Fishing report: Fork vs. Fryingpan

Will Sands
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – The mid-summer switch is on.

Fishing has still been very good to excellent, but this ongoing switch involves different hatches and tactics between the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, and often catches anglers off-guard.

July is the forgiving month on the Roaring Fork, with lots of caddis, green drakes and eager fish throughout its length. But now, as we move forward into August and water levels subside on the Fork, the big, early-summer insect hatches have ceased. Our smaller mayflies, midges and more technical conditions can frustrate anglers who were catching fish so easily just weeks ago.

However, the exact opposite is occurring on the Fryingpan!

Anglers need to shift gears on the Roaring Fork. Instead of heavy tippet, large dries and big nymphs, it is time to get “techy.” Anglers fishing the Roaring Fork need to drop down to 5X and even 6X fluorocarbon tippets and much smaller flies. Blue-winged olives and midges are now going to be abundant, and nymph fishing the deeper pockets and pools will be much more productive than dry-fly fishing or dry-dropper configurations. The Roaring Fork is still fishing very well; it just requires a bit of adjustment to entice strikes.

On the other hand, the Fryingpan is reaching its peak. The green drake hatch is just beginning to really intensify and pale morning duns (PMDs), blue-winged olives (BWOs) and evening rusty spinner falls are in full swing. Water temperatures delay hatches on the Fryingpan until mid-August, and throughout the rest of this month some of the year’s best dry-fly fishing can be had. While small flies are required on the Fork now, big Drakes and sizable PMDs remain the norm on the ‘Pan. Most anglers would agree these large bugs are much more enjoyable to thread onto one’s leader and watch drift along the currents while awaiting an eager strike.

The hot flies on the Roaring Fork this week will be Swiss straw emergers, Mercer’s micro mayfly, dark STDs, prince nymphs 18-16s and freestone emergers. Fryingpan flies will consist of green drake cripples, dandelion drakes, KGB, flag dun PMDs, PMD film critics, poxyback PMDs and PMD Barr emergers.