Steamboat Springs Fishing Guide: How To Catch Fish On Your Vacation

Published on 01/15/2018 by Brad Luth

Aside from a fun and popular snow sport history, Steamboat Springs, a community with a rich heritage of fly fishing, dates all the way back to when the first residents, the Ute Indians, had taken to doing it. The Yampa River runs straight through town, but you can also take your wading gear to one of the many popular streams and lakes to prove your trout fishing skills. The opportunities here are endless, and we have seen some big fish pulled in from the surrounding pounds, lakes, streams and other areas.

Consider Going Fishing With A Local Guide

Nothing keeps you company quite like a cheery and informative guide, and no one knows the region’s best fishing spots like a local. A guide should have years of experience to teach you how to cast over a feeding school of fish, and he can also teach you how to make a realistic presentation of the bait. Especially for someone who has never gone fly fishing before, this hands you the unique opportunity to get firsthand knowledge and share ideas. Another one of the advantages of hiring a guide? Like with hiring a hunting guide, the fishing guide will sometimes direct you over to private land, which will often be brimming with trophies. Depending on the piece of water, you can expect to shell out several hundred dollars for a guided fishing tour, but it will help you to catch more fish and bigger fish.

Connecting With Local Steamboat Bait Shops

Photo credit: Kimon Berlin via Flickr (CC2.0)

You’d be surprised how much information you can glean from speaking to the people at the bait shop. They will often hear stories from locals about where the fish have gone into a feeding frenzy, and they can communicate valuable information with you about different fishing events and tournaments. Outside the valuable expertise of a guide, bait shop experts will have the best knowledge on where to reel in a big trophy fish.

Understand the Essential Fly Patterns

Fly bait intended to lure in a monster fish will be tied to bird feathers and animal furs to mimic the various life stages of an aquatic insect, crustacean or minnow. Some of the recommended nymphs, or flies fished below water, include:

  • Pablo’s Cripple—a bait invented by the local guide Paul Russell.
  • Copper John—comes in different colors and a tiny size.
  • Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear—excellent choice for fishing the mountain lakes of Steamboat Springs.
  • Beadhead Prince Nymph—a universal pattern for prospecting delicious trout.
  • Black Depth Charger—popular pattern back in 2011.

For flies fished on the surface you might choose:

  • Pale morning dun
  • Goddard caddis—intended for mountain lakes.
  • Rubber legged renegade
  • Parachute Adams—Universal mayfly intended for different sizes.
  • Yellow Humpy—made for cutthroat for mountain lakes.

Ideal Fishing Times In Steamboat Springs

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Once the fall season hits in Steamboat, Colorado, the daily temperatures vary. For example, in the evenings and mornings, the temperatures drop. The days get shorter during this period of time. The best time to cast a lure into the water is no longer 5 am or 6 am. Instead, you can wait till after 9, once the water starts to warm up. We recommend forgetting about late evening fishing altogether because trout will usually feed the most from midmorning to mid-afternoon. Because the water levels drop lower and clear up, you will want to wear an earthy toned clothing. The trout can see everything above the surface of the water more clearly which means you have less camouflage. Even keeping an awareness of how the sun casts your shadow can help your presence to go unnoticed. Keeping a low profile ensures you don’t cast a shadow that scares away the fish. You can also use a long leader and a light tippet because this ensures your fly gets spotted before you do.

Steamboat Is Home to Variety of Species

Steamboat Springs has a diverse population of trout from Brookie to Cutthroat to Brown to Rainbow. As the fall season hits, they will start to bulk up in preparation for the long winter ahead. Fishermen have a good opportunity during this time because trout seek for easy calories to keep them going over the winter. Unlike the Rainbows, the Brown Trout and Brook Trout will spawn over the fall season. As this time approaches, they grow more territorial and aggressive. Streamers during this time can prove wonderfully rewarding because browns love to strike at the streamers.

How to Spot A Spawning Bed

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It is illegal for a fisherman to repeatedly and knowingly cast into a trout breeding nest. Normally, you can spot it easily because you will see bright and clean-looking gravel, which has been turned over. During this time, they build their nests on gravel, leaves, mud, sticks and sand in water of 1 to 4 feet. An expert fishing guide can also teach you what to look for.

A Note On Fishing For Northern Pike

Unfortunately for the lakes, reservoirs and even some of the rivers, Northern Pike have invaded the Colorado eco-system, and they aren’t native to the area. These highly predatory fish were introduced as a game fish to control some of the other less desirable species like the suckers and carp. Many fishermen, however, have recognized the opportunity in fishing for them, seeing as how they can grow to as big as 30 pounds in Steamboat.

Hopefully this Steamboat fishing guide has helped you to understand how to catch a real trophy fish in the region. You have a lot of opportunities here. Instead of a high priced hotel, why not check out a vacation rental? They cost less than a hotel so that you can spend more time in the area to hopefully catch the big one to mount on your wall. Especially if you travel here during the off-season, you can get a more agreeable rate. The off-season in Colorado is in the winter because the activity starts to die out as the temperatures drop.