June 11 Fly Fishing Report from Telluride
Fishing report June 11, 2014
Waterline: Fly Fishing Report from Telluride
In the willowy world of backcountry conditions analysis, there is perhaps nothing more archaic than the practice of determining the snowpack in an entire mountain range by poking a dozen sticks in the ground and measuring the snow that piles against them. Water content and depth are transceived to an orbiting satellite, which pipes the data to giant cloud servers and ultimately to our computers and telephones. We live in an amazing world, but the best guesses of your friends who ski and snowmobile on a daily basis may be more accurate than statistics generated from gauging stations. In late April, the Snotel data center sent an email reporting that the San Miguel and Dolores watersheds held an estimated 129% of normal snowpack. Simultaneously, the Snotel website reported 79% of average. On the street, around the coffee cart and in the fly shop, locals estimated a snowpack darn near normal. For the angler, normal is beautiful.
Dolores: The River of Sorrows dives into fishable conditions
The Dolores, our mainstay for guiding, climbed to almost 2,500 cfs just ten days ago, but lost momentum in the brief cooling period and has dropped to just 1/3 of its peak flow. Prone to dramatic fluctuations, we believe the “D” has run its race for 2014 and will subside into pleasant fishing conditions before the 20th of June. On the drive from Dolores to Lizard Head, there are patches of distinctly clear water, the subsurface river cobbles visible to even the casual observer. South-facing tributaries may be fishable late this week.
Early season hatches have begun to flicker: caddis, yellow sallies and midges. Golden stone nymphs creep toward shore. Mayfly nymphs shrug and wiggle as oxygen levels rise in the clearing flow. Trout have begun feeding, but the icy water compresses metabolism and restricts activity. Each day, water temperatures rise by hundredths of a degree. Imperceptible to humans, the gradual warminging triggers an inevitable response from our cold blooded cousins: longer feeding hours, a greater range of mobility and increased carelessness in the presence of tempting flies. Over the weekend, an 18” native cutthroat ate Henry’s stonefly nymph in a pool above Rico and got itself netted: the first big fish of the season, but certainly not the last.
West Fork: ready to fish June 15th.
Main Fork, below West Fork confluence: June 15th
Main Fork, above confluence: June 20th
Major tributaries: June 20th
Small south-facing creeks: June 15th
Fly box, June 20-July 10
Pat’s Rubber Legs, #10-12
Wired Stone, #10-14
Tungsten Sallie nymph, #14-16
Copper John, #12-16
Perry’s Bugmeister, #10-14
Chernobyl Ant, #10-12
Yeager’s Tantrum, #10
Rogue Foam Stone, #6-10
Wooly Buggers and other streamers, black or other dark colors, #8-12
Uncompahgre: early season savior produces terrific fishing
Today, a local angler of high repute staggered into the fly shop with shaking hands and wide eyes. Over the weekend, he fished the Uncompahgre at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk and enjoyed great success in the clear, steady flows from the tailrace below Ridgway Reservoir. His son hooked and played a fish for 20 minutes that did not fit in his net, although the net was the largest offered in our shop. He scrutinized the net hoops of every shelf model and, since none were larger than his own, purchased one with a longer handle. Evidently, a brown trout that may have exceeded 30 inches picked up a size 20 midge pupa on 4x and fought valiantly before succumbing. The net was not up to the task, so the fish got a second, then third chance and ultimately bolted to freedom. What can be learned from such a loss?
The Uncompahgre is a north facing watershed. As such, it is the latest of our local rivers to peak. Ridgway Reservoir is a small impoundment. High inflows fill it in a matter of days, but thus far the maximum release has been only 497 cfs. The San Miguel peaked at 1,300 last week and the Dolores over 2,000 cfs. Every river in SW Colorado experiences pronounced spring runoff, but timing of peak flows can vary by as much as a month. This variance plays to the hand of the discerning angler: there is always someplace to fish around here.
Lower gradient than the San Miguel or Dolores, the Uncompahgre handles high flows with grace and provides a reasonable playing field for the fly fisher, even when flows are in the 400-600 cfs range, where they presently preside. Like most tailwaters, the Uncompahgre at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk runs dead clear. Midges and PMD mayflies are the most important food sources, both in nymph and adult form. Aquatic insect activity will accelerate in late June, but for now we must be satisfied with a pedestrian midge hatch and trout that midge deliberately, but rarely rise.
Pa-Co-Chu-Puk: fishable until June 15-20th, followed by 2 weeks of potentially unfishable high water. If dam releases rise, they should fall again before the end of June.
Billy Creek to Montrose: the lower Uncompahgre will be dogged by high flows from Cow Creek and Billy Creek until runoff subsides from the Courthouse range. Snowpack was a little higher than normal up there, but these are mountains of modest elevation, so runoff will end before July 1st. Expect excellent fishing north of the Cow Creek confluence after approximately July 1st. Flows may be pushy for the wading angler, but trout activity will be high.
Early summer fly box
Zebra Midge, #18-20
KF Flasher, #20-22
Midge pupas, all colors, #20-26
JuJu mayfly and midge nymphs, #16-20
San Juan Worm, #14-18
Egg patterns, #16-18
Wooly Bugger, black #6-10
Autumn Splendor, #6-10
Shiela Sculpin, #4-8
San Miguel: Late bloomer promises a long, strong summer
The San Miguel is the most visible local river to the visiting angler. Peak runoff generally occurs in mid-June, so it easily lends the false impression that there is no fishing around Telluride at this time. Indeed, the San Miguel only dropped below 1,000 cfs on Monday. One would look a bit silly standing next to it with a fly rod, but lose no faith; we expect a long, steady fishing season on our backyard river. The San Miguel is the only local stream that fishes better and better as flows drop below 200 and even 100 cfs. A canyon river with plenty of shade, low water does not plague the San Miguel as it does the Dolores. Trout always have plenty of depth and cover. Water temperature rarely sustains above 65 degrees, even downstream from Norwood Bridge. Low water abets the wading angler. The trout, for their part, are not inclined to stop feeding as flows drop. San Miguel fish suffer an interminable winter, the summer growing season lasting just four or five months.
Warm weather triggered high runoff for the last week of May and first week of June. This bit of good fortune will flush the silt from last summer’s never ending rains and usher the heart of fishing season. We expect the best fishing in several years on our beloved but mercurial San Miguel.
San Miguel Forecast
Main Fork, below Placerville: fishable in last week of June, strong from July 1
Main Fork, above Placerville: fishable June 25th, but challenging wading until July 5th
South Fork San Miguel: fishable June 25th
Small tributaries: south facing creeks, such as Leopard Creek, may be fishable by June 20th. North facing creeks will fall into shape between June 25th and 30th.
Early summer fly box
Pat’s Rubber Legs, #8-12
Wired stone, #8-14
Wired Prince, #12-16
LaFontaine’s Caddis Emerger, #14-16
Pulsating Caddis, #14-16
Copper John, #12-16
Tungsten Sallie Nymph, #14-16
Perry’s Bugmeister, #6-12
Stimulator and Rubber Legs Stimi, #6-12
Chernobyl Ant, #8-12
Yeager’s Tantrum, #10
Rogue Foam Stone, Golden, #6-10
Every day, more water becomes fishable. Call or email for an up-to-the-minute report from all Telluride area waters.
Remember to book guides early for late June and July. Our expanded private water menu now features 14 leased properties, so reserve your special water today for Telluride’s summer fly fishing season.