Monday, July 8, 2013

Runoff Reprieve

May and June are often traveling months for many local anglers. After surviving yet another long winter, nothing feels better than soaking in some vitamin D, walking barefoot on a beach, ditching your iPhone and losing the whole concept of time. It’s a beautiful thing, especially if you have a fly rod in your hand.

The tarpon migration is in full swing down in the Florida Keys, rooster fish are surfing the breakers along Baja, and bonefish are tailing the flats in the Bahamas. These saltwater pursuits are damn fun and are highly recommended.
But what if you can’t afford thousands of dollars for a weeklong stay in some exotic destination? Let’s just say that a few thousand bucks is a lot of freaking money for this single parent living in the Roaring Fork Valley on a fly fisher’s budget. As much as I’d love to be in the salt right now, I simply can’t afford it. My time will come again soon enough, but it won’t be this year.

I've taken a few extra days off lately to get a line wet and enjoy the downtime before our summer fishing season begins.  The Crystal, Colorado and lower Roaring Fork rivers have been high and dirty with spring runoff, the Fryingpan is between hatches, and I've already been lake trout, pike and carp fishing several times over the previous two months. 

One of my favorite May and early June past times is partaking in a little (or a lot of) bass and bluegill fishing.  Western Colorado is not often thought as bass and bluegill country, but there are a few hidden gems here and there for anglers willing to do some map research, investigating, putting some time behind the wheel and actually going fishing.

After hopping off of I-70 and cruising down back road after back road into BFE, we encountered a cattle drive of a few hundred head.  I enjoyed seeing real roughneck cowpokes on horseback driving the herd down the road to another pasture.  The new-age cowboys on ATV's, helicopters and trucks just don't look right to me.  And then there's the kids; both girls and boys, no older than the age of 10, on horseback and doing the actual work while the adults brought up the rear and supervised.  It always amazes me just how tough ranching and farming folk are, even the children.  They live modest lives and are totally dependent on the fruits of Mother Nature as well dealing with her hardships.  What can I say, I guess the kid in me always thought it'd be cool to grow up and be a cowboy, (or farmer, or fisherman) and in a sense I am.  I didn't go to college, barely graduated high school, and cetainly did not follow in my father's footsteps.  I chose instead to chase fish around "professionally" and have been able to make a simple living doing it.  How's that for being a cowboy?

