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Sunlight Mountain Resort keeps hopes up for good season despite snowfall absence

Sunlight Mountain Manager and head snowmaker Mike Baumli makes some adjustments to one of the snow machines which have not been able to run since last Friday due to warm temperatures.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Warmer than average temperatures and a lack of snowfall could push back Sunlight Mountain Resort’s opening day, but staff remain hopeful for a Dec. 10 opening, a Sunlight spokesperson said.

“We’ve been able to make snow on some of the colder mornings up here,” said Troy Hawks, Sunlight’s marketing and sales director. “We started our snowmaking preparations about two weeks ago with testing the systems. Since then, when we see a small window of opportunity, we turn the snow guns on.”

The National Weather Service has no historical snowfall data for the resort during the off season, but NWS Meteorologist Megan Stackhouse said during November the agency recorded zero snowfall in Glenwood Springs and less than an inch in Carbondale.

“We’re in a La Nina pattern, so many of the systems coming through are weak and preceded by warmer than usual temperatures,” Stackhouse explained.

On average, Glenwood Springs receives about 4 inches of snow and more than an inch of precipitation in November. This year, however, Stackhouse said the area received less than an inch of precipitation and no snow.

Like many ski resorts, Sunlight makes its own snow to supplement natural snowfall. But the process calls for cold temperatures, which have been scarce so far.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve probably only seen about six days where we could make snow,” Hawks said.

Sunlight Mountain Resort sits partially snow covered on a warm 45 degree day on the slopes.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Snow making typically occurs from 3-9 a.m. when temperatures are lower than 28 degrees.

“We’d like to be able to turn it on and leave it for a couple weeks like we normally do,” Hawks said. “But it’s just not cold enough this year.”

Despite being among the smallest snow-making operations in the state, Sunlight’s mountain manager, Mike Baumli, was recognized in 2019 as Colorado Ski Country’s snow maker of the year.

In recent years, the resort invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrading its snowmaking operation for efficiency and output. The upgrades included two additional ponds, containing about 1 million gallons each for the snow makers to use, Hawks said.

So far this season, he said the resort has used about 500,000 gallons of water to create the first layers of snow.

“Turning the system on and off right now is much less efficient than we’d like,” Hawks said. “But, we’re remaining hopeful that we can at least open the Tercero Lift on Dec. 10.”

Hawks said the date of opening day could change if cold temperatures don’t settle in soon.

Sam Brager skis Sunlight with his 10-year-old son, Donavin, as often as he can, but he said this year could be a challenge.

“At this point of the year, I’ve usually snuck in at least one skin hike, but not this year,” Brager said, explaining a skin hike is when a skier wraps their skis in “skins,” allowing them to climb the slope without need for a chair lift.

Born in Wisconsin, Brager learned to ski at age 2.

“Even during a dry year like this, I won’t quit for some other hobby,” he said. “You just gotta enjoy the snow in front of you and not look at the forecast as much, because it will bum you out.”

Sunlight Mountain Manager and head snowmaker Mike Baumli walks down the slope on a warm 45 degree day on the mountain.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Brager said his gut doesn’t believe the warmer temperatures will impact the entire ski season, but it’s at odds with his head, which thinks this season might continue to be dry. Either way, he plans to hit the slopes as often as possible.

“There’s nothing like strapping two boards to your feet and sliding down the mountain,” Brager said.

The good news for Brager, Hawks and snow enthusiasts throughout the valley is colder weather could be on the way, Stackhouse said.

“There is hope of a stronger system moving into the region early next week,” she said. “It’s early, and things can still change, but it’s the first hope of cool enough temps for snow this season.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.

Plans underway to make newly acquired Sweetwater Lake area newest Colorado state park; first state-federal partnership of its kind

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis addresses the audience and members of the press during a press conference overlooking Sweetwater Lake on Wednesday afternoon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The recently acquired land around Sweetwater Lake in remote northeastern Garfield County is set to become the newest Colorado state park, the first state-federal partnership of its kind.

Gov. Jared Polis made the official announcement Wednesday on site at Sweetwater Ranch, alongside the state Parks and Wildlife and Natural Resources directors, U.S. Forest Service officials and local elected officials and land conservation representatives.

The White River National Forest acquired the 488-acre Sweetwater Ranch on Aug. 31 through a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund purchase, which grew out of the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s “Save the Lake” campaign and other local fundraising efforts.

