March Fishing: A Tale Of Two Colorado Rivers

Here at Minturn Anglers we have the benefit of calling two amazing fisheries our home water. If you love chasing trout on techy tailwaters then our guide staff down on the Front Range can get you dialed in on the South Platte. If you’re looking for more of a quintessential western freestone river then the guys and gals up in Minturn can help you get to know The Eagle river. Now is the time of year we are fielding calls with clients looking to book their first fly fishing trip of the year. Often, we are answering the same questions time and time again… “Should I fish in Minturn or should I fish the Front Range this time of year?” Well we figured the best way to answer that question was to get input from a couple guys who know these rivers intimately. Minturn Lone Trees shop manager and honorary Deckers resident Tyler Banker and Minturn Anglers GM and local to the Vail Valley Dave Budniakawicz took a few minutes to outline their favorite aspects of their respective fisheries and stack on against the other. Read on and we’ll let you decide where you need to fish this march.

March on the Eagle River – Dave B.

You wouldn’t know it by looking outside but longer days and warmer air temps in the Vail Valley are right around the corner. Who’s thinking fishing with multiple feet of snow on the ground up here? Those that love solitude on the water, big fish hunters, patient anglers that aren’t scared of small bugs and those that know how stellar the Eagle River can be in March.

A beautiful thing happens up here in March every year. The average daily temp in the Valley starts to hover around 44 degrees, snow starts melting, the river swells and fish spread out. Portions of the river that haven’t been fished in months open up, secret honey-holes are relieved of their solid H2O caps and fish start looking to modify their monotonous diet with things with wings floating down the surface of the river. Call me crazy, but when the river starts rising, even if ever so slightly, these fish start gorging. This time could be caused by a lot of factors. It could be anything from the impending run-off or pre-spawn for the rainbows, cutties and cutbows but it often seems as if every fish in this river starts a gluttonous frenzy.

It doesn’t hurt that our good friend, “Midgezilla”, makes their presence known in the lower river. That weird looking stuff floating on the surface, covering that back eddy? The stuff that looks like it could be a dark moss or algae you can walk across. Those are shucks, larvae, pupae and emerging adults stuck in their shucks. You can literally sweep your hand across the surface of the water and pick up hundreds if not thousands of them. No BS. What do you think the toad browns and bows are eating? I wonder…

Ever fish ice off down at Spinney Mountain or Eleven Mile Reservoir? Those that have known how great the streamer bite can be from the bank will also find the same opportunistic trout on the Eagle. Eagle River trout smash streamers in March, almost like a river “ice off”. I encourage you to come up and call my bluff.

Best part of all this? We know you have a hall pass in March. Your kids are given a nice week off this month and fishing the Eagle is a heck of a lot cheaper than a week in some spring destination like California. How about a “staycation”? One that can include some skiing, maybe some shopping or a spa day for your significant other? You’ve got to do something; Why not make it light on the pocket and drive a few hours up the hill for some epic fishing? Guided fishing trips are cheaper than lift tickets and there aren’t any lift lines on the river… just sayin’. Our guides are here to help you have the perfect day on the river with midgzilla and streamer hungry trout!

Though we patiently await the warm days of Summer and the incredible water year it will certainly be, your freshwater addiction can and should be fed in the month of March, preferably in the Vail Valley on the Eagle River.

As I write this, its now March 14th and we just got another blasting of snow. The warmer forecast in the coming week should provide for some excellent fishing. Runoff is going to be something we need to keep an eye on. My crystal ball is starting to tell me get your fishing in now. March through April should be amazing fishing followed by what could be a long break while the run off takes hold. If I had my guess the best fishing is going to be in this March/April window and then kicking back up in July. This all depends on how much more snow mother nature throws at us.

March on the South Platte – Tyler B.

On the tail end of a cold wet winter like we have just had there is really no place id rather fish than the South Platte near Deckers. Cold water and small bug season give us a little break as the days get longer and the sun has more time to warm the water up. In the coming weeks we will see more fish looking to feed on worms, leeches and eggs. As we dig deeper and get a little dirty with our fly selection, the trout also get some well needed protein after a couple months of eating midges.

Another added benefit of getting out on the river this time of year is the ability to see the bottom of the river almost everywhere. There is no better time of year to get a good idea of the structure that lines the bottom of your favorite summer hole than right now when the water is low and clear. Now when you come back to that hole in July when there’s another 250 cfs ripping down the river and a little color in the water you’ll know exactly where the feeding lanes are and where the snags to avoid are.

Just like Dave’s fish up on the Eagle this time of year is when I break out the streamer rod and the big nasty bugs and start pissing of some South Platte resident trout. While the water is still chilly it’s not what the fish had to endure a month ago. With the warmer temps come the predators. Much like the leech and worm rigs I think these fish are just so tired of having to eat midges all day long that the idea of eating a nice big meal. Shoot, if I was a trout that would be my strategy. After dieting for 4 months id be welcoming the biggest greasiest cheeseburger I could find.

Now I know a lot of you are tempted to spend march chasing the last few days of skiing before the mountains close for the season but I’m here to tell you to skip it! Think about it. Everyone else with a ski pass and a board has the same idea as you. The slopes are going to be packed and what that translates to is an empty river. Skip the i-70 ski traffic and head down 67 towards Deckers instead. I can guarantee there won’t be any traffic jams or any tunnel closures.

Dave makes a good point. With spring break coming up you’ve got to come up with a plan little monsters for a week. Don’t waste the time and money traveling when you could stay local and take the kids up to Deckers and chase some trophy trout in a beautiful place just a short drive from the house. You can save money on the hotel and the amusement parks and stash that cash for a new Scott G Series for the upcoming hopper and dry fly fishing you can’t wait to do! Deckers. Disneyland.. What’s the difference?

Conclusion

The Long and short of it is you really need to fish the South Platte and the Eagle. It is not a fair question to ask which is better because they are so different. The Eagle provides the opportunity to both fish and ski in the same trip. The South Platte provides anglers the opportunity to fish one of the best tailwaters in the west no more than an hour from Denver, the fish are healthy and plentiful, and you can be home for dinner after your guided trip. Who knows? Maybe is more your style or maybe you’re already well versed on the Platte and it’s time to add another arrow to your quiver and let one of us show you the honey holes on the Eagle. Whatever you’re looking for we have a trip for you. Give us a call and let’s get out on the water this March!

 

-Dave Budniakiewicz (Minturn Anglers General Manager)

-Tyler Banker (Lone Tree Manager)

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