This time of the year can certainly be a challenging one for a fisherman. As days shorten and nights grow cooler, nature begins its slow winding down into wintertime hibernation. Insects that for the last few months have been hatching regularly and prolifically are now reaching the end of their cycle. The birds that fed on them voraciously over the summer months have moved on to warmer climes, while the fish, responding to the cooler temperatures, decreased bug activity and lower clear water, can become more selective in when and where they choose to feed.
Also by this time of the year, they have often seen it all. They’ve lunged at one too many a pmx, watched a few too many stimulators and elk hairs race by, drifting a little too fast and erratically to be true, and mused at the myriad of flies that have landed on the water surrounded by six feet of bright orange fly line. The lower, clearer water makes it harder for the angler to hide his or her blemishes and blushes. And yet, for all that, there is something about this time of the year that makes it my favorite time to be standing in a river somewhere. Perhaps it is the colors, the angle of the light, or the sense of urgency that permeates most living things as leaves turn to gold. Either way, a fall day on a quiet stretch of river is one of life’s undoubted privileges.
A week or so back, I was delighted to be able to accept an invitation to venture over to a lovely little corner of South Park to fish on the Tarryall River at Ute Trail River Ranch. The seventy acre ranch is home to over two miles of the Tarryall River, a tributary of the South Platte. For the top half of the ranch’s property, the river meanders through a lovely open meadow, before dropping into a heavily treed canyon, which was the stretch I fished. The day was perfect for a dry fly – a light overcast and still plenty of bugs flying around – the classic ingredients for getting the fish looking up. Jim and Deb open their ranch up to fly fishing through participation in the South Park Fly Fishers program.
This piece of the river had it all, from beaver ponds and slow moving pools, to riffles and tight, boulder strewn rapids. With the flow low and clear, as it usually is this late in the season, the fish were a little spooky, but I was able to get a few to take a dry fly when I got my drift right. We’ve still got a month or so of great fishing to go before Old Man Winter starts to get the upper hand, so get out and explore while you can. While the Tarryall’s big brother the South Platte gets all the attention, there are many little gems tucked away nearby, offering solitude, beauty and some great fishing.