On the fly: Fishing big water on the Colorado | AspenTimes.com

On the fly: Fishing big water on the Colorado

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kirk WebbTaylor Creek guide Gifford Maytham shows off his catch on the Colorado River.

BASALT – The Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers are some of the country’s most renowned trout waters. Both rivers are relatively small and lend themselves as ideal fisheries to walk and wade fish.

The Colorado River below Glenwood Springs is often intimidating at first glance for most newcomers. The sheer size of the river alone makes this a welcomed playground for anglers who prefer to float our rivers in rafts and dory boats. Accessing the Colorado River on foot is certainly not for the faint of heart. Sure, there are some easy areas to fish on foot (like the bike path through Glenwood Canyon), though much of the Colorado River will require plenty of boulder-hopping and hiking.

I find that perhaps the biggest key to unlocking the jaws of the many eager trout in this big river is to keep in mind that the vast majority of these fish live near the banks. Breaking a singular piece of large water down into smaller sections will allow you to maintain your focus. It’s a rarity that I ever need to wade deeper than my thighs in this seemingly big water. I have found that this helps keep the intimidation factor to a minimal.

As many of my fishing partners will openly tell you, my absolute favorite hatch that takes place in our valley throughout the entire year is the early spring midge hatch on the Colorado River. This is easily the most overlooked and underrated hatch due for a variety of reasons. This is not a clockwork-type hatch like say, the green drake mayfly on the Fryingpan or the spring caddis along the Roaring Fork. During most afternoons and even into the evening hours, midges hatch in massive numbers creating fish feeding frenzies that are unparalleled in our valley.

Ask any local fly fishing guide where they fish on their off days, and you’ll likely hear everyone of them reply with the Colorado River. These fish are downright mean. How does a pissed-off rainbow trout with the size and vigor of a fresh sea-run steelhead casually sipping dry flies in soft and shallow water sound to you? Yep, me too!

Keep an eye on the weather and fish this river on the warmest of days under overcast weather for optimum conditions. Even then, nothing is guaranteed in life and I’ve missed this event more often than I’ve hit it. Put in your dues, and when the stars magically align, count your blessings and consider yourself lucky. This hatch legitimately changed me and ruined me. All of my best days that I’ve had on the water, I compare to this hatch, on this river. Nothing’s ever come close.


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