DILLINGHAM’S DRIFT - The Thing About Spring

DILLINGHAM’S DRIFT - The Thing About Spring

Don't repeat this too ludly but spring is, by far, my favorite season to fly fish in Colorado. Each season does have advantages: summer has its biblical hatches and greedy, free-rising trout; autumn ushers in the last waning blue-winged olive hatches of the year and violent streamer eats, all while God's creation is at its zenith; and winter offers its silent, breathtaking solitude. But there are a myriad of reasons why I long to stand in a river in the springtime most of all.

     Most obviously, there is a comparative lack of crowding on the river in the spring. Granted, tailwaters like Pa-Co-Chu-Puk and the Taylor C&R can potentially see some serious felt even early in the year. But it is unlikely the Mongol hordes will descend upon the Uncompahgre River as it meanders through Montrose, the lower Taylor River, the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, or throughout most of the Gunnison River itself in the springtime. On most trout streams, you'll have a bunch of fly water to yourself sans competitors.

     And the drizzly, dour days where leaden skies unleash a snow squall or cloudburst of rain give birth to the best bluewing hatches of the year. Find some deep holding water or a slothful, choppy riffle and prospect with a dual-fly nymphing rig comprised of a #18-22 Barr's BH BWO Emerger, Craven's Juju Baetis, Gunkel's Radiation Baetis, Ramirez's Slim Shady, or Sparkle Wing RS2—a murderer's row of bountiful baetis patterns. Allowing your nymphs to rise in the water column at the end of your drift in order to mimic an ascending baetis nymph is an underappreciated secret to success with early season olive hatches. And if trout hungrily snatch BWOs off the surface, parrot adult bluewings with Furimsky’s B.D.E. BWO, Mathews’ BWO Sparkle Dun, or a run-of-the-mill Parachute Adams.

     Another reason to be head-over-heels in love with springtime angling is the fact that the biggest trout are more active and feed more voraciously than their smaller brethren during the early season. More of your catch will likely be big fish. I don't pretend to know why this is the case—I don’t possess the requisite phD in ichthyology to decipher the biology—I just know it's true. If you want to confuse a truly big ‘bow or brown’s pea-sized brain with faux flies, springtime is your best bet.

     Springtime is spawning time for rainbow trout, and they get more aggressive—and easy to catch!—as they prepare for their annual reproductive romp. Once rainbow trout begin to pair-up on redds and procreate, generally in April and May, they deserve to be left alone. But throughout much of March the angling for pre-spawn ‘bows can be the most memorable fly casting of the year. As a bonus, their bodies become much more angelically adorned in the spring—their heavenly hues become more pronounced, especially on rainbow trout bucks, as they seek to woo a willing hen. As opposed to the human realm, in the salmonid world males are the fairer sex. At no time is this dichotomy more evident than during their springtime spawn. Male salmonids dressed in reproductive regalia are fiercely beautiful.

     When those first warming rays of spring sunshine begin to pry Old Man Winter’s cryogenic chokehold from rivers that have been until now essentially liquid ice, go take your fly rod for an afternoon walk. The next time a spring snowstorm dumps a few inches of frozen goodness in the mountains, stow your snowboard or skis, park your snowmobile, and take a piscatorial powder day instead. Fly fishers who only don their waterproof pantaloons when the warming winds of summer awaken every other fly angler from their slumber will never know how good early season fly fishing can be. I certainly don’t plan on making that mistake…and neither should you.