Kristen Lodge: Finding a new passion on Grand County rivers, in all seasons
“I dusted off my cross country gear and my super pass just arrived in the mail, but I have no plans whatsoever to stow away my fishing gear,” said Jeanette McQuade of Fraser. “The tailwaters are open all winter long and provide year-long fishing opportunities.”
This time of year the fish can be a little slow and lethargic, but it’s still great fishing, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Scott Murdock.
“Be patient; some days in November can be even better than summer days. Many fishermen start to go inside when it starts to get nasty out. But don’t let the weather deter you,” advised Murdock.
The weather hasn’t deterred McQuade despite being new to fly-fishing. She and her private guide (and boyfriend), Brandon Omahen, are still out fly-fishing most weekends.
“He is a professional guide and taught me everything from casting and setting the hook to safely releasing a fish. Brandon took me to new places all over the state and showed me, and my dogs, a newfound passion for the river,” she said.
Last year she practiced casting in her driveway then graduated to wade fishing on the North Fork of the Colorado River near Grand Lake.
“I was excited to put my practice casts from the driveway into play on the river. My first fish was a cutbow (cutthroat/rainbow hybrid). It was smaller than the palm of my hand. I was so ridiculously happy for such a small fish.”
One favorite fishing spot is in Fraser.
“I love fishing the Fraser River in town,” she said. “I can go after work, bring my dogs and occasionally catch a pretty nice fish. My dogs enjoy spotting the fish, or what they think are fish.”
McQuade also has opportunities to fish the Fraser from private access in the canyon.
“Fishing has taken me to unique places that I never would have seen,” she said.
McQuade encourages women to try fly-fishing.
“It will require some patience. There is a lot to learn and it may take a couple tries to get the hang of it, but when it all comes together, you will be hooked.”
In all the places she’s fished – from Williams Fork to the Arkansas River below Salida – she “fishes for sport and never for dinner, practicing catch and release so the fish live another day.”
Fly-fishing also is about just being outdoors during all the seasons.
“I love being outside in nature. I love how the river sounds and smells. I love spending the day with my friends and dogs, sometimes feeling the river is ours alone. But I can’t lie, I am out there for the thrill of catching a fish.”
The thrill is available year-round in Grand County.
“The biggest issue in winter is finding open water and a good place is the confluence of Williams Fork and the Colorado River,” Murdock said. “Some of the best places to fish in winter are below dams.”
He also recommends a spot just below Shadow Mountain Reservoir, although the area is closed until Dec. 31 due to spawning.
Omahen says that some of the best places to go in winter are the North Fork of the Colorado River near Grand Lake and just below Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling.
I suspect I will see McQuade wherever there is open water this winter, fishing with her private guide and her dogs.
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