You have got to love winter in Colorado. Even in January there are breaks in the weather that allows things to warm up making for some great mid winter days. This last weekend happened to be just one of those breaks from winter, although as I write this it is cold, icy and snowing with expected highs below zero in the next day. Just two days ago some mountain areas enjoyed sunny mid 50's weather with little to no wind. People were not the only ones to take advantage of the short window of greatness. The fish seemed to be enjoying it as well.
It is not every January we get the chance to fish freestone rivers without the battle of ice if not frozen conditions. The morning hours did provide reminders that it is mid winter with a good sludge hatch lasting for the first few hours on the river. In between the floating slush-bergs you could see good numbers of fish piling up in the crystal clear slower water. Even better a decent number of them were suspended in the water column meaning only one thing. They are feeding. Now for the next challenge, how to present a fly through the slush and not spook the fish? I was able to sneak up within casting distance of the fish I had been stocking, so now it was a matter of getting my flies down. With patience it was possible to get a cast between the slush and present the flies at the proper depth. Even with carefully placed casts about 30% of them still ended up stuck in or on the slush. Regardless it only took a short while before hooking up. Here is the first fish of the day taking from under the sludge hatch.
After releasing this fish I stepped back into the river where I was previously standing to find the entire pod gone. Fighting the fish spooked the pod. No surprise there. I worked the pool and surrounding structure hooking one other fish, which was a fat healthy 17" rainbow. By then the morning solitude on the water diminished and I took off to another spot on the river to once again have the place to myself.
By now the sludge hatch has ended and things started to look like a warm spring day, but with the constant reminders that it is still winter. The fish continued to hold in the classic winter style. The trick was to find the deepest, slow moving water and work it over hard, then adjust depths and try again until fish were found. Where there was one fish, there were always more to be found often with the same drift as the previous successful one. This also means the hook ups were hot one after another or not at all. Here are a few more fish caught throughout the day.
I have to say there was a distinct difference between the browns and the rainbows caught. The browns were skinny and sluggish typical of winter where the rainbows were much fatter and more energetic. One rainbow I caught seemed to be full of eggs or just abnormally fat compared to the other rainbows caught. It is too early on this water shed for the rainbows to be getting ramped up to spawn. Maybe the one hen had just eaten way more than the rest or just a fluke that she was getting ready this early. I wish I had some better pics to get additional input. Oh well. I would rather not have the best pics of fish, but also not have to handle the fish or ever remove them from the water. I only had to touch one or maybe two fish all day. That's a trade off I'm happy with.
Flies: #10 Golden Stone, #12 Czech Caddis
Flow: ~380 - 400
Weather: Mid 50's, Sunny, No wind