A few hours later we finally hit the first of our many destinations.  It's a lonely lake that sits in the middle of a desert landscape.  It's rarely fished, even by those who live much closer to it than us.  The seemingly constant coffee-with-cream clarity of the water probably scares off most fly rodders I suppose.  A few of the local cowboys in their big trucks occassionally drown some worms and tall boys and catch channel catfish and stocker trout, but even that is rare.  We, on the other hand, are here for the carp.  We lace up our hiking boots, take a big swig of water, grab our six and seven weights and go.  En route to the lake, my eye catches a patch of red and I see a thicket of brightly hued Indian Paintbrush.  I admire it briefly after a seemingly long winter of snow but am anxious to fish after the pleasantly long drive.
The lake has lots of carp, they love to eat, and many are big.  It's a vastly different kind of carp fishing from what you see and read about in the magazines, on tv or on the web. This is real carp fishing - the way we think carp fishing should be.  We don't talk about it, don't photograph it, (or at least share photos) and it's hours out of the way from anything.  In other words, it's perfection.  Or so we thought.
It's still early in the year and none of us that fish this lake have been here this early in the year before.  We walk the shoreline in the ususal late-season good spots and don't even so much as see a fish.  It's too early. The fish aren't cruising the shoreline and flats yet and we decide to bail after two hours to the next closest lake an hour away, to try and save the day.  All fishermen should have a Plan B, Plan C and a Plan D.  You never know for sure what's going happen and I'll be damned if I piss a day off of work  to not go fishing.
Arriving at the next lake, our hopes were high but our expectations were low.  We've fished here a few times over the years and have caught some decent bass, pike and carp, but never anything special.  It's just decent enough to pay the obligatory visit every year. It's a scorcher outside and we're desperate to feel something, anything, pulling against our rods at this point. 
We walk along an inlet to the lake and see some glimpses of carp mudding along the bottom.  They look like they'd be easy to catch, kind of like shooting fish in a barrel in a sense, but they were anything but.  A trained carp fisher can pick out fish through muddy, discolored water by seeing a slightly lighter colored puff of mud within the mud, or streams of bubbles signifying a carp feeding along the bottom.  They're in spawn mode and we decide to leave them alone and check out the lake. 
I tie on a red and yellow bunny streamer without hesitation knowing that I'm now targeting bass and pike.  That color combo is my bread and butter for spring pike and should double over well enough for the bass too.  This specific fly was tied by one of our guide's girlfriends.  It's simple, effective and tied cleanly. Plus it stuck a few pike for me a few weeks ago on a different lake.  Good fishermen often just go with that gut feeling because something about it tells you that it's the right fly.  Fishing is often a confidence game. 
Ten casts in and I hook a fish.  I could tell by the pull, and confirmed my suspition with the first leap that it was a largemouth bass.  And not just any bass, a solid 2lb. fish; a damn nice bass for Western Colorado, let alone on a fly rod. 
Our day ended with numerous quality bass landed and plans to fish early-season prespawn carp here next year, and a definate return trip for more bass; possibly in the dog-days of late summer with an evening popper bite.  Hopefully.
While on the drive back we made a quick pit stop at one of those drive-up fast food joints.  Famished from a long day of fishing without eating, we super-sized our meals (including desert) and tipped the attendant. Instead of eating in the concrete jungle listening to bad pop music, I drove to some nearby ponds that I knew of just two minutes down the road. 
As we finished our burgers and shakes, I finally said the inevitable question, that wasn't so much of a question as it was a strong, casual, fishing notion. "Well, you ready to finish the day out.", I said already knowing the answer.
We fished till dark, threw poppers, and caught several quality bluegill, sunfish and bass.  Finally we arrived at the tailgate of the truck where we enjoyed a smoke, gazed at the stars, talked about the weather and finalized our plans for the next bass and bluegill trip. 
To me, a bass and bluegill fisherman originally from Michigan and Colorado’s Front Range, these waters are kept and held more secret than big, high-country cutthroat locations.
The pictures below are some of my "mud-season" highlights.  As much as I love my warmwater, I moved here for trout, and my God, I'm glad the rivers are clear and fishable again, just in time for green drakes!  Thank you spring for your runoff clense but I'm ready for summer.
 You know they're big when you can lip em'
Palm-sized pleasures
 The white tail splotch and yellow and blue hues of this bluegill made it my most memorable
Glimpses of bass in heavy cover

 Brandon sticking some serious hawgs
(I watched him stick about 10 of these 3-6lb specimans within an hours timespan!)
 Sight fishing to springtime bass in clear water is a welcomed vacation from trout
Travis claimed the prestigious "2013 First Bass on the Popper" award 

My best bass this spring, a 4 pounder.
Heading quickly for cover
None of these fish are big enough to garner much attention from most, but when you do your homework and have secret stashes of fish, the rewards are always greater to me. Go explore! 
 Story and photos by Kirk Webb, Taylor Creek Fly Shops

Monday, March 18, 2013

Floats of the Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork River has bugs...lots of bugs.  And fish.  This is good news!  Well, this probably isn’t news to those of you who fish here often.  Several varieties of stoneflies, mayflies, midges and caddis are found on the Roaring Fork. This equates to plenty of food for eager trout. Or is it lots of trout for eager anglers? 

The Roaring Fork encompasses over seventy miles of river flowing from south to north eventually dumping into the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs. The Fryingpan River spills cold water into the Roaring Fork at Basalt, revitalizing the river by keeping it cold during the summer months. I highly encourage all of you reading this article to experience this scenic river by boat. Floating is the best way, in my opinion, to access this largely private river.  Out of the 70 total miles of river, there are about 50 miles that are floatable by drift boat or raft. Depending on your fishing ability and your guide’s plans, there are a multitude of put-ins and take-outs on the river.  Always let your guide choose the section of river to float. Most likely, there is a method behind their madness.

The nice thing about floating the river is that it gives you access to fish private water that is otherwise unavailable to wading anglers.  The state of Colorado decided way back when that the property owner owns the river bottom but not the river itself, meaning that you’re free to float the river but cannot get out of the boat, drop your anchor, or otherwise touch the river bottom.  Much of the Roaring Fork is private. So, it’s good to know someone with a boat or to hire a guide.  In all seriousness though, floating is in my opinion the way to go when fishing the Roaring Fork.

