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Why Fish Stillwaters During High Runoff?

As the snow melts in Colorado’s high country, rivers and streams swell with runoff, making them difficult to fish. However, this doesn’t mean you need to hang up your fly rod. Colorado’s stillwaters and lakes offer excellent fly fishing opportunities during this period.

The state’s stillwater options can be incredibly rewarding. With the right flies and knowledge of the best locations, you can enjoy a productive day on the water even when the rivers are unfishable. Pack your gear, tie some flies, and head to one of these prime stillwater destinations for an unforgettable fishing experience.

Fly Selection for Stillwater Fishing

The key to successful stillwater fishing is understanding the aquatic insects and other food sources available to fish in these environments. Here are some of the best flies to use:

Chironomids (Midges): These are a staple in any stillwater angler's fly box. Use a variety of sizes and colors to match the hatch.
-Recommended Patterns: Zebra Midge, Ice Cream Cone, Chironomid Pupa

Damsel Flies and Dragonflies: Both the nymph and adult stages of these insects are important food sources.
-Recommended Patterns: Chubby Damsel, Mini Leech Damsel Jig, Living Damsel

Callibaetis (Mayflies): These insects are prevalent in many Colorado stillwaters.
-Recommended Patterns: Extended Body Callibaetis, Parachute Adams, Callibaetis Spinner, Hare’s Ear

Scuds and Sowbugs: These small crustaceans are abundant in many lakes.
-Recommended Patterns: UV Scud, Ray Charles, Hunchback Scud

Leeches and Streamers: Larger patterns that imitate leeches and baitfish can provoke aggressive strikes.
-Recommended Patterns: Woolly Bugger, Lightning Leech, Jigged Mini Leech, Zonker

Terrestrials: During warmer months, beetles, ants, and grasshoppers can be effective.
-Recommended Patterns: Foam Beetle, Parachute Ant, Dave's Hopper

Ideal Locations:

Bartle Lakes (Private): Bartle Lakes, located near Jefferson in South Park, is a private fishery offering exceptional stillwater fishing in a high-alpine setting. Access is limited, ensuring less pressure and a more serene experience. The lakes are known for their healthy populations of brook trout, rainbow trout, and the occasional brown and cutthroat. Book your trip in advance to secure access. Read more about Bartle Lakes here.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir: Spinney is a renowned stillwater fishery located in South Park. It is famous for its large trout and pike. The reservoir is known for prolific hatches of midges, callibaetis, and damselflies, making it a prime destination during runoff season.

Eleven Mile Reservoir: Just downstream from Spinney Mountain Reservoir, Eleven Mile Reservoir offers excellent fishing for rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout, as well as kokanee salmon. The reservoir's diverse habitat supports a variety of insect life, making it an ideal spot for using a range of fly patterns.

Tarryall Reservoir: Another great alternative during high runoff. The reservoir is stocked with trout and offers peaceful fishing away from the crowds. It’s perfect for fishing with midges, mayflies, and terrestrial patterns.

Tips for Success

Match the Hatch: Pay attention to the insects around you and try to match your fly to the size, shape, and color of the prevalent bugs.

Use a Slow Retrieve: In stillwaters, a slow and steady retrieve often works best, mimicking the natural movement of aquatic insects.

Fish the Edges: Fish often patrol the shallows near the edges of lakes and reservoirs. Focus on these areas, especially early in the morning and late in the evening.

Adjust Your Depth: Fish in stillwaters can be at varying depths. Use a sinking line or weighted flies to reach the deeper water where fish might be feeding.

Recommended Patterns