WINTER FLY FISHING IN SOUTH PARK
Two tailwaters that never freeze: Eleven Mile Canyon and the Dream Stream. The rest of the river system upstream of the reservoirs will eventually be frozen until end of March (but still open as of this week).
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 planed 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).
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.
Weekend 4-day forecast, Nov 14 - 19. Sunny, chilly not bad, lil breeze.
Dream Stream - still fishing nice. Big Browns and Kokanee.
ABELL RIVER RANCH - Best water. The Abell River Ranch is a stretch of private water about 1,000 feet from my shop on the South Platte River in Lake George. Flowing clear and quite.
ELEVEN MILE CANYON - Super sweet. Midge (pupa and adult), Griffith's Gnat (cluster of midge on the surface), Juan's Kryptonite caddis (still), RS2, Phil Iwane No Mercy Midge, callibaetis nymph (pheasant tail), Dorsey's Top Secret Midge.
HAPPY MEADOWS: Open and lovely. Nymphing and streamers. Oddly large browns (atypical for Happy Meadows) in pocket water behind boulders and deep.
(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
Eleven Mile Canyon and Happy Meadows
Open 8-3 Everyday