“This is a historic announcement,” Polis said in a phone interview Tuesday. “This will not only be Colorado’s first state park on federal land, it’s the first in the entire country under this arrangement.”

Sweetwater Lake is located in eastern Garfield County 10 miles west of the Colorado River Road near Dotsero.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Polis touted Sweetwater for its natural splendor and potential to expand the state’s outdoor offerings.

“Sweetwater Lake is simply gorgeous, and has great potential for even more recreational opportunities, conservation and education, and will have a strong economic benefit for the region,” Polis said.

This would be the second state park created during the Polis administration. Fishers Peak in Trinidad officially opened in fall 2020.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis addresses the audience and members of the press during Wednesday's press conference at Sweetwater Lake.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The Conservation Fund purchased the land around Sweetwater that same year in an effort to prevent potential development of the privately held inholdings.

Once the land came into the U.S. Forest Service fold, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said the challenge was to find a way to properly manage it.

“We don’t have the funds or staffing to be able to do what really needs to happen there,” Fitzwilliams said. “Through conversations with (CPW Director) Dan Prenzlow’s staff, we realized there’s an opportunity to do something different here. By leveraging resources to manage it, we can do some great things to create a great experience for the public.”

Over the years, the privately owned Sweetwater Lake Resort had been proposed for golf course and residential development, and even for a spring water bottling plant.

The area was identified among the top 10 priority Land and Water Conservation Fund purchases nationwide, aimed at increasing public recreation opportunities and protecting the area’s wildlife habitat, cultural and scenic values.

The initial conservation fund purchase was made possible by a loan from Great Outdoors Colorado and local fundraising efforts including the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s “Save the Lake” campaign.

Public acquisition of the ranch property significantly increases public access to the lake. A Forest Service campground is situated near the lake but lacks direct access, Fitzwilliams noted.

“We’ve had a campground there for a long time, but it’s in a terrible location and does not have good access to the lake,” he said.

Aside from buildings associated with a private outfitter who continues to operate at the site, A.J. Brink, there’s little infrastructure in place to facilitate public recreation, Fitzwilliams said.

Some improvements, including a new boat launch area, are expected to be available to the public by June 2022.

“Additional buildout will follow the completion of a long-term plan, in consultation with the public, for expanding and managing the recreational opportunities at Sweetwater Lake while preserving the unique, relatively undeveloped nature of the property,” according to a joint news release.

Fitzwilliams said planning for the park will follow the federal National Environmental Policy Act procedures. That’s likely to involve a determination for categorical exclusion, or possibly a more extensive environmental assessment, under the federal law, Fitzwilliams said.

The proposed new state park also builds on the Polis administration’s shared stewardship initiative with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, focusing on outdoors and public lands and investing in the state’s $12.2 billion outdoor recreation and tourism economy.

This summer, Polis signed several pieces of legislation related to the outdoors, including the Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass bill, which created a lower-cost state park and public lands pass, and the Outdoor Equity Grant Program, increasing access and opportunities for underserved youth and their families to enjoy Colorado’s outdoors, according to the release.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs said there are some co-managed state and federal sites on federal lands elsewhere in the country. This is the first effort to create a co-managed state park on federal land, he said.

“Sweetwater Lake is a hidden gem, both as a destination and gateway to the Flat Tops Wilderness,” Gibbs said. “The partnership formed to protect and manage this unique landscape is an extension of the state and federal commitment to shared stewardship.”

Added Fitzwilliams, “Working with the state to have (Sweetwater Lake) run as a state park is a way to get some things done to allow the public to enjoy it faster than if it was just the Forest Service.”

Also joining the governor for the announcement Wednesday were Deputy Regional Forester Jacque Buchanan, Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Jessica Foulis and Eagle County Commissioner Jeannie McQueeney.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

On the Fly: Elephants and silver linings

A young lady holds a Fryingpan River brown trout. Scott Spooner

Being a cup half full kind of guy, let’s start with the silver linings in regards to our local fishery this summer. The majority of the Roaring Fork Valley is still (and will remain) on the menu for anglers, when you consider the myriad small streams, creeks, lakes, reservoirs and the ever-cold tailwater. The Fryingpan will always run 40 degrees under the dam, and the upper reaches of the Crystal and Roaring Fork will remain cold all summer as well. For the wade angler, most of what you enjoy fishing will continue to fish well all summer long.

