On the Fly column: Read the water — it will tell you today’s story | PostIndependent.com

On the Fly column: Read the water — it will tell you today’s story

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
A winter day on the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs.
Scott Spooner/Courtesy photo

Jimmy D. Moore said it best: “Being able to read trout streams is just as valuable to a fly fisherman as the ability to read a defense is to a quarterback.”

Now that our rivers are clear and have dropped to winter levels, our ability to read the water and skip the barren zones, focusing on where the fish are (and more importantly, the insects) becomes vitally important. Trout need oxygenated water, a steady flow of bugs, cover from predators, as well as an escape route and to stay comfortable in winter — so we should seek out water that fits the bill.

Trout have transitioned from being spread out in the river to zones with more oxygen, meaning warmer and deeper pools with faster and hyper-oxygenated water feeding and protecting them. As you may have noticed, some of your favorite pockets and riffles have disappeared with the drop in flows. Not to worry — conditions this time of year can take the mystery out of where the fish will likely hold.

Reading the water also involves anticipating the usual hatches but also being ready to think outside the box.

For example, you can fish the Roaring Fork in the days after an ice-jam event with your heavy spring selection of stonefly nymphs and worms. The scouring that results tends to kick a lot of bugs loose, and the fish take notice. Light 6x tippet isn’t necessarily a rule in wintertime, especially on our freestone rivers.

Hatches are more sporadic than consistent now, and reading the “takes” will help decipher what fly to tie on when out on the water. If you are seeing heads piercing the surface taking delicate sips, most likely they are focusing on small winter stoneflies or midge adults. Seeing backs and tails indicate they are focusing on midge emergers just beneath the surface.

If you are fluent in “troutspeak,” the writing is on the wall. Read the water, it will tell you today’s story if you pay attention.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

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