Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Midges

Down and Dirty  (some are clean) Tips and Recommendations for Fly
Fishing Destinations - Part 11
Just keep in mind that it is strictly one opinion that happens to be mine. The intent is to hopefully
give those interested a general idea of what to expect. Most likely every guide, affiliated business
entity and local angler will have a different opinion. These streams also have full coverage on our
Perfect Fly Stream Section.

Understanding Western Trout Streams:
The Rocky Mountains encompass a huge part of the western U. S., ranging from
Mexico to Canada. In our Perfect Fly Stream section, we list the streams of the
Southern and Central Rocky Mountains together to help distinguish them from those
in the Northwestern U. S. This puts the streams of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and
Colorado in one group and Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho in another group.
Irrespective of where the stream originates in the Rockies, its water mostly comes
from melting snow. The snow pack affects the amount of water in a stream the entire
fishing season. Some of these streams flow eastward to the Gulf of Mexico and
some flow westward to the Pacific, depending on which side of the Continental
Divide the stream is on.

There's really not a great differences in those streams that begin in the Appalachian
Mountains except for the fact that the Rockies are higher and the streams depend
more on melting snow than on rainfall for water  You can get a good idea of just how
good or lousy the fishing is going to be in the freestone streams from the depth of
the snowpack. This is a long way of saying that just how good or poor a trout stream
is can vary greatly depending on the snowpack and to some extent the amount of
This is my disclaimer because what I state now that's based on what has
been normal for the past few years is always subject to change. It can drastically
change within as short of a time as one year depending on the snowpack and rain.

To make this simple, I'll give an example. The Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin
Rivers form the longest river in North America at Three Forks Montana - the
Missouri River. When a new season starts out with a deep snowpack in the
mountains, the trout in these three rivers can greatly benefit throughout the season.
When it doesn't, the trout in some areas of these streams can suffer from low, warm
water. The fishing in the Missouri River is affected but in a reverse manner. The
reason is that the Missouri River only flows for a short distance before it's dammed
to help control flooding, supply water for agriculture needs and to generate power
for electricity. When the snowpack is low, from a fishing standpoint, the quality of the
fishing in the freestone streams that supply water to the Missouri River suffer while
the fishing in the Missouri River tailwaters is always much better The discharges
from the dams, such as Holter Dam, are more manageable; there's still plenty of
cold water from the bottom discharges; and the river is much easier to fish. When
it's the other way around, the tailwaters are often running high and fast for most of
the fishing season and they are difficult to fish even from drift boats. Sometimes
anglers overlook the reasons behind what varies the fishing conditions in a given
stream and tend to classify one stream better than another when the situation can
reverse greatly from one season to the next.

For another example, take the Big Horn River. For years it was thought to be the
best tailwater in the West but just a few years ago, drought conditions only took a
year or two to drastically change that. While the fishing conditions remained good in
comparison to many streams in the West, it wasn't anything comparable to what it
was prior to the few years that little snow and rain occurred in its watershed. Within
just the last three or four years, the situation has changed for the good and the
great fishing opportunities of the Big Horn River are now approaching what they
were a few years ago.

I'll start out with some of the best streams in the Southern Rocky Mountains of New
Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Colorado River (Lees Ferry) Arizona
It's strange for me to be writing about a river I haven't fished or seen in many years.
When I did fish it, I didn't fish it with a fly rod. I fished for its trout it in the early 1970's
with a spinning rod. The trout I caught were stocked. It was just a stop off from a
week long national bass tournament held at Lake Powell. Lees Ferry tailwater is a
discharge from Lake Powell. To say the water is clear would be an understatement.
In the lake it seems you can see the bottom in thirty feet of water although you
probably really can't. For miles above its dam, it's the clearest water I have ever
seen. The discharge is cold and extremely clear and it's a great rainbow trout
habitat. After stocking the stream for a few years, (until the mid 1990's) Lees Ferry
ended up with a self sustaining, naturally reproducing population of rainbow trout.
Now, fifteen miles of this beautiful river that flows through Marble Canyon Gorge has
big, wild rainbows.
I refuse to rate it, not having fished it since it became the
fine tailwater it is reputed to be
but, based on what everyone says about it, my
guess is it's a "A".  

Cimarron River New Mexico
I almost hate mentioning this small tailwater but it's one of the best small stream
brown trout fisheries in the Southwestern United States. It's supposed to have as
many as 4,000 wild brown trout per mile of stream and based on the short time we
spent there, it appeared that wasn't an exaggeration. The brown trout probably only
average about 12 to 14 inches but, of course, they get much larger. The stream is
also stocked with a few rainbows. This tailwater flows from Eagles Nest Lake in the
eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. It it were not for the
completely different look in background scenery, it would be almost like fishing a
stream in the Smokies for brown trout, other than the fact the browns in the
Cimarron River are much more plentiful and easier to catch. The stream is only
fifteen to twenty feet wide in most places. There's nine miles of access in the
Cimarron Canyon State Park and adjoining Wildlife Area. I'll give it an "A" minus and
the minus only because they stock some rainbows.

Provo River Utah
I'll jump on up north some and pick up a stream in Utah that's a very good trout
fishery that not many, other than locals, are aware of. It's the Provo River. It consist
of three separate sections called the Upper Section, Middle Section and Lower
Section. The Upper Section begins in the Uinta Mountains and flows down to the
Jordanelle Reservoir. The Middle Section of the Provo River lies between
Joradanelle Dam and Deer Creek Reservoir. The Lower Section of the Provo River
flows from Deer Creek Dam. The Provo River also contains wild rainbows and some
cutthroat trout but the Jordanelle Reservoir Dam tailwater is the gem with its huge
population of wild brown trout. It's hardly feasible to rate this one section of the
Provo River since many anglers think the lower tailwater offers the best fishing and
the facts are, the other sections are stocked with all three species. Even thought
there are plenty of wild trout everywhere and native cutthroats in its headwaters, I'll
only give it a "B plus". I will say that if you broke down the rating to the individual
tailwaters, the wild brown trout in the Middle Section would rank higher.

Copyright 2011 James Marsh