On the Fly: Reading the runoff tea leaves | AspenTimes.com

On the Fly: Reading the runoff tea leaves

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Seven Castles Creek entering the Fryingpan River last spring.
Scott Spooner/Special to The Aspen Times

Without fail, the springtime fly-shop parlor game has begun — what’s the spring runoff going to be like this year? There couldn’t be two more vastly different water years than this one and last; wildly swinging snow totals are the new normal. Considering the drought battles of last summer compounded with forest fires, we are certainly sitting prettier compared with last time around. We had historic snow this winter, and Aspen had its second snowiest year ever recorded!

We have already seen some “early runoff” out there as we have warmed up, but don’t let off-color water send you packing quite yet. Runoff won’t begin in earnest until mid-May. The Crystal River has already popped a few times with a bit of mud and increased volume, and we will see all of the freestone rivers yo-yo a bit as we ease in to spring. The Eagle River has contributed some off-color water to the Colorado this week, as well.

Once we get a week of bright sun, caddis will enter the equation for fish and anglers alike! Usually by tax day we start to see the first waves of these bigger bugs, with the first major emergence anticipated around Mother’s Day just as runoff takes off. The warm and cloudy weather we’ve had all week (and next) has offered up some incredible blue winged olive hatches, we are seeing these mayflies on the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers all the way up to Basalt.

So, what’s runoff going to be like? This depends on how quickly we warm up. Usually you can bet your bottom dollar that runoff will occur from May 15 to June 20, but if I were a betting man, I’d say it will start earlier in May and last later into June this time around. However it works out, it will, and our slippery local river inhabitants will be very happy with more cold water this summer than last time around. Let the tea leaf reading begin!

This column is provided by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374.