River Conditions in April
April is here and for us here in Durango, that means unexpected weather. It is possible to see a snowstorm with temps in the 20s and 30s, wind and rain (This is happening right now in fact), or a string of sunny days in the 80s. Be prepared for anything! With fluctuating weather patterns comes fluctuating flows. With fluctuating flows means timing can become crucial. If possible, watch the flows and get out on the water during a cooling period when the flows seem to be dropping. Some of the best days can be had this way. However, with changing weather patterns, you may check the flows the night before with everything looking great, only to show up the next morning with the river very off color. Do not be discouraged! Bigger, darker bugs will still bring in the fish, and you may tow in a slab as off color water tends to draw out the larger fish.
April is also the month that many rivers that have been inaccessible or unfishable are now are open and ready for your fly! The San Juan and the Animas will be rocking of course, but the Piedra, Los Pinos, Williams, Florida, San Juan in Pagosa Springs, Dolores, San Miguel, Gunnison, and Uncompahgre are all picking up. As stated before, if your river of choice looks to be murky and off color; don’t forget that the San Juan, Williams, Los Pinos, Florida, Dolores, ad Uncompahgre are all tailwaters. These rivers below their respective dams may not be affected by any discoloration.
Local flatwater is in ice off mode as well so keep that in mind when choosing a place to fish. Navajo, Puett, Totten, Pastorius, Summit, and McPhee will all be picking up with Vallecito and Lemon just icing off as well. Call the shop or stop in for a daily report and also keep in mind that pike fishing is picking up daily for those interested in something slightly more vicious. Ice of is a PRIME time time to be on the lake, so hit it while it is good!
Insects and Natural Food Sources
There are a few food sources of note here in Southwest Colorado this time of year. They are: midges, baetis (blue wing olives), stonefly nymphs, caddis larva, eggs, aquatic worms, cranefly larva, baitfish and sculpins. The midges and baetis will be in full effect and fantastically fishable with clear water. If the water has turned slightly off color or the small bugs are not doing it, tie on a stonefly nymph, caddis larva, aquatic worm, or cranefly larva. Off colored water usually means weird things are being kicked up and washed through the river system, so don’t be afraid to get creative. If all else fails (or if nothing else sounds as fun), olive, brown, and black streamers…and hit it hard, make it move. If there is anything we can say about streamer fishing it is this: if you want to be successful, make the fish work for it. They will. Here is another tip for you avid streamer fisherpersons, if you are fishing a bright clear day and crystal clear water, try tying on a light streamer such as a rainbow trout fingerling imitation. You may be surprised.
Baetis will also be in full effect on the San Juan below Navajo Dam. Dry fly action will pick up in the afternoons. If they are not eating your baetis dry; tie on a smaller midge dry. As the San Juan is a tailwater: midge larva, midge pupa, midge, emergers, and midge dries will always be on the menu. Other food sources to be aware of are: eggs, annelids, aquatic worms, and leeches.
Don’t forget that pike fishing will be getting better and better with every warm day. Dark pike or saltwater streamers in olive or black and big will be the go to starting at 5 inches up to 9 inches with larger being better.
Recommended Fly Patterns
Animas and other SW CO rivers: Baetis size 16-20: Juju Baetis, Tungsten Micro Mayfly, Foam Wing RS-2, WD-40, Black Copper John, BWO Comparadun, Sparkle Dun, . Midges Sz. 16-20: Green, black, tan or white; size and color matter more than pattern. Green or black caddis larva and cased caddis nymphs sz. 12-18. Dark stonefly nymphs sz. 10-14 such as a 20 Incher Stone, Prince Nymph, Black Wolly Bugger, Pats Rubberlegs. Streamers: anything that is big, meaty, and has lots of action in the water. Kiwi Muddler, Rainbow Trout Fingerling, Black or Olive Buggers, and Shelia Sculpin. Egg patterns, Sz. 16 in orange, pink, and cherise. Barr’s Cranefly Larva or a wooly worm in size 6 or 8 if you so choose to tie on a cranefly. Oh, and a mouse pattern of your choice…
San Juan River: BWO’s Sz.18-22; Two Bit Hooker, Juju baetis, WD-40s, Pheasant Tail, RS-2s, CDC Comparaduns. Midges Sz.18-26; Scissorbill Special, Red Brassie, Big Mac, Griffith Gnats, and Zebra Midges. Brown, Olive, and White bunny leaches or buggers of the same color. Tan chamois Leeches size 16. Red annelids Sz. 20-22. San Juan Worms, Sz. 16-20 in tan, pink, or orange. Egg patterns, Sz. 16 in orange, pink, and cherise. Rainbow Trout streamers in the lower stretches of the river such as T&A Rainbow.