Chironomids work well for large trout. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
The cliché holds there are only two things in life that you can count on: death and taxes. Yet, if you’re an angler in Colorado, there are actually three. The third is that you can catch a lot of fish on chironomids.
What is a chironomid you ask? While it sounds like an evil character from a science-fiction movie, chironomids (pronounced “KYRO-nomids”) are actually members of the Chironomidae midge family. Midges are tiny flies that resemble gnats or mosquitos. They are the most prevalent aquatic insects in Colorado, making up more than 50 percent of a fish’s diet in some waters. While tricky to pronounce, fishing with chironomids is quite easy. Read more
When I was a kid and didn’t catch fish on a particular trip, my father used to say, “There’s a reason it’s called ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching.’” As an adult, I still recognize the wisdom in these words. After all, some days the fish just won’t bite no matter what you throw at them, and even the most experienced anglers can get skunked.
Over the years, however, I’ve learned there are a few things that can dramatically improve your chances for success every time you’re on the water.
Whether you’re a novice angler who’s just getting started or a more experienced fisherman who’s simply facing a summer slump, here are five tips to help you catch more fish and have more fun on your next outing.
1. Fish Early or Fish Late
Most suburban ponds have good populations of small bluegills, sunfish and other warm-water species.
Although Colorado’s big lakes and reservoirs get most of the angling attention and accolades, small suburban lakes and ponds often boast great fishing and provide hours of close-to-home fun.
Conveniently located in neighborhood parks and greenbelts, these easy-to-access waters are great places to unwind after a long day of work or to simply find a little solitude without venturing too far off the beaten path.
They are also the perfect locations to take kids fishing. In fact, some of my earliest (and fondest) memories of fishing with my dad took place at ponds in the Lakewood, Golden and Wheat Ridge areas.
At a particular pond near my dad’s apartment home, I remember catching fish nearly every cast on my little Zebco rod/reel combo. As a 5-year-old boy, there was nothing more thrilling than seeing a bluegill or bass pull my red and white bobber under the surface. I also remember the fun of catching my own grasshoppers and worms to use as bait. In addition to providing an enjoyable father/son activity, it was these early experiences that played an important role in developing my lifelong passion for fishing and the outdoors. Read more
Early spring is an ideal time to catch lake trout (Mackinaw). Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
If you’re a fisherman, there’s no better time to fish Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs than early spring. Not only is it a great time of year to shake off your cabin fever, but many trophy sized rainbow, cutthroat, cutbow and brown trout are caught in those first days and weeks after ice-out. If those weren’t enough reasons to make you want to grab your fishing rod and tackle box, spring is also the best time to catch lake trout (aka Mackinaw) — a species that can reach upwards of 50 pounds in Colorado.
Although many of Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs offer excellent fishing, the following waters provide exceptional fishing opportunities this spring: Read more
Article and Photos by Scott Willoughby
Spawning kokanee by © Scott Willoughby
In a state that pretty much has it all, the most glaring gap in Colorado’s vast menu of outdoor options becomes obvious at its borders. The ability to walk across state lines almost anywhere without getting your feet wet serves as evidence of a basic reality: We’re landlocked. High and dry.
For a large chunk of the fishing world, that could be considered a problem. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say, and the opportunity to chase a wide variety of them is what drives many an angler to wet a line. But in the network of rivers and lakes draining from the mountainous spine of the nation to oceans east and west, well, the species selection falls a bit short by comparison. Sure, we’ve got a respectable assortment of more than 40 types of cold-, cool- and warm-water fish species statewide in Colorado, but it seems like the grass can always get a little greener. Read more
Urad Lake. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.
If you are looking to either fish, hike, see the aspens change, wildlife watch or all of the above, you can do far worse than a trip to Urad Lake.
Urad Lake is in the Urad Lake State Wildlife Area, the newest SWA in Colorado. Located off of Jones Pass and Berthoud Pass in Clear Creek County, it is the result of a cooperative effort between the Climax Molybdenum Company (Henderson Mine), the City of Golden and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
The property was historically open to the public for several decades, even though privately owned by the mine. In 2011, the property closed to the public as Henderson Mine did a massive, multimillion dollar mitigation project in the Woods Creek Valley.