The elephant in the room is concerning temperatures, flows and oxygen content downvalley on the Colorado River and increasingly on the lower Roaring Fork. Keep in mind that this could all change with boosted Fryingpan flows and cool monsoonal trends, if we get lucky. That being said, the writing is already on the wall considering the below-average river volumes. Most of you already know the Colorado River is under 24 hour voluntary closure all the way downstream to Rifle, due to warm and deoxygenated water.

If the lower Roaring Fork gets too hot, local fly shops and the Roaring Fork Fishing Guide Alliance have agreed to reel it up and cease fishing after 2 p.m. on the lower river. This may become an official afternoon-only voluntary closure from Colorado Parks and Wildlife soon, but most local guides are already being proactive to protect this precious resource.

We can all do our part by utilizing a stream thermometer, focusing on higher-up and colder fisheries, and making sure the fish we catch have regained their equilibrium before they swim away. Misinformation abounds during these voluntary closures — many people believe you can’t fish anywhere, which is certainly not the case. The moral of the story is when in doubt, you should head up in elevation, pay attention to temperatures, don’t play fish to exhaustion, and enjoy your time on the water.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Roaring Fork Valley ultrarunner Brian Passenti goes distance, pushes body

Brian Passenti runs along a valley trail during the Moab 240 last October.
Courtesy photo

Many people awaken to their alarm annoyingly blaring and then hesitantly lace up their shoes to go on an early morning jog. These people usually go running for 3 or 4 miles; maybe 10 miles if they’re feeling ambitious.

Brian Passenti takes ambition to the next level. When the Glenwood Springs resident laces up his shoes, he runs well past the 3-mile mark and keeps going for a couple hundred more. Passenti is often by himself for hours, putting one foot in front of the other as he sees how far he can push his body’s limit.

Passenti, 47, is a world-class ultramarathoner, meaning he regularly competes in running races that are longer than the 26.2-mile marathon distance. Passenti has been competing in ultramarathons since 2009, although he got his start in endurance sports much earlier.

“I started running track when I was about 7 years old. Originally I was being trained as a sprinter at these youth track practices, until one day one of the milers didn’t show up to the meet and I kind of threw my hat in the ring to do it,” Passenti said.

Passenti’s dad was hesitant to let his son run a race that was over 10 times the distance of Brian’s usual 100-meter dash, but Brian was set on racing the four-lap, mile-long race.

“I took off that day and ran the mile and probably never ran another 100-meter dash in competition ever again,” Passenti said.

Since the day Passenti stumbled across the longer distances, he has been invigorated by endurance races. Passenti even tried his hand at Ironman triathlons from 2000 to 2009. However, Passenti ultimately fell in love with the process of training and racing in ultramarathons.

Passenti roughly runs 40 to 50 miles a week, a fraction of the distance of his ultra races and fewer miles than a lot of other avid ultramarathoners train at.

Passenti’s training volume seems to be working for him, as last year he finished 43rd overall in the Moab 240 Endurance Run, a race that is the equivalent of running from Glenwood Springs to Yuma on the Eastern plains of the state. The race took Passenti nearly 96 hours, or four consecutive days of nonstop running on unrelenting terrain.

Brian Passenti
Courtesy photo

One reason why Passenti trains at the volume he does is because of his other responsibilities. Passenti is a father of two and he has a job as the recreation director for the town of Basalt. This leaves little time for Passenti to get in the large chunks of training that other ultramarathoners do.

“My life is a juggling act for sure. I often find myself running super early in the morning at like 3 or 4 a.m. or late at night at 9 or 10 o’clock. I’m not a paid athlete by any means, so I have to keep the paying job active and prioritize family life with me having small kids. I make the time to get it in,” Passenti said.

Due to the nature of ultramarathon races being run in the middle of the night, no time is completely unfathomable to Passenti. He has grown used to enjoying a run when the only light source is coming from the moon or the stars and no cars are present on the roads.

For many, it is shocking to consider that Passenti genuinely enjoys running for countless hours and miles. Passenti’s passion, however, comes from his deep desire to see how far he can push his body.

Last year there was one instance of Passenti pushing his body to its limits in not only the Moab 240 Endurance Race but also the buildup to the race.

