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Stillwater Dreamin'

by Director of Services, Jon Easdon and the Covey Guides

Although stillwater fly fishing can be one of the most thrilling ways to catch large trout in Colorado, many anglers overlook this fantastic opportunity in favor of rivers and streams. Maybe they believe that stillwater is too mysterious or boring. Or maybe some folks just aren’t aware of the great fishing available on our local ponds, lakes and reservoirs. And concerned about social distancing? No problem on our local stillwaters. Fantastic fly fishing is just waiting for you within a short one- or two-hour drive from Colorado Springs on the Pikes Peak water shed on reservoirs on the South Platte river drainage.

Because of quality water and strong vegetation growth that produce an abundance of food sources, trout grow big in local reservoirs like Spinney Mountain and Elevenmile. Combine that with plenty of room for trout to spread out and spread their fins, and you have the recipe for healthy, big, and strong fish!

Our Director of Services, Jon Easdon, has spent a couple days this season fishing Elevenmile Reservoir and Antero. “Spring time gets me chomping at the bit for many reasons. To the average fly fisher, spring means longer days, different bugs, and warmer temps. As we started to watch the ice recede in South Park, I quickly changed from tying size 22 midges and mayflies to tying size 12 chironomids.”

“Right at ice-off, the bite can be electric with cruising fish foraging for an easy meal. At this time, most of the trout are very close to the shore searching for food. This make fishing lakes very easy for any angler,” Easdon says. Ice-off happened about April 15th in South Park, and other fisheries should be opening up in the coming weeks.”

UPDATED: Colorado Parks & Wildlife reports that Spinney Reservoir will opening to boating on April 29, 2020 at one half-hour before sunrise. Elevenmile Reservoir is closed to boating but fishing from the shore in designated areas is permissible. Click on the link to see specifics.

Don’t be afraid to fish lakes that still have ice on them, too. The ice starts to disappear along the shorelines first giving us ample opportunity to target fish. “Focus efforts in transition zones and areas of about 2-6 feet of water. No boats, float tubes or kayaks required. Fish are eating eggs, scuds, chironomids, leeches, and even streamers,” Easdon says.

Justin Brenner watches the shorelines, too, for the opportunistic fish. Fish don’t necessarily key “on certain hatches until water temperatures rise and plant life forms. Although present year round and the water warms into May, hatches of chironomids will become more prolific.”

Suspension fishing under an indicator or stripping these patterns can be equally effective methods. Brenner recommends at least 4x tippet because South Park reservoirs can and often do give up fish of a lifetime. I often use just three feet of tippet between strike indicator and my second fly.” Easdon adds that he changes to a 3x tippet and that, “suspending or slow stripping leeches, eggs, chironomids, and scuds will be the ticket. One important thing to keep in mind is that these fish are often in pods. It’s very common to have breaks in between action.”

Kenny Romero adds that “the primary food sources in late May and early June in Spinney Mountain and Elevenmile reservoirs are chironomids, sucker eggs, and crawfish. Strike indicator rigs with these imitations fished at the right depth will produce fish.” Brenner and Romero both say that in early summer hatches of calebaetis, damsel flies, and caddis start to emerge. Kenny likes to keep beetles, grasshoppers, and snail patterns in his fly box, too.

As water temperatures rise daily, fish become energized and hungry. “Woolly buggers and streamers are also very effective this time of year — as well as year round. And believe it or not, snails are a significant food source for Spinney Mountain large trout.” See what Kenny Romero carries in his stillwater flybox here.

Please check the Colorado Parks & Wildlife page, too, for COVID-19 updates. As you know, things change (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly) with the current situation. We encourage you to be responsible stewards of our resources, and that includes

  • respecting the“social distancing” expectations(even as they change);
  • practice “Leave No Trace” behaviors to minimize trash and impact on our resources;
  • be aware that facilities may not be maintained right now and prepare ahead;
  • travel withhand-sanitizer (if you can find it);
  • buy food, refreshments, and fuel prior to heading to more remote and rural areas to minimize pressure on those smaller communities.

For more information, check out Denver Water’s “plea to recreationists.” Denver Water suggests

  • Do not leave your home unless you absolutely need to. This is especially important if you are sick. Until Colorado lifts its stay-at-home order, please practice social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Stay as close to home as possible. Try something in your own backyard, take a walk or bike ride around the block, or visit a neighborhood park (just leave any playground equipment untouched). Recreate only with people from your own household.
  • Avoid crowds. Parks and trailheads tend to be less busy early in the morning or late in the day.

By the end of May, most of the big cruisers have moved out into other parts of the lake. Mobility can be a key factor when fishing any stillwater destination. A float tube, kayak, personal pontoon boat or motor boat will get you to where the fish are.

Wherever the weeds grow is where you’ll find fish. Don’t overlook the shallow flats either. Many large fish cruise these areas during a hatch looking for an easy caddis, callibaetis, or hopper meal. Dropping a callibaetis nymph behind a #10 Hopper Juan or Amy’s Ant is a good double threat as well.

Although subsurface stillwater fly fishing is, day in and day out, the most productive type of fly fishing on stillwater, dry fly fishing is often overlooked. During the summer months, dry fly fishing can be the most productive strategy. There’s nothing like a 22” Rainbow “exploding” into the air as it attacks a #16 Elk Hair Caddis or #18 Parachute Adams!

Please contact the shop for all of your stillwater fly fishing needs. From kayaks and float tubes to sinking lines to all the right flies and even guided kayak or float tube trips, and stillwater classes (dates and times to be announced), The Covey has ya covered!

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