Low water makes for great wade fishing conditions…just ask this little cub!

Last year at this time, I probably set a record for the highest flow to ever run the Upper Colorado in a drift boat.  This year I probably set a similar record for the lowest flow to ever run the Colorado in a drift boat.  What a difference a year makes.


Video above from Yarmony rapid last year. It doesn’t even feel like the the same river. Let’s hope for a wet summer.

287 CFS makes for a longer day, but if they are calling for heavy wind I wouldn’t do it unless you are a glutton for punishment and upset significant others when you miss a date and arrive home 6 hours later than expected.  See video above for details on how fly fishermen get in and out of her doghouse.
As it stands, the Colorado River is running at 286 CFS and fishing great.  If I was a wade fisherman, I’d be licking my chops right now.  There is not a section of the Colorado river you cannot walk across.  For the wade fisherman this means the ability  to fish spots that are normally not reachable by foot. For those of us who like to float, it’s going to be a little different this year.

Upper Colorado Navigability at Sub 400CFS Flows…

Yarmony Riffle, Formerly Known as Yarmony Rapid at 287 CFS

A lot of people have been calling to ask about whether or not the Upper Colorado is floatable at these low flows so I decided to go do a little R&D on the Upper C.  I floated all the water between Pumphouse and Statebridge in a drift boat and as far as navigability is concerned, there is a way through everything.  If you are worried about ruining the paint job on your brand new Lavro drift boat than I’d keep it in the garage this year.  You will bump some rocks, but you aren’t moving fast enough to do any serious damage to your boat. The only real change to report is that you must go left instead of right at the Needles Eye Rapid.

Fishing Conditions

I’m happy to report the fishing on the Colorado  was great this week. Be sure to come get up there and check it out before water temps get to warm.

Currently, the Colorado is fishing a lot different than I’ve ever known it because of these extremely low flows. Not better, not worse…just different. Usually I can count on fish spread out throughout the river which is the case at flows 1,000CFS and greater.  Currently the fish are piled in some spots and other spots are simply void of fish.  The structure is plain as day at these flows.  You will see spots where the water is a foot deep and quickly drops to 5 or more feet.  This is where you want to concentrate you’re efforts.  Normally, I can start at the drop on most of these shelves and count on finding fish all the way to the tail-out of the runs.  That is not the case at these flows.  Once you have floated 30 or so feet past the drop either row back up to the drop or push to the next spot.  There just isn’t enough water speed to move food and keep fish in the back end of the runs.

Fly Selection & Rigging for the Upper Colorado

the normal Colorado River fly selection still applies.  #6-10 Rubberlegs, #14-18 Mercers Micros Stones (lots of Yellow Sallies hatching), big #8 wine colored San Juans  & 10 pine squirrel leaches were murder.  The water was pretty off color so I wouldn’t count on the worm & leech bite everyday, but definitely on days when the water is dirty. Fairly long heavy rigs is the name of the game. 6 feet indicator to weight & 2-3 BB split shots so the flies get down quickly at the top part of the drops. 3x tippet is fine at the current clarity.  Dry fly action through the day is pretty slow for quality fish.  At these flows there isn’t enough bank structure or current against the bank to hold fish where we like to fish dries.

The late evening hour is your best bet for dries when fish start to rise in the center of the river.  Fish were coming up hard for yellow sallies and Caddis when we pulled out at state bridge one evening at around 7:30PM. If you plan on fishing the evening dries, be sure to come armed with #14-16 Puterbaugh Caddis, Peacock Caddis, Pearl & Elk Caddis, 12-16 Golden Krystal Stimulators.

As for the streamer bite, the same holds true, not a lot of fish on the bank.  They will eat streamers, but you need to think more about fishing them in the pocket water and swinging them through the runs as opposed to casting them at the bank like we are all accustomed. Black slumpbusters are great for the pocket water, intruders & leeches best for swinging the runs behind a sink tip.

Concerns For the Upper Colorado

The last two years were nothing short of phenomenal on the upper Colorado.  Lots of big healthy fish as result of high water.  High water means cooler water, more food being kicked lose and more habitat for trout to hold.  Low water (especially this low) through the summer months is never good. The water is already reaching late August like temperatures and the moss has already shown up.  Currently the water is touching 65 degrees in the peak heat of the day.  That is scary for early June. Temps above 65 can become lethal to trout when they are hooked and fought. For this reason, Colorado Skies in conjunction with Minturn Anglers have agreed to stop fishing once the thermometer shows water temps over 65.  What this will mean is early trips and primarily half day trips once temps starting showing a consistent pattern of 65 degree or higher water. We hope others will do the same and help these fish out this summer because the Colorado has really become something special.  We urge you to fish early and then head out to some of the smaller, higher elevation tributaries of the Colorado once water temps pass 65.

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