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Find the Trout

The Durango Herald - News - Durango, CO

March 12, 2004


Fly Fishing Durango - by L. David Grooms


Fishy business - finding the trout now

Absorbed in watching trout rise to midges, the chill of below-freezing afternoon air, the presence of a dozen 14- to 18-inchers feeding on invertebrate drift, and the stately fly-overs of a majestic Bald Eagle I was hard at work preparing for this column in order to tell you exactly where the trout are now.

But that was then. This is March, and the weather and the trout have since antiquated my up-to-date research twice.

So, what Im going to do is tell you where they were in winter weather and where they hung out for the last two weeks. Im going to discuss how they suddenly disappeared in a matter of hours this week and now where I think they are two days before this column runs.

In the winter, when water temperatures are below 40 degrees, trout migrate to the slowest or deepest water zones (pools). Those places are warmer than the riffles and runs which are chilled by sub-freezing air. Trout school by size and pecking order. Trout also want shelter and prefer food delivered to their doorstep based on the caloric trade-out principle. The food supply must exceed the effort expended. During winter months the cold kills and dislodges the rivers plant-life. The drifting moss, weeds, and bugs provide continuous offerings of assorted entomology.

But, recently the weather changed drastically!

With 50 degree spring-like weather, water temperatures catapulted into the mid and upper 40s. Consequently, the trout were behaving just like the rest of us. The trout moved all over the river at least through town. Obviously, trout movement is of critical importance to fly fishers.

Migratory behavior of trout is not well understood, but we know that their range through a river system can be extensive. The urge to move about is motivated by hours of daylight, day-time and night-time water temperatures. Other factors include insect hatches/emergence and invertebrate drift, oxygen levels and water quality, turbidity or water color that camouflages migration in shallow water, spawning territory, opportunistic egg eaters that follow spawning fish, population densities of fish and fishermen, food scources, the availability of tributaries, and who knows what else.

But, as quick as the weather changed, it will probably change again. Cool morning hours will provide better water clarity and lower flows offering better hook-up opportunities. Trout will probably be less spooky and become more opportunistic feeders.

L. David Grooms is senior partner of He can be reached at 385-9048.


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