Recently, at a local reservoir while playing a carp Iíd hooked, I noticed I was being watched. My observer stated that she lives just a few blocks away and enjoys fly fishing, but had never thought about fishing here.
Iím not sure why we often overlook what we have right under our noses, but we do. Letís face it, Rocky Mountain National Park is visited by folks from all around the world, yet I wonder how many of us locals make it a top vacation destination, or even visit on a regular basis. The same is often true with fishing. Colorado is home to some of the best trout fishing in the country and, having fished all over the west, I can assure you that many of our warm water fisheries donít take a second seat.
Aside from excellent fishing, there are a myriad of reasons to fish close to home, such as it is inexpensive and doesnít require much planning. Just grab your rod and head for the water. But the best reason I can think of is, fishing frequently keeps your skills high so that when you do get to travel, youíll maximize your catching opportunities.
Foremost, the love of fishing is why I ply our local water. But thereís no doubt in my mind that fishing often increases your skill level and catch rate. Skill can be measured in a number of ways. Casting ability, measured by distance and accuracy. Lure/fly selection and presentation become easier. Both of these I noticed last Sunday when my partner kept asking what he was doing wrong, as I was catching more than him.
What Iíve noticed most this spring is that by fishing daily, Iíve been able to pattern crappie better. Theyíre not the scrappiest fighters, but on light tackle, they put up a respectable tussle. I think the real attraction is, being a schooling fish, once you locate one and figure how and what theyíre willing to eat, you can have non-stop action. Plus, I have to admit, they are excellent eating. In fact, theyíre such good eating, some anglers donít have sense enough to take just enough for a meal, opting instead to kill all they can. Which is why Iím typically quiet about specific spots.
There are two species of crappie: black and white. The black are most prevalent. During this time of year, just before and during spawn, the males often become very dark, hence their name. The two species are readily distinguishable by counting the dorsal spines. Black crappie have seven to eight, whereas the white have six or less.
Like most sunfish species, crappie are nest builders, spawning in the spring when water temperatures approach 60 degrees. Most of the fish Iím encountering are in pre-spawn mode and have moved shallow to feed. Theyíll remain there until after spawn.
Fishing daily has helped me figure out holding areas and effective patterns. In fact, Iíve been surprised at the relative abundance and size of the crappie in our area ponds. And the great thing is, nearly all the waters around Fort Collins and Loveland hold crappie. The keys to catching have been to fish shallow, as in close to shore. Second, nearly every fly Iíve tried has worked to a degree, large nymphs and small streamers. Itís how you fish them that counts. Essentially, my approach is an erratic, stop-and-go retrieve coupled with the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, ďSlow down, you move too fast.Ē
Itís good to remember that some of the best things in life are right under our noses. And crappie fishing is at its best right now.
First published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, May 14, 2017.