We all know that the Fryingpan River provides legendary winter fly-fishing, but the upper Roaring Fork is often overlooked by fishermen hungry for powder turns and hot toddies. However, winter fly-fishing on the upper Roaring Fork River can be both challenging and rewarding with the combination of ice, snow, cool weather and sometimes picky fish. For those willing to brave the winter weather, the upper Roaring Fork produces some of the best midge fly-fishing in the valley.
I have spent many frigid days exploring the banks of Jaffe Park (Woody Creek Canyon) in search of feeding trout and time to myself. Most of the time, I find fish stacked up in deep, slow-moving water where the ice hasn't had a chance to freeze. I usually start by nymphing small midge patterns (size 18 to 24) like TC red midges, black beauties, RS2s, tungsten hoovers and small pheasant tails. I combine these with 5 and 6x fluorocarbon leaders because the water is gin-clear and the trout can be picky given the small flies being fished. The fish will appear sluggish, but with a solid drift and a little persistence, they generally react favorably.
On warmer days (about 30 degrees), there is a good chance that there will be midges hatching on the surface motivating the trout to come up and feed. In this situation, I fish small midge dries like sparse Griffith's gnats, Fryingpan emergers, Bill's midge emerger and other winged midge dry flies. In this situation, 6x tippet is usually a must to get a natural presentation. The numbers of fish willing to eat on the surface are not always as high, but for the purist dry-fly fisherman, the rewards for hard work are immense. If you are lucky enough to experience this phenomenon, it can be one of the most magical experiences you can have on the Roaring Fork River during the winter months.
For those of you itching for a little break from the crowds on the mountain or who just need a little time to yourself, head to the upper Roaring Fork to try your hand at catching some of the amazing trout that reside here. Remember that patience and persistence are the key to getting these fish to eat a fly in the winter. For more information on winter fly-fishing, visit one of the many specialty fly-fishing retailers in the Valley.
"On the Fly" is provided by the staff at Taylor Creek Fly Shop.