CDOW weekly fishing report — July 6, 2011

For river fishermen across Colorado, the wait goes on. Virtually all free-flowing rivers still are running bank-full and off-color, and even the South Platte tailwaters, which for a number of weeks provided the best stream-fishing conditions in the state, have risen to above-average flows for early July as the reservoirs above them have filled.

Even so, the end may be in sight. While plenty of snow remains at high elevations, many veteran river watchers believe the flows have crested. Though conditions can vary from day to day, hour to hour, reflecting weather changes and dam operations in a particular basin, such observations appear to be supported by the river-flow graphs on the Colorado Division of Water Resources website.

If so, rivers will gradually begin dropping and clearing. Fishing will remain more challenging through the transition to more-typical seasonal flows, but anglers still can enjoy some good times on the higher water.

Spin-fishermen might have an advantage in marginal conditions. Flashy lures will be more visible to trout in still-roily water. Bladed spinners of the Mepps, Panther Martin and Rooster-Tail variety also will send out vibrations through the water that will be detected by the fish.  As a rule, spin-casters can effectively cover more water than fly fishermen and they need not be as concerned with drag, the unnatural drifting of the lure in the currents.

Fly fishers still can find some good opportunities, however.

“I don’t care how high the river is, as long as it’s reasonably clear,” more than one fly fisherman has observed.

Colder water temperatures might have delayed some early summer hatches, but sooner or later, they will come off.  Dark, Pteronarcys stoneflies are a signature hatch on rivers such as the Rio Grande, portions of the Colorado and the lower Gunnison.  Smaller, Yellow Sally stoneflies are common on many rivers including the South Platte.  Pale-morning duns, Tricos and some late blue-wing-olives are the primary mayflies, and several varieties of caddis will hatch, on-and-off, throughout the summer.

Terrestrial insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and crickets become especially important to trout when the water is close to the river banks, and streamer patterns suggest a large mouthful of food to the hungry fish.

High-water trout will be feeding in slower water away from the rushing main currents. Look for them in the pockets of water behind rocks, in eddies near the banks, shallow riffles and quiet pools.

Regardless of their fishing method, wading anglers should be safety conscious. Equipment should include wading soles appropriate for a potentially slippery river bottom, a wading belt and possibly a wading staff, along with a healthy dose of discretion.

Most of all, in the year of the runoff that would never end, anglers looking out across a raging river should remember that nothing lasts forever and this, too, shall pass.


Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.)—Flows from Dillon Dam have been increased to 1,500 cubic feet per second, well above the long-term average for the date. Wading at that volume is not recommended. Trout are dispersed, feeding in the slower water next to the main currents, and some may still be taken along the banks on relatively large flies.

Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle)—The lower Colorado is still high and discolored due to runoff. As soon as the river clears in the coming weeks, count on the Colorado fishing insanely well. Green drakes, Stoneflies, PMDs and caddis all will be hatching in good numbers. Currently, the best fishing on the river is for carp. The best areas to carp fish are the backwater sloughs below New Castle. The best fly patterns for carp include: swimming nymphs, Halfbacks, Woolly Buggers and soft-hackles. Several fish weighing more than 10 pounds recently have been landed.

Colorado River (near Granby)—Recent flows below Windy Gap and below Parshall were 3,300 cfs and 4,245 cfs, respectively - down from a few days ago but still way above average, even for runoff conditions. Fishing is mostly on hold until flow rates drop. Under regular conditions, Copper Johns, RS-2s, Prince Nymphs, chartreuse Woolly Buggers, San Juan worms and egg patterns are commonly used. In the immediate Granby area and downstream to the bridge at the lower end of Byers Canyon, bait fishing is permitted and two fish may be kept. From the east side of the bridge abutments (the west end of Byers Canyon) down to Troublesome Creek, including the Williams Fork River from the reservoir, catch-and-release rules apply and fishing is by artificial flies and lures only.

Cowdrey Lake—Fishing mostly for recently stocked trout has been fairly good. Bait fishermen have enjoyed good results on salmon eggs, marshmallows and PowerBait. Spin-bubble fishermen have been doing OK with various wet-fly patterns.

Crystal River—The Crystal River is high and muddy due to spring runoff and currently is unfishable. Look for the river to clear and drop in the coming weeks. Once the river clears, look for good caddis and PMD hatches.

