon rains and powerful thunder and lightning storms. Hopefully this pattern will continue and the fire ban will be lifted soon. Always keep an eye out for lightning during the monsoon and be ready to get off the water if it gets to close.
Flows on the Taylor are low. Releases from the dam are at 230 cfs and at Wilder we have about 280 cfs, which is about 1/2 of the historical 100 year average. Look for flows to diminish throughout the summer. Despite the low flows, water temps are staying nice and cool and current river temperatures are in the low 50’s. This is perfect for the fish and bugs. We are very lucky as many rivers in the state are experiencing high temperatures and are approaching critical levels. When water temps rise over 68 degrees, it is time to stop fishing as high temps stress the fish and make it very difficult for them to recover after being caught.
The fishing is as good as it gets right now. Strong Caddis, Stonefly and Mayfly hatches are causing a feeding frenzy on the river and you can find fish rising at almost any time of day. The trick is to find out which bugs they are keyed on as preferences change from run to run and throughout the day.
In the mornings there is a lot of Caddis activity. You will notice the egg laying Caddis touching the water and laying their eggs as they bounce off the surface. Fishing a skated Caddis in sizes 14-20 can move some nice fish during this time. If you see these egg layers and fish eating them, remember that dead drifting may not be the presentation of choice. Do your best to imitate the naturals. A long(12’) leader that is greased right up to the fly will make this easier and help keep your fly on top. Cast across and slightly down and make mini mends throughout your drift, pulling the fly up river and letting it drift back down. Tease the fish.
With Green Drakes getting ready to hatch in the afternoons, a Green Drake nymph fished deep, pre hatch, can be very effective if you don’t see fish rising. The nymphs will be active on the bottom before they hatch and the trout will be looking for them.
As we approach mid morning, you will see Stoneflies starting to fly and an increase in Caddis activity which should bring many fish to the surface. Many of these fish will be eating emergers so I recommend attaching a small caddis emerger dropper to your dry. The dropper does not have to sink very much as many fish will be suspended and eating in the film. I recommend about 20- 30 inches of 6x tippet for this dropper.
Towards noon, hatch activity will increase, especially if there are clouds, and during the next couple of hours you may see: Green Drakes, Flavs, PMD’s, BWO’s, Caddis, and Stoneflies. Fish will be rising and the rise forms can tell you much about the specific bugs the fish are eating. Splashy rises typically indicate Caddis whereas slow sipping rises generally indicate Mayflies. If you see Drakes, I have done much better with a low riding emerger pattern than a high floating dry. Oftentimes fish will slash madly at the emerging Drakes and skating the fly or giving it some kind of movement can be more effective than a dead drift. Don’t be surprised if you see fish eating Mayflies in one spot and fish eating Caddis in another. Observation is key as during these hatches the fish can get very selective and correct fly choice is critical to success. Oftentimes fish will change their diet and a fly that was working no longer does. If what you are doing isn’t working(even if it was), try something else.
During some of the stronger hatches you will see many fish rising and it is easy to just throw your fly out there and hope for the best. However this is not always the best technique. If you are looking for a larger fish, I recommend that you take your time and observe the water for a while until you locate a big one. Expert anglers spend most ofd their time observing and very little time actually casting. What I see a lot is anglers casting to any fish that rises which results in lots of small fish hooked and fewer larger fish. Every time you hook a smaller fish, the commotion will be spooking your larger fish. Take your time, find a big fish and present your fly exclusively to it. If you get a good drift and a refusal, take the time to change your fly and try again. Do not keep casting the same fly to the fish hoping he will eat it. Generally all that will accomplish is that you will spook him and have to go find another.
Throughout the afternoon there will be waves of hatching bugs. It may slow down for a bit but then there may come another wave and fish will be up again so don’t give up to early. Oftentimes the rakes will hatch strongly for very short periods. During those periods you will see lots of big fish rising and it is key that you change your fly and get it to those fish before they descend and wait for the next wave. Generally by 5 pm or so, the Mayflies and Stoneflies will be done hatching for the day. It is during these evening hours right until dark that Caddis become the most important insect on the water and skating a size 14-20 Elk hair Caddis can be very productive.
