While many ranch real estate owners and investors have their eyes on wildlife assets for potential hunting during the fall months, savvy Colorado landowners and potential buyers are keeping an eye on the trout water that flows through ranch property.
Fall is perhaps the best time of the year to fish private water in the Centennial State. Here’s why.
Uncrowded rivers and streams
It may not seem like something private ranch owners would need to consider, but many ranches border public lands. And many rivers and streams that run through private real estate begin on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Summer’s in the rearview mirror, and so is the traditional “fishing season.” This means there won’t be as much pressure on nearby waters. This gives ranch land owners and their guests more access to more fishable water.
It may seem kitschy, but fishing during the peak of the fall color season in Colorado is just more magical. Combine cooler water, manageable water flows and blue-bird autumn days, and there may not be a better time to be out on the water.
Active, aggressive trout
Throughout Colorado and the West, brown trout and brook trout are preparing to spawn. This makes these fish prime fly fishing targets. They’ll move on flies for two reasons.
First, they’re eating to put on weight and store energy for the weeks ahead, when they’ll pair up on redds and get down to the business of reproduction. Then, they have to contend with a Colorado winter. The more they eat now, the easier the skinny season will be.
Second, as these trout start to build spawning redds and find partners for reproduction, they get very aggressive. Browns, in particular, will chase streamers that invade their potential spawning space. Brookies will, too, but they tend to be smaller in the Rockies. Nonetheless, there may be nothing more beautiful than an October brook trout in its spawning regalia.
Don’t discount rainbow trout or cutthroat trout in the fall. When the browns and brookies officially move onto the redds in late October and early November (generally speaking), rainbows and cutthroats become opportunists. They’ll often hang below spawning redds looking for stray trout eggs to come drifting their way.
While it’s considered by many to be bad form to fish over spawning trout, it’s a great time to bounce egg patterns or swing Egg-sucking leeches behind obvious redds in hopes of grabbing the attention of hungry rainbows and cutthroats.
Fall is dry-fly season, too
Just because the browns and brookies are dialed into pre-spawn mode doesn’t mean they won’t eat. And one consistent hatch that happens in rivers and streams all across Colorado is the Blue-winged Olive mayfly hatch. This small, olive-green mayfly (hence its name) pops best on cloudy, blustery days.
Colorado ranch property owners with healthy trout streams flowing across their land, should keep an eye on deep runs and slower tailouts. This is where the BWO hatch will happen in earnest.
Across Colorado, the ubiquitous size 20 BWO pattern is the best bet, but some anglers enjoy just as much success with a slightly larger mayfly pattern — say, a size 18 Adams. Sometimes, it pays to give the trout something just a hair different to consider during prolific hatches.
And the annual BWO hatch can be prolific.
Yes, fall is hunting season across Colorado, but opportunistic anglers know that fall can also be a “season of plenty.”
Hungry fish beefing up for winter or aggressive fish defending potential spawning gravel can make for great fishing. Add in the prolific BWO hatch and the likelihood, later in the season, of trout eggs in the water, and smart ranch owners aren’t leaving for a hunting outing without a fly rod in the truck, too.