On the fly: The forgotten Crystal
CARBONDALE – During the busy summer fishing season, the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers receive the vast majority of the fishing pressure throughout our wonderful valley. The Crystal River, which flows from above the town of Marble downstream to its confluence with the Roaring Fork in Carbondale, often goes unnoticed except by those anglers in the know. This is funny to me because if the Crystal River was located in some far off destination, it would probably rank as a top-notch blue ribbon trout stream instead of being overshadowed by other superior fisheries.
The Crystal has always been a favorite river of mine. It is one of the few places where anglers have the opportunity for a grand slam; catching a rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout all in the same day. For many fly fishers, earning the grand slam is the pinnacle of their fishing careers. Perhaps the biggest benefit to me though, is the fact that the Crystal River offers solitude amid one of the prettiest backdrops in the entire state.
Anglers should not expect to catch very many large fish out of the Crystal, as an average fish is generally in the 6- to 12-inch range. On occasion though, fish of 18 to 20 inches are caught. Unlike the technical waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork, the fish of the Crystal are not very match-the-hatch oriented. This is a good thing in my opinion, as I can often get away with just a small handful of flies tucked neatly into my shirt pocket.
Dry/dropper setups are highly effective here due to the vast amount of pocket water that is present. Due to the nature of fishing the roily pocket water, the fish don’t have time to inspect your offerings. Insect hatches are not as plentiful here as they are on our other local waters, which often make the fish of the Crystal more opportunistic feeders.
Grasshopper and caddis patterns in sizes 8-14, such as Charlie Boy hoppers, stimulators and elk hair caddis will fish well as dry flies on the dry/dropper rig. Generic beadhead nymphs such as princes, pheasant tails and copper Johns are all good dropper flies to try. Space your two flies about 2 to 3 feet apart for the best results. Cover water and move quickly, pitching your flies from one pocket into the next. If you’re anything like me, you won’t overlook the forgotten river again.
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