High and fast water makes for creative fishing

Don Oliver | Special to the Drum

I’m not real religious when it comes to prayer. In fact my prayers are usually for: good cigars, better whiskey, and fish in love with dry flies. I’m a man of simple needs. However, when the droughts in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado ended in one fell-swoop, I began to think it might be time for prayers to be directed towards California. I think we’ve had enough rain for a while. So, as I write this column on a Sunday, waiting for my fishing buddy, I believe my conversations with the Big Fly Fisherman will take on a different tone.

It is now July and many of the rivers and streams are still not fishable. Normally by this time of the year everything is fishing. In fact, I remember past years worrying about low water by now. So, what’s one to do, make lemonade out of lemons?

Don’t sit around waiting for the rivers to clear up and slow down, head for the lakes and ponds. The two lakes I have fished recently are Pastorius and McPhee. I fished Pastorius from my float tube. However, this reservoir is easily fished from the shore. I found Pastorius to be high and way off color. There was also moss being blown around the surface of the lake. Don’t let that deter you. As I floated around the lake I saw lots of dragonflies. However, the fish were not the least bit interested in my imitation of dragonflies. What they were interested in was my imitation of a green wooly bugger. When I let it sink, and then slowly stripped it in, the trout loved it. The other nice attribute of Pastorius is that it is close to town.

McPhee was fished from a bass boat. Fly-fishing from a bass boat dictated that I start with a bass popper. My poppers of different sizes and colors produced zero fish. I then tied on a white wooly bugger.

That’s what worked last year. After stripping that in for an hour with no success, I went to a green wooly bugger. And, similar to Pastorius I had fish jumping into the boat. Well, not jumping into the boat, but my fishing buddy and I had fish on all day. Green wooly buggers have also attracted bass, trout, and pan fish in a private pond that I can access. Obviously, when in doubt, go green. While I haven’t fished Big Molas or Havilland, they’re the next lakes on my list.

But, what about the rivers and streams? This fly fisherman loves to cast a fly into moving water. In my search for fishable moving water I headed to Hermosa. It has been my experience that Hermosa is the first stream to become fishable. This year is no exception; it’s just happening later than usual.

The east fork of Hermosa is fishing as it always does, very challenging. The cutthroat trout behind Purgatory are as smart as ever. The water is at a great level, and there are some beaver ponds. Stealth is your best friend. The river upstream from the horse corral, or middle fork, is full of hungry brook trout. Dry flies are the order of the day. You’ll also find a beaver pond or two that require a sneaky approach. Downstream from the corral is beginning to fish. The section the Forestry Service acquired several years ago had a caddis hatch in progress. I used my version of a synthetic caddis and fooled a fair number of brookies.

What streams and rivers are next? Lime Creek below HWY 550 should be about ready. Lime Creek is one of my favorite fisheries, and I will be heading there real soon. I also think the Animas River; north of Howardsville will be fishable in the next couple of weeks. And, don’t overlook the beaver ponds in that area. They are always loaded with hungry trout and provide a great place to introduce new fly fishers to our sport.

One last reminder, just because the streams and rivers are slowing down doesn’t mean you can become complacent. Swift shallow water can drag you to deep swift water. Be safe and have fun.



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