Winter is coming to an end and the rivers and lakes are starting to warm up. Spring fishing is the time of year where anglers get excited for more active fish and throwing bigger flies. Bugs are starting to appear in numbers and in size.
Although we may see many cold days to come, our flows are increasing and the fish are starting to spread out compared to the winter.
This blog will cover different water to look for, bugs you should expect to see, and a few different methods of getting your flies in front of the fish. And maybe one story from early this spring that involves dirty water, hail mary casts, and one nice fish to end the day.
If you want to get right to guides available or the story, scroll to the bottom. Enjoy!
Type of water
Water temps are still cold, there is no getting around that. Although our flows are increasing, the water is all snow melt and is still pretty cold. With this being said, fish are starting to push out from deep holding water and move into slightly faster water and riffles.
I have been finding a few fish in heavier water with more current recently. Although these fish seem more willing to chase a streamer down, I have had quite a few good days on Rs2’s and caddis pupas. I’m getting ahead of myself here! Let’s talk about water.
Tail end of a run
I like to focus on this water as flows increase. The fish can hang back in the last part of a bucket or trough and still have plenty of seams to eat off of and protection with deeper water. They also don’t have to work that hard as the water is moving slower.
This is where I will start to see fish moving around as the water warms up and bugs appear. I have been seeing fish move up in the water column around 11:00-1:30. They seem to move around a foot to three feet vertically while feeding on emergers. Still not thrashing the top of the water, but moving up and down enough to see them and get a good presentation in front of them.
When fishing this type of water, I like to nymph it. I’ll throw a caddis pupa down to an Rs2 or a gorilla midge pattern. Most of the bugs I am seeing are sizes 18-22. If you are a fly tier and simple pattern to try, watch this video and tie it in a few colors and sizes. You won’t be disappointed!
This part of the stream always calls my name. Fishing the edge of a big riffle or throwing on some weight and fishing right down the pipe of the current can be really fun. This time of year it can be slightly less rewarding because less fish are willing to exert the energy it requires to feed in this type of water.
When I fish this water I like to throw a split shot or two above my first fly and really focus on getting my bugs in the slot between the fast and slow water, also known as the seam. Lots of micro mends and a few larger ones will ensure your bugs stay in the zone during your drift.
I will deepen my rigs just slightly because of the faster current. I will typically start my indicator about 30” above my first fly. My second fly will be another 18” or so below that. If you are someone that likes to throw your smaller fly off a tag end above your big bug, that will work too.
When it comes to this type of water, I like to throw a streamer. I feel that I can keep my streamer in the “zone” for a long time. Whether I’m swinging my bug through the column, or casting up stream, I can slow my retrieve down and give the fish something they can move to.
Some pre-runoff days include murky water. Not quite blown out, but about a foot to 18” of visibility. This will make some people want to throw really large flies (not that that’s bad) and avoid throwing flies in the 16-20 size ranges.
I would keep an open mind. Those fish can see pretty well in this type of water. There is also a lot of dislodgement and fish won’t miss a free meal. There will be bigger bugs in the water but there will probably be more small flies present. I like to keep my options open and give them the best of both worlds.
A great video on this is from Kelly Galloup. He explains it well and it’s worth a watch. You can find that video here.
Bugs to expect
Depending on the rivers you’re on this will change slightly. But an overall range of bugs to keep your eyes out for as the spring develops into summer are larger sized midges, BWO’s, March browns, and if you’re lucky, winter stones sometimes make an appearance.
Bugs you won’t see that are still present and moving toward the banks are stone fly variations, drake larvaes, and caddis nymphs. These will be your nymphs that are slightly larger in size while you’re nymphing. I like prince nymphs, pat’s rubber legs, montana fly, hare’s ear, and pheasant tails.
Want to fish this spring with a guide?
Southern Colorado is opening up and has great opportunities for spring fishing. Check out these profiles and book your trip today. Optimistic Outfitter, Owen Olson, Rollie Murchison, Caiden Boyt, and Finn Leggitt.
The spring fishing had been awesome. Flows were slightly increasing, water was nice and blue, bugs were out in large quantities, and days were warming up. We had about a week of great fishing and I convinced my dad to make the drive down and spend some time on the water.
Rain. Snow. Wind. The river got completely blown out. We fished the day through with nymph rigs and didn’t catch a thing. Towards the end of the day I tied on a streamer and decided to work on my cast. Standing on a rock, with multiple boulders and currents in front of me, I started to throw hail mary casts across the river.
I was purely having fun with what the river was giving me. I was working on the long cast and not thinking of presentation, currents, or catching fish.
Throw a long ball, strip as fast as I can for three or four strips, (the current was very fast and I didnt want to snag on one of the big boulders), and cast again. Pretty much over and over I did this and on about the 10th cast into the same little bucket across the stream I had a large fish come blasting out of the water as I ripped my streamer out for another cast.
Sometimes I can get excited and think a fish is bigger than it is. Sue me. I got excited and sat down on the rock I was on. That fish wanted to eat and I think it would eat if I got the fly in front of it again. Again, these are long casts through multiple different heavy currents, with my fly tearing through the water not much deeper than 3-4 inches.
I continued my casting into that spot for another 5-6 casts and then POW! Same exact eat as before but I kept my fly in the water instead of casting again. Hook up! Fish rolls down stream directly into the boulders I would have liked to avoid. I don’t know if the fish is on or not and try to scramble my way down stream.
Thinking the fish is gone, I throw some loopy roll casts over the boulder in hopes of getting my fly back. As my fly line lands over the rock, I see the slack taken out by the fish pulling downstream. No way. “I got you on 15lbs and open current now”. I quickly landed the one fish of the day right before we went home.