‘A lot of water’: Despite tailwaters closure, there is still plenty of good fishing in Yampa Valley

Jack Fisher stands in the Yampa River as it flows through Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area on Sunday, June 5. In addition to the river, the area just south of Steamboat Springs has a pond with quality trout fishing.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

While the popular stretch of the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir known as the tailwaters closed to fishing last week because of low flows, anglers say there are still plenty of spots to fish in the Yampa Valley.

“There’s a lot of water, maybe you just have to drive further,” said Stephanie Gordon, who is part of Colorado Women’s Flyfishers and was in Steamboat with about 20 other women to fish this past weekend. “The tailwaters being closed was a bit irrelevant to the trip. There’s so much more to do and there’s so much more water.”

Gordon said in the last few days they floated the Yampa with a guide, caught really big rainbow trout at Stagecoach Reservoir and used an orange leech pattern to catch grayling at Pearl Lake.

“First cast we caught fish,” Gordon said.

The tailwaters is actually one of the smallest sections of public fishing access on the Yampa River, extending just six-tenths of a mile. John Almen, who works in the shop at Straightline Outdoor Sports on Lincoln Avenue, said the closure hopes to protect the fish that make the tailwaters such a popular spot.

“Tailwaters being closed is a bummer, but at the same time we want to keep that fishery good,” Almen said.

The closest alternative Almen said likely would be Stagecoach Reservoir itself, which he said has been fishing really well so far this year. Another option for anglers would be Sarvis Creek State Wildlife Area, which is a 2.5-mile stretch just downstream of the tailwaters that is seeing stronger flows below the river’s confluence with Mud Creek.

“There’s going to be good hatches coming out of that area very soon and they did some water restoration down there recently,” Almen said. “I haven’t seen it yet, but I have only heard good things.

Currently, Routt County Road 18 back to Sarvis Creek is under a seasonal closure, but it typically opens in June. In the meantime, this water can be accessed by walking about 1.5 miles past the closure point.

Further downstream, Almen recommended Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area, which is a nearly 300-acre area of public land just south of Steamboat. In addition to the river itself, Almen said the pond near the southernmost parking area has some “not bad trout.”

“If you’re looking to go have some fun away from town, away from the crowds, getting to that pond is a good spot,” Almen said. “You can fish just a spin rigs out there and flies and have a really good time.”

Stephen Johnson, who is in Steamboat from Georgia for about a month visiting family, said he caught several trout at Chuck Lewis on Sunday, June 5.

“This stretch is awesome,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he was excited for when flows would drop off a little bit more on Walton and Fish creeks in Steamboat so the public accesses in Steamboat would be easier to fish. Because of high water in town, Almen said he generally isn’t recommending it to people right now, but fish can be found near the edges.

Almen stressed that people shouldn’t forget about lakes in North Routt County either. Both Steamboat and Pearl lakes are good spots and anglers can generally use the same setup they would use in the river.

For arctic grayling at Pearl Lake — a species in the salmon family first introduced in Colorado in the 1890s — Almen recommended a leech pattern and a lot of patience bringing them in as they are often hesitant to fully bite a fly. These fish are only found in a handful of lakes across the state, with Pearl Lake up north and Crosho Lake near the Flat Tops being the two spots closest to Steamboat.

“In the same spots that you’re catching grayling, the brookies and the cutthroat are getting more active in those spots as well,” Almen said.

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