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Fishing report: The ‘fifth season’ is under way

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

During the winter months we often preach about the superb fishing that takes place along the Fryingpan River.

This tailwater fishery yields water temperatures of 40 degrees on a year-round basis. This makes for ideal trout habitat, providing warm water during the winter and cold water throughout the summer. Due to the unseasonably warm water temperatures of the Fryingpan River, the Roaring Fork River’s resident trout also benefit from this warmth. Below the confluence of the Fryingpan along the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, these freestone trout feed routinely and opportunistically throughout the winter months; this is something of a phenomenon for the majority of freestone rivers in the Rocky Mountain West, which are typically rendered unfishable due to inaccessibility from ice and snow.

February is often called the “fifth season” by fly-fishing anglers and guides in the know. It’s kind of like the kickoff to the season for us, as we get to watch the fishing explode this month. With the longer and warmer days come some incredible midge hatches and yes, dry-fly fishing.

Anglers should take note that the fish will gradually begin to move out of their traditional winter holding areas, which are typically the deeper and slower pools, transitioning into riffles and shallower seams and feeding aggressively on midge pupae and adults. Backwater sloughs are also great areas to look for fish sipping midge adults during late afternoons. By the end of the month, these midge hatches will often become so heavy that the midge adults will begin to cluster and ball up, so to speak, blanketing the surface of the water.

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Some of the best winter fly-fishing occurs right through the town of Basalt along Two Rivers Road. Winter hot-spots include: Carcass, Red Car, Two Stumps, Buddah and Lower Bypass pools. Most local fly shops carry river access maps and will gladly guide you to these areas and suggest current fly patterns.

As of late, my top flies have included Tungsten Hoovers, Polywing Emergers, Ribbed RS2s, Pheasant Tails, Bling Midges, Hi-Vis Griffiths Gnats, Bills Midge Emergers and Sprout Midges. All of these flies should be carried in sizes 18-22. Attractor patterns such as Flashtail Eggs, 20 Inchers and Prince nymphs are also fishing well.

Enjoy the fishing!


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