A wealth of insect hatches occurs on the many various sections of the Roaring Fork depending on the time of year and dependant on current water levels.  You cannot set your watch to the hatches of the Roaring Fork like you can on the Fryingpan.  The Fryingpan is reliable like this because it is a tailwater fishery where the water temperature does not change. The Fork on the other hand, is somewhat more of a crap shoot.  There are general hatch timeframes for sure, but they are just that, general.  I can tell you that from July through the end of September, you or your guide will find plenty of bugs and fish that like to eat them. Last year, there were more golden stoneflies hatching than I have ever seen before and the hatch seemingly lasted for months. I didn't get the memo that that was going to happen, but it was great nonetheless! The Fork is always full of surprises and you never know what is going to happen until you get here. The best time to go float fishing is when you get here.

Jaffe Park to Basalt:

Jaffe Park is a put in down river from Aspen near a public park in Woody Creek. This is a raft only area, although I have done this stretch in a dory my first year as a guide. I was eighteen and it wasn't my boat. It was Ry Neilly’s.  We made it down in one piece and it was exciting to say the least. I think Will Sands was mildly impressed that his two newly hired guides were that stupid. This ten or so mile float to Basalt is definitely thrilling. You get to run Tooth Ache Rapids, a technical rapid between slabs of bedrock. There is a great deal of maneuvering between some of the tighter rapids and runs. This stretch is almost entirely private water. There are lots of trout in pockets behind rocks, waiting to be picked out with a decent drift.  You cannot really stop and re-rig just anywhere so I would classify this float as an expert only stretch. This is my opinion, not the rule. It will be to your advantage to have had a great deal of experience fishing from a boat. This is simply due to the quick speed of the river in a fairly tight canyon.  I like this stretch for the coveted "green drake super-hatch" and for all flavors of attractor dry fly fishing. Streamer fishing can be great on the upper Roaring Fork as well. Strip some streamers, watch some bobbers, dabble some dries, you might do it all in one day. This is the smallest section of river that we float with the casting being fast and furious. This piece of the Roaring Fork is only accessible when the river is flowing above 600 cfs, so it may not be an option to float come August. The prime time to float the Jaffe-Basalt stretch of river is during the month of July, though anytime after the river lowers and clears from runoff yields spectacular fishing!

Basalt to Carbondale

This section of the river has a ranch feel to it. The surrounding houses are much further away from the river for the most part. The Roaring Fork meanders through pasture land and it is mellower of a river than the Aspen down to Basalt area. This is because the river drops in elevation far less than from Aspen to Basalt. There are a few different places to put your boat in by Basalt. Fisherman's Park and Hooks Bridge are my two favorite places to drop in and launch. I would characterize this stretch as having long, shallow riffles and runs that hold a plethora of nice browns and bows. High water last year changed the river a great deal through here. Large gravel bars were moved hundreds of feet down the river and new side channels were blasted through existing banks. A significant section of the river above Carbondale was rerouted through a horse pasture in Tom Bailey's property. The river moved gravel for the better in my opinion. A flush of this magnitude helps clean out silt deposits that were accumulating for years. Below Basalt, the river provides the angler with perfect water for long drifts. Tip - When in doubt, leave your rig in there as long as there is no impending doom for your flies. Your fishing guide will appreciate it greatly if you can achieve a healthy, long drift without dispatching all of your flies in some precarious situation. Any time after runoff is great for the middle section of the Roaring Fork.  Fishable year round by raft, the middle section is great hopper-dropper water. It is just as easy to fish with an indicator; your guide's discretion is often key. The hatches depend on water levels and time of year, but good blue wing olive, pale morning dun, green drake, caddis, stonefly and midge hatches can be found from March through October. 

Carbondale to Glenwood Springs

The "bread and butter" section of the Roaring Fork is superb. Taylor Creek guides float this section more than any other section of river. There are a pile of trout and more biomass than any other section of the river with the addition of the Crystal River confluence below Carbondale. This is the easiest portion of the river to learn how to fish from a boat, yet is still challenging to the most seasoned angler. Green drakes hatch around the end of June but prove to be elusive at times depending on runoff.  There are lots of stoneflies of all sizes and varieties in the lower river. The mighty pale morning dun is rampant during July as they begin to move about. Blue wing olives dominate during both spring and fall. This fourteen mile stretch from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs is a full day float even in high water. Later in the fall, this section can be split into two seven mile sections which allow guides to spin circles and focus in on the deeper pits, pools and seams. This may be your best opportunity to catch a sucker or record whitefish. Both flannelmouth and red horse suckers inhabit the depths of the pits on the Roaring Fork. Trophy whitefish, including the current state record, reside in the lower Fork.  Guides love suckers and whitefish!  No matter which section of the Roaring Fork that you float, either privately or with a guide, you should have no problem having a fun float and relishing in the superb fishing.

