On the fly: Be not afraid

Will Sands
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Kirk WebbTravis Lyons hooks a trout on the Roaring Fork River near the lower Woody Creek Bridge.

BASALT – As we move into spring, the most significant change we will begin to see is the changing of water clarity, especially on the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

While water clarity certainly affects fishing conditions, it sometimes is to the angler’s advantage. While we are blessed with our local rivers running practically gin clear throughout most of the year, the first signs of discolored water often scare anglers from getting out and getting a line wet. However, as our water conditions change from gin clear to slightly off-color, this change can make for exceptional fishing with some slight adjustments.

The first adjustment that anglers need to make when they approach off-colored water is to distinguish between just off-colored or truly blown-out and unfishable. A general rule of thumb is green in good, brown is bad.

This simply means that if the river has taken on a green color, it is more than fishable, but if it is chocolate-brown then it is probably time to head elsewhere. But before you perceive the river as blown out, you need to determine if there is any visibility at all. This can quite simply be determined by actually wading out into a foot to 2 feet of water and looking down at your boots. If you can see your boots in 2 feet of water, it is more than fishable.

Also take note of the fact that the clearest water is along the bank, and fish generally will move tighter and closer to the bank. Sometimes it can be as simple as finding out which tributary is carrying the discolored water into the river and then moving above it to find clear water and happy trout.

The next step to taking on off-colored water is increasing the size and brightness of your flies. Larger and brighter flies will be noticed more readily in the off-colored water. Generally speaking, fly patterns such as San Juan worms, Pat’s Rubber Legs, red copper johns, large prince nymphs and large stonefly patterns will produce well in off-colored water.

So remember, just because things are changing a bit does not mean that it’s time to give up. Always remember that the Fryingpan River always will run gin clear from the base of the dam downstream when everything else in the valley gets too muddy to fish.