5 Tips For Technical Tailwaters

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Johnny Spillane

Colorado has some of the toughest tailwaters anywhere.

Tailwater trout get a good education. They see plenty of attention, especially the fish in Colorado’s well publicized fisheries. The Yampa, here in Steamboat Springs, is a great example. A lot of anglers think they can’t catch these fish. Trout have a brain that is smaller then a pea. Tailwater trout may be educated but I’m positive that you can out-think a trout in a technical tailwater situation.

Here are five tips to help you catch incredibly “smart” fish.

1. Go light and go small.

Fish are creatures of their environment. If they see small bugs all the time then you have to fish accordingly. 7X tippet and size 24 or 26 bugs are what the fish are looking for. Go down in tippet size before you switch fly patterns.

2. Match the sky

If you are fishing with an indictor, go with something that matches the color of the sky. If it’s overcast, use gray yarn, if it’s clear use a small clear or white Thingamabobber or yarn. You can also use a Slinky indicator. They are deadly with picky fish.

3. Use stealthy weight

If you are using split shot, make sure they are not flashy at all. Anything painted in a moss green is better then silver lead.

4. Keep it natural

The same goes for flies. Flash is forbidden with picky fish. Anything that has flash will not do well in water with fish that see everything.

People think they can fish a flashy fly above something that is more natural, but even a flashback pheasant tail above a slim pheasant tail will make fish move out of the way. You can literally see fish move a foot or to the side when something that does not look completely natural comes drifting by.

5. Presentation, presentation, presentation

Fly selection is not as important as presentation. If you can get a good drift with subtle patterns, you can catch fish.

Next time you’re on a technical river, try these few tips. I’m confident they will help you catch more fish.

Tight lines,

Johnny Spillane

Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “5 Tips For Technical Tailwaters

  1. Avoid the most popular runs and pools. Work to find the trout that have migrated away from the crowds. These are less pressured fish and tend to easier to catch. “Technical” water usually means bug rich rivers that enable trout to feed selectively, instead of being opportunistic. “Educated” trout usually means fish that are not only selective feeders but highly pressured. If you can find the individuals or small pods of trout in secondary lies, you can turn a educated fish in a technical system that most anglers never see.

  2. I totally agree with these tips. I have fished the Yampa 14 days at Steamboat and small was the secret. Especially for the cutts. 6x was the biggest leader I could use, and the more natural the fly, the more fish I hooked up with. I caught 4 species in one day, brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brookie. All on 18-22 nymphs. Nothing larger would entice a fish. If you go to Steamboat, be sure to stop in to Johnny’s shop. Incredible store.

  3. These are great tips and i want to share an exception here on flashy patterns. I do most of my fishing on the delaware river and these fish can be as picky as they come. the system is a bug factory and i have more luck with nymphs with “hot spots” or some type of flash.

    The only reason i can think is because there are so many bugs that your nymph must stand out? Im not sure the reason for this.

  4. Pingback: Tippets: Windshield Test, Tips for Technical Tailwaters | MidCurrent

  5. Here are some tips I have found useful as well for fishing these pressured tailwaters. I like the new rio kahuna indicators. They are super stealthy, land soft and look like nothing the fish have ever seen. since they are foam core, you can take a marker to them to break up the appearance even more. They can also pass through your guides as well making landing fish a little easier. I also like to glue superfine dubbing in olive or brown to the bottoms of my thingamabobbers. I can still see them from the top and all the fish see is algae floating down stream. I will also take superfine with me on the river, and pinch a little on my leader when I apply my split shot.

  6. Pingback: Tippets: Windshield Test, Tips for Technical Tailwaters – LB Hunting

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