Here comes Memorial Day, which marks the beginning of summer and the thoughts of fishing your brains out. I certainly think of that three-day weekend as a time to be on the water! But, in Colorado, Memorial Day is usually cursed with snow runoff or the beginning of runoff.
It looks like this year the runoff is in full swing already. Big, sometimes-dirty water can make fly fishing testy. To insure that I am not driving all over the state looking for a place to fish, I watch the stream flows reported by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. CFS or Cubic Feet per Second on a given river will give you an indication of how fishable it may be.
I love all the public water on the Colorado River near the town of Parshall. While it is heavily fished, there is enough water to usually satisfy everyone. For me, anything around 450 CFS or less is great wading water. Today, the river is moving at 1693 CFS. That is actually dangerous for this fisherman.
Another great river is the Yampa. It fishes well right in the downtown area of Steamboat Springs. Again, I like it at 400 CFS or less. The report today is 1730 CFS. That, folks, means the river is pretty high. You would probable have to fish the inside seams near shore if the water is clear.
There are exceptions of course. The Arkansas River can be pretty high and still be clear. Downstream from Salida is a gauge at Wellsville that today is reporting 570 CFS. I prefer 300-400 for wade fishing at that location; but I would bet that the river is clear and very fishable. One thing that you can always do is call the local fly shops to gain their insight to river flows. Ark Anglers in Salida and Buena Vista, along with the Steamboat Flyfisher, are superb fly shops with staff that know their rivers.
If you have fished a river or stream on a given day and found the water to be ideal, Google Colorado Stream flows when you get home and note the flow. You will then have a record of the flow level that you so enjoyed.
I have been talking about wading a stream or river. There are other options. Raft the Arkansas with a guide. Flows can be quite high; and the fishing is still great if water clarity is only moderately affected. Also, fish tail waters below a dam where the water will be more clear and controlled. Again, not a bad idea to check with the fly shops. They will have the latest scoop as to where to go.
OK, maybe Memorial Day will still be good fishing despite the run-off!
Image from Troutrageous.com