Originally published in the Sopris Sun newspaper, March 12, 2009.
In many parts of the country anglers are limited to a legal fishing season that spans just part of the year. Opening day on a trout stream in some eastern and mid-western states can be like fighting for front row seats at a Rolling Stones concert. But here in the State of Colorado, anglers can legally throw a line year-round. March is an excellent time to fish for several reasons.
The high-country snowpack is still relatively solid right now. The pre-thaw, pre run-off stage makes for clear, manageable rivers that are great for wade anglers and drift boats alike. The exception is an overnight cold snap that can leave slush and ice in the rivers making it very difficult to get a good drift with a fly. An odd drift is a certain turn-off for wary fish. Look for a stretch of relatively warm nights that should render the rivers running clear and free of ice.
As we approach the spring equinox, the increase in day length triggers a rebirth of activity in all underwater life. Stream invertebrates are mostly dormant through the dark and cold of winter. As the days get longer and warmer, stream insect activity increases. Increased insect activity means the fish are feeding more. More fish feeding simply means more chance to catch a fish on the fly.
Fly anglers will do well with small flies. A #18 to #22 midge or pheasant tail fished below the surface is a good choice. They should also keep their eyes open and their fly boxes ready for sporadic insect hatches that leave trout in an above surface feeding frenzy.
Not only are fish feeding more now, but the rainbow trout are getting ready for their annual spring spawn. Similar to the yearly migration of songbirds to their nesting sites, increased day length triggers a migration of the rainbows upstream to the shallows where they build their spawning beds. Here they will stay from approximately late March through mid-May. Early spring, however, is a great opportunity to net a large rainbow on the fly. At this time, the rainbow trout gather in the deeper pools and wait for the environmental cues that signal them to move into the shallows. Anglers who locate the rainbow trout in the deep-pit staging pools will be rewarded.
Fly anglers will do well with small flies. A #18 to #22 midge or pheasant tail fished below the surface is a good choice. They should also keep their eyes open and their fly boxes ready for sporadic insect hatches that leave trout in an above surface feeding frenzy. Dry flies to keep on hand include blue-winged olive Baetis and adult midge patterns. The hatch may only last a few minutes, but can be an unexpected bonus to the day.
In these times of economic uncertainty, there are some things that will never change. The sun will still rise in the east, the days will grow ever longer and warmer, and a trout will take a fly presented to it with a convincing drift. And if history repeats itself once again, the tourists will be here again in July. Analysts claim daylight savings will create more spending. Maybe they are right. It sounds like a good time to spend some money at your local fly shop, beat the summer crowds and use your extra hour of daylight down at the river wetting a line.