Get to the river, get to the trout
June 15, 2005
The Roaring Fork Valley provides access to some of the trout fishing around. Of course, plenty of places in Colorado and across the West can make that claim, probably with equal validity.But if youre reading this, chances are, youre planning on trying your luck in these parts. Despite the proliferation of homes going up in spots where anglers used to stroll across sagebrush 20 years ago, theres still plenty of access to the Roaring Fork River and the Fryingpan, if you know where to look.As for the trophy fish of your dreams, thatll be up to you and Mother Nature. Fortunately, with two Gold Medal stretches of river right outside your door, shes on your side.So if youre among those willing to match wits with the wily water-dwellers, here are some suggestions on where to find them. By the way, make sure you purchase a fishing license, available at fly shops (naturally) and City Market grocery stores in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood. While youre picking up the license, grab a free copy of the states fishing regulations, so youll know what kind of tackle your allowed to use and what you can or cannot keep in the way of anything you happen to catch. A lot of the best stretches along local rivers are catch-and-release only (so they can remain the best stretches).Lost Man ReservoirLocated off Hwy. 82 as it heads toward Independence Pass, east of Aspen, the reservoir offers opportunities for bait and fly-fishing. Its a quick walk from the parking area to the lake a short enough haul to bring along a lawn chair if youre inclined to recline. Brook trout crowd the stream feeding the reservoir and stocked rainbows can make a rod tip bend. A good spot to take the kiddies. As youre headed up the pass, watch for Lost Man Campground on your right; parking for the reservoir is on the left.
Maroon LakeFor fishing in unparalleled splendor, pack your rod and head for Maroon Lake, framed by the towering Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. The scenery makes the experience memorable, even if you dont manage to land a trout. Hint: Some of the best angling is found at the upper end of the lake, where the creek flows in. However, no wading and no boats are allowed.Keep in mind that vehicle access to the lake is limited during the summer months. Throughout the day, youll have to take a bus. (For information on bus service to Maroon Lake, call the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority at 925-8484.) Another thing: your angling exploits will not only be scrutinized by the crowds that flock to the lake, youre likely to wind up in somebodys vacation pics or video, so look sharp. If you have youngsters in tow, Maroon Lake is a good choice. All types of tackle are allowed; a daily bag limit allows anglers to take their catch home if they wish.Roaring Fork RiverIn the upper Roaring Fork Valley, the Gold Medal waters of the Fork are easily accessed from the Rio Grande Trail, which follows the river as it flows northwest out of town. Most stretches are fair game, but keep in mind, it remains fly-fishing, catch-and-release only.Basalt/Old Snowmass TrailAt the Old Snowmass Conoco on Hwy. 82, turn onto River Road and follow the trail signs to a small parking lot (space is limited). Walk down the trail a few hundred feet, past the utility building and off to the left, and follow the signs down the rustic trail through sagebrush to the Roaring Fork River. Here, youll find some tranquil pools in the river. A fairly quiet spot, its the only Roaring Fork access from the Basalt/Old Snowmass Trail.Dart Ranch in Old SnowmassThis managed fishing access on the Roaring Fork River offers some superb habitat in a pristine setting. The historic ranch, home to a large herd of elk and deer, is privately owned, but an arrangement has been made that opens it to anglers. Eight free permits are allowed each day; pick one up at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt (927-4374). The shop will give you directions to the best parking spots along Hwy. 82 or on River Road.Downtown BasaltTheres an amazing amount of public fishing access in and around the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. Heres the lowdown on where you can go: On the bank of the Fryingpan where it meets the Roaring Fork (the downtown side); on the bank of the Roaring Fork just downstream from the confluence (downtown side); on the Fryingpan behind the Riverside Grill restaurant complex; most of the other bank across the Fryingpan from the Riverside Grill, from Two Rivers Road up to Swinging Bridge Lane; and off the public trail near the new Ute Center condos at the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork.Fisherman ParkPerhaps not the greatest fishing, despite its moniker, but its walking distance from downtown Basalt on Two Rivers Road, across from Elk Run. Recent work has really spruced this park up adding bathrooms, picnic tables and many new trees. Its also a great put-in spot for noncommercial rafters and kayakers.
