It’s hard to believe, but here in Colorado, we are rolling into Fall. With that, here is your Fly Fishing Report for September.
The fall colors are starting to show on both the trees and the brown trout as they ready for their spawn in October. Nights are cold, days are getting a bit crisp and it is a perfect time to get out on the water and enjoy the last couple of months of the fly fishing season here at Wilder. We have seen our first Bald Eagles and Ospreys show up in the last few days so the annual Kokanee Salmon run is not far behind. We never know how many fish we’ll get at Wilder but last year there were thousands.
Current Taylor River levels are 150 CFS at the Taylor dam and about 200 CFS at Wilder. While recent rains have helped things considerably, we are still in the throes of a severe drought and river levels are very low for this time of year throughout Colorado. The flows should remain where they are until October 1 when we will see a further reduction of the dam release down to 100 CFS. This will be the winter flow level and hopefully will not drop below that.
Despite the low flows, the Taylor is fishing very well. Many of the local rivers and streams have suffered from the lack of water and high temperatures this summer, but here on the Taylor even though the flows are a bit low, the temperatures are perfect (46-56F) and both the fish and the bugs are pretty happy.
Mornings can be very productive right now with Streamers before the sun hits the water. We have had good luck with a #8-10 Black Sculpzilla although many different patterns can work. In some of the deeper pools it is a good idea to use split shot or a sinking line(150) to get your streamer down to where the fish are. When fishing streamers remember that the fish that eat them are generally not leader shy so use 3x as a minimum. If you choose to throw larger streamers, 1x or 2x is necessary. With a floating line, I recommend a 9 foot leader which allows the streamer to sink when mended. If using a sink tip, a short leader (3-4 feet) is best. As the Browns start getting ready to spawn, large streamers can move large fish so don’t be afraid to try your luck swinging some big flies through likely lies.
We have had some very prolific Spinner falls around mid morning during the last 2 weeks. Spinners are the mayfly adults that return to the water to lay their eggs and die. Generally, they are bugs that have hatched out on the previous day and molted again to reach the egg laying stage. You will see them dipping and diving over the water and once their eggs are deposited, they will fall dead to the water with their translucent wings sticking out at right angles like airplane wings. That completes their life cycle. While some days the hatches have been sparse, the Spinner falls have been epic as all of the adults return to the water at once. Mayflies may hatch sporadically during the day but when they return to lay their eggs they can all come at the same time. Much of this relates to air temperature. The Spinners wait in the bushes for the air temps to reach about 60 degrees and then they all fly at once. These Spinners can include Baetis, Tricos, PMD, and Gray Drakes in sizes 12-22. A good bet when fishing a Spinner pattern is to use a Rusty Spinner as many different bugs share the rust body color. During these Spinner falls fish will stage in very calm areas and slowly sip these dead adults. Rise forms are very subtle and small dimples can hide big fish.
Also, in the mornings we have seen lots of Midge activity and in certain places fish eating Midge adults on the surface. I love the Sierra Dot Midge pattern for this type of fishing and a size 22 presented on 6x tippet can bring up some very large fish.
During late morning to midday we are seeing a few fall Caddis hatching and the odd fish trying to eat one. These are about a size 14 and have an orange body. Keep your eyes open if you see a large number of them because fish like them and a 14 Stimulator or Elk Hair caddis can be very effective. We should see more of these over the next few weeks.
Most of the best fishing right now will happen between 12pm and 5pm when we can get some great Mayfly hatches. Cloudy days are best but even on bright sunny days, fish will rise for well presented dries. On the right days we are having hatches of 2-3 different sized Baetis ranging from size 16-22, Gray Drakes(size 10-12) and PMD’s (16). If you start to see fish rising, take a sec and try to figure out what they are eating. Odds are that a size 20 Blue Winged Olive(Baetis) will do the trick but pay attention as other bugs may be hatching. If the fish get on the Gray Drakes, a size 12 para Adams will work great. Generally, these hatches can last until about 5 pm or so and many days they come off in waves, so if the hatch seems to die off, give it a little bit of time as it might come on again, especially if there is cloud cover.
Pay attention to the rise forms of the fish. During many Baetis hatches the fish appear to be rising but closer examination will reveal that they are eating emergers in the film or just under the surface. If you see fish rising or boiling but do not see their heads coming out of the water think emergers and try trailing an RS-2 or small nymph behind your dry.
If you are on the water and nothing is happening don’t despair. There are always terrestrials. Last week we had several big flying ant events(size 20) and a small Para ant proved effective in bringing up fish that weren’t rising at the time. Also, we experimented with a size 6-8 Madame X last week and moved lots of big fish during the middle of the day.
This is a great time of year to be on the water as lots of different methods can be effective and fish are willing to eat as they get ready for a long, cold winter.
The Dream Stream
The Dream Stream is on fire has it has been for most of the summer. Fish are chowing heavily on BWO’s, Hoppers, Ants and basically whatever they can get in their mouths. Water levels are good and temperatures are also, averaging in the high 50’s. Last week we caught healthy numbers of Brooks, Browns and Rainbows. While many flies can work well right now on the Stream, there is nothing quite like throwing in a huge Hopper and having a giant fish come up and crush it. This can produce heart skipping strikes and last week several of these strikes were violent enough to completely startle the angler. WHAM.
Fishing the Dream Stream
As you approach the Stream with caution, try a large Hopper first and see what happens. Sometimes the fish show preference for a certain pattern so don’t be afraid to experiment if your first fly doesn’t work. If you fish a couple of holes without success, scale down and try either a size 12 Para Adams, a size 16 BWO or a size 20 Black Ant. All of these flies were killing it last week. If surface action is slow you can always tie on a dropper. We have had luck with a variety of different nymphs including #16-20 Pheasant tails, #20 Micro Mays, and #20 Baetis. Try to use the heaviest tippet that you can as the larger fish try to burrow in the weeds and can be difficult to land on lighter lines. Please remember, to de barb all of your hooks and return the fish to the water asap. Better yet, try not to remove them from the water at all.
As usual, all of the 6 ponds at Wilder are fishing well and have received very little pressure this season. I have seen some monsters cruising around and recommend anyone to try a few casts out there to see what happens. As in the Stream, I would try some Hopper patterns first. Cast it out, make it twitch a bit on landing, stop it, twitch it, etc. It will likely get eaten. If not, you can try either downsizing your dry or tying on a dropper. A blue Damselfly dry can be good right now, as can a variety of different styles of Ants or Beetles. Sometimes in the early mornings, you will find fish sipping for Midges but generally, they are after terrestrials. I recommend tippets of 3x or larger in the ponds as there are some bruisers that can easily break 4x. If all else fails, don’t forget to try slow-stripping a black or olive beachhead wooly bugger.
Even though we had an almost record drought this year in Colorado, conditions and fishing at Wilder remained excellent throughout the season. I hope you can all get out and enjoy these last few weeks on the water and the beautiful all days that we have in store.