5 Ways To Beat Runoff

It has been a snowy winter and wet spring and now we have an above-average snowpack locked high up in the mountains. The annual “runoff” is here to stay for a little longer than most patient anglers want it to be. The high streamflows and off-color water make it challenging to fish the local water in #TroutCountry. So what are some ways anglers can cope with this time of year? Find out below as we go through five different ways anglers can “beat” runoff this season.

1. Try Fly Fishing the High Water

It’s always worth a shot, sometimes you get lucky. While the rivers may be off-color and high it is possible to have success. The fish are still in the river and they still have to eat. So how do you get a fly to them? We have outlined “6 Tips to Catch More Fish During Runoff’ in this blog HERE. In short, use bigger, flashier flies, target the soft water and edges of the river, and make sure your flies are getting down into the target zone. Nymphing or streamer fishing is the most effective way to target trout in the higher flows.

The river conditions are constantly changing this time of year, different rivers will fish better than others based on weather, streamflows, and clarity. Stop by the shop, give us a call at 970-926-0900, or visit our fishing reports HERE for the most up-to-date information about river conditions.

2. Take a Road Trip to a New River

The local rivers on the Western Slope of Colorado may be in tough shape this time of year but that doesn’t mean that all the rivers in the west are running high and dirty. Use this excuse to plan a long weekend, hit the road to find some new trout in new water. Within 4-6 hours from the Vail Valley, there are a handful of different rivers all within striking distance. You could be on the Green River below Flaming Gorge in under 5 hours. The Green has great float fishing and wade fishing access. Just be sure to contact a local shop over there to check in on conditions. Or you could drive up to Wyoming to the North Platte, where you can float fish the Grey Reef in Alcova. Or even head down to Southern Colorado and cross into New Mexico to fish the San Juan tailwater. If you want an even longer road trip, Montana has some decent options the famous Big Horn River is a must-fish if you have never checked it out. For a detailed list check out the previous blog “6 Best Fishing Road Trips to Take” HERE.

3. Fish a Stillwater Lake, Pond, or Reservoir

Stillwater fishing is not for everyone, but don’t knock it until you try it. Most anglers that don’t enjoy a good session on a lake haven’t cracked the code completely. Fly fishing in a lake takes different techniques than fishing in the river and it presents a challenge for fly anglers. Locally here in the Vail Valley, there are numerous different lakes that have some great trout fly fishing. To name a few, Nottingham Lake, Freedom Park Lake, Sylvan Lake State Park, Black Lakes, and the East Vail Beaver Ponds. There are also many lakes in the golf course communities in Eagle County that hold some great trout. These lakes are easy to access, with some basic stillwater fly fishing knowledge you can get it done. Check out the previous blog, “10 Tips to Make Stillwater Fishing More Fun” HERE, to brush up on your lake fly fishing techniques.

Regionally, outside of the Vail Valley, there are a number of larger lakes and reservoirs that provide fly anglers with some great opportunities. Up in Northern Colorado, the Delaney Butte Lakes are a must for stillwater trout anglers. Just be sure to pack the bug spray, it’s an insect factory up there. Targeting pike on the fly is also a good option. Stagecoach Reservoir, Rifle Gap, and the Williams Fork Reservoir offer some great pike fishing. Pike on the fly is a game of strategy and patience, so be prepared to learn a lot. Brush up on your pike fly fishing skills with this blog, “Springtime Pike Fly Fishing” from VVA guide Mike Salomone.

4. Find a Tailwater

Unlike many of the freestone rivers that are at the mercy of mountain runoff, tailwater rivers have dams that control the water flows. This time of year, the tailwaters do let a lot of water through the systems as they perform their own form of “runoff”. But, there are still tailwaters in Colorado that are highly fishable and in much better shape than the local freestone rivers like the Eagle River and Roaring Fork River. To name a few, the Blue River, Frying Pan, Taylor River, Williams Fork, and Uncompahgre River are all worth checking out this time of year. Your best bet is to stop by or call the local fly shop nearby these tailwater systems. Dam managers can change flows rapidly so be sure to be checking flow stations and fishing reports often. To get the full scoop on these rivers read the previous blog, “Tailwater Tour, How to Escape Runoff” HERE.

5. Gear Prep + Tie Flies

The last but not least way to beat runoff is to put the fly rod aside and focus on the upcoming summer fishing season by prepping gear and tying flies. Nothing is worse than not having the proper gear out on the river or not having the right pattern in your fly box. So instead of working your butt off to catch a fish in dirty water, head to the fly tying table to twist up some bugs. Stop by the fly shop to stock up on the latest fly tying supplies. It is also a great time of year to replace your old fly line with a new one. No one likes a sinking floating line, or a cracked fly line ripping through the rod guides.

Here are 5 Fly Fishing Gear Prep Hacks We Recommend:

  • Give your waders and rain gear a DWR treatment with products line ReviveX to restore their water-shedding performance.
  • Go through your flies and terminal tackle. Buy a new fly box or two and reorganize your fly supply. Condense your floatant bottles into one bottle. Make sure you are fully stocked and have backups of the main sizes of tippet.
  • Take your fly reels apart and wipe them clean and apply lube if necessary.
  • Put together a “go-bag” of essentials you may need on a fishing trip. This may include a change of dry clothing, bug spray, toilet paper, a first aid kit, sunscreen, a bottle of water, and extra sunglasses.
  • Buy some Rod Ferrule Wax and apply it to your fly rods. It can help prevent breaks from happening and can extend the life of your fly rods.

There you have it, 5 ways you can beat runoff this spring. The rivers may be tough to fish but that won’t stop us from being fishy. This time of year can be a refreshing way to reset for the upcoming productive summer fishing season. Soon enough we will all be casting to risers and keeping it tight.

Patrick Perry, Former Float Fishing Guide, and Content Contributor @patperry