Fryingpan RiverFor fly-fishers, the Pan has been a national shrine for almost a century. Fryingpan Road runs along the river for much of its course, and through many stretches of public lands with easy pull-offs, so access is plentiful up and down this spectacular red sandstone valley. Don’t expect to have the river to yourself. Locals often avoid the upper waters and spread out down the rest of the river, where good populations of 12- to 17-inch rainbows and browns co-exist. Be watchful for private ownership and No Trespassing signs. Fishing is by permission only from mile 5 to 5.4 along the river. Anglers should also ask local fishing shops about extra water releases from Ruedi Reservoir that might impact streamflows.Hooks BridgeLocated off Willits Lane just past the Midvalley Design Center in Basalt, Hooks Bridge is off to the left. The small community of Hooks contains a boat ramp, a river easement and a bridge crossing the river near the railroad tracks. Fishing access is from the bridge upstream for a quarter-mile on the north bank.Lake ChristineA small lake surrounded by marshlands with nesting waterfowl thats close to downtown Basalt. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout. This Division of Wildlife land, also home to the Lake Christine shooting range, is located off Homestead Avenue, one street up the hill from downtowns Midland Avenue. Take Homestead Road for about a half-mile. The entrance is on the right. No dogs are allowed near the lake.Roaring Fork ClubThis 18-hole private golf course has improved life for fishermen not only by cleaning up the river, restoring its natural path and revegetating its banks, but also by providing convenient parking spaces for anglers. Go to the clubs new administration building (the log building along Highway 82 just upvalley from Basalt); look for parking signs. Anglers have access to the one-mile stretch thats owned by the club (15 feet from the rivers edge). Access is for catch-and-release trout fishing only, and isnt meant for the new spring creek, which meanders alongside the river. Thats private and for club members only.
Ruedi ReservoirCreated by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1968, Ruedi Reservoir has improved the fishery below the dam by regulating streamflow and creating a gravel area that provides spawning beds for brown trout. Expect to see rainbow, brown, lake trout and Kokanee salmon in the reservoir. Theres lots of camping, a public boat ramp and walk-in access here. The Fryingpan Valley is also the gateway to numerous small mountain lakes in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and surrounding forests. Check with the Sopris Ranger District (963-2266) for maps and details.The Other River ParkBasalt doesnt really have a name for this 11-acre riverfront park. Most people just call it the River Park. This is a great escape into dense cottonwoods and willows. To reach it, go to the rear of the vacant lot thats across from the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park near the main Basalt intersection. Go down the steep slope and some wood boards will help you across a small pond without getting your feet too wet. From there, a river-rock-lined path meanders through some cottonwoods and emerges onto a river island. You actually cross a river beach with sand just like any other beach. The trail then leads into a thicket of willows and gets you close to the river. There are plenty of fallen trees around the rivers edge. Its wonderful fishing access, just feet from town but in another world.Tree FarmThe 128-acre Mount Sopris Tree Farm in El Jebel borders the Roaring Fork River. Its owned by Eagle County and is the home of an Eagle County office building and community center. It offers great fishing access in a relatively rural setting, given its proximity to town. Turn at the El Jebel intersection of Highway 82 and Valley Road. This fishing spot is accessed off Valley Road, about 1.5 miles upstream on the north side of the river. Parking is available on the western end of the access.
Two Rivers RoadTwo Rivers Road in Basalt offers great Roaring Fork River access. The road, which runs alongside the river, is owned by the state (it used to be the old highway), and most of the little pull-off areas are fair game for parking.Airport AccessAviation fans can fish along the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport and watch the small planes land. Pilots have been known to fly into the airport just to fish along these banks. Access is one-third of a mile on the south side of the Roaring Fork River, accessed at the south end of the runway.Aspen GlenThere are two good access points around Aspen Glen, the private golf course and neighborhood between Carbondale and Glenwood neither is reached by entering Aspen Glen.The first one is the Richard Burry property. This fishing access is located downstream from Aspen Glen, along one mile of river on the north side. Theres plenty of room for parking and its a nice hike through sagebrush down to the river. Look for the DOW trailhead sign. (This trailhead serves extensive river frontage easements in a scenic oxbow of the river containing graceful cottonwoods, sandy banks and pastures rolling down to the waters edge; eagles and raptors are known to inhabit the area.) To get there from Carbondale, take Highway 133 to Highway 82 and turn left. Once you pass mile marker 10, watch for a dirt-road turnoff to the left. If you come to mile marker 9, youve gone too far. Your best clue is to look left for a distant barn painted with a railroad car. A large green sign explains the access rules.The other Aspen Glen access is found at the north end of County Road 109. Parking is at the sanitation plant. Access is from the lower boundary of Aspen Glen to the eastern boundary of BLM land about two miles on the south bank.Catherine Store BridgeAlong County Road 100 (the back road) between Carbondale and Emma, theres fishing access at the Catherine Bridge. Set along the railroad tracks, this access point offers dramatic views. The access is 30 feet from