You don’t have to go far to find a big fish |

You don’t have to go far to find a big fish

Dwntown stretch of Yampa prime for casting a line

One of the best places to find rainbow trout in Northwest Colorado is the downtown stretch of the Yampa River.

— The mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs offer scores of secluded trout streams and lakes. But your best chance of catching a fish worthy of the photo album is right in town.

Bill Atkinson, a fisheries biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, estimates there are 2,113 trout (5 inches or longer) per mile in the downtown stretch of the Yampa River between Fifth and 13th streets. Rainbow trout up to 18 inches long are not rare.

The density of trout decreases upstream near the confluence of Fish Creek, where brown trout are more common than rainbows. However, the fishing is a little less urban and it’s a little easier to find your own stretch of water.

One of the reasons Steamboat’s heavily fished town waters are so productive is the special regulations that allow fishing by flies and lures only (no bait) and require that all fish be returned immediately – and unharmed -ito the water.

Of course, wildlife officials understand that in order to hook young anglers on the sport, they must offer the chance to catch and eat a trout. And that exists in Steamboat at two strategically located ponds.

The first, Casey’s Pond, is obvious where travelers enter Steamboat from Rabbit Ears Pass on U.S. Highway 40. You’ll see the pond on your right at the first stoplight – U.S. 40 and Walton Creek Road. Bait fishing is allowed, there’s a small pier, and the pond is stocked regularly with rainbow trout fresh from the hatchery.

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The second, Fetcher’s Pond, is not visible from the highway. About a mile beyond Casey’s (but before you get to downtown Steamboat), watch for the intersection with Pine Grove Road. Staples will be on your left and Ski Haus on your right. Take a left at the stoplight and continue across the railroad tracks. Take a left on a dirt road and proceed to a small city park.

If your youngsters like to explore as much as they like to fish, consider the little brook trout streams that abound on Rabbit Ears Pass. All they need is a cheap pole with a dry fly called a “renegade” tied to the line. They don’t even have to cast. Just “dap” the fly on the water. The brookies will bite.

Adult anglers seeking an introduction to fly fishing can watch for free casting clinics in Lincoln Park. Stop at any of the three fly shops on Lincoln Avenue and they’ll get you started.

It’s hard to go wrong in mid-summer with a foam grasshopper on your line and a caddis fly emerger tied so that it follows along 10 inches beneath the surface.