Delaney Buttes Reservoirs—The overall fishing remains good. Trout still are taking Callibaetis mayflies and midges during the day, but appear to be getting selective on fly patterns and the depth at which they are fished. Some of the largest fish have been taken at night on leech and crayfish imitators. Damselfly nymphs also have produced some trout in the shallows. Fishing on all three lakes is by artificial flies and lures only. The bag and possession limit for trout is two and size restrictions apply.

Eagle River—The runoff continues in full swing.

Elkhead Reservoir—Fishing has been slow with the runoff. It is starting to clear and warm up a little, so fishing should be picking up. The fish seem to be very active, but clarity is the limiting factor. The lake is a great warm-water fishery and has smallmouth bass, crappie, northern pike, catfish and trout. All species will fish extremely well once the runoff season ends. If you are not going to eat it, don’t take it. Any fish being taken from the lake must be dead prior to leaving it. Please help us ensure this fishery’s future. The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program has announced that smallmouth bass will no longer be moved to Elkhead from the Yampa River during endangered fish work. Smallmouth bass already in the lake are unaffected by the change.

Frying Pan River—The Frying Pan is high, at 904 cfs on Tuesday, but has been fishing well. The Mysis shrimp “hatch” has been truly incredible. The dry fly fishing is picking up daily with increasing numbers of blue-wing-olives. A few PMDs also are being seen, and this hatch will increase dramatically over the next few weeks. Currently the best fishing is along the middle and upper sections of river above Mile Marker 4. Look for the majority of fish to hold near the banks and in any of the softer and slower sections of water. The best flies have included: BTS Mysis, Motown Mysis, Tim’s Mysis, 20-Inchers, egg patterns, PTs, RS-2s, and Barr’s Emergers.

Granby Reservoir—The weather has been very nice. The catch rate from the bank remains above normal for the length of time since ice-off, especially in the early morning and late evening. For many fishermen trolling is working well. Much water still is being let out, but the level in the reservoir is rising rapidly. The gates of Shadow Mountain Dam are allowing a lot of water through, increasing fish activity and catch rates. Fly fishing is great if you can fish fast water. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms and sucker meat are viable baits. Fish Creek spinners, Matzuos, Rapalas, Kastmasters, Tasmanian Devils, etc., are good lures. Trolling worm rigs and lures, jigging, bottom fishing (crappie rigs work well), spin-casting and fly fishing are good ways to catch fish. Slip bobber rigs also work well.

Grand Lake—The weather is beautiful and the catch rate is above normal. The streams coming into the lake, flowing fast from melting snow, are still enhancing fish activity. Lures, night crawlers, meal and wax worms are working. Jigging with sucker meat is common and productive. The lake is more than 270 feet deep and can be difficult to learn, but also very rewarding. The water level remains constant. It has very large lake trout, nice-sized rainbows, browns and kokanee salmon. Trolling lures and worm rigs, bottom fishing the shallow areas and slip-bobber rigs all are used to catch fish. The mouth of the channel, the public boat dock area, and the West Portal are prime spots.

Green Mountain Reservoir—The lake is filling and down only about 15-20 feet. Folks have been catching lake trout using night crawlers or sucker meat. They have also been using rainbow PowerBait and salmon eggs to catch rainbow trout.

Harvey Gap Reservoir—Windy conditions have made the lake very dirty. Sand and debris have caused fishing to slow. Boaters in deeper water are doing well for trout, perch and crappie. Fishing has been fair for rainbow trout along the dam. Fishermen have been having some success for northern pike in the shallows of the north end. Fishing has been fair for yellow perch. Lots of smaller perch are being caught all around the lake, but mostly near the boat ramp. Quite a few late-stocked trout from last fall overwintered at Harvey and are making for good fishing opportunities.

Highline Lake—With a water temperature of 72 degrees, fishing for bass at Highline has improved significantly and catfish also are biting. Though trout fishing has slowed, some still are being taken at both Highline and Mack Mesa lakes. Parks staff is reminding anglers that if they catch a northern pike at either lake to please remove it from the water and notify the park staff.

Lake Avery—Fishermen have been doing OK for trout on orange or green Power Bait and worms from the bank, and trolling gold-finish spinners.

Lake John—Trolling and casting from shore have produced mixed results for fishermen. Trout might have moved somewhat deeper but still are accessible by all fishing techniques. With the lake to be rehabilitated in August to rid it of suckers, fishermen are encouraged to keep the trout they catch.

