On The Fly: Still plenty of places to go | AspenTimes.com

On The Fly: Still plenty of places to go

Kirk Webb
On The Fly
Spring bloom in the High Country.
Photo by Kirk Webb |

It should be of no surprise to any valley local or visiting tourist that our rivers are running high and discolored. Even the normally tame waters of the Fryingpan River are virtually devoid of anglers right now, with the lone exception being an area immediately below the dam dubbed as the “flats.”

While most fly anglers are eternal optimists, it can be a little disheartening to see your favorite stretch of river spilling beyond its banks and looking like a glass of chilled Kahlua.

Don’t fret. There are still an overwhelming number of places to go, things to do, hatches to hit and fish to catch.

I was fortunate enough to have some extra days off and time spent out of the fly shop this past week. Like every year during runoff, I rack my brain trying to come up with some sort of plan of attack for a half-ass fishing vacation. As my friends and family will attest to, I’ve never been very good at planning. I enjoying “winging it” if you will, where I can check the weather, water flows and other fishing intelligence online via computer or phone, and then head out the door with the proper camping and fishing gear packed. My mental checklist usually delves to thoughts of my beloved warmwater fisheries that teem with bass, sunfish and carp among other species of fish. This is my safety net if you will, as I know that these fish can tolerate high sun and high water temperatures while I wait on our local rivers to clear and drop for the green drake hatch.

As I pried a little deeper through the tangles of my brain, thoughts of fishing the placid waters of the high country and of fish that have eluded me since last summer, or in one instance, several years, eventually came to mind. Arctic Grayling are a trout-like species of fish originally stocked in select Colorado lakes several decades ago in efforts to entertain and provide anglers with a beautiful sport fish and good table fare. While the stocking of these unique fish have since terminated, their wild off-spring are prolific in a small handful of high lakes and creeks.

After a little bit of research and some solid hand-me-down knowledge, I took off to the Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction. I knew that I’d be on the cusp of ice-off being above 10,000 feet in elevation. It’d be a bit of a gamble where I’d need either an ice auger and a HumVee to catch fish or, if I was lucky, the ice would have just started to recede and grayling would be cruising the banks. The former was the case, and despite being shafted by large amounts of snow, there were a small handful of slightly lower elevation lakes that were open water and held eager cutthroats, rainbows and browns.

After a few days spent on the Mesa, I returned to the blistering 90-degree heat of the valley floor and hiked into some bass and sunfish ponds. I threw poppers until dark, caught more fish than I deserved, and then sat on my tailgate watching the Colorado sun set while drinking my last lukewarm beer. It was here that despite my lack of planning skills, I took a Post-it note, placed it in my gazetteer on the appropriate page and penned a quick note that said, “Grayling – Wait till the end of June” for future endeavors.

Besides going on grayling “ghost hunts” to the Grand Mesa, local anglers should take advantage of fishing our freshly iced off stillwaters, including Grizzly Reservoir near Aspen, Maroon Lake in Snowmass, Lake Christine and Chapman in Basalt, along with Dinkle and Thomas Lakes near Carbondale or Beaver Lake in Marble.

“On the Fly” is provided weekly by the staff at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.