“There was speculation whether the race was even going to happen due to COVID-19, so this made it mentally challenging for me to still find the motivation to get out the door after I tuck my kids into bed when it is 10 at night.”

In the race itself, there was a moment where Passenti started to wonder if his body had what it took to finish the grueling 240-mile race that traverses the mountains, canyons and deserts surrounding Moab.

Brian Passenti works up a hilly trail.
Courtesy photo

“There was a moment where I was a little touch-and-go. I was with my pacer at the time, and I was so far in the trenches of my own mind that I thought I had laid in the dirt on the side of the trail for over three hours, but my pacer said it was only a mere eight minutes,” Passenti said of one of his most challenging moments.

Passenti said he continues to be driven by the idea of finding out how far he can push the expectations he and others have placed on his body.

Passenti is now training to compete in the Ouray 50-miler on July 31. Passenti noted this is a race in his wheelhouse as he enjoys the San Juan Mountains and the 23,000 miles of vertical climbing over the 50 miles. His goals are to first finish, but then push his body to a fast time or place high in the overall rankings.

“How far can I push myself today? Some days I may not finish but maybe tomorrow I can, that’s what really keeps me going,” Passenti said. “When I started doing triathlons I never thought running 100 miles was a possibility, and now last year I ran 240 miles (in one go).”

cjones@postindependent.com

On the Fly column: The next step is tying your own flies

Scott Spooner ties some flies.
Jake Muse

Thinking of taking that next step and tying your own flies? For most, this phase comes later in their fly fishing career, but it’s never too early to start. You would think tying your own would save you a little money, but I’m not too sure about that. The dividends are paid in a real sense of satisfaction and an entomological education.

The best part is that you really start to pay attention to the size, shape and color of your offerings, and why the fish key in on a certain insect, or more specifically, the life cycle stage of that insect. One caution — many people who are starting to tie try to bite off more than they can chew, attempting the most difficult flies before learning the basics, which ultimately leads to frustration on the vise.

We recommend starting with the basics: San Juan Worms, midge larva, brassies and simple streamers. Learning how to throw consistent thread wraps on a hook and how to whip finish without giving it a lot of thought pays off down the road. We also steer folks away from buying a “kit,” and suggest that they simply build up their selection with materials they’ll actually use, versus a bunch of stuff that they won’t.

It doesn’t take much to get started; all you really need is a good pair of scissors, a comfortable chair and table, a basic vise and a few other oddball tools to get going. No one ever forgets the first fish that they caught on a fly they tied themselves. I know I never will. It may have just been a simple San Juan Worm, but my heart leapt out of my chest when that fish was successfully in the net. Be sure to ask your local fly shop how to get started. Tying your own gives you an entirely new perspective on fly fishing.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Primary hunting draw applications, park visitation up statewide

Primary draw applications in Colorado are up by 74,593 applications from last year, according to data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“What I can tell you is hunting applications were up, hunting license sales last year were up,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.

“Everything in the COVID era, from a wildlife standpoint, is up.”

Hampton said the state is also seeing a 30% increase in park visitations over the last year.

“We continue to set a record for the number of people applying for licenses,” Hampton said, noting that what those applications translate to for the actual number of hunters in the field won’t be known until for several months.

Hampton surmised that some of the increases in primary draw applications could be due to Colorado hunters applying in-state versus going to hunt in other states with family due to COVID-19.

“Some of these increases could be due to other states restricting access for hunters,” Hampton said. “Hard to say if one thing is pushing the numbers or if all factors are driving it.”

In a more localized update, Hampton explained the impacts the Grizzly Creek Fire could potentially have on Glenwood Canyon’s wildlife.

“Fires have an impact, but the impact of fire in terms of big game hunting tends to be access not animal mortality,” Hampton said.

Hampton explained how wildlife in the western United States has evolved a resiliency to wildfires.

Hampton said the state was able to track collared elk during the Cameron Peak Fire.

“We were able to work with the firefighting groups and forest service and (Bureau of Land Management) to bring in their mapping and overlay the fire progression maps with the elk movement data from these collars,” Hampton said. “It was fascinating to watch. But these animals move out of the way of the fire and move right back behind it.”

During the Grizzly Creek Fire, Hampton said Glenwood Canyon’s bighorn sheep hung out along closed sections of Interstate 70 during the fire, in addition to seeking refuge in the Colorado River.