Pearl Lake—Fishing was spotty last week. The willows have been producing the best results.

Rifle Gap Reservoir—The lake is still at high water. Tons of water still flowing in Rifle Creek. Inlets are muddy, therefore fishing is poor. High water has kept the east and west ends shallow and in the weeds. Bass should be picking up when the sediment settles to the bottom. Fishing remains fair to good for trout and yellow perch all over the lake. Northern pike fishing has been fair to good near the inlet and in shallow areas. Walleye are still hanging out near the south island and around the boat ramp.

Roaring Fork River—The Roaring Fork River has reached peak runoff and is quickly receding and becoming fishable. Look for good green drake hatches near Glenwood Springs and Carbondale in the next two weeks. All the fish are holding near the banks in any slower-moving sections of water. Be prepared with an arsenal of green drake patterns including: H&L Variants, Royal Wulffs, BDE Drakes, USD Drakes, 20-Inchers, Princes, red Copper Johns and Cat Poops. The upper river near Basalt and Aspen also is fishing well but is more stonefly, PMD and caddis oriented. Crowds are also much less on the upper river. Look for some of the best fishing in the West to take place on the Roaring Fork for the next month.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir—The weather has been great. Water movement from the way-above-average snow melt is still making this a great time of year to fish. When there is moving water(pumping out of Granby Reservoir, which has not occurred for a while), fishing the pump canal and the area around the mouth of the canal can be highly rewarding using flies, slip-bobber rigs, lures and night crawlers on the bottom. Kokanee, rainbows, browns and sometimes lake trout can be caught. Small jigs tipped with wax worms, mealworms, PowerBait or eggs are commonly used. Trolling, bottom fishing, spin-casting and fly fishing are good methods to use. Fishing is also good in the spillway below the dam (at this time, very fast water conditions) where all available species of fish can be caught.

Stagecoach Reservoir—The reservoir is open to boating and a pre-inspection for ANS is required prior to launching. The marina ramp is open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the Morrison Cove ramp will be open Friday-Sunday, 8 8 p.m., throughout the season as staffing allows. Trout have been hitting on flies, lures, PowerBait and worms. With the water temperature at 58 degrees, pike activity has been picking up. Tailwaters fishing is good using eggs and San Juan worms above sizes 18-24, olive RS2s, WD40s and Barr’s Emergers. The reservoir is spilling over the dam and the tailwaters flow is averaging 300-400 cfs, depending on the weather. The redds are down and fenced so please avoid these areas.

Steamboat Lake—Fishing is good. The lake is still murky due to runoff but fishing reports have been good. No reports from boaters yet, but bank fishermen have been doing well. Boat inspection for aquatic nuisance species is mandatory.

Trappers Lake—The ice is gone and some belly-boaters have been on the lake but no reports of fishing are available. The road has been plowed to the lodge and the campgrounds. Fishermen probably will need to traverse some areas of snow to access the lake.

Vega Reservoir—The lake is full and had started spilling last weekend. Average-sized trout are being caught all along the shoreline. Areas along the south road and near the diversion canal inlet have been best. PowerBait, night crawlers and a variety of lures all have been working well. The high water has limited the size of the Gravel Pits fishing area.

Williams Fork Reservoir—Rainbow and brown trout, lake trout, northern pike and kokanee are available. Trolling, jigging, fly fishing, bait and lures can catch fish. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms, sucker meat, PowerBait, eggs and many lures and flies are used. Only the east boat ramp is open. Inspections are mandatory for all trailered boats and begin at 6:00 a.m. The ramp is closed 1/2 hour after sunset. Permanent boat storage is prohibited. Anglers go after the pike as the water warms up; catching is very good. When the pike are in the shallow bank areas, top-water lures work well. Many lake trout and rainbows are also hungry. Camping is available. No reservations are accepted.

Willow Creek Reservoir—The water level is still rising, but is not quite up to the boat ramp yet. Motorized boating is still prohibited. Less water is being let out. People are fishing, at least from the banks. Under regular conditions, rainbows, browns and kokanee salmon are waiting for fishermen to try their luck. It is a beautiful area with a nice campground, easy access and less fishing pressure than other area bodies of water. Night crawlers, meal and wax worms, PowerBait, eggs, lures and flies are used to get the fish to bite.

