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The wait was worth it

Remember when waiting for Christmas morning to arrive seemed like it took an eternity.

You hoped that long package was a new bamboo fly rod or the small package held the keys to a new bass boat. I know many of my friends think I’m delusional, at this age, to believe such things could happen, but I do.

Since neither of those items appeared on Christmas morning, my next hope was that the Southern Ute Indian Tribe would open the reservation to fishing in 2021, and it did. Proof positive, if you believe in Christmas, you won’t get nymphs and strike indicators in your stocking.

I have been fly fishing on the reservation for more than 25 years and truly appreciate the tribe allowing non-tribal members the privilege of enjoying its rivers and lakes. When it was announced the reservation waters were opening, after the tribe’s struggle with COVID-19, the rivers were still high and fast. So, my friend and fly-fishing partner, Kim, and I headed to Lake Capote to do some fly fishing from our float tubes.

Lake Capote hadn’t been fished in more than a year, and there was an abundance of fish, bass and trout that hadn’t seen a fly in over a year. Plus, the newly stocked fish seemed fairly clueless that dry flies were not real food.

The bass went after poppers of various sizes and colors, while the trout really liked hoppers and woolly buggers. Kim cast the buggers until I convinced her to try a popper. After a couple of bass on a popper, the buggers stayed in her box.

Because many of the fish were more than 2 years old and hadn’t seen any artificial flies cast to them in a year, we were treated to a great day of fly fishing. The bass and trout were large and aggressive. I hope they stay that way.

As the rivers slowed and cleared up, we made our way to the Piedra River. We fished at Fosset Gulch #3, and had a good day. This is not unusual when fishing on the reservation. One of the reasons is the lack of pressure from other people fly fishing.

While fishing the Piedra, we did not see one other person fishing. That’s not say I haven’t seen other people, but it’s not unusual to have large sections of the river to yourself. While we didn’t catch as many fish as we did on Lake Capote, there were trout to be had. I stayed with my dry flies, while Kim switched from nymphs to dries, then back to nymphs.

Neither of us found a pattern that the trout would eat consistently, so pattern changes were frequent. That’s why it’s good to have a variety of patterns in different sizes and colors.

Our next venture, with another friend, was the Animas River at Weasleskin Bridge. The area downstream from the bridge had us catching small rainbows on both dry flies and nymphs. (See if you can guess who the dry fly fisherman was.)

As the morning wore on, we made our way upstream. As you move upstream, you’ll find longer, slower-moving sections of the river. Here we caught larger fish. Again, the fish hadn’t seen any fly fishers in a year, so they were not shy about taking a fly. Also, while Weaselskin Bridge is close to town, and easily accessed, we did not see another person.

As summer ends, and fall begins, my two friends and I will be fly fishing more of the Animas and Piedra rivers and Lake Capote. Also, the Pine and San Juan rivers, on the reservation, have numerous locations to fish.

I suggest you get a copy of the 2021-22 fishing proclamation for the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Then plan as many days as you can fit into your fly-fishing schedule to enjoy fishing on the reservation. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh yeah, don’t forget, you have to have a Southern Ute license to fish the rivers. For Lake Capote, you just need a day-use permit, obtained at the lake. Have fun.

Reach Don Oliver at durango.fishing@gmail.com.