Story From The Road: Bling Pigs

What is it about youth that pushes you to do stupid things? You combine that with trout madness and you've got a recipe for delinquency.

fly fishing at night, tailwaters in Colorado, trespassing
Undisclosed Location, Colorado

(A blind pig was another term for a speakeasy, or illicit establishment during prohibition)

October 2022

What is it about youth that pushes you to do stupid things? Combined with trout madness, you've got a recipe for delinquency. Fortunately the statute of limitations has now past.

One fine day, some of the DWA crew set out in pursuit of gold medal tailwater Colorado rainbow trout. We knew we we're in for some technical fishing but we had no clue that the trout had been bribed with hush money. In fact the lips were so tight, both my partner and I resorted to trying to spook trout out of likely holding spots just for proof that they were actually in the river. A maddening state of affairs because we couldn't see fish even after many of these attempts. We kept after it, as we tend to do, and by late afternoon only a few fish came to hand. For whatever reason, this simply wasn't good enough. I distinctly remember meeting up at the car in the late afternoon to figure out why things weren't living up to our expectations, and more importantly, what to do next. The first order of business was figuring out where the fish were hiding. With low flows below a dam, the likely place to expect trout would be up close against the dam's outflow. One problem… due to safety and security, we couldn't gain legal access to the water spilling directly out of the dam. Remember how I mentioned youth and trout madness?

My friend shed his vest, rod, net, really all accessories that could hold him back, and crossed that un-crossable line. Simply a scouting mission, we needed data to confirm our hypothesis. Not soon after, I spotted him re-emerging with the facial expression that gave me all the information I needed. Trout truly are masters at optimizing. They made their way right up to the dam face, finding a reliable source for feeding, where cool oxygenated water was bathing them, and the pièce de ré·sis·tance: relief from anglers. To this day, I don't fully understand what may have caused the mass exodus from the lower reaches of this tailwater, but any worthy trout was up at the dam.

With dusk now approaching, we agreed that the cover of night was our best bet for monkeywrenching our way up into the forbidden stretch. As the darkness took hold, we breached that un-crossable line and I soon realized for myself the available bounty.

From a fishing perspective, it was obvious that these fish had spent some considerable time up here. Lit by maintenance lights, no headlamps were necessary, acclimated trout were feeding everywhere. Primarily holding in the same run, they would dance between lanes happily snatching bugs. Though we discussed best flies for the situation, we soon realized that fly choice was not very important. Two flies were queued up between the two of us, the top choice was a San Juan Worm, and the backup for me, a Utah Killer Bug.

Chunky Colorado Rainbow trout

It's amazing the behavioral difference between pressured and unpressured trout. These fish would grab at anything, I mean why not give it a try... what's the worst that could happen? We both capitalized on targeting the larger trout out of the run and took turns netting each others fish, all while trying our best to keep on alert. Behaviorally, its a night and day difference when fish are faced with consistent angling pressure. (See our article on catch and release for more about that behavioral shift.) These trout were blind to the threats and ate like pigs. Trespassing aside, the real story here is the fleeting glimpse at a truly unpressured fishery.

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