Yampa River (Hayden through Craig)—The river is up and running at high volumes, although the water is starting to clear. Currently, fishing is very slow but changes are occurring daily and things should be picking up. For a chance at a good-sized pike, try the ponds at the Yampa River State Park campground. They are being stocked regularly and will produce some good fish. Anything big should attract the pike. All pike caught in the ponds must be killed prior to leaving the site or returned to the pond. Be very cautious around the river; it is deep and fast at the present time. The Hayden pump station is closed to downstream access due to bridge clearance. Severe flooding is occurring west of Craig, with extreme volumes and debris all along the river corridor.

Yampa River (Stagecoach through Steamboat)—The Yampa remains high and discolored, a condition expected to continue into the near future. The only fishable water is the tailwater below Stagecoach Dam, which can become crowded.


Beaver Creek Reservoir—The water level is 20 feet below the high-water mark. It will be maintained at or below that level the entire summer. Currently, the water level is right at the bottom of the boat ramp. Anglers are advised to be cautious on the steep-sided slopes. Anglers have reported fair to good fishing for kokanee and brown trout up to 14 inches.

Big Meadows Reservoir—Anglers have reported fair to good fishing from boats and from the shore. Fish are ranging in size from 10 to 15 inches.

Blue Mesa Reservoir—The lake is fishing better than it has in many years. Limits of salmon are being caught daily all across the lake. Runoff continues to fill the lake at a rate of almost a foot a day, with the lake expected to be at full pool by mid July.

Crawford Reservoir—Pike reports have slowed. Anglers have been catching catfish of all sizes night and day. Reports of full limits of crappie have been pretty consistent, with anglers saying the females are still full of eggs.

Dolores River (upper)—The river above McPhee Reservoir has been dropping and clearing. Some trout have been taken on Woolly Worms, Woolly Buggers and Muddler Minnows. Fish the river high in the drainage, above and below Rico, where public access is available and the fish habitat is good. Much of the lower part of the river is private. Because the lower section of the river has been channelized over the years, habitat is poor and the river holds few fish.

East River—The flow has come down a little, to 1,820 cfs at Almont on Tuesday, but remains almost three times the long-term average for the date.

Groundhog Reservoir—Trout up to 24 inches are being caught on flies and a variety of lures. Fish also are being taken by trolling with Pop Geer, and on PowerBait and Nitro Dough.

Gunnison River (through the canyon)—Trips are coming off the river fishing adult stoneflies throughout the canyon. Seems like fishing is getting better and better every day. In the coming weeks, the Bureau of Reclamation will start flow reductions on the river of approximately 200 cfs per day, bringing flows in the canyon and gorge to around 1,100 cfs as measured at the gauge below the Gunnison Tunnel. This is inconsistent with information previously provided, but hydrologic conditions are constantly changing and we must react to current circumstances and forecasts. For more information check out our website at or Gunnison River Pleasure Park at 970-872-2525

Gunnison River (Upper from Almont to Blue Mesa)—The river has come down a little, to 3,080 cfs on Tuesday, but remains in a runoff stage.

Jackson Gulch Reservoir—Fishing has been very good for 10-12 inch rainbow trout (limit 4) and 4-6 inch yellow perch (no limit). Trollers are still having the most success with in-line spinners and 1/4-ounce jigs. Shore anglers are catching trout on PowerBait, salmon eggs and night crawlers. Fly fishing is improving on calm evenings. Trout are especially active in the flowing water near the inlet. Yellow perch love those worms. Be sure to bring plenty of bait as there is no place to buy it nearby. Rainbow trout will be stocked monthly through the summer. Jackson Gulch requires an ANS inspection before launching boats. Regular inspection hours at the lake are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A daily pass is required for day use of the park. For more information: or call 970-533-7065.

Joe Moore Reservoir—Night crawlers and PowerBait have been producing catches of rainbow trout. Largemouth bass have been taken on 4-inch plastic worms, and yellow perch are being taken on 2-inch Twister Tails, tubes and live grubs.

McPhee Reservoir—The water has been clearing and the surface temperature is 67 degrees. Fishing for smallmouth bass has been good with jigs, grubs and plastic worms. Largemouth bass have been hitting top-water baits. Trout still are taking bait off the bottom, and fly fishermen have had success in the evenings and early mornings. No walleyes were reported during the past week, and fishing for catfish remains slow.