During the closure, the mine, City of Golden (which owns the water and reservoir) and CPW were able to work out a long-term lease to turn over the management of the property to Colorado Parks and Wildlife which reopened the area in 2014. During that time, CPW stocked the lake with 6,000 10- to 12-inch cutbow trout. The lake is full of small brook trout, recently stocked rainbow trout and plenty of the cutbows. Read more
Article & Photos By Scott Willoughby
Jason Lieverst. Photo by © Scott Willoughby
Jason Lieverst is performing a magic trick. Or so it would seem. With just a few flicks of his 11-foot wand, the former captain of the British national fly-fishing team plucks trout after trout from a seemingly shallow pool in the Eagle River like some overgrown Harry Potter pulling a litter of rabbits out of a hat.
“What was that, about 14?” Lieverst estimates in a proper English accent as we hike back up the bank toward the truck before the engine had time to completely cool. “Not bad for an hour or so of fishing.”
Unlike most modern magic, Lieverst’s wizardry is no illusion. Rather, it’s a systematic technique originating in Europe and honed over nearly 30 years before making its way to the banks of the Eagle River near Avon, where it’s now being put on display on an increasingly routine basis. Read more
The author’s hand-tied Gray Ugly flies. Photo by Wayne Lewis/CPW.
In the modern era of overly complex, match-the-hatch fly patterns, adding a few simple, traditional flies to your fly box can be effective weapons in your fly-fishing arsenal.
The Gray Ugly is a vintage fly that surpasses many of its modern-day brethren in its amazing ability to catch trout. An oldie but a goodie, I was first introduced to this pattern in the late 1970s by my grandfather who spent most of his life trout fishing in Colorado and Montana. The Gray Ugly was one of his favorite patterns because of its versatility and effectiveness. Over the years, I also saw my dad and uncle use this fly with great success, catching everything from small brook trout at Monarch Lake to bruiser brown trout at North Delaney Buttes.
The fly works especially well with a fly-and-bubble rig and a spinning rod, which is how my grandfather, dad and uncle fished this pattern. For fly-fishing purists, the Gray Ugly also performs just fine at the end of a 5-weight fly rod, fished either wet or dry. Read more
Article & Photos by Scott Willoughby
Floating a scenic slice of the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon. Photo by © Scott Willoughby.
When it comes to their favorite places to wet a line, fishermen are pretty tight-lipped by nature. So it comes as no surprise that the one-year anniversary of the designation of Browns Canyon National Monument came and went last February with little fanfare among Colorado’s angling community.
Besides, nothing has really changed along the scenic slice of the Arkansas River that qualifies among the nation’s premier public trout fisheries. And that’s precisely the point.
“I grew up in big, wide-open spaces in Nevada, and there’s been enormous change to the landscapes — transmission lines, oil and gas coming in, major hard-rock mines and other projects,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director Neil Kornze said while rafting through the newly minted monument last July. “So I love it when I see a community come together and say: ‘Let’s not just trust that this will always be the way we love it. Let’s do something about it.’ It’s not necessarily about changing something in a dramatic way. Sometimes it’s about keeping what you’ve got and what you love.” Read more
Article & Photos By Scott Willoughby
Jon Becker mans the oars of a drift boat. Photo by © Scott Willoughby
Just on the outskirts of the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe” at the riverside community known as Rancho Del Rio, the light grows dim and the bats begin their evening swirl. In a moment, the Colorado River begins to boil like a bubbling cauldron of fish. Then the big bang hits. m “There he is,” oarsman Jon Becker booms from the cockpit of his Hyde drift boat. “Nice fish!”
The hardy brown trout turns out to be the nicest among a steady string of “nice fish,” it’s girth amplified by the cloak of twilight yet easily overshadowing others landed and released throughout the afternoon. There’s no measuring tape to verify the size, yet no reason to suspect the fish is anything less than the 18-inch guesstimate of an optimistic angler’s imagination. Read more