Taylor Logsdon – Taylor Creek Guide
Reprinted from The Fly On the Wall, April 2012
Photo courtesy of Kirk Webb

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Roaring Fork Valley Fishing Calendar


Hit the Frying Pan up where warm water temperatures keep the fish actively feeding all month long.  The weather can be a bit dicey at this time of year so keep an eye on the weather and pick a warm day.  Even in less than ideal weather the river will still fish very well, but keeping yourself comfortable can be a bit troublesome.  The upper river from the dam downstream to mile marker 12 will fish best.  Small midge and egg patterns are key.  Light fluorocarbon tippets of 6x and 7x are standard fare.  Some of the largest fish caught on the Frying Pan are landed during winter, so don’t be left out in the cold.

Top flies-  Bills Midge Emerger (20-22), Sprout Midges (22-24), Hatching Midges (20-22), Flashtail Mini Eggs (18), TC Red Midge Larva (20-22), RS2’s (20-22), Johnny Flash (20-22), Capt. Hook (22), Bling Midge (22), Bead Wing Midge (20-22), Black Beauty Emerger (20-24), Tim’s Mysis (16-18), Epoxy Mysis (16-18)


During the early part of the month the Frying Pan will still be the place to be.  Warmer daily highs and longer periods of sunlight promote good midge hatches.  From mid to late February the Roaring Fork and the Colorado again become fishable after a long winter with no fishing pressure.  Though mostly nymphing opportunities exist, expect to find numbers of rising fish during the afternoons and into the evenings.  These fish will be red hot and full of piss and vinegar so hold on tight.  This is the beginning of the pre-spawn period and many of the rainbows will be in vivid colors.  Warm days will produce the heaviest hatches. 

Top flies-  Hi Vis Griffiths Gnat (20-22), Sprout Midges (20-22), Bills Midge Emerger (20-22), Frying Pan Emerger (18-22), Zebra Midges (18-20), Freestone Emerger (20-22), BH Polywing Emergers (18-20), Prince Nymph (14-18), Sparklewing RS2 (20-22)


Winter is fizzling out and spring is quickly approaching.  For us March is a special time of year.  Weather in the 40’s and 50’s can be had on any given day especially from Basalt to Glenwood Springs where the elevations are lower.  March equates to the first really good and consistent hatches of the year.  Count on having thick midge hatches on all valley waters, especially along the Frying Pan.  The prime time of day to hit this hatch is midday from 11am to 2pm.  At times, so many fish will be seen rising that you’ll think you’ve hit the jackpot, and you have.  March also brings the first mayfly hatches of the year.  Blue Wing Olives will be seen hatching on the Roaring Fork and the Colorado rivers.  These small, size 18-20 mayflies, produce big results and can be seen hatching midday.  A variety of BWO imitations should be carried with you in all stages.  Many of the resident Rainbow trout along the Roaring Fork and the Colorado will begin to spawn this month with many more spawning during April and May.  Because of this, egg patterns will again become effective flies.  Don’t overlook the fishing along the Crystal River either.  From Redstone to Carbondale, the Crystal River emerges from hibernation and celebrates life as BWO’s and Midges again come to fruition.  The trout are not large here, but solitude and good fishing are guaranteed.

Top Flies-  BWO Sparkleduns (18-20), BWO Para Emergers (20-22), Frying Pan Emergers (18-20), Para Quill BWO’s (18-20), Bills Midge Emerger (20-22), Flashtail Mini Eggs (14-18), STD’s (18-20), RS2’s (20-22), Biot Baetis (18-22), Barr BWO Emerger (18-22), BLM’s (18-20), Zebra Midges (18-20), BH Polywing Emergers (18-20), Black Beauty Emerger (20-22)


Spring time in the Rockies!  April showers bring Caddis hatches not May flowers.  The BWO hatches are still prime along the Fork and Colorado but now they are being seen in good, fishable numbers along the Frying Pan in addition.  The famous Brachycentrus Caddis hatch is well known as the Caddis hatch among caddis hatches.  At times so many Caddis will be hatching that it literally looks like it’s snowing outside.  The trick to this “breathe through your teeth” hatch is to actually fish above the main wave of insects, where solid but not heavy numbers of caddis are being seen.  Fish will gorge themselves during this hatch and often, when you catch a fish, you can literally see their belly wiggle and move as so many Caddis are in their stomach.   Look for the best fishing to take place during the afternoons but also during last light as the caddis return to the river to lay their eggs.  Early periods of runoff can be encountered along the Roaring Fork below the confluence of the Crystal River in Carbondale.  If this happens simply fish the upper stretches of the river or head on up to the Frying Pan River where conditions are much more favorable.   

Top flies-  Stimulator (12-16), Pearl and Elk Caddis (14-18), Ethawing Caddis (14-18), BWO Sparkledun (18-22), Sparkle Stacker BWO (20-22), CDC Comparadun BWO (18-22), Sparkle Pupa (14-18), Deep 6 Caddis (16-18). Z-Wing Caddis (16-18), Diamond Caddis (14-18), Electric Caddis (14-18), STD’s (18-20), BLM’s (18-20), Pheasant Tail (16-20), Barr Emerger BWO (18-22)


May offers a varied mix of fishing and water stability.  Due to the cool water coming out of Ruedi Reservoir, the BWO hatch on the Pan is at its peak this month.  The Frying Pan is renowned as one of the world’s best dry fly fisheries and this is due in large part to the constant 40’-42’f. water temperature.  The Frying Pan, especially on weekends can be a bit crowded as most all rivers in the Rocky Mountain West are too high and muddy to fish as spring runoff is in full force.  Overcast days will produce the best hatches.  Even during bright, sunny days you will still have numbers of risers but they will be limited to any overhanging shade and overcast.  Tandem dry fly setups are preferred as we often fish a highly visible pattern followed by a less visible, more exact imitation.  The Roaring Fork, Crystal and Colorado Rivers are generally rendered unfishable by the middle to end of the month.  If the stars align though, and we get a cold snap, look for some truly spectacular fishing to take place.  Caddis, BWO’s, and Stoneflies are the name of the game.  Some of the best float fishing of the year happens just prior to runoff too.

Top Flies-  Sparkledun BWO (20-22), Frying Pan Emerger (20-22), CDC Comparadun BWO (20-22), Para Emerger BWO (20-22), Ethawing Caddis (14-18), Stimulators (12-16), Poxyback Baetis (22), Pheasant Tails (18-22), STD’s (18-20), Sparklewing RS2’s (20-22), Princes (12-16), 20 Inchers (10-14), Electric Caddis (14-18), Buckskins (16-18), Spanflex Stone (10-12), Cat Poops (6-8)


June marks the end of the spring season and the beginning of our summer season.  It’s a magnificent time of year where we see both spring hatches of BWO’s, Caddis and Stoneflies, coupled with summer hatches of PMD’s and Green Drakes.  By far and away the biggest highlight this month is the beginning of our world famous Green Drake hatch along the Lower Roaring Fork and the Colorado Rivers.  This hatch typically begins during the last two weeks of the month.  The water is high and fast but typically clear, with the fishing equally fast paced and frenzied.  Earlier in the month the water is often cloudy but skillful anglers can bang the banks with large stonefly nymphs and attractor patterns and can have some surprisingly good results.  The upper portions of the Roaring Fork near Aspen are often high enough in elevation with a minimum of feeder creeks and tributaries that even when the lower river is blown out with runoff, the upper river is often in good shape.  Thankfully, even though June is often referred to as “mud season”, we are lucky enough to have the Frying Pan River, a tailwater fishery, that is unaffected by runoff conditions.  Not only that, the Frying Pan begins to see the larger Pale Morning Dun mayfly hatches during this month.  These beautiful insects provide hours of dry fly fishing enjoyment and ranks as one of the most storied hatches along the famous Frying Pan River.

Top Flies-  Rogue Stones (4-10), Stimulators (8-12), Green Drake Sparkleduns (12), BDE Drakes (12), Royal Wulffs (10-12), PMD Sparkleduns (16-18), Melon Quills (16), Cat Poops (6-10), Spanflex Stones (8-12), 20 Inchers (10-14), Prince Nymph (10-14), San Juan Worm (10-12), Halfback Emerger PMD (16-18), Pheasant Tail (14-18), Copper John (14-18)



July is peak season.  We are crankin’ and so is the fishin’.  Welcome to the fly fishing Nirvana Wonderland.  The Roaring Fork and Colorado are float fishing extremely well regardless of time of day.  Superb evening hatches of Green Drakes are commonplace.  These massive mayflies also produce massive fish.  July is also when the Crystal River fishes extremely well.  Good hatches of Caddis, PMD’s and Drakes can be seen on a regular basis.  Some of the best fishing will occur from Redstone up to and above the historic mining town of Marble.  The fishing on the Frying Pan is really beginning to heat up as BWO’s and PMD’s continue below the dam with the beginnings of the Drake hatch occurring along its lower reaches.  July offers the best dry fly fishing of the entire year in general along the valley.  This is also the time of year to hit the high country up.  Pristine alpine lakes and creeks are in tip top shape giving anglers the thrill of a solid hike in a drop dead beautiful setting catching Colorado River Cutthroat Trout and Brook Trout.  If I die and go to heaven, I’m sure it’ll be in the Roaring Fork Valley during July.

Top flies-  H&L Variants (10-14), Royal Wulffs (10-14), Cripple Drakes (12), KGB Drakes (12), PMD Sparkleduns (16-18), Melon Quills (16-18), Rusty Spinners (16-18), Stimulators (8-14), 20 Inchers (10-14), Prince Nymph (12-16), Copper John (14-18), Cat Poops (6-8), Pheasant Tails (16-18), Thread Body Baetis (18), Barr Emerger PMD/BWO (16-20), Swiss Straw Emergers (18)


There are almost too many highlights to list.  If there was only one month we had to fish the Frying Pan, it would easily be during August.  It’s no secret either.  The Frying Pan is a world renowned fishery and seemingly everyone is on the river fishing or planning on fishing the Frying Pan this month.  The river is well known for its large educated fish and during August these fish seemingly forego their Ph-D’s and gorge on Green Drakes, PMD’s, Caddis, Rusty Spinners, Ants, BWO’s, Serratella’s and Mysis Shrimp.  There’s such a huge smorgasbord and wealth of insects that the fish just flat out chow down.  Crowds can be an issue, especially on weekends, so if solitude is your game, the Frying Pan River should be waived in lieu of the Roaring Fork, Colorado, Crystal or the high country.  These other rivers are no slouches either during August.  The float and wade fishing is exceptional during August on the Roaring Fork and the Colorado.  So much so, that if you asked any of our guides what they would be fishing, it’d be on the Fork or Collie.  Flies begin to get downsized, as we commonly begin to fish flies in the 16-20 range again.  Ditch the big bugs and beadheads and start fishing smaller flies that are more subdued and natural in appearance.

Top Flies-  Drake Sparkleduns (12-14), Drake Cripples (12), Irrestibles (10-14), 20 Inchers (12-14), Poxyback Drake (12-14), Winged Drake Emerger (12), Princes (14-18), Pheasant Tails (16-20), STD’s (18-20), RS2’s (20-22), Biot Baetis (18-20), Tungsten Baetis (18-20), Cat Poops (8), Rusty Spinner (16-18), Halfback PMD/BWO (18-20), Snowshoe Emerger (16-18), Fur Ant (16-18)


Autumn is here.  The hillsides are lit up in color, and nothing can compare to the scenery and marvelous fishing of September.  This is a transitional month where we still see the summer hatches of Drakes and PMD’s coupled with arrival of the fall BWO’s.  If you want all the benefits of the August dry fly fishing with much less in the way of crowds, September is your month.   The weather cools down and temperatures range from the 50’s up to the 80’s.  Cooler water temperatures also greatly benefit the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers.  The fish go back to feeding midday instead of early in the mornings and later in the evenings.  If I had to pick the best month of the year for float fishing, September would be it.  This is also the last month of year to fish the beautiful surroundings of the high country.  Brook trout begin their spawning rituals and color up in magnificent hues of oranges, greens, blues and white.  As the days become shorter, the fish begin to feed heavily gearing up for a long winter.

Top flies-  Sparkledun Flav (12-14), Drake Cripples (12), CDC Rusty Spinner (16-18), PMD Flag Dun (16-18), PMD Cripple (16), BWO CDC Comparadun (20-22), Para Emerger BWO (20-22), Saratella Olive/Gray (20-22), Pearl & Elk Caddis (14-16), STD’s (18-20), Tungsten Bead Baetis (18-20), BLM Peackock/Black (18-20), Sunken Spinner (16), Tungsten Hoover (20-22), Freestone Emerger (20-22), Biot Baetis (18-20), Halfback Emerger PMD/BWO (18-20)


If I could summarize October in one word it would be “Streamers”.  The Dog-Days of a scorching summer are long gone leaving the trout to feed opportunistically under much less in the way of fishing pressure.  Brown trout in particular begin feeding hard, as spawning urges make these beautiful fish hyper-aggressive during the fall.  It’s time to hop in the boats and bang the banks with large streamer patterns in hopes of hooking large, hook jawed browns.  Next to dry fly fishing, streamer fishing is the most visual fishing experience you can have with a fly rod in hand.  Large, size 2-8 streamers made of bunny, marabou and various synthetics the size of a small fish are needed to entice the large brown trout of the Lower Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers.  Meanwhile, on the Frying Pan River, hatches of BWO’s will be a daily occurrence with a few remnant hatches of Flav’s and PMD’s.  Fall is often one of the best months to hit the mythical Mysis Shrimp hatch.  As Ruedi Reservoir begins to turn over, large numbers of Mysis Shrimp often spill out of the reservoir and into the river where the trout feed voraciously on them.  This phenomenon can often lead anglers to catching the largest trout of their careers.  Another overlooked gem during this month is the Crystal River.  Brown trout from the Roaring Fork will move into the Crystal River in efforts to spawn.  This is especially true along the lower reaches above the town of Carbondale.

Top Flies-  Autumn Splendors (4-8), Sacrileges (4), Stingin’ Sculpins (8), Ziwi’s (6), Sculpzilla’s (4-8), Para. Quill BWO (18-22), Sparkledun BWO (18-22), Flag Dun BWO (18-22), CDC Rusty Spinners (16-18), PMD No Hackles (16-18), Sparkledun Flav (14), Prince Nymph (14-18), Red Copper John (16-18), STD’s (18-20), Tungsten Hoovers (20-22), Batwing BWO (18-20), Pheasant Tails (16-20), RS-2’s (20-22), Barr Emerger BWO (18-22), Jujubaetis (18-20)


It’s off-season.  Crowds are at their lowest this month and if it’s solitude you seek, this is your time to come visit the Valley.  Local anglers and hardcore trout bums alike know that November is the secret season.  Fishing is often so good you’ll feel like you’ve been let in on a secret.  The nymph fishing is often as good as it gets, yielding 20–30 or more fish being landed on any given day.  The weather is often unpredictable, so being well prepared and dressing in layers are keys to being comfortable.  The first half of this month will parallel the same fish behavior as October.  The latter part of the month will see a change of insect activity.  Gone are the fall hatches BWO’s, as midges become the dominate food source along with eggs.  The spawn is well underway now with whitefish and brown trout eggs littering the riverbeds.  If it’s big fish you’re after, this is prime time.  Both wade and float fishing opportunities abound.

Top Flies-  Sculpzillas (4-8), Stingin’ Clousers (8), Autumn Splendors (4-8), Slumpbusters (8-10), Flashtail Hot Eggs (14-18), Ice Prince (14-18), Red Copper Johns (18-20), Tungsten Bead Baetis (18-20), Tungsten Hoovers (20-22), D-Midge (18-20), TC Red Midge Larva (18-22), Zebra Midge (18-20), BH Polywing Emerger (18-20), Freestone Emerger (20-22), Ultra Bling RS-2 (22-24), Swiss Straw Emerger (18-20),  Rainbow Warrior (18-20),



The Frying Pan is going to be your best friend this month.  Meanwhile, the Roaring Fork will be more hit and miss depending on weather and water temperatures.  Milder weather will mean great fishing on the “fork” colder winter weather will slow things down a bit on the “fork”.   On even the coldest of days the Frying Pan will continue to fish.  Not only that, it’ll fish great!  The upper river houses the warmest water and thus the highest number of actively feeding fish.  The Flats, Bend Pool, Two Rocks, Old Faithful and 22 Inch Pools in particular are popular with winter anglers.  Rising fish can often be seen during the heat of the day.  Just keep in mind that there’s no need to hit the river first thing in the morning.  The best time of day to fish will be from 10:30am to 3pm.  The Roaring Fork River below Basalt can yield some incredible fishing when temperatures cooperate and warm into the thirties.  Winter stoneflies, eggs and various midge patterns are all that’s needed.  Fishing to unpressured and pissed off fish are what the Roaring Fork is all about during December.   

Top Flies-  Emergent Midge Adult (20-22), Idyl’s Midge Adult (20-22), Bills Midge Emerger (20-22), CDC Emergent Midge (22), Matt’s Midge (22-24), RS2’s (20-24), Biot Midge (20-22), Bling Midge (20-22), Maggot Midge (20-22), 20 Inchers (10-14), Cat Poops (8), Poxyback Stones (12-16), STD’s (18-20), TC Red Midge Larva (20-22), Freestone Emerger (20-22), Jujubee (20-22), Medallion Midge (20-22), D-Midge (18-20)

Calendar and photos courtesy of Kirk Webb

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The City Fishing Guide

It’s 7:10 in the morning not so long ago and I am headed into work. A year ago that would have meant getting out of bed, maybe taking a shower, putting on my guide shirt, grabbing my vest and rods, load up the truck and be at the fly shop with a total of an 8 minute commute. I would meet my clients for the day and go fishing wherever I felt it would be great on the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. That was my “work” for 18 years.

Today, I get out of bed, definitely take a shower, get dressed in my monkey suit, grab a coffee, get stuck in traffic, get aggravated and then try be the best employee I can be in the new city job I have recently taken on. I like the first paragraph of this story much better.

The changes I have made to move to the big city are all for good reason, I was fishing for love and I landed her in Denver. So I made this commitment and moved from the Roaring Fork Valley to the “Big D” to begin my life with my bride to be. All of that is good. Here’s the catch though. This change of lifestyle does make guiding and my love of the river a bit, if not a lot, more difficult. So, it begs to be asked, how does a mountain guy, fly fishing guide adjust to his new surroundings?

He doesn’t. What he does do, is try to view the world through trout colored glasses.

This summer, I was pining to go on the Fryingpan River, remembering the how the water rushed around my waders with the occasional caddis fly going up my nose. I had to get a fix. So I went down to South Platte River right here in downtown Denver and found an eddy behind a trashed grocery cart freshly thrown into the river. I took a number of big inhales through my nose to get a whiff of the fresh smog from a nearby factory to help transport me back to the place that I love. To my surprise it didn’t work. But I was still optimistic.

Just the other day on my way into work, I stopped in the coffee shop directly across the street from my house called Stella’s. I go there every day to get a medium cup of danger monkey dark and chat with whoever is behind the counter. This place is just like any other coffee shop in any other small town. The other morning I noticed a pick-up truck with the license plate ‘6X20RS2’ (referencing the fly pattern, an RS2, and the size of the fly and tippet). Now that is a very specific vanity plate. A big smile came across my face and I just had to go and find out who this person was. I strolled around and found the only guy (this is not sexist statement, there was only dudes in the coffee shop) that fit the “I like getting a line wet” look.

Let me stop here for a moment. There are always two perspectives when you live in a destination resort area; the locals and the tourists. I have always been a local, very rarely a tourist. So, it is not uncommon for us locals to strike up a conversation with someone that you might not know and talk about anything - fishing, skiing, biking, whatever. They are often just excited to be there and to get an inside scoop on what’s going on out there and what bug is hot.

I say to this guy, “Dude, is that your truck? You must fly-fish. That’s pretty light tippet.” This is when I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. A curt “Ya-and…?” is all I got. Nothing, zilch, nada. I found myself standing there awkwardly, not as a knowledgeable local guide with an information starved tourist or as tourist with tourist getting ready to swap fish stories, but instead as the guy interrupting said dude with newspaper. Awkward. So I mentioned that I was a guide - still nothing. I got my coffee, did the customary guy head nod and went on my way somewhat jaded.

But I am not discouraged; there is hope.

The great part of moving here is that I live by Wash Park. An incredibly beautiful open space in the center of Denver, filled with volleyball players, freshly parented 30 somethings with BMW baby joggers, yoga pants and iPhones. Off in the distance I see two people, both with fly rods, casting on the grass, horribly. “A-ha” my inner guide senses whispered to me. I walk up and ask, “How’s it going?” sheepishly, doing my best not to look like weird random park conversation guy. “Where are you going fishing?” I ask. They look at me and mutter, “Nowhere yet, just practicing.” the worst caster say’s. “That’s cool. Can I show you a couple tricks that might help? I do a lot of this......I’m a guide out of Basalt.” I say. “Ya, so you fish in the pan? Come on over.” they reply. The guide in me is satisfied.

I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I said it has been easy to be so far away from the activity that I love so much, but I will say that it will always be a part of me. Guiding is so much more that just taking somebody fishing. It’s about relationships and sharing common interest. I may not be near gold medal waters anymore but I can still share and teach the art of fly fishing. That is, if fly-fishing in a random patch of grass, doing my best to be a city guide counts.

Glenn Smith
18 year Taylor Creek guide, 1st year city guide, life time teacher

Top and bottom photo's courtesy of Glenn Smith, others AP