While fish can be caught on droppers, this is a perfect time of year to concentrate on dry flies. I always recommend long leaders, say a 9’ 4x leader with 2-3 feet of 5x tied on the end to make the best presentations. For flies smaller than a size 16, I always prefer 6x for the best presentation.
Now is the best fishing of the year. Look for daily hatches and remember that cloudy afternoons will produce the strongest hatches. If you see clouds at 1 pm, better get to the river asap.
The Dream Stream has been on fire and fish are keyed on Hoppers and Green Drakes. With low flows, the fish are very spooky and particularly on the upper stream, anglers need to emphasize stealth and long casts to be successful. Low water and high temperatures promote weed/algae growth and feeding lanes are getting tighter as the vegetative growth increases. Casting from the proper position is key and much care needs to be taken to play the angles for the perfect cast. I am liking 12 foot leaders with 4x tippets with a small hopper pattern and #16 pheasant tail dropper tied short to keep it above the weeds, say 12 inches.
As you approach the Stream, remember that the fish will likely spook out of the calmer tail outs to go hide under the riffles at the head of the runs. This is where you can expect the most success, where the stronger currents are. The slow moving stillwater can be very difficult to impossible to fool the fish.
While flows are low, water temperatures are still ok with readings in the low 60’s. I will be monitoring temps and should they reach the upper 60’s I’ll recommend a stream closure until the temps come back down. In the meantime please be sure to not remove any fish from the water and revive them until you see them swim off and act normally again. Higher water temps mean lower oxygen levels and fish have a much harder time recovering during these conditions. This is a good time to play the fish quick and hard and release them asap. 3-4x tippets are good for this. If you are using 5x and hook a big fish you may just end up killing him during the process.
One of the biggest challenges in fishing the stream right now is the tall hay that surrounds it. Keep your backcasts high or you will be catching the grass every time. When they start cutting the hay in the next few weeks the fish will literally gorge themselves on hoppers and large hopper patterns can be deadly.
If you are out on the stream and are having good fishing, please do not be greedy. There is no need to hook every fish on the Stream. If you catch 5 or 6, maybe consider heading to the river for the remainder of the day. Also to be considerate of other anglers that may be fishing below you, please do not stir up the silt on the bottom of the stream. Try to cross on rocks and try not to stand in the water anymore than is necessary.
All of the Wilder ponds are fishing well and are loaded with fish. Temps are getting a little bit marginal in the mid 60’s and best fishing is in the morning and evening hours. You will see large clouds of Damselflies around the edges of all of the ponds and this is a major part of the trouts diet during July. Many fish will be in the shallows eating the nymphs as they climb up the grasses to emerge and others you will see leaping high in the air to catch the Damsels flying overhead. The male Damsels have a bright blue body and females are more rust colored. When looking for an imitation remember that the bodies of these Damsels are super skinny. Look for flies that best imitate the naturals. Both nymphs and dries are effective and a dry dropper can work very well.
Before you start casting, remain still and take a long look at the ponds. Try to concentrate on angles that allow you to see into the water and walk slowly while hunting for fish. If you spot a target throw your fly well in front of it and see how the fish reacts. Some days they are really spooky and you will need to land your fly 10-20 feet away. Other days they are more forgiving and will tolerate a fly that lands 5-6 feet away. If you hook one or two in a given pond, it may be hard to hook another as the fish will be spooky so best is either to rest the pond 1/2 hour or so or move on to the next one.
If all else fails, a slow stripped Olive Wooly bugger can be very effective. Cast it out, let it sink a bit and begin retrieving it slowly and erratically..strip, strip, long pause, repeat.
Wherever you are fishing at Wilder, please take the time to pinch down your barbs and leave the fish in the water.
We are in the thick of things now. Look for hatches to slow down a little and the bugs to get progressively smaller as we enter August. As the water drops it can be a good idea to look carefully and try to spot big fish. Typically the really big guys will be close to the bottom in deeper holes.
Best advice is to get out there and enjoy the amazing fishing that we have going on right now. As usual please feel free to contact me for current conditions, updates and recommendations.