the centerline of the bridge in both directions.CRMS Bridge (County Road 108)To access the Crystal River confluence with the Roaring Fork, its best to park at the Satank Bridge and walk upstream on the Crystal. But you can also cross the CRMS Bridge (named for nearby Colorado Rocky Mountain School), where youll see a path down to the Crystal. Access is on the north side, one-quarter mile to the Satank Bridge on the south side of the river. Access is also up the north side of the Crystal to the CRMS Bridge. To get there, turn west onto Main Street from the Highway 133 traffic light and proceed about a half-mile.Days InnFish the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers at Carbondale. From downtown Carbondale, head out Highway 133 to Highway 82, take a right and then another immediate right. Here, the buzz of two highways is quieted by the sounds of the water. Youll find a parking area and a sign telling you all about the fishing access. Anglers have about a half-mile of riverbank and river to wade here. The road can be rough for low-clearance vehicles, so park up top and walk down if youd prefer.Fish HatcherySurprisingly, the Division of Wildlifes Crystal River Fish Hatchery, located along the Crystal River and Highway 133, about a half-mile south of town, also welcomes anglers just not where its growing the fish. The DOW has riverfront property here. Access is from the Highway 133 bridge to the bridge by the hatchery on both sides of the river. Access is also along the east side of the end of DOW property. Visitors to the hatchery are welcome. Here youll see concrete troughs filled with trout of all sizes. Feel free to drool.Lilly BridgeAbout five miles south of Carbondale on Highway 133, youll find the Lilly Bridge on Nettle Creek. Theres not much parking off the highway, though. Access is 250 feet on the east side of the river and 165 feet on the west side. SatankThe old settlement of Satank the first new town on the Aspen branch of the old Denver & Rio Grande railroad, laid out in 1885 was originally called Rockford. To access the river in this area, take Highway 133 from Carbondale and turn left on Highway 82. Travel down to where the guardrail stops, and take a left across the oncoming lanes onto Satank Road. About a half-mile down the road, there will be some parking spots. Walk across the irrigation ditch to find the access. Or, continue down the road to where the old bridge is now closed and the road dead ends. You can fish that side downstream. Watch for property signs and DOW access signs. You can also get to this fishing access without getting on the highway by taking the side roads to the other dead end of the bridge. Check a local map.Staircase ParkThis small park is behind the Crystal Village subdivision and accesses the Crystal River. This spot is a good one during spawning season when fish come up from the Roaring Fork. Its also a great place to take beginning anglers who need to learn some basics. To get there, turn west from Highway 133 onto Main Street at the 7-Eleven and head past the City Market complex. Take the last entrance to Crystal Village on the left, then an immediate right on Oak Run Road, which hooks around. Go about .2 miles and look for the sidewalk and sign to your right (its in-between two houses). The sidewalk is a little difficult to see. Take the 40-step stairway down to the river park, where there are two picnic tables and two firepits. Its a quiet spot.Glenwood ParkIn South Glenwood, river access in the Glenwood Park neighborhood is located from Three-Mile Creek upstream for a half-mile and downstream for 200 feet on the south side.Sunlight BridgeIf you follow the prolific signs to Sunlight Ski Resort near Glenwood Springs, youll find the Sunlight Bridge. River easements exist on both sides of the Roaring Fork here. Downstream access is for one-quarter mile. Upstream, you can fish the south side for a half-mile and north side for one-quarter mile.Two Rivers ParkThis landmark municipal park fronts the Colorado River, and connects to the citys river trails system. It offers plenty of angling access. You get there by taking Highway 6 thats the road on the Hotel Colorado side of Interstate 70 north and turning back toward the river. After the turn, its a short drive and the park entrance is on your left. Cross the river and youve gone too darn far.Veltus ParkThis graceful streamside park is easily accessible from downtown Glenwood Springs; take Eighth Street across the Roaring Fork, then turn left and then make another quick left into the park. Theres a rare handicap-access ramp, and you cant ask for easier access to the river. The bridge you cross on Eighth Street is also a smaller access point. This park has playgrounds, picnic areas and other amenities if youre an angler wondering what to do with your spawn during the fishing excursion.Westbank BridgeHead upvalley on Highway 82 and follow the signs for The Club at Ironbridge golf course (the turn is near mile marker 5). The fishing access is upstream of the Westbank bridge on both sides of the Roaring Fork for 200 feet. It continues upstream on the north side for an additional one-quarter mile. Here, the Westbank State Wildlife Area provides a primitive boat ramp and foot access across the historic Westbank bridge to County Road 109 a scenic bike ride to Carbondale. The boat ramp is just upstream of the bridge on the rivers north side. Here you can fish amidst the hills of Westbank, which contain the historic coal-mining region of Spring Valley/coal basin. To the east are the same stratified red sandstone encampments reminiscent of the splendor of the Glenwood Canyon.Glenwood CanyonA concrete bicycle path runs the length of Glenwood Canyon, paralleling not only Interstate 70, but the Colorado River, providing fishing access all along the way. The path is accessible from both ends of the canyon, as well as interstate exits within the canyon. The Colorado River is also a popular with rafters and kayakers, but its used most intensively by paddlers during the spring runoff, when you wont be fishing anyway.