On the Fly: The state of the fishery

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Graphic courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife
CPW 22 Colorado Closure

They say that history may not always repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Low flows and warm water concerns are back again this year in the lower-elevation parts of the valley.  The majority of the Roaring Fork Valley is still (and will remain) on the menu for anglers, when you consider the myriad small streams, creeks, lakes, reservoirs and the ever-cold tailwater. The Fryingpan will always run 40 degrees under the dam, and the upper reaches of the Crystal and Roaring Fork will remain cold all summer as well. For the wade angler, most of what you enjoy fishing will continue to fish well all summer long.

The elephant in the room is concerning temperatures, flows, and oxygen content downvalley on the Colorado River and increasingly on the lower Roaring Fork. Keep in mind that this could all change with boosted Fryingpan flows and cool monsoonal trends if we get lucky. That being said, the writing is already on the wall considering the below-average river volumes. Most of you already know the Colorado River is under 24-hour voluntary closure all the way downstream to Rifle, due to warm and deoxygenated water.

If the lower Roaring Fork gets too hot, local fly shops and the Roaring Fork Fishing Guide Alliance have agreed to reel it up and cease fishing in the afternoons on the lower river. This may become an official afternoon-only voluntary closure from Colorado Parks and Wildlife soon, but most local guides are already being proactive to protect this precious resource.

We can all do our part by utilizing a stream thermometer, focusing on higher-up and colder fisheries, and making sure the fish we catch have regained their equilibrium before they swim away. Misinformation abounds during these voluntary closures — many people believe you can’t fish anywhere, which is certainly not the case. The moral of the story is when in doubt you should head up in elevation, pay attention to temperatures, don’t play fish to exhaustion, and enjoy your time on the water while putting the fish first.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or