Note: This report is a part of the FlyCast Lite reporting program and is updated seasonally or in the event of substantial changes that alter fly fishing tactics. FlyCast Lite reports are intended to give anglers a high level overview on seasonal conditions and general fishing tactics.
Yampa River flows below Stagecoach Reservoir continue to hold well below the historical average for this time of year. While we should see flows increase in the near future, the timing of that is difficult to nail down. The road to the Stagecoach Tailwater is open, allowing anglers to park below the dam rather than walk the road along the reservoir. Due to low flows and gin clear water, these trout are incredibly skittish and selective, so be prepared for technical fishing. When the conditions are right, anglers will encounter dry fly opportunities during sporadic midge hatches. Long leaders and 6x tippet are highly recommended when targeting trout on the surface. Aside from the occasional dry fly opportunity, nymphing is the most effective approach. 6x tippet and yarn indicators are recommended as these trout are selective and indicator shy. Double midge setups with a midge larva and midge pupa are a safe bet. Bling Midges, Miracle Nymphs, Demon Midges, Pure Midges, Top Secrets, Jujubee Midges, Blue Poison Tungs, Mercury Black Beauties, Chocolate Foam Back Emergers and purple Zebras are some of our go-to patterns. #20 – 24 patterns are appropriate this time of year. If trout don’t respond, tan San Juan Worms, red Copper Johns, Flashback Pheasant Tails, JuJu Baetis, Rainbow Warriors, leeches and Perdigons are good alternative lead patterns that will get the trout’s attention. Focus on pronounced pools, runs and pockets for the better part of the day. Slow riffles and transitions are hot during a hatch. Dry fly action will become more consistent as BWO activity increases. We’ve seen a few here and there but be on the lookout for stronger hatches over the coming weeks.
The Yampa River is a beautiful and diverse river that originates in the Flat Topps Wilderness and flows 250 miles where it meets the Green River. Arguably the most popular stretch of the river is the tailwater section below Stagecoach Reservoir. Conveniently located only 20 minutes from the town of Steamboat Springs, this stretch receives heavy angling pressure during the spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the access road is closed, which deters many anglers, so if you’re willing to make the walk, you’ll find solitude. While you can never go wrong with midge and baetis patterns, the tailwater experiences a number of hatches throughout the year, including midges, BWOs, PMDs, caddis, golden stonefly, yellow sally’s and a variety of terrestrials. The Yampa Tailwater is famous for big rainbow trout but also contains a strong population of healthy brown trout.
Due to heavy angling pressure and high water clarity, the trout in this stretch are very smart and won’t be fooled easily. If you’re used to fishing some of the other Colorado tailwaters, this won’t catch you off-guard, but if you’re new to tailwater fishing, be prepared to make precise casts with a long leader and 5x-6x fluorocarbon tippet. For most of the year, nymphing will be the most productive strategy. If you find that you’re spooking trout with your cast, put on a tiny indicator (yarn indicator is preferred) or rig up a deep dry dropper setup with two nymphs trailing 3 ft below your dry. Midge and baetis never go out of style on this river, but if you’re fishing during the summer, come prepared with a variety of caddis and stonefly nymphs. During the summer, heavy hatch and terrestrial activity will encourage trout to feed on the surface, which leads to fantastic dry fly opportunities. This stretch contains deep pools, runs, pockets and riffles. Deep pools and pockets will hold a majority of the trout but don’t rule out the pockets and riffles during the warmer months.
With one entrance and a single parking lot, accessing the Yampa Tailwater is straightforward. From Steamboat or Oak Creek, take County Road 14 to Stagecoach reservoir and turn onto County Road 18. This dirt road is open during the late spring, summer and fall. This road parallels the lake and will drop you down below the dam. At the bottom of the dam is a dirt parking lot. From here, follow the trails down to the river.