Winter fishing |

Winter fishing

Zach Snoke, left, and Jeff Cordova try their fishing luck in the Stagecoach Reservoir on a winter afternoon. The fish weren't biting much, they said, though they did bring in enough for dinner.

— Just because snow is blanketing Mount Werner, it doesn't mean you have to trade your fishing rod for ski poles. Some local anglers say winter fishing is one of their favorite times of year to cast a line in the Yampa River and other local water bodies.

"If I could guide every day in the winter, I would," says Mike Morton of Steamboat Flyfisher, which is coming off its best winter guiding season ever. "A lot of people have more fun during winter then they do going on summer trips."

High on the list are snowmobile trips to the tailwaters of Stagecoach Reservoir and other locales. "When the town stretch is frozen there are still about five miles of fishable water nearby," says Morton, adding that nymphs work best but that anglers can also get blue wing olive hatches when it's sunny outside. "It's great because you have the place to yourself and it's absolutely gorgeous. There's nothing like catching a nice brown and watching fresh snowflakes dissolve on it as release it back into the water."

For those looking to fly fish, finding open, moving water is the main challenge. Luckily, the Yampa tailwaters have consistent enough water temperatures to yield open water and bug life throughout the winter. While the vehicle access gate through Stagecoach State Park remains closed until April 1, parking to the side of the entrace booth to the park and walking, skiing, or snowshoeing to the tailwaters is permitted during the gate closure.

You can also access the area via skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles on County Road 18 off Colorado Highway 131. And the limited accessibility keeps angler pressure down.

Other tailwaters sections include the Upper Colorado River beneath the Williams Fork Reservoir dam (east of Kremmling), the Blue River below the Dillon Reservoir (Silverthorne) and the Green River beneath the Flaming Gorge Dam (northeast Utah).

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Ice fishing provides another great angling option in Routt County (the state record pike was pulled out of Stagecoach Reservoir in the winter). Although area outfitters offer guided ice fishing trips, most practitioners are left to their own auger-drilling. Top local options include Steamboat Lake, Stagecoach Reservoir and Elkhead Reservoir. "There's great ice fishing here as well," says Morton. "Between that and the fly fishing options, there's no reason to hang up your rod come winter."

Fishing facts

Contact local state parks offices (Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake State Parks, 970-879-3922; Stagecoach State Park, 970-736-2436) for ice condition reports and information on live bait restrictions.

Check for fishing reports, ice conditions and licensing agents. Colorado Division of Wildlife 2012 Fees: Fishing (annual, 16 and older): $26 resident, $56 nonresident; five-day: $21; one-day $9. $5 Habitat Stamp required on every license.