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On the Fly: Powder brings out anglers’ best

Kirk Webb
On the Fly
A stillborn midge
Kirk Webb/Taylor Creek Flyshop |

Monday morning started off slowly for me. A quick glance at my indoor weather station said that it was 27 degrees outside at 6:30 a.m. I slept like a baby after my buddy Travis hiked my butt off in knee-deep snow wading around on the Colorado River in Silt and the Roaring Fork in Glenwood Springs on Sunday. There was a good foot or so of fresh snow on the ground. Local schools were canceled, and I suspect that more than a few ski bums called in sick to work that day.

After getting some coffee going, I looked out on my deck to find that I forgot to put my waders and boots inside after fishing the day before. They were frozen stiff and upright, giving the appearance of a dead fisherman standing on my doorstep. I grabbed my icicled wading gear and took them into the shower with me to quickly thaw out while I too got ready for the day.

Epic powder days exude a certain amount of magic in ski towns. Everyone seems to be in an uplifting mood, fishermen included. Knowing I’d probably be the only half-wit fisherman on the Fryingpan River that day, I suited up in my now steaming waders and boots and threw two 3-weight fly rods into my SUV. As suspected, there was too much snow to pull into any of the turnouts along the entire river. When I finally arrived at the Rocky Fork day-use area below the dam, there was already a pickup truck with a tow strap pulling out another angler who went off the road in his SUV. It seems as if someone else had the same idea I had: a powder day for a fisherman.

After he was successfully pulled out, I introduced myself. He too had the idea of seeking a day of solitude and looking for risers. While chatting, I grabbed my shovel out of my car and together Matt and I began digging a parking area off the side of the road big enough for the two of our cars to fit into. He bummed me a few midge dry flies that he had tied before we separated from each other at Baetis Bridge; he went upstream and I down.

On our way down to the river, we both noticed a fairly fresh set of car tracks leading down to the dam. We both knew that the person either had a lifted off-road truck or simply had made the mistake of thinking their car would be able to make it back out. It ended up being the latter, with a young fishing couple from Montana stuck in the deep snow. Being they were from Montana and obviously outdoors people, I assumed they’d know how to get their car out. I told them I had a shovel on the back of my car for them to use and that if they needed a ride back into town that I’d be fishing below the bridge and to come get me.

After a brief but hard hike into Slide Pool through the waist-deep snow, I saw a few fish rise on the far bank. I brushed some Frog’s Fanny into my size-22 hatching midge and caught a handful of fish over the course of the next hour. Sometimes I don’t feel the need to be out there all day long, and today I was satisfied with simply having the river virtually to myself and catching a few fish on dries. I looked upstream for my newfound buddy Matt to no avail. I did have the whole Fryingpan River to myself!

Climbing back up the hill to my car, I saw the couple from Montana shoveling snow with Matt and another fisherman. With four guys now shoveling and pushing, we finally managed to get their car onto the pavement. After a quick thank-you, the couple said it was truly amazing in this day and age to have people stop what they’re doing, give up their own fishing agenda and willingly help some strangers who simply had made a bad decision. The gal also thanked God a few times and gave us all hugs, relieved to finally be out of their precarious situation.

Then, there we were: three die-hard anglers, all standing around, each of us remembering how we’ve all been there before, too. As it turns out, the three of us all happened to be fishing guides. Matt guides for Aspen Trout Guides, Raphael guides for Gone Fishin’ Colorado, and I for Taylor Creek Fly Shop. It was refreshing for me to see three outright competitors all working together on the river for a day.

This column is provided weekly by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374.


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