The burned areas left behind by the Grizzly Creek Fire may seem scorched, but Hampton said fire left behind an ideal setting for vegetation growth in those areas.

“If people go up in that burn area there’s a lot of green up,” Hampton said. “The canopy is gone, the sun is hitting those areas and what grows there is extremely nutritious for those big game animals that work their way back in there. There’s some long term benefits for big game.”

However, there are negative implications for the canyon’s aquatic life.

“There are some very big concerns for fisheries in areas where that ash drains into rivers and streams,” Hampton said.

Depending on how quickly the snow melts, ash can either absorb into the ground or run into the drainages, creeks and streams.

“Ash can contain both toxic chemicals, especially in areas where homes and outbuildings may have burned,” Hampton said.

“Anything with chemical composition, or even some bushes when they burn will have toxic elements in terms of being a fish.”

Hampton explained how fine ash particles in heavy quantities can cement in water beds, killing off the invertebrates and insects in the rocks that fish rely on for food.

“If it’s thick enough, if the water becomes muddy, the fish can suffocate from it,” Hampton said.

The ash’s impacts on the rivers and streams in Glenwood Canyon are something the CPW is watching very closely.

Hampton said the CPW is working closely with a team that includes area water managers, utility providers and federal agencies that’s monitoring the aftermath of the fire and making sure water sources are being protected as much as possible.

“That muck can clog diversion structures and irrigation structures,” Hampton said.

“It can be a real problem for municipal water supplies. We’re king of working to take care of all those things too.”

Primary Draw Applications
2020 2021 Percent Increase
Pronghorn 86,913 91,540 5.32%
Elk 215,207 246,602 14.5%
Deer 211,968 228,087 7.6%
Goat 23,388 27,338 16.88%
Sheep 31,192 35,919 15.15%
Moose 45,412 52,823 16.3%
Desert Bighorn 4,398 4,917 11.8%
Fall Bear 30,873 36,718 18.93%
Overall 649,351 723,944 11.48%

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

On the Fly: April showers? Fishing power hours

Gifford Maytham on the Colorado River. Photo Courtesy Scott Spooner

April means many things to fly fishers. For most, it rings in the fair-weather fishing season, as the first waves of blue winged olives and caddis arrive with those April showers. If you’ve ever experienced one of our blizzard caddis hatches on the Colorado or Roaring Fork rivers, you know what I’m talking about. This is a true “breathe through your teeth” hatch, complete with bugs crawling up your nose and between your eyes and polarized lenses. And it’s all starting right now.

Afternoons and early evenings can be magical, as adult female caddis come back to the water to lay their eggs on the water’s surface. Good patterns to carry are Missing Links, Pearl and Elks, and the E/C Caddis. Suggested caddis nymphs are the Z-Wing, soft hackle Hare’s Ears, and the ever-popular beaded Prince Nymph. Remember this — sunny days should favor caddis, while overcast days result in heavier mayfly hatches.

Blue wing olives, or baetis, are the most prolific mayfly in our valley, even though they get second billing behind our world-famous green drake hatch. BWOs are already hatching in good numbers along the lower Roaring Fork up to Basalt, and your best bet to catch this hatch is in the afternoon. Carry a few different patterns, and determine which fly the fish want on that particular day. We strongly suggest the Perfect Baetis, No-Hackle BWOs, Parachute Adams and Roy’s Fryingpan Emergers in sizes 20-22.

BWOs will be slightly larger on the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, (size 18-20) and are smaller on the Fryingpan (size 20-22). Many of us fish a dry fly followed by an emerger or nymph, as many of the naturals get caught in or below the film. The preferred emergers for the Fryingpan are Mayhems, Chocolate Thunders and black RS2s, in addition to Roy Palm’s Biot Baetis, Sparklewing RS2s and Jerome Baetis for the Fork and Colorado. These hatches are directly related to water and air temperatures, and with the warming trends of April, the fishing action only gets better.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

On the Fly: Skinny water days


This time of year brings our lowest and clearest fishing water, and this can cause trout to become more “spooky” than selective. Stealth and accuracy become quite important during low-flow months, as the fish can see and feel more than they will in the high water levels of summer. The insect menu in late winter and early spring is dramatically downsized from the summer buffet of caddis, stoneflies, mayflies, hoppers, craneflies and so on. This doesn’t mean the fish go on hunger strike, but feeding behaviors change, and sensitivity to predators takes center stage. There are a few tricks you can employ during these skinny water days to increase your success.

