My old fishing buddy Todd Tice (the owner of the Telluride Toggery) likes to say that “people fish for different reasons…”

For me, fishing is the reason. So when Thanksgiving rolls around and most Telluriders are rejoicing the start of ski season, I celebrate the start of winter fishing season.

Depending on the weather and considering the current trend of unseasonably warm falls, late November and even early December can provide decent fly fishing on the San Miguel river.  While the fish won’t be nearly as eager to eat the big dry flies that they greedily search for in the summer, the standard dry fly, dropper rig, or a more conventional nymph rig will do the trick. Fish the deep, slow pools as the colder temperature will drive the San Miguel’s fish into the slower runs where they don’t have to expend much energy to feed. B y January, the Miguel is typically iced up and it is time to give those wonderful fish a break and let them sleep for a couple of months.

The Lower Gunnison River is another favorite winter fishing spot. By November, the roads and hikes down into the world famous Gunny Gorge and East Portal are typically inaccessible so the fishing from the North Fork of the Gunnison downstream to Lazear or upstream to the Smith Fork is where to focus.  Standard nymph rigs work great-if you are not too stuck up to fish with a worm or an egg pattern, both make a great point fly on double nymph rig.  Follow that with a pheasant tail or a small midge pupae and expect to get lots of hook ups on all but the coldest days.  While the walk and wade fishing on the either side of the river is fantastic, my favorite way to fish the lower Gunny is to float it and fish out of a dory or raft.

Only three hours to the southwest of Telluride lies one of the most famous trout rivers in the world, the San Juan. The water flows out of the bottom of Navajo dam at a consistent 48 degrees all year long which means the bugs never stop hatching and the fish never stop feeding.  Known for small flies, big fish and even bigger crowds, my favorite time to fish the San Juan is from late November through February.  The crowds shrink dramatically and during some storms or super bowl Sunday, you literally feel like you have the river to yourself.  As with all winter fisheries, midge hatches make up the majority of the insect activity which results in the need to fish very small flies-size 22, 24 and 26 midges in black or red are a must. The standard nymph rig is to start with a 9’ leader, tie on a piece of tippet and use a larger red midge, San Juan worm or leach pattern as your attractor fly followed by the smallest midge larvae you are comfortable fishing.  Pay attention and learn where the fish like to feed and you can catch them at will which makes for a great way to celebrate the holidays-nothing than better than catching a couple dozen trout on Xmas day!

So, the next time you are questioning why you are destroying your new skis on a mediocre early season snow pack, leave your ski pass at home and search out some rewarding winter trout fishing.

For more information on local winter fishing feel free to contact me, Werner Catsman, at  mailto:werner@catsman.com or call John Duncan with the Telluride Angler, 970 728 0773.

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