A snowy Saturday in Steamboat Springs turned into a beautiful Sunday with partly cloudy skies and light flurries, but most importantly...it was calm. Most fly fishers will take a less-than-perfect day if it means the wind will lie down. That's the conditions cooperated the other day on the Yampa River.
Local guide Ryan Herbert and myself found ourselves alone on one of the most famous rivers in Colorado...the Yampa River's tailwater section. The cold weather had literally blown all competition away. We found ourselves at this highly productive stretch about 8:30 a.m. The temperature was 26 degrees and light snow was falling.
I grabbed my Orvis Pro Guide waders and a Orvis wading jacket and layered up. I rigged my new TL Johnson Project Healing Waters 5-weight with an egg pattern and a dun RS2. A small piece of shot was the only weight required to be sure my offerings would find the bottom in the deepest boulder pools I could see.
"Try a few drifts in that run," advised Herbert. "Things should get hoppin' pretty fast."
It didn't take long. I whipped out about 6 feet of floating line as I worked on another 4 feet to get a slightly longer cast, the strike indicator got pulled under. I set the hook on a 11-inch brookie and he soon found I meant no harm. Not bad for a first flip of a cast to start the day.
Herbert headed downriver while I continued to try his choice run. I drifted the combo through the riffle with no results until I thought to tr one cast a bit tighter to the overhanging branch of a tree. The 4-second drift was interupted quickly. A larger rainbow pushing 18 inches picked the RS2 up and immediately showed its shoulders as he made a quick run around the hanging branch. The Umpqua leader held up, but he found the right angle and came unbuttoned.
My Project Healing Waters rod felt great on the water. Flows were only in the 60 to 80 cfs range so short flips upriver was all that was needed. On the next run above my starting point, I managed a couple rainbows in the 15- to 17-inch range. They put up a nice fight as they swirled down river in hopes of a long-line release.
Ryan and I brought about 3- to 4-fish per pool to the net in the next 2 1/2 hours. I was on a tight timeline so we were watching the clock. When noon rolled around it was time to go. Thanks to a timely text message from my wife, I soon discovered we had another hour to fish since Herbert hadn't changed his watch to "fall back" with the timechange.
We used the hour to pad our numbers fishing just below the parking area and targeting some risers. They proved picky, but we both managed a few more takers. The smaller risers ran 12 to 13 inches. By now the frozen quides were a thing of the past.
Overall, it was a fun 3 1/2 hours and we probaly caught and released or long-lined about 15 to 16 fish each. Every pool held a collection of 10- to 18-inch fish. After all was said and done, I had landed a brown, brookie and a rainbow. Couldn't quite connect with at least a cutbow to complete the slam.
Head to Steamboat Springs soon to capitalize on this winter bite and lack of crowds. Herbert says the powers that be will soon close the gate on the tailwater and the only way to get out there will be to snowmobile. He can either take you to the tailwater or guide you on the upper and lower Yampa as well. Look for exciting things in the future from Ryan. Get ahold of him here.
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