Trout don’t hibernate

You might be surprised by all of the cold-weather fishing options

Lower elevation sections of popular rivers are fishable in the shoulder seasons of fall and spring, maybe even all winter. Joel and Tristin admire an Uncompahgre River brown that was hiding in calf-deep water in the middle of town in Montrose.

Opportunistic fish don’t always play by the rules. This McLoco Beetle by Ryan Keyes of Grand Junction would normally be considered a summer pattern, but its smaller size makes a surprise late-season searching dry fly pattern when the hatches have ended.

Perhaps the greatest question in life is: “Can I still get down the trails to the Gunnison, or has it snowed too much recently?” Coming in a close second is: “If I head over to the Roaring Fork on Saturday, will my favorite pullover already have a vehicle sitting there?”

Such life-critical questions demand an answer only available with a lacing of the boots and a turn of the ignition key. Have you laced the boots or turned the key recently?

Many consider fishing, especially fishing that engages water of the moving kind, to be a fair-weather, summer-only expedition. When asked in the fall and winter by nonfishermen how my now-ended summer fishing season was, surprised looks are a common response when they are told I have been fishing lately.

And yes, I did catch something.

After regaining control of their jaws, these same disbelievers consider the source of the answer and assume they are conversing with a lunatic. All further conversations are encased in that framework, so nothing further has validity.

So, if you answered the boot-and-key question with a resounding yes, then you know of whence I speak, and you think on the same level of lunacy as I do. Apparently though, only you and I know that we are not lunatics. Perhaps you are even crazier than I am, but surely you will affirm that although fishing opportunities diminish after summer’s end, they do not disappear.

If you answered no to the boot-and-key question, then shame on you. That says you aren’t thinking with your most creative genius. Your first thought might be that there just are not many places to go fishing until warmer weather returns. But even with winter creeping closer, a few places remain to ply our recreational trades — more than you might realize.

Just stop and think for a moment, and you might be surprised. Consider the tail waters, the lower-elevation waters, and some private places you have access to.

You might think of others, but these come to my mind: the Uncompahgre below Ridgway Dam; Gunnison below the North Fork; Cimarron at Cimarron; Gunnison below Blue Mesa Dam and Morrow Point Dam; Blue Mesa Reservoir; Taylor below Taylor Dam; San Miguel from Placerville to the Norwood bridge; Ridgway Reservoir; Gunnison above Blue Mesa; Roaring Fork below Basalt; Frying Pan; Colorado below Glenwood Springs; North Fork of the Gunnison near Somerset; and the lower Eagle.

Some of these are open all winter. Some turn to frozen lakes, bringing new opportunity with ice fishing. Some are accessible only in the warmer bookends of winter in November and again in March.

Winter severity affects others. Some rivers are borderline and may flow free all winter if it is a mild winter, yet will freeze over in a colder winter. One such place is the Colorado River downstream of Glenwood Springs. Depending on the month of the year and the depth of the cold, the upper sections closer to Glenwood Springs may only be open part of the offseason. But consider the lower section closer to Rifle, which may be fishable all year.

And these are just the waters close to home. Expand your geographical thinking and your list will grow.

Western Colorado valleys and towns in the lower elevations all have fishing places to go. Maybe a special trip, or in combination with some other reason to be traveling will bring you to a place that has cold-weather fishing. Throw in the rod when you pack.

For example, next time someone wants to shop the outlet stores at Silverthorne, when they pull into a parking place, you pull out the gear and explore the Blue River. It may be only for an hour or so, but why would you want to be in a warm, dry store trying on clothes when you could be chasing a trout in a cold river?

Yes, even I’d say my seasonal judgment is diminished, maybe demented, but not disappeared. Keep the rod bending all year long. Lace the boots and turn the ignition key.


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