How to Fish Warm Water

Colorado’s rainy season is coming to an end and water temperatures in many of our favorite rivers are rising higher and higher each day. So far this week, I have recorded water temperatures on the lower sections of the Eagle and Colorado Rivers in the high sixties. When the water gets that warm, trout have a much harder surviving the stress of catch-and-release fishing due to the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. It is up to us as anglers to adjust our catch-and-release fishing practices in a way that minimizes our impact on our beloved trout. Here are a few tips that will help you to do less harm to the fish you catch this August.

Early Start, Early Finish

On the Colorado, Eagle, and Roaring Fork rivers, water temperatures are at their coldest between 6 and 10 in the morning, and usually reach their peak somewhere between 3 and 6 in the afternoon. If you are planning on fishing for a full day, make sure to get an early start so that you can be off the water before temperatures reach their peak. Not only will be fishing be better earlier in the morning, but the fish will be stronger and easier to revive after the fight.

Land Fish Quickly and Keep Them Wet

When you play a fish to exhaustion, you are removing precious oxygen from its muscle tissue until it can no longer swim. When you remove that already-tired fish from the water for a long photo session, you are preventing it from regaining that oxygen. Imagine being forced to sprint a mile on a hot day and then immediately holding your head under water while someone takes your picture. Not fun, right? This is exactly what we are doing when we play fish too long and then take them out of the water to remove our hook and snap a picture. The best thing to do is to beef up your tackle so that you can land fish quickly and then try your best not to remove them from the water for any reason.

Go Higher

Without a doubt, the best way to reduce your impact on trout during periods of elevated water temperatures is to leave them alone all together and only fish at higher elevations where the water is cooler. Colorado’s high country is full of lakes and streams that are loaded with healthy, happy fish that will eat a dry fly and put up a spectacular fight once you set the hook. If you are not sure where to go, or are looking for a new high country fly fishing location, consider booking a Hike and Fish wade trip with one of your favorite professional guides at Vail Valley Anglers. We will show you where to go and what flies to use in the high country so that you can keep fishing all summer long without worrying about over-stressing and harming fish.

When the water heats up, you do not necessarily have to quit fishing, you just have to change how, when, and where you do it. Make sure to keep a thermometer with you and check the water temperature regularly. If you notice that the water is above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, stop fishing and relocate to colder water. If we all make a real effort to protect the fish we catch, we can ensure a better fishery for ourselves for years to come.

Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer