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