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Not having fished it very much the 'Ford has been a pleasant "escape" this winter while awaiting the March 1st opener. There are many different ways to catch fish at Rocky Ford, but my preferred methods are sight fishing (NZ style) and shallow water indicator fishing , both of which have been productive when the conditions were right. Water levels seem low (have caught numerous fish in ~1ft of water) but the fishing has ranged from slow and steady to spectacular throughout the winter. The activity level of the fish on the Ford has varied widely from trip to trip and has for me has been difficult to predict.... I know it when I see it, but in the absence of a visible surface bite, its been hard to pinpoint "why and when" the fish have have been active vs. periods when picking up a bite required a lot of work.

The obvious and most consistent bite (confirmed by numerous throat samples) has been on olive scuds (light to dark) in varying sizes (14-22) with a smattering of other food sources showing up from time to time. Curious has been the absence of any midge pupae in the throat samples, especially given some of the riseforms which indicate pupae were being taken within 12" of the surface.. I am not that familiar with the 'Ford's hatches, but other than midges or possibly beatis I am not sure what else would trigger feeding at/just below the surface. On days where the light conditions were conducive to sighting fish those holding near the banks could be seen "looking down" for scuds in the substrate. Those fish, with a few exceptions, would resist a dead drifted presentation. As such, the infamous 'scudding' technique worked really well on those fish, but its not a presentation method I particularly enjoy so I did not target those fish very often.. that being said, someone proficient at this technique could literally "clean up".

When the fish activity remained high throughout the day it typically coincided with a strong surface bite, but not always. I have not spent any time targeting rising fish with dries, emergers, etc., but often a fish feeding at the surface would be receptive to a subsurface presentation if your timing was right and in the "zone" of where the fish was tracking in search of food as they have typically on the move a lot. The exception to this were the "non-visible" bank feeders, which were the easiest fish to catch and they seemed to move around less... holding in a smaller area to feed and thus offered a more definite window to present your fly into.. Blind fishing in the wide section between the first and 2nd bridges close to the banks along the bulrushes with a NZ indicator system consistently took fish, especially those that would often "show" by feeding at/just below the surface. or just from the surface wakes that would happen when they were moving about in such shallow water, From time to time a fish would move in and could be sighted allowing for the the subsurface "eat" to be seen, but given the light conditions sight fishing opportunities with the exception of a few areas on the creek were somewhat limited.

As for patterns, I have used the 'Ford this winter as a place to experiment - testing new patterns I hope will be productive for the upcoming stillwater season. For what its worth I have hooked and landed multiple fish on more than a dozen patterns ranging from worms, eggs, micro-balance leeches, scuds, and small (18-20) nymphs... most suspended under a NZ strike indicator but some fished "naked". Being aware of the depths and making simple indicator adjustments to fish the fly in the proper zone was the only "technical" aspect to the fishing which was pretty straightforward... observation was more critical as active fish would give themselves away through a variety of behaviors..so it was just a matter of knowing what to look for.. or not as the case may be.

The cool thing was seeing how fish could be caught on 'outside of the box' patterns that really look nothing like any of the natural food sources available in the creek. While there were times when a more imitative pattern was more effective, quite often fishing the "attractor" patterns subsurface produced a bite that could not be picked up by "matching the hatch" if you will. Just food for thought as you can catch fish at the 'Ford in so many different ways.. and given that I tend to fish how I enjoy to fish more than fishing the most productive method or presentation the 'Ford has been a lot of fun because it allows for that... without having to sacrifice catching fish.

In that regard, I have never really been a numbers guy, yet the "numbers" if you will this winter at the 'Ford have been there.. some insane days where getting "eats" was easy to other days when the eats were there, but had to work harder to find them. Nonetheless, they have been there. Its a place I have fished off and on in the past, but not with any consistency or regularity. I have come to appreciate it as a fishery a lot more now after finally spending some time on it..

Looking forward to the spring, but the 'Ford has made a brutal winter a bit more bearable this year..

Tight lines to all..
 

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Indi Ira
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The longer the fish have been in the system, the more they tend to act like real trout. Part of the problem with the predictability of the Ford is not knowing when and how the hatchery stocks it. Sometimes they stock a bunch of smaller fish and sometimes they throw in a bunch of brooders. Either way the new fish are willing to eat just about anything. That doesn't mean that you can't get the veterans in the system to also respond to crazy stuff as well.

I actually prefer the "scudding" method more than any other method and that includes indicator fishing. I know right...
 

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I'll never understand how those guys who fish scuds all day (and catch fish all day) can figure out where their fly is at any point in the presentation. I have caught a few on scuds, but each time, I've only become aware of bites when I've seen a flash or felt the line come tight. As soon as my scud hits the water, that's the last I see of it until the end of the drift or an eat.

It's maddening trying to match a hatch there. I did it once, with a #22 CDC trico. I was so excited that the fish was rising to take that I broke the fly off on the hook set. I've had fish swipe at damsel patterns there, but no eats.

Fun fishery. Good place to learn new tactics.
 

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I'll never understand how those guys who fish scuds all day (and catch fish all day) can figure out where their fly is at any point in the presentation. I have caught a few on scuds, but each time, I've only become aware of bites when I've seen a flash or felt the line come tight. As soon as my scud hits the water, that's the last I see of it until the end of the drift or an eat.

It's maddening trying to match a hatch there. I did it once, with a #22 CDC trico. I was so excited that the fish was rising to take that I broke the fly off on the hook set. I've had fish swipe at damsel patterns there, but no eats.

Fun fishery. Good place to learn new tactics.
Fish the scud closer to you. When you see one of the fish that is close to the bank grab something off the bottom, that's one to target. Oftentimes, you just dap the scud into the water and let it rest on a weedless portion of the bottom. The trick is letting it sit on the bottom long enough. Usually 30 seconds is about the amount of time that it takes for the fish to forget that the fly is fake. After 30 seconds, if the fish hasn't grabbed it, just twitch the fly very slightly and the fish will usually grab it right away. This technique is great for catching fish and it is very visual, usually your fly is within 5-10 feet from you.
 

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dirty dog
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Good description of the fishing at RF dbk
I have been fishing RF for many years and there have been the 20 plus fish days and the days when I worked hard to release one.
One of my favorite times at the Ford was when we were leaving and the hatchery truck arrived and we got to help and watch the release of hundreds of trout that had just been cleaned out of all the tanks. All sizes from 4"ers to 20"ers.
With in mins of the release the creek was a boil of rise forms from the lower bridge up stream as far as we could see.
Shad, If you read this I'm not putting you down. But ya got to pay attention, from the time your fly hits the water to the time you pick it back up. I may not be able to see my scud, but I know where it is all the time.
I can see a fish flash and set the hook way before I feel any thing.
An ole salmon drift fisher told me once that "by the time you feel the bite the fish has spit it out" same goes for scud fishing at the Ford.
tight lines my friends and I'm sure looking forward to warmer days.
 
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