WINTER FLY FISHING IN SOUTH PARK
Two tailwaters that never freeze: Eleven Mile Canyon and the Dream Stream.
The South Platte below Lake George (Abell River Ranch and Happy Meadows and Deckers) will intermittently freeze and open all winter. When spring ice-off begins (March), there will be slush on the surface. You will need to put "ice-off" on your guides (or go Tenkara - no guides to ice up).
We have winter midge hatches every single day in the tailwaters. That means the midge pupae are active and in the water column every day. It doesn’t pay to get up at the crack of dawn. Active fishing on the hatch starts around 9:30 a.m. and goes until 3-ish. There will be intermittent callibaetis activity subsurface (I have never seen adult callibaetis in the air during winter). At these times, a callibaetis pupa pattern will work. Blood midge are also effective any day of the winter. State Biologists planted mysis shrimp and scuds at the tailwaters years ago. These crustaceans thrive in the vicinity of the dams and the large rainbows live off of them.
1) Zebra Midge City all day everyday: tiny (#20,22,24). Dark. Common types of zebra midge patterns are Black Beauty, Miracle Midge (white), brassies, Phil Iwane's No Mercy Midge. The trout occasionally change up and want only red. A red blood worm will do (stupid simple pattern).
2) Emerging adults (#18-24): Dorsey's Top Secret Midge, RS2, Craven's Mole Fly, Pennington's Holofly (variation on WD40 w glass bead head). A Griffith's gnat will emulate a clump of midge on the surface, this makes a great point fly, then add emerger as a dropper.
Coming out of deep winter, a visible wing sack will trigger hits, i.e., WD40s, RS2s.
3) Callibaetis: The pupae of callibaetis have the wings, legs, thorax and tail developed in its pupae casing already. So, a pattern with wing casing and tail will emulate a callibaetis pupa underwater. There are many pop-art patterns, i.e., Juju Baetis, Darth Baetis, etc. A simple pheasant tail will also emulate a baetis pupae.
4) Sometimes, larger stuff (#16-18): Landon Mayer's Mysis Shrimp, Ray Charles Scud, caddis pupae are active from time to time, especially when the dam lets water out. Juan Ramirez' Kryptonite Caddis, wet flies, Copper Johns (to emulate stoneflies - not big, about #16-18). Lake Chironomids also get washed into the tailwaters below the dams
Trout are sluggish in the winter. The takes are soft. You might not even know you have a fish on. They are often feeding at the tails of riffles in the long calm runs.
Suit up indoors. Trap your core warmth before you go outside. Wear double socks but if the boot is too tight that squish will restrict circulation and your feet will get cold faster.
If you run your boots in hot water, they will be stretched and warm when you first put them on.
Flap-mittens or fingerless gloves, pockets in your waders / jacket with hand warmers.
Layers for upper body.
Wool cap w ear flaps.
Stay out of the water. Though the temperature of the water is warmer than the air, (the air may be freezing but the water is not freezing), the chill factor will be enhanced if you are wet.
Take a thermos of hot beverage.
Keep emergency socks/stretch pants/pull over in the car for you or any other poor stranger who may accidentally fall in. This could save them from hypothermia.
Friday thru Sunday, Jan. 24-26, 2020. Partlly cloudy all weekend (perfect for the daily midge hatch), lil breeze. Not too cold. Flows are UP - Dream Stream flowing 120 cfs. Eleven Mile Canyon 100. Ice shelves outside the Canyon. Sumpfin moves in for Monday. So, get out for the weekdnd.
DREAM STREAM- Clear and ice free. Slow takes, running 120 cfs.
ABELL RIVER RANCH - Ice shelves.
ELEVEN MILE CANYON - Seeing some big brown action on streamers - natural colors, like olive and brown. Pods are rainbows are sipping on the daily winter midge hatch (emerging insects and adult patterns - wings up or spinners). WD40's will work as will other emerging patterns, such as Phil Iwane's No Mercy Midge, and Pat Dorsey's Top Secret Midge Tiny zebra midge (#22,24,26!) are always effective, especially if you drop them about a foot behind a Griffith's Gnat (cluster of midge on the surface) Use your RS2s, Mayer's Tube midge, callibaetis or leech patterns anywhere in the river. Up by the spillway, you can use one of Jesse Gardziel scuds or his chironomid. Our guides, (George Mingus, Cole Gray, and Jesse Gardziel) tie custom flies for the Canyon and Dream Stream. We have this selection in the shop.
HAPPY MEADOWS: Ice shelves.
(the following charts maybe slow to load...)
South Fork of the South Platte coming out of Antero
(Badger Basin) S. Platte below Hartsel and above Spinney
Open 8-3 Everyday