Fishing Report October 16, 2023
Fall time now. I love the fall. The only thing I miss are the long days, but the sunshine this time of year doesn’t hit quite as hard as it does in August and the snow doesn’t hang around like it does a month from now. We’re in that casual time of year where the world mellows out and in the Southwest Colorado high country, we soak up the last warm days before we get into ski mode. Cold nights and warm sunny days for the most part. There have been some cold snowy ones recently, and a couple damp rainy days before that, but the weather this weekend was spectacular. The fishing has been as good as I can remember this summer on our main rivers. High water years only have one question: When is it going to start fishing? Low water years lead to all kinds of questions. If I have my pick, I’ll take the high over the low all day and twice on Sundays. Town has quieted down a little, but this has been a busy Fall for us in the new spot. Thank you to everyone who found our new location and came by to see us this summer. We hope the experience has improved along with our surroundings. Please know that y’all are the people who make it possible and we greatly appreciate you coming to us for all your fly fishing needs. Come on by, we’re open everyday except Thanksgiving.
It is a mighty fine time to be on the Miguel right now. The cottonwoods and oaks are putting on a show bankside, and in the right spot, with the light just right, you have a hard time picking out the leaves from the cobble in the gilded light. The fish are pretty, too and eager to get the last out of the high times. I mix in some black wooly buggers this time of year with my usual dry dropper rig. Instead of working a beat and walking back by the road, I like to fish up with a dry dropper and fish back with a streamer. The easiest wading of the year is right now and the fish are still looking up. I look for the deeper moving water this time of year. Not the deepest holes, but a couple of feet deep with some current. I still like an orange chubby #14 and a prince nymph variation #14-#18, or a small baetis nymph #18-#20. It is a good time to fish a single Parachute Adams or elk hair caddis in the skinny water on the edges, also. The morning is best for coffee and the middle of the day is a better time to fish than have lunch. I still like the evenings, but remember the evening comes a little sooner down in the canyon. Follow the sun around and if you can catch it just as it leaves the water, you did a good thing.
I have heard some great reports from the Dolores around Rico and on our private waters between there and Dolores. Mornings will be slow with the colder temperatures along the whole river, but more so above Rico and less so closer to Dolores. The cold hits a little harder and sooner around Rico and upriver. The best fishing will be during the hottest part of the day and shortly afterwards. As you go further downriver the sun plays more of a role. Look for better fish warming up in shallow water or in cover adjacent to warmer, shallow water. While I don’t often fish above Rico in November, the water closer to Dolores is some of my favorite in November. The lake effect from McPhee comes into play and large trout move into the river. Kokanee salmon add to the mix and offer some interesting bycatch or alternate targets. The salmon like an egg pattern or a small red nymph. I do find that I do better on the Dolores fishing nymphs and streamers over the dry dropper I fish on the Miguel. You stand a better chance of finding a pod or rising fish on the Dolores, but overall I do best fishing subsurface. A Mayhem is a long time favorite behind an attractor nymph.
I have heard more good reports from Pa-Co in the last 6 weeks than I can remember hearing. Truly great fish tales of good days on the water. The flows are back down to their low standard level of 65 cfs. It’s much easier to see fish down there right now than in the summer. Streamers are a smart move between nymph runs. Swing them through the shallower water as well; sometimes a fired up brown will materialize. I like to look in the shallow sunny spots to see if I can find one to fish to and I prefer to sight fish first at these lower flows. Walk around a little and see if you find some fish or learn something about what’s going on. Remember that knowing where they aren’t is important too. The water around Montrose is much lower, as well, and that fishing remains good all winter. At Pa Co I like a smaller streamer on a separate rod to compliment my techy tailwater nymph rig. I start out with white to gauge their response and will work towards a more natural color until I get the response I’m looking for. Around Montrose I like a big streamer and a more standard nymph rig or dry dropper rig that is more focused on the dropper.
You wouldn’t know it wasn’t summer down there most days if it wasn’t for the put in. It gets a little chilly at Pleasure Park while you’re rigging your boat. It’s a lot easier to get ahead of the sun now than it is in mid-summer. This time of year, you’re racing the sun for the daylight more than trying to get off the water before it zaps you. The river is fishing very well. Lots of caddis, a mix of mayflies and midges and even a lingering yellow sallie or two. Plenty of bugs out there to keep their attention and happy fish. I had a trout Spey guided trip recently and they were grabby. The flows are low, a little too low for my hard boat, but easy enough in the raft without the anxiety. 392 cfs coming out of Crystal Dam is a really good level to wade fish. Wet wading is still a real thing. You’ll need to be brave early on, but by mid-afternoon if you’re wearing dark wet wading pants you’ll know it. About 39 degrees as you’re rigging the boat, sun hits you when you go to back her in. You keep the sweatshirt on from the recent memory of the cold, but by the time you hit Cottownwood campground you’re sweating and remembering that PFDs do a great job of catching the sun. By the time the sun leaves the canyon you’re looking for that sweatshirt again. I love the fall down there. On the most recent trip, we swung soft hackles in the riffles and worked rising fish on caddis dries. Both were successful. I would like to see a little more water coming through the canyon right now, but the river and fish don’t seem to mind. Brown trout activity will continue to pick up as they move into spawning water. Look for a couple of warm days after a cold snap or a warm day with some clouds mixed in. BWOs will begin to take the lead from the caddis and the streamer bite ought to get better and better.
We’re going to call this year an anomaly and leave it at that. I don’t think I had a single day that I would consider normal, but the lake is starting to act like its old self. I’ve had a couple good reports fall upon my ear recently and I’ve been up there a little bit with my two-year old in the last week. Clyde caught his first fish on his own cast, retrieve, hook set and land and I was overjoyed. I haven’t had the chance to put in a full sun-up-to-sundown day on Miramonte in a while now. From my recent observations, it appears that the mid-afternoon to evening might be a little better than first light to mid-morning. Streamers are your best move, but I have seen some surface activity that made me want to take another look at twilight. Don’t be afraid to fish a large dry dropper up there, I’ve had some all-time surprises fishing this rig through November.
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