Author: Trouts Staff
With our summer fishing season delayed by more than a month, I have been anxious to get my boat out and float some of my favorite stretches of water. After hearing countless reports of epic fishing across the high country, me and the wife decided to take a couple days off of work and go enjoy some summer trout fishing. With numerous options at our disposal, we ended up basing ourselves out of the Vail Valley hoping to get some time on the Roaring Fork, Colorado and Eagle Rivers. Flows on all three drainages had been steadily falling, and the weekend forecast was good with highs in the 70's and a chance of afternoon thunderstorms in the evenings, ideal conditions to say the least.
Friday was our first day on the water, and we decided to head on over to the Roaring Fork Valley hoping to avoid the weekend mayhem that typically descends on the Fork during the Summer. Putting on the water at Carbondale around 11am, we were able to position ourselves well behind most guided trips, and a bit before the evening floaters came out. With flows hovering just under 2,000 cfs, the plan was to enjoy a leisurely float down stream to the 2 Rivers take-out in Glenwood Springs. With not an abundant amount of bugs hatching, we started the float with a short-line 2 fly nymph rig consisting of a size 16 prince nymph and a size 18 Barrs PMD Emerger. No more than 5 minutes in, we had our first fish of the day in the boat, a solid 12" brown. The next few hours turned out to be quite productive, with many fish taken from the boat and while wading. Following lunch, we were able to get a number of fish to come up and eat a dry fly, although the productivity of the fishing wasn't near what it was when we had a some nymphs on our line. By the end of the float we had boated a good number of fish, including a brown, rainbow, cutbow and cutthroat trout, in addition to a multiple whitey's and a sucker, a true Roaring Fork Grand Slam!
Day two we chose to stay in the Vail Valley and hit up the Eagle River for a nice late afternoon/early evening float. With flows at around 750 cfs, we knew that mid day wouldn't be the ideal time to be on the water, and we had word that there was a great caddis hatch coming off in the evening. With more bugs on the upper river, we chose to put in at the Sewage Treatment Plant (just below Edwards) around 4:30pm. Unfortunately once we arrived at the put-in, it became apparent that we weren't the only people with this plan. We pushed off just about the same time as 4 other boats, which created quite a bottle neck scenario for the first part of the float. Despite the other boats, we were able to move a number of fish with a large attractor pattern (PMX, Royal Stimulator, etc.) trailed with a small size 18 caddis. When we arrived at the first piece of public water at the I-70 bridge, we opted to pull over, drink a beer and let the other boats get below us.
Around 6pm, we began seeing a significant number of caddis hatching along the banks, and with only 2 more hours of day light we pushed off and made our way down stream. Moving through the Eagle Springs Golf Course, we started moving fish again on both small caddis patterns, as well as a variety of green drake imitations. Most fish were moved/caught 1'-3' off the banks, although we did see some fish holding in pocket water in the middle of the river. Things started to slow down as we moved past Wolcott, but picked up significantly below Trestle Rapid. We finished the evening at Climbing Rock take-out around 8pm with a fish landed on the very last cast; can't think of a better way to end a float than that!
On day 3 we moved over to the Colorado River and did an afternoon float from Pumphouse to Radium. We were on the water at 1:30pm, and fished the upper mile of the float mostly from shore. At around 2,900 cfs, the conditions were prime for floating but a bit high for wading. The runs that I typically fish at around 1,500 cfs were under a considerable amount of water, but we were able to pull a number of fish to the net by high stick nymphing the soft water along the banks. Before descending into Little Gore Canyon, we tied on a large grass hopper and were able to move a few fish. We fished a few more spots on the float down, and were able to land a bunch of fish on small brown and golden stonefly nymphs, as well as caddis and PMD emergers. The clarity by the end of the float was about 18", and I will assume that the fishing will only get better on the Upper Colorado as water temps warm and clarity improves.
All in all, it was a spectacular 3 days of fishing, and although we didn't fish as hard as we could, we were able to catch a bunch of fish and have a great time. It's easy to say that summer fishing is now upon us, and I highly encourage anybody reading this Trip Report to get out on the water ASAP. August and September are going to be two amazing months of fishing, ones that we'll be talking about for years to come.