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Spring thaw underway along Colorado River

The Colorado River is thawing and the browns are responding.
The Colorado River is thawing and the browns are responding.
Photos by Brian La Rue

Taking a tour around Colorado this week, I saw first hand that the thaw is underway with lots of open water developing. From this extended heat wave to a forecast calling for more 70s, 60s and 50s, it doesn't look like we are going to see much more "winter" at this point, especially in Denver. Clear Creek, the Eagle, Colorado and the Blue all featured more open water than ice and the trout were taking notice.

This brown hit a size 22 Dorsey's Black Beauty (Umpqua pattern) on the Colorado River near Parshall.
Photo by Brian La Rue

I found myself making a run to fish the Colorado River between Parshall and Kremmling. Along the way on Interstate 70, I saw plenty of open water on Clear Creek and along the Blue River off Highway 9 before I made the turn east from Kremmling. The views off Highway 40 saw the slower pools between Kremmling and Parshall offering open water, but the Colorado is still somewhat locked with bank ice and floating ice chunks.

As I got closer to Parshall, the additional water coming in the from the Williams Fork and extra water speed in the form of riffles, saw the river wide open. The access points all saw at least one car in their respective pullouts. It was now 10 a.m. and the sun was up and hopefully the fish were too.

A grabbed my Project Healing Waters/TL Johnson 5-weight and had a pair of dries, a griffith's gnat and an adult midge. I also had my old standby, a Fenwick rod of about 10 years, an Abel with 5-weight Rio floating line and a Dorsey's black beauty and a red zebra midge. I never saw a riser in the three hours of fishing, but eight browns ranging from 12 to 15 inches couldn't pass up Pat's size 22 black beauty.

At first, I tried an egg pattern paired with an sparkle back RS2 for the first soft riffle. Keep in mind, there were no "pools" in this stretch, but this was a slow and deep enough glide, I figured it had to offer fish. So, I stayed in the glide until I found what they wanted. I caught a smaller 12-inch brown on my second offering when I tied on Pat's proven fly from Umpqua. A larger fish then hit the offering about five minutes later, but I never got a good look at him as he came off shortly after he was hooked.

In the next two hours I caught and released six more browns with the best fish going 15 inches. All fish caught were browns. I considered eight fish in three hours not bad given the fact ice chuncks were drifting by and the water temperatures were very cold. Also, it was one of those days you look around at other anglers and you don't see anybody else making any catches, so, I felt pretty confident.

Driving back east along Highway 40, I snuck a peak at the Colorado around Byers Canyon, near Windy Gap and by Granby. The river didn't offer much open water near Byers and only a few open spots were seen above that. Earlier in the day I had passed the Blue, which was virtually wide open. The only spots that featured more ice than water were in the deepest canyons and again at the inlet to Green Mountain.

Further back nearing Denver, Clear Creek once again came into view. There were only few iced over areas. I saw plenty of fishing opportunites near Idaho Springs then again off Highway 6 above Golden. I didn't see any anglers on Clear Creek at all.


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