Written by: Mark Weaver, The High Lonesome Ranch
Our fishery here at The High Lonesome Ranch starts at 7,200 feet in the Western Colorado Rockies and works its way down the North Dry Fork Valley into a series of spring-fed beaver ponds and larger bodies of water. The water is typically gin-clear, creating a very visual experience. Oftentimes the spot-and-stalk fishing is more akin to hunting than fishing. The valley is a true multi use landscape, with the water providing habitat for fish, upland birds, and game. One must have a diverse collection of patterns to catch all five species of trout on the ranch. Here are my Top 10 choices:
1. Damsel in Distress, size 12.
A spent-wing damselfly that sits in the surface film. I first came up using similar patterns, and trial-and-error has taught me what works best. This pattern has been extremely productive, and it seems that even educated fish can’t resist.
2. Parachute Adams, size 16
This fly is so effective because it can be fished for a variety of hatches. A top fly any where!
3. Black Foam Beetle, size 14.
With the proximity of our water to hay fields and bird covers, the fish benefit from terrestrials blown into the water. Beetles will bring fish to the surface in a hurry.
4. Carl’s Cicada, size 8.
This pattern is extremely effective, especially early and late in the season. It gives a great profile and is easy to see from above because of the white wing. Spring crickets are typically dark brown, and fall crickets and hoppers are also dark, especially after the first frost.
5. Holy Grail, size 16.
One of my favorite fly patterns of all time! This fly imitates a variety of insects, and can be fished as a dropper or alone. I retrieve this fly by rolling the line alternately over my fingers, and the fish love it.
6. Bead-chain Simi Seal Leech, size 8.
This pattern can be fished right along the bottom or retrieved like a streamer. Does it imitate a leech, a minnow, or a damsel fly? I love patterns that are not specific and represent a lot of different things.
7. Black Copper John, size 18.
I have put more fish in the net with this fly than with any other. Again I use a finger-roll retrieve during midge or Baetis hatches, or I tie it on as a dropper.
8. Beadhead Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph, size 16. I like the flashback version, as I think it adds a trigger response to a great fly. This pattern can be fished as a dropper or on a tandem nymph rig with a slow retrieve. I will often gently lift the rod tip approx 10 inches, then lower it as I strip in the slack. This is highly effective tactic during Callibaetis hatches.
9. Red Zebra Midge, size 20.
This is just one of two patterns on my list that are specific. When fish become selective, this is my go-to fly. Chironomids are always present in the system, and they are a mainstay of a trout’s diet.
10. White Beadhead Flash Zonker, size 8.
This is great pattern early and late in the season. The white is easy to see under water, and fish will move to check it out. It is hard to beat rabbit for movement in the water.
This list will get you through the entire season of fishing on our waters or similar. When guiding I often carry more than 10 patterns ,but always come back to these!
Mark Weaver is the Sales and Reservations Manager for The High Lonesome Ranch, in DeBeque, Colorado.