Spring Fishing Report From Steamboat Springs, Colorado

By: Cody Lujan

At a time when the majority of Yampa Valley visitors and locals are enjoying the last runs of the ski season under bluebird skies, every savvy angler and guide with downtime is enjoying some of the best fishing of the year. The unpredictable and often brief window of opportunity known as “pre-runoff” begins as soon as ice begins to break up on the rivers and ends when melting snows drive river flows to peak runoff levels. Though tailwater fisheries and a few days of ice fishing on Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach Reservoir has gotten many a local angler through the winter, ice out on the Yampa, Elk, Williams Fork, and Colorado Rivers (not even mentioning some of the hidden gem tributaries) means two things; hungry fish and excellent fishing.

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Fish that have been subsisting under ice for a couple of months greet open water conditions with aggressive appetites. Indeed, some of the best streamer fishing of the year happens during “pre-runoff”. Though water clarity and stream flows can vary from day-to-day, swung and stripped streamers provide anglers with consistent action in both swift and slow moving holding waters. Warmer temperatures and clear water days can also provide dry fly action on midges and smaller stimulator patterns as well as decent nymph fishing. Though larger fish will readily strike big meaty streamers on the Yampa, Elk and Colorado during this time of year, scuds, San Juan worms, and most any flash-backed or bead-headed nymph will pick up plenty of fish for those interested in the numbers game. Streamers will rule on days defined by higher stream flows and off-color waters.

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Large and aggressive rainbow and brown trout seem to come out of the woodwork during pre-runoff, with many seemingly disappearing until the large terrestrial bugs of late summer or late fall feeding binges bring them back to the table. The waters of the Sky River Ranch and Elk River Sanctuary on the Elk River will produce good numbers of hefty rainbows as well as the occasional cutthroat or brown trout. With miles of high quality and very private stream fishing, Table Rock Ranch provides spring anglers with excellent opportunities for large rainbows and wild brown trout. For those seeking some of the largest browns and rainbows on the Yampa River, as well as huge northern pike and the occasional smallmouth bass, Ghost Ranch is your spring break destination.