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Spring Fishing Report: The Roaring Fork River Valley

May 3, 2013
Author: Will Rice

We were able to spend four days in mid April fishing in different areas of the Roaring Fork River Valley.  For two days, we floated the lower Roaring Fork between the town of Basalt and the Colorado River.  We also had the chance to walk/wade the Fork above Basalt and had a great time fishing the lower section of Fryingpan River.

When the wind wasn’t blowing our boat back up the river on the Roaring Fork, we had an awesome time trying to make accurate BWO presentations to browns and rainbows.

The wind would pick back up and push the fish down.  At that point, we would switch things up and throw streamers.  The majority of our fish that day were hooked fishing smaller olive, brown and black patterns.  My most effective pattern was a brown, hand tied slumpbuster that I found in the parking lot while tying my boot.  It actually helped to produce this double-streamer-double - the golf equivalent of a hole in one for a streamer junkie.

A fairly large rain event followed and put quite a bit of color in the water the following day.  The clouds also cleared out and the temperature dropped.  Fishing slowed considerably but we still managed to have a good day on the water.  One fish that ate a size 20 purple juju baetis ran so hard and fast I thought I had foul hooked a Roaring Fork whitey.  Not so. 

Later that week we walk waded a stretch of river above the sleepy town of Basalt. 

Geoff Mueller from The Drake Magazine and Copi Vojta from The Flyfish Journal survey the scene on the Roaring Fork River. 

Not long after being on the water we came across some larger insects in the water.  I first mistakenly thought they were stoneflies.  I threw the Smethurst Stone Bomb and immediately started hooking fish.  I sized my bugs down and switched to the Heater Bomb and this fly proved to be even more effective.  Turns out both members of the Bomb Squad can also imitate a mayfly larva and produce fish.

A member of the Bomb Squad in action

The second half of our walk/wade trip I committed to throwing my two handed switch rod in any of the larger runs I could find.  I wanted to swing a fly and feel the tug of a big brown.  At the water levels I fished, throwing two handed Skagit style casts was not the most productive way to fish, but it was a great way to mix up my day.  I primarily worked on Snap T casts but also used the Scott L2H Switch to throw long, downstream roll casts.  Fishing this style did not produce the most fish of the day but I was eventually rewarded with a jarring grab and the biggest fish of the day.  As they say in the Pacific Northwest… “sometimes you just have to swing it to bring it.”

In the evening we skated steelhead patterns on the Fryingpan, burned stuff, and cooked steaks.

Early Evening Skater

Nocturnal Pyrotechnics

Carne Asada - It's What's For Dinner

To round out our time in the valley we decided to see if we could find a few noses poking up in the lower Fryingpan.  Most of the day, cars with rod racks and trucks with fishing stickers blew past us up the canyon to hit the "Toilet Bowl" and other famed sections of the upper river.  We were content to hang down with the Bighorn sheep and blue winged olives that seemingly hatched in 5 minute intervals… ALL DAY LONG. 

Some of the fish were spooky and it paid off to approach with stealth. 

Other fish gorged on the surface and seemed oblivious to anything around them. 

Patterns that produced included size 20 and 22 Parachute Adams, again… the Juju Baetis, a Brooks' Sprout Midge in size 18 and 22, and run-of-the-mill pheasant tail pattern.

The Roaring Fork River Valley offers anglers a ton of variety and an opportunity to incorporate quite a few different styles and approaches to fly fishing.  If variety is the spice of life then this river valley is a bowl of hot sauce. 

To see the latest report for the Roaring Fork River Valley check out our Fishing Conditions Page.  Have fun out there...

The tools of the trade

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Fishing Conditions page (May 2013) for the Roaring Fork River Valley.  For the entire report, CLICK HERE:

 

May 2013

Fryingpan River:  This is going to be a sweet month on the Pan!  Flows have nearly tripled now, and will likely increase again as the month progresses.  Every time the flows are raised spilling out of Ruedi Reservoir, the fishing in the toilet bowl gets very, very good.  Many of the bigger fish are now pushed out of their wintering spots and are easily sight-fished to.  Eggs and mysis patterns are key in this area, be sure to carry a few different looks when it comes to mysis shrimp.  BWOs will be hatching all the way to the top by the end of the month, although we are only seeing them hatch in real numbers on the lower river right now. 

Roaring Fork River:  As with the Fryingpan, flows are near triple what they were a week ago, which is a mixed blessing for us fishermen.  Green and gray water is good, brown is bad.  Caddis hatches are already cranking up, as we are seeing these bugs from Glenwood all the way through Basalt at this point.  When it comes to judging the flows on the Fork and where it is best to fish, keep in mind that the Crystal River flowing through Carbondale can really screw up the lower Roaring Fork in May.  As a general rule, the fishing will be better above this tributary, although this is not the case every day. 

Colorado River:  The Colorado River will be hit-and-miss this month, but days when it clears it will be EXCELLENT fishing.  As with the Fork, green and gray is good fishing water, brown is going to be extremely challenging.  Caddis are hatching in heavy, heavy numbers already, although at this point the river is blowing out.   The caddis should be back under way as soon as they get used to these big flows.  BWOs will be heavy in numbers in May also, although they are becoming less and less important to fish keyed in on the millions of caddis.  Don’t forget stoneflies either, we see good numbers of them crawling around in May.  The streamer bite has been out of sight. After flows settle down they should be right back on the menu.

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