In my 20 years of living in Durango, I believe the word I hear mispronounced all kinds of different ways is Vallecito.
It’s a beautiful-sounding Spanish word when pronounced correctly. For those of us who speak only English, trying to pronounce Vallecito can take on a less-than-harmonious quality.
Vallecito means “little valley.” In this little valley sits one of the prettiest reservoirs you’ll ever see. It is called Vallecito.
Vallecito is approximately 18 miles northeast of Durango. The dam and reservoir were completed in 1941. The reservoir has a surface area of 2,720 acres or 4.3 square miles. And if you’re really into details, it has a maximum capacity of 125,400 acre-feet of water.
All that technical information helps create a fantastic fishery. Vallecito is one of the few lakes I know of with sustainable and catchable populations of brown trout, rainbow trout, northern pike, walleye pike, smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon. That should be enough variety to keep any fly-fisherman happy.
Typically, the pike are what most fly-fishermen go after in the spring. The warmth of summer has the bass and trout ready to eat all kind of flies. The coolness and colors of fall have the kokanee moving up Vallecito and Grimes creeks for spawning. And hiding underneath the Kokanee are big brown trout waiting for the kokanees’ eggs.
As it now is fall, this is a great time to head to the lake for a twofer.
Because the kokanee have things on their minds other than eating, catching them can be challenging and takes patience. I use a 5-weight rod with a Clouser minnow. As the creeks can be shallow, a heavily weighted fly is not necessary. Stripping the fly slowly in front of their noses works best for me.
If the Clouser doesn’t get them to eat, I go to an egg pattern. I put a tiny split shot about four inches above the egg pattern. This allows the egg to imitate an egg floating just off the bottom.
If you’re fishing in a deeper pool, everything can change in a hurry. The big browns are cruising beneath the kokanee. They are hungry and will hit Clousers, egg patterns, Woolly Buggers or most anything you want to strip through the pools. I have slowly stripped a Clouser through a pool right in front of a Kokanee, only to have it devoured by a big brown seemingly coming out of nowhere. For me, fly-fishing for one species only to have something else attack my fly makes for a great day.
While stalking kokanee, be sure and take a camera. Not for taking pictures of the fish, but of bald eagles sitting in the trees. The eagles also are waiting for the kokanee and will pick them out of shallow streams. In fact, one way to find kokanee is look for eagles. They’re sort of like bird dogs pointing out the prey.
Even with the recent rain, a boat is not necessary when looking for the kokanee. Park in a public spot at the north end of the lake and walk to the creeks. Be careful walking as the ground is saturated and can be very soft. Sinking up to your knees is not unheard of.
If you’re taking your boat to the north end of the lake, be alert for floating debris and shallow water. They can ruin your day.
Also, duck and goose season is open. These hunters are well camouflaged and hard to spot. Be careful and don’t run through their spread of decoys.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.