As anyone who has ever explored them will attest, the Rocky Mountains contain a wealth of diverse fisheries — almost an embarrassment of riches. There is so much good fishing to be had, it really requires a plan to best exploit it. Herewith is a calendar that can serve as the basis for a month-by-month angling plan in the nation’s premier mountain range. Use it as starting point in organizing your own year-long fishing adventure.
Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir has received plenty of publicity over the years for its monster brown and lake trout. Some of the most exciting fishing occurs during the coldest part of the year when hearty anglers fish through the ice with light tackle and catch lakers that can weigh up to 25 pounds. The ice is usually thick enough for walking by late December and stays that way well into February.
Most lake trout will weigh 4 to 10 pounds, so the favored tackle is a medium spinning outfit with 8- to 10-pound line. Preferred artificial lures are jigs —- either heavy, quick-sinking ones like the Krocodile and Hopkins, or feathered jigs with lead heads. Some folks use small suckers for bait.
Flaming Gorge is south of Green River, Wyoming. There are dozens of good accesses along Highway 530, running south to Manilla. For fishing information, contact the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Cheyenne, WY 82001; (307) 777-4601.
Lee’s Ferry, the 15-mile portion of the Colorado River below Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam, though not up to the excellence of the mid-1970s, still ranks as one of the top tailwater fisheries in the West. Anglers who hire guides or know what they’re doing can usually catch a few dozen 14- to 24-inch rainbows a day during January, and might occasionally hook a dandy of 5-plus pounds.
Spawning at Lee’s Ferry starts in October and often continues into March. So a large number of trout might still be on their redds around the areas where the water flows gently over a gravel bar, while others sit in feeding lies behind boulders, or in slow-moving riffles and deep holes.
Guide Rocky Lovett suggests fly-fisherman bring a variety of flies that include scuds (freshwater shrimp imitations), Wooly Boogers and San Juan Worms, a fly made popular on another tailwater fishery in New Mexico.
To reach Lee’s Ferry, take U.S. 89A from Bitter Springs, Arizona, in the southeast or from Kanab, Utah, in the northwest. The turn-off to the campground and paved launch ramp is located at Marble Canyon.
Marble Canyon Outfitters (P.O. Box 3646, Page, AZ 86040; 800-533-7339) offers half-day and full-day trips.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) expended great effort to make the 12 miles of Dolores River between McPhee Dam and the Bradfield Bridge into one of the finest trout fisheries in the state. The DOW stocked more than 25,000 rainbow, Snake River cutthroat and brown trout into the river in the 1980s and also limited anglers to artificial lures or flies only.
Fishing the Dolores in the winter means enduring cold weather, but the reward might be a trout over 20 inches. Most fish average 15-18 inches, however.
Brown, black or green Wooly Worms, tied on No. 6, 8 or 10 hooks, work best when the sun’s on the water, while lighter colors are good on cloudy days or early and late in the day. Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ears, Montana Stones and other nymphs also work well.
The key to success is keeping the fly down deep. A 6- to 7-weight fly rod, rigged with a floating line and a highly visible strike indicator fastened where the leader attaches to the line, makes a good rig for this kind of fishing. Keep casts straight upstream and let current carry the line downstream while mending line, if necessary.
The turn-off for the Bradfield Bridge section is about a mile north of Pleasant View, which is reached by taking U.S. 666 north out of Cortez. It’s 5 miles from the turn-off to the river and the route is well signed.
For guide service, contact Duranglers, 923 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301; (970) 385-4081.
When full, Arizona’s Roosevelt Lake provides 17,000 surface acres and 88 miles of shoreline to fishermen. Most of them spend hours chasing after the largemouth bass, but Roosevelt is also one of the top crappie fisheries in the West, especially in April when the crappie move into the brush to spawn.
Live minnows fished under a bobber or small crankbaits and inline spinners, like the Mepps, Yellow Jacket, Vibrax or Panther Martin, will catch crappie at this time of year. The most popular lures, however, are tiny lead-head jigs, dressed with either a maribou feather body or a plastic bait such as the Berkley Power Grub.
Guide Curt Rambo, who lives on the lake, prefers plastic jigs. During the cold months, he usually jigs straight down next to the boat and in the spring he casts it into the shorelines and brush.
Roosevelt is 35 miles from Globe on Highway 88, or you can take Highway 87 (Payson Highway) to Highway 188 at Tonto Basin and go through Punkin Center.
Guide service is available from Curt Rambo, P.O. Box 760, Tonto Basin, AZ 85553; (928) 479-2215.
For top Rocky Mountain fishing options for May, June, July and August in 2012, check out page two