On the Fly: Air-borne browns
It’s finally offseason for anglers. By that I mean that the number of visiting anglers dwindles dramatically, leaving the rivers and other various waterways to the dedicated anglers in-the-know.
Just because it’s fall does not mean that our fishing falls off. On the contrary, the fish begin to feed with a renewed vigor.
Brown trout in particular are synonymous with Indian summers, changing leaves and crisp morning air. Spawning urges will enter the equation soon, and the pre-spawn time period offers anglers one of their best shots at hooking a large brown trout. The fish feed heavily, packing on weight and gaining energy prior to spawning efforts in the coming weeks.
Some of the best fishing is currently taking place on the Roaring Fork River below Carbondale, as well as the Colorado River below Glenwood Springs. This is the ideal time of year to float these heralded rivers; the valley floor is approaching peak color and the fishing, more often than not, is amazing.
On a recent day off, I floated the Colorado River from Silt to Rifle with talented oarsman Gifford Maytham and streamer-wielding maniac Travis Lyons. The river just started to clear over the past week and water visibility was limited to about 12 to 18 inches — certainly not ideal, but much improved after months of having less than a 6 inches of visibility, rendering it essentially unfishable.
Travis rigged up a large articulated black streamer and began banging the banks with laser-like precision. He immediately started moving fish, fish that gave you all of the visual excitement of butter hued, streaking brown trout, but swing at and miss your fly at the so-called moment of truth. Unfazed, Travis continued on.
Minutes later he strip-set on a solid 20-inch-plus brown trout that raced into a swiftly moving run deep in the middle of the Colorado River on a mission to tow us to Grand Junction. The fish jumped wildly, like they seemingly only do in the fall, doing cartwheels over the purple mountains, blue water and vibrant riparian foliage.
We didn’t land many fish over the course of the day, but the fish we did land were all solid fish averaging 18 inches. As is often the case, I missed the fish of the day. I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I was zoning out in the beauty of my surroundings when a large brown trout hit my streamer on my first strip as the fly was still high in the water column, near the water’s surface. The fish skimmed completely out of water and came down on top of my fly as if to stun it. I set the hook in the excitement and came back empty handed with just my dangling fly.
What I should have done was kept the fly in there and let him strike it again. And so it goes. Fish like that haunt me in my dreams for several days and keeps me coming back every fall when the temperatures begin to slide.
“On the Fly” is provided weekly by the staff at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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