First off, lengthening and downsizing your leader and tippet (especially on dry flies) will increase your chances on spooky fish. Most trout, regardless of time of year, don’t tolerate fly lines slapping the water anywhere near them, so a longer leader will help out in these cases. A longer leader takes a while to unfurl in the current, so in turn you will get longer drifts with your fly. Downsizing your tippet and even the weight of your rod adds a bit of finesse also. A four weight rod will land flies on the water more softly than your six weight.

Being on the right side of the river really pays off in winter and spring. Keeping your shadow away from the water is a great way to sneak up on wary trout, and walking quietly as possible is important also. False casting should be kept to a minimum in winter. Find your fish, see if it has a feeding rhythm, and present your fly once in a while at the appropriate moment. Casting over and over tends to put fish off their tea. Cast rarely, and when you do, make it count. The fishing here in the Roaring Fork Valley is superb right now, especially if you get a little sneaky.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

On the Fly: Signs of Spring

Guide Kevin Sullivan and a Colorado River rainbow trout. Courtesy of Taylor Creek Fly Shop

Currently it’s a beautiful, sunny day at 60 degrees in downtown Basalt. Spring is starting to show a little early around here, and our rivers are taking note as well. Most all of the ice shelves are subsiding, and our favorite runs are there for the picking. With the early warm temperatures, we have been seeing consistent hatches on all rivers. Dry fly enthusiasts: It’s time to crawl away from the tying desk, grab your favorite dry fly rod and hit the water.

Midges have been hatching in significant numbers, with loads of hungry trout piercing the surface. Not all these midges are microscopic. On both the Roaring Fork and Colorado we have seen some of what we like to call midgezillas, which are a beefy size 16 or so. A small parachute Adams with an #18 to #20 midge dry trailer has been a great combo as of late. Seeing all these bugs is a sure sign of what is to come. Blue wing olives are knocking at our doorstep and should be seen on our local waters in the coming weeks.

When targeting these hatches, avoid faster moving current and look for the soft water. If you find a good foam line you know you’re in the right spot — the foam is home, people. Midges are sitting ducks when they get trapped in these bubbly graves. One helpful tip is to let the fish eat the fly. Our local trout like to delicately sip these smaller bugs, so giving that extra second will result in either hooking your target or sending the flies into the tree behind you. During challenging times, I find feeding a few fish some dry flies is exponentially good for your well-being. Get out there and welcome the first sign of spring — excellent dry fly hatches.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

On the Fly: Fryingpan River wanderings

The tailwater section of the Fryingpan River. Photo courtesy Scott Spooner

Recently I decided to drive up the Fryingpan River. Although I always have several rods rigged and ready to go, there was no real intention to fish this day. Even though I secretly had hopes of finding some rising fish at some point to make a few casts, we really were headed up towards Ruedi to walk the dogs along the river. Along our way up the canyon a good group of bighorn sheep crossed the road in front of us, and some impressive rams were among them. Of course the camera was at home.

Surprisingly, for as warm as it was, and with snow lightly falling, we did not encounter any anglers until “Old Faithful.” Turning into the Rocky Fork day use area, we got the dogs out and headed towards the dam. Several anglers were on the river, and since it was midafternoon (the most productive time of day right now), we witnessed several anglers hooking up and landing fish. Although the light was fairly flat, if you looked hard enough with good polarized glasses you could see actively feeding fish. There were a few rising fish, but the most active fish were feeding on nymphs sub-surface. Sometimes spending a few hours just walking and watching what goes on along the river can be both entertaining and educational.

Driving downriver back to Basalt a bald eagle cruised upriver, the bighorns were still grazing the same hillside, and we crossed paths with a few of our guides headed up river to fish. They reported good fishing the next morning. Flies of choice were foam topped RS2s, Medallion midges, Bill’s midges and House of Harrop midges.

Good fishing abounds throughout the Roaring Fork valley right now; the warming weather has been the key factor. This is “bonus season” (fit neatly between winter and spring), and hatches are improving daily. Whether you need to know where to go, what to use, or hire a guide, stop by your local fly shop and check out what’s happening.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.