March 12, 2004
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 I’m going to do is tell you where they were in
winter weather and where they hung out for the last two weeks. I’m 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 river’s plant-life.
The drifting moss, weeds, and bugs provide continuous offerings of
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
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
www.proflyfishers.com He can be reached at 385-9048.