Less than a two hour drive west of Denver lays a five mile stretch of the South Platte River that has earned a reputation as the Dream Stream. If you’ve ever fantasized about fly fishing for monster trophy trout, this is the river for you. It is about 30 feet wide, relatively slow running, clear and full of nutrients and food that grow fish to gigantic proportions. Some of the biggest fish in the Dream Stream are caught by sight fishing.
Sight fishing simply means spotting fish in the water. Simple to say, but much harder to do! I gathered some useful tips about this technique the last time I was out for a walk and wade trip with one of the knowledgeable fly fishing guides from Minturn Anglers in Denver. As I scan the water in front of me, I look for bright or shiny spots with shadow over them. It helps to use a pair of good quality polarized glasses for better definition. Any bright spots you see are likely bedding areas. A fish has picked this spot to hang out, and has fanned the area beneath from algae and debris. The cleared area is the shiny spot, and the shadow is the fish hovering above that spot. Trying to spot the actual fish can be more difficult as the body of the fish is often camouflaged by the water.
Try to determine what the fish is doing. If it is spawning or guarding a hatch, it will not want to leave the area so try to cast closer to the fish. If the fish is just hanging out, cast past the fish and try to get its attention as you retrieve. Cast in front of the fish if it is moving.
It seems to me it’s more important that my fly is seen by the fish rather than try to mimic prey when I am sight fishing. White and brightly colored flies seem to work best. Also, I use a smaller line with a high strength to diameter ratio when working clear water to avoid spooking the fish.
Sight fishing is a challenging way to fish for trophy trout. Take pride in being able to focus your concentration, study the waters with a keen eye, maintain a stealthy approach and put forth accurate casts. Catching your Colorado Gold Medal trout is only confirmation of your skill!