Fishing Stillwater reservoirs like Spinney Mountain can be very rewarding and very challenging during late summer and early fall. The fall transition season is the time of year that can challenge even the most seasoned fly fisher. Like any river or stillwater, the more successful fly fishers are the ones that can quickly adapt to the changes in and on the water. A big part of the success equation at Spinney is access to where the fish are. Fly fishers with float tubes/pontoon boats and motor boats have greater access to locate weed beds where the big fish spend a large part of their day looking for an easy meal. I highly recommend using the appropriate water craft to make you mobile and accessible to where the fish are. Fish can be had from the shore, but your success will increase greatly on watercraft!
Fall is the time to begin the transition from the summer techniques to fall techniques. These changes apply to all area stillwaters including, the North and South Catamount, Crystal, Rosemont, Rampart and even Manitou Lake. The bug menu is changing and it’s important to respond to these changes. The big Chironomid hatches have ended and the Callibaetis, Caddis and Damsel and Dragonfly hatches are waning. The summertime standard Spinney rig of a strike indicator with a series of Callibaetis, Pheasant Tail and Hares' Ears that produced fish on a consistent basis during the summer aren’t quite as effective as we move into the fall season. Why? Because those bugs just aren’t hatching as prolifically as they did in mid-summer and fish are keying in on other food sources. Also, the dry fly action that produced very aggressive behavior has slowed down. During the month of July I exclusively fished a tandem stimulator and Goddard Caddis rig that when stripped quickly was irresistible to big fish. But those big caddis hatches are really slowing down and so are the responses from the fish.
Fall is the time to begin thinking hoppers, streamers, wooly buggers, slump busters, snails and sow bugs. And as we move into the late fall months (October and November) the very best action will be on wooly buggers and streamers. Some of the best action all year will be just before Spinney closes for the season. Stripping a #4 cone head wooly bugger in deep water (20 feet for Spinney!) is one of the most effective ways to catch big, hungry fish about to go under the cover of winter ice!
There are still large numbers of fish cruising the weed beds and shore line looking for an easy meal between now and early October. Fishing the grassy shorelines with hoppers (Amy’s Ants, Hopper Juans, Fat Alberts) in South Bay, North Bay and the Islands can produce fish. Dropping a Callibaetis, Hares Ear behind these hoppers can still be a good bet. But the key is to change up regularly when there is no response from the fish. If the bite stops with the hopper dropper, switch up to a wooly bugger, for example, stripped through a weed patch. Although the weed beds are receding, there is still active bug life going on down there and subsequently BIG fish hang out in these weed beds looking for their next meal. Damsel nymphs, snails, sow bugs and wooly buggers fished with sinking line around weed beds is your best bet this time of year.
Small midge patterns and pheasant tails will still pick up fish. And it’s also a good idea to have your dry fly rig ready to go when those sporadic caddis hatches happen. Casting to a fish that just rose will more times than not lead to a hook up. But as we move into late Fall (Spinney usually closes the week before Thanksgiving) your best bet is to go deep. As the air and water temperatures drop, so do the fish. They head to deeper water where there is more available food and comfort. From October to ice on, wooly buggers fished with full sinking line are king! This is just something for you to begin thinking about as you prepare for late fall fishing. Clothing is another key factor. Appropriate cold weather clothing is the key to staying comfortable.
A fall Stillwater class is scheduled for September 12 and these topics and more will be covered, and guided trips will be available at Spinney until the reservoir closes for the season. So get out there this fall and enjoy some of the best fly fishing of the entire year!
301 Fly Tying with Greg Blessing: Colorado Guide flies, Part 1
Fy Tying with Juan Ramirez. Caddis