Many of Colorado’s most famous trout streams have one thing in common: they are all tailwaters. So, what is a tailwater? A tailwater is any section of river immediately downstream of a hydraulic structure, such as a dam. There are several reasons why tailwaters, such as on the Taylor River, make for great trout fisheries. Consistent conditions, and easy access to big fish are the primary reasons. Understanding a bit more about tailwaters will increase your fishing confidence and help you find more success this season!
One of my favorite things about tailwater trout streams is that they are fishable year-round. Unlike freestone streams, tailwaters are not subject to quickly changing water levels and temperatures. This means that even in May and June, when many rivers in Colorado are running high and off-color, tailwaters like the “C&R” section of the Taylor River are flowing clear. Tailwaters also provide great fishing during winter, when many freestones will freeze over. Some of our best trout of the year are caught in the winter.
Another unique attribute of tailwaters is their tendency to hold large trout. Thanks to consistent flows and an ample food supply, many trophy fish are found downstream of dams. Here in Almont on the Taylor River, large trout enjoy a buffet of aquatic insects as well as mysis shrimp. Mysis shrimp are freshwater crustaceans loaded with fat and protein. I always look forward to sight-fishing for 20-inch-plus trout below Taylor Dam. If the stars align properly you can even hook into a fish over 30 inches; the fish of a lifetime!
Its always a good time to fish a Colorado tailwater, even during spring runoff or the middle of winter – the big fish are there. If you already enjoy fishing Colorado’s amazing tailwaters, or you’d like to learn more, I welcome you to Join me on the Taylor River this winter and spring for some sight-fishing fun! Additionally, Willowfly Anglers is offering a Winter Tailwater Fly Fishing Clinic, February 22 – 23, 2020. This clinic will be a great opportunity to gain confidence fishing Colorado tailwaters during winter conditions.
Tight lines and I hope to see you on the water!
Patrick Blackdale is the Assistant Outfitting Manager, and a fly fishing guide at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colorado. Willowfly Anglers is the guide service at Three Rivers Resort.
He guides on all of the local rivers including the Gunnison, Taylor, and East Rivers. Three Rivers Resort is the perfect base camp for a variety of fishing adventures. The resort offers cabins, lodge rooms, and vacation homes plus a full fly shop and Orvis Endorsed guide service with premium leases for private fishing on local ranch lands. Contact at 970-641-1303 or www.3riversresort.com.