Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Steamboat Springs
On Friday June 8, 2018 I began the annual ritual of chasing declining flows on Colorado freestone rivers. This process yielded some fantastic days of fly fishing during 2015 through 2017. Generally the first river in Colorado to fall to manageable levels is the Yampa River, and when I checked the DWR chart on Sunday, it was running at 1000 CFS, and the river did not reach this level until three weeks later in the 2015 to 2017 time frame. I enjoyed decent success in two hours of fishing on our return trip from Steamboat Lake on Friday, June 8, so I planned a two day and one night road trip on June 11-12.
I departed Denver by 7:15 on Monday morning with a car packed with fishing and camping gear, and I arrived on the river in the town of Steamboat Springs ready to fish by 11:00AM. I was surprised to discover that the annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies event occupied my normal parking area by Howelsen Hill, so I improvised and retreated to the large free parking lot at the ice arena. I rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked down the railroad tracks to a position just above the hot springs.The smell of sulfur pervaded the air and settled in my dry throat, and consequently I was motivated to move upstream at a fairly rapid pace.
As expected, the flows subsided from Friday to the 800 CFS range, and this translated to very tolerable wading conditions. Monday’s weather was sunny and warm, but ten degrees cooler than what was experienced over the weekend.
I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. I fished tight to the right bank and accumulated a fish count of six by the time I took a lunch break at 12:30PM, when I reached some large bank side boulders above the wire unintentionally decorated with flies and lures. Another angler was visible just downstream, so I felt a bit of pressure to keep moving, and that was not a problem given the sulfur scent described earlier. All but one of the first six trout were rainbows, and the initial six netted fish snatched the salvation nymph. Quite a few of these willing eaters responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Most of the rainbows were chunky twelve inch trout, but one or two stretched the tape measure to thirteen inches.
After lunch I covered the remainder of the lower section, until I reached the pedestrian bridge, and then I progressed to Fifth Street, before I quit at 4:30PM. The steady catch rate of the morning continued in the early PM, but from 2:30 until 4:30, it slowed measurably. A highlight of the afternoon session was a fourteen inch rainbow trout, but most of the other fish fell in the ten to twelve inch range.
At two o’clock I began to notice refusals to the fat Albert, so I converted to a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph. I hypothesized that the fish were attracted to yellow but sought a smaller profile. After a fair trial period, however, I deemed my theory faulty and once again implemented a change. I placed a yellow pool toy in the top position and tested a juju emerger and salvation nymph as the nymph combination. I observed a smattering of pale morning duns thus the choice of emerger and salvation, and the pool toy was a compromise in size between the fat Albert and the Letort hopper.
Unfortunately the mid-afternoon fly lineup failed to excite the Yampa River trout, so I returned to the iron sally in place of the juju emerger. The catch rate slowed significantly, but I managed to land three small rainbows to bring the daily total to thirteen. I hasten to note that a sizable brown trout tentatively gummed the pool toy, but I hooked it for only a split second, before it casually separated from the fly. I also generated a temporary hook up with a decent rainbow, but after a brief spurt it popped free.
Monday was a fair day on the Yampa River, but the size and count were subpar compared to what I was accustomed to during the high but receding flows of runoff. Pale morning duns, blue winged olives, and yellow sallies were present, but their availability was sparse as demonstrated by only one visible rise during my five hours on the stream. In previous years the high but declining flows were two weeks later and coincided with the heavier hatches. I suspect more prolific insect activity translates to more active fish and also makes the larger trout more aggressive. I believe that this theory applies to brown trout to a greater extent than rainbows, and this explains why rainbows predominated my fish count on Friday and Monday.
Fish Landed: 13