Angling picks up as rivers clear |

Angling picks up as rivers clear

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

Fishing on the lower Roaring Fork River is getting raves this week after a couple of weeks of silty conditions drove away anglers and forced area guides to cancel trips or take their clients elsewhere.

An Aug. 6 mudslide in the Fryingpan River Valley blew out the lower Pan and muddied up the Fork below it’s confluence with the Fryingpan in Basalt. The Fork, in turn, spilled whatever sediment it was still carrying by the time it reached Glenwood Springs into the Colorado River.

Factor in the impact of a brief blowout on Maroon Creek near Aspen, which flows into the Roaring Fork, and rainstorms that muddied the Crystal River, which feeds the Fork in Carbondale, and it’s been a tough month for both anglers and area a flyshops.

But, the rivers are clearing and the fishing has been good this week, shops up and down the valley report.

Even last week, when the Roaring Fork was still cloudy below Basalt, the fishing was hot, according to Dave Johnson, owner of the Crystal Fly Shop in Carbondale.

“It was great in the mud. The streamer fishing and nymphing was great,” he said. “Last week, we had some awesome days out there.”

In Glenwood Springs, the Fork was still flowing off-color on Thursday, but Copi Vojta at Roaring Fork Anglers said he caught trout on hopper patterns and a prince nymph on Wednesday evening, after watching fish slam streamer patterns on Tuesday night.

“They’re definitely feeding a lot with the water clearing up,” he said.

With this week’s dry weather expected to continue through the weekend, Jeff Dysart at Alpine Angling in Carbondale expects good fishing and plenty of anglers returning to spots that have been uncharacteristically vacant for a couple of weeks.

Putting boats back on the Roaring Fork is good news for fishing guides. Most shops reported lost business after the Aug. 6 mudslide on the Fryingpan and assorted other weather events that made for less-than-optimal conditions on the lower Fork and Pan. The Roaring Fork above Basalt and the upper Pan have remained in prime condition, though, and have seen the brunt of the fishing lately.

The Fryingpan, however, isn’t floatable and at this time of year, neither is the Roaring Fork above Basalt, which makes the lower Fork key for float-trip operations.

“We canceled a lot of guide trips for the first two weeks of August, for sure,” Dysart said.

Alpine’s sister shop, Roaring Fork Anglers in Glenwood Springs, lost business, too, Vojta said.

“We definitely had to cancel some trips. Everything below Basalt for awhile was unfishable,” he said.

Fryingpan Anglers in Basalt canceled a week’s worth of trips after the mudslide, said Art Rowell, but a float trip early this week on the Fork between Basalt and Carbondale put some 15 trout in the net, he said. The fish are in the faster-moving water, he reported.

While the Roaring Fork may still give the appearance of cloudy conditions, it’s the river bottom that’s silty, according to Tim Heng at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.

“Actually, the water is pretty darn clear. What you’re seeing is the mud that’s still on the bottom,” he said. “The Fork has certainly been fishing terrific from Basalt all the way down to Glenwood.”

In the upper Fryingpan, where plenty of anglers concentrated while the lower Pan and Roaring Fork ran muddy, hatches of green drakes, PMDs and blue-wing olives are still producing dry-fly action, Heng said. And, the section below the mudslide has cleared measurably, he added.

Anglers on the Roaring Fork are having the most luck with nymphs and grasshopper patterns, according to area guides, though some BWO and caddis hatches are still taking place in the afternoons.

Heng suggested small baetis patterns on the Fork ” size 18 and 20 BLMs and pheasant tails. San Juan worms have also been productive, he said.

On the Fryingpan, Rowell recommended size 12 drake patterns and PMD patterns like the AK Best melon quill, pink cahill, a red quill parachute or spinner, and a rusty spinner. If the fish are feeding beneath the surface, try a bead-head bubbleback, anato-may or Lawson’s halfback, he advised.

For hoppers on the Fork, Dysart likes a PMX, streambank hoppers and the paranobyl pattern; Johnson suggested a hopper pattern called the carnage, with a Mexican flag on the dropper.

The Colorado River in Glenwood is frequently a coffee-and-cream color, according to Vojta. Streamer patterns are the best bet there, he said.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is