Mountain Home Reservoir—This lake recently was stocked with more than 2,400 catchable-sized rainbow trout. Fishing for rainbows reportedly is fair, with reports of fish up to 16 inches in length.

Navajo Reservoir—The water temp is 65 degrees. Crappie fishing remains fair with minnows and John Deere-green grubs. Bass fishing is very good along the rocky points on crank baits and plastics. Pike fishing is fair using broke-back Rapalas. Catfish fishing is good on worms and dough bait. Call the marina at (970) 883-2628 for updated information.

Ridgway Fishing Ponds—The Pa-Co-Chu-Puk ponds of Ridgway State Park are excellent for children because they are the only water below the dam not restricted to artificial flies and lures or catch-and-release fishing. A limit of four trout per person may be kept there, by children and licensed adults, 16 years and older. The ponds are stocked monthly throughout the summer. Fishing continues to be good. Try worms, grasshoppers and red salmon eggs. Fly fishermen might try a black Woolly Bugger or gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, size 14.

Ridgway Reservoir—The lake is filling; watch out for logs on the water. Fishing has been good for rainbows from shore and by trolling. Try using a black and red roster tail for Rainbows. The Small Mouth Bass have been biting along the dam and west shore points. Power Bait and worms work great from the shore.

Rio Grande River—Water flows at Wagon Wheel Gap last week were around 1,700 cubic feet per second. The salmon flies began to emerge at the Coller SWA on June 13 and now are followed by other species of stoneflies. Caddis flies also have begun to emerge. The water is beginning to clear and the fishing is picking up. Anglers have reported good success by floating the river and on the Coller State Wildlife Area.

Road Canyon Reservoir—Anglers reported good fishing throughout the winter. Spring fishing has been good, with a number of individuals catching their limits in a few hours. Fish have ranged in size from 12-14 inches. The algae has remained relatively low allowing good fishing from shore. The reservoir will be stocked throughout the month of July.

San Luis Lake—Due to low snowpack the reservoir will not be filled this season. The boat ramp has been closed to motorboats for the season and only hand-launched boats are permitted.

Sanchez Reservoir—Due to low water levels, the concrete boat ramp is closed and likely will remain that way for the remainder of the year. However, boats are allowed to launch from the shore, but there is some risk of getting stuck. Mandatory boat inspections are still in place and all boats must be inspected prior to launching. The inspection station will be open from approximately 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Please make sure your boat is clean, drained and dry. Due to the discovery of rusty crayfish, an invasive species, all crayfish must either be returned to the water alive or killed by removing the head from the body or thorax before they can be removed from the reservoir. Anglers have reported fair to good fishing for northern pike and walleyes.

Smith Reservoir (San Luis Valley)—Fishing has been fair to good for rainbow trout. Some anglers have reported fish up to 22 inches and 4.5 pounds. The water level currently is right at the bottom of the concrete boat ramp. The reservoir was recently stocked with more than 2,600 rainbow trout.

Summit Reservoir—Fishermen have been taking rainbow trout on Nitro Dough. Crappie have been hitting 1- and 2-inch Twister Tails and tubes.

Taylor Reservoir—Fishing for the largest mackinaw has slowed because they are moving into deeper water, but average-sized fish still are plentiful in about 55 feet of water. Rainbow trout are scattered across the lake and being taken on worms fished off the bottom from anchored boats or by trolling cow bells and night crawlers in 13-20 feet of water. Northern pike are in the shallows. Fishing for them is best in the afternoons when the water is choppy. Boat inspections are conducted 5:30 a.m. to dark. Cottonwood Pass is open.

Taylor River—The river on Tuesday was flowing at 516 cfs below Taylor Dam and 891 cfs at Almont. Though some fishable water may be found directly below the dam, most of the river remains well above the long-term average and difficult to fish.

Totten Reservoir—Top-water action for bass has been improving. Anglers also have been catching northern pike and a few crappie.

Tucker Ponds—The ponds will be stocked the first week of June and stocking will continue through July.

Uncompahgre River in Ridgway Park—The water temperature on the river at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk is about 48 degrees and it is clear. Fishing has been great. Fishermen have been picking up rainbow and cutthroat trout. Soft hackles, Pheasant Tails and San Juan worms are working. Flows are around 650 cfs. With flows being high, watch for drop-offs when wading.


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