On the fly: Respect the fish | AspenTimes.com

On the fly: Respect the fish

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kirk WebbNewly emerged green drakes on the shore of the Fryingpan River signal some of the season's best dry-fly fishing.

BASALT – It’s no secret that Colorado is suffering from drought conditions this summer and that it is making for an altogether different type of fishing season this year. Anglers still have an abundance of quality fishing opportunities at hand and there are several ways to make your time on the water productive while still showing respect to our finned friends.

First and foremost, I encourage all anglers to carry a stream thermometer with them to keep tabs on water temperatures. For cold-water species of fish like trout, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends to avoid fishing for these fish when water temperatures reach 72 degrees on our rivers and streams. The lower Roaring Fork River near Glenwood Springs reached the 72-degree mark for the first time this summer on the evening of July 20. Thankfully, with the advent of recent rains, cooler temperatures, in the low- to mid-60s, are now present again.

That said, it’s OK to fish the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers but I encourage anglers to get an early start in the mornings and to be off the water by 3 p.m. to minimize any possible negative impact to the fish. Generally speaking, the rivers are at their coldest at 6 a.m. and at their warmest at 6 p.m.

When handling trout, take the time to fully revive them prior to release and to keep the fish in the water as much as possible. This also means that I discourage the use of taking the obligatory “grip and grin” fish pictures. Quiet water on the edges of the main flow is the ideal water type to revive and resuscitate fish to let them “catch their breath” again, ensuring an ethical release. I also try to fish with the heaviest leader and tippet that I can get away with to land fish as quickly as possible, which is a practice that all should do regardless of water temperatures or time of year.

Don’t overlook the middle and upper Roaring Fork River either, where high water temperatures are not an issue. The cold water of the Fryingpan River empties into the Roaring Fork River in Basalt which aids in regulating and cooling the warmer waters of the Roaring Fork, acting much like a swamp cooler for the river.

As always, the Fryingpan River is fishing superbly well with water temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Good hatches of green drake and pale morning dun mayflies are present daily, yielding some of the West’s best fishing opportunities. Don’t give up fishing this summer; just be more conscious of your surroundings.