This week we experienced a lot of colder wet weather and a lot of wind which deposited many leaves in the waterways.
It started out nicely enough, but it turned wet on Tuesday morning when we awoke to rain and the threat of more during the day. A number of boat guides were seen driving around town without passengers, furrowed brows and cell phones to their ears as they determined that the rivers were about to turn dark. Sure enough by late morning Seven Castles creek had blown out and the Pan was unfishable below the 4 mile mark. The Fork was also rendered unfishable below Basalt. The Crystal deposited more color into the Fork below Carbondale. By late afternoon the skies had cleared and a little sun came out.
After the heavy rains the Fork jumped up to be flowing at close to 600cfs. On Wednesday morning it was still flowing in the high 500's but dropping. The water color improved so that it was very fishable from Wednesday morning. But by Saturday morning the rain had arrived again and the Crystal blew out the Fork below Carbondale again. The rain which has fallen up the Crystal Valley over the last week is evidenced in the flow in the Crystal River which went from a low of about 100cfs on Monday to almost 750cfs on early Saturday morning. At the moment the Crystal is running at 476cfs and is dropping quickly.
Overnight on Friday the releases from Ruedi were reduced by 100cfs so the Pan is now running at 120cfs. Despite the rain, the Pan was clean and clear on Saturday. Snowmass Creek was also a little blown so the best colored water was either in the Pan or above Snowmass creek on the Fork.
The fishing this week during the rain was excellent on the Pan with good BWO hatches and a few midges and PMD's thrown in for good measure. The weather forecast for the coming week is more of the same. We are promised thunderstorms some rain and a little snow. The BWO hatches will continue and the fishing will be good. However, the weather requires the closest attention be paid to warmth and wet weather gear. It is frustrating to be in the middle of the river enjoying great dry fly fishing and getting so cold one has to come in. So if you are coming up take care to dress for winter conditions. You can always take off some clothes if the day gets too warm.
Some recent visitors have sent some photos so we are pleased to share them with you.
Current Flow: below the Dam - 120cfs. (if you want more uptodate figures check out current readings on our "Links" page)
There have been some excellent BWO hatches on the Pan this week with the rain and cloudy weather. The wind has put a lot of leaves in the water so that interferes a little with the fishing. The BWO hatches have been strong and after the hatches finish later in the afternoon the fish have switched to midges. So pupa patterns such as the choronicone #18 and #20 fished down deep behind a bead tail emerger have continued to take good fish in the later afternoon and evening.
The strong hatches have meant a lot of switching about to get the correct flies. On Sunday for example with a lot of flies on the water, the best choices had olive bodies, such as the olive foamwing rs2 or the CDC comparadun #22. When fishing with a grey and an olive body rs2, the fish generally took the olive body. It was the same when fishing with a gray and olive dry combination. The fish ignored the #24 parachute Adams and took the #22 comparadun. Most of the naturals had gray bodies so the olive color distinguished the fly from the naturals on the water. There were a few PMD's about as well. The fish were choosy and therefore the best results occurred when presenting across and down to the fish rather than fishing upstream.
Be prepared to spend time on the rive and dress well. There will be dull periods during the day but provided your presentation is good and the fly selection correct, there will be success. The pressure on the Pan has dropped off substantially giving ample opportunity now to get onto the river and enjoy some excellent fishing particularly when the weather turns nasty. On Friday evening the Bureau dropped the flows in the Pan by 100cfs to 120. The lower flows will confine the fish a little more as they are disturbed by easier wading conditions. Although the fishing pressure has abated somewhat, the fish are still wary of bad presentation so spend the time to choose the correct patterns and concentrate on excellent presentation. The larger the fly the easier it is for the fish to inspect it closely and decide to reject it so try smaller flies if the fish you are stalking is being difficult. The cold and changeable weather is making it essential to take care in dressing for your day out. Don't take any chances. Once thing is for certain now, at some time during the day it will be cold.
Recommended Flies: With the flow in the Pan having dropped to 120cfs the fish will start moving to the deeper holes for a little protection. The river is now very accessible and the fish are a little spooky in the shallower water. However with the predicted wet and cloudy weather for the next few days, the fishing should be excellent with the BWO's continuing to hatch from midday on. The PMD's are continuing to hatch but are less prolific. Some PND's are still hatching in the quieter water mid-river into the evening after a warm day. The fish remain particular as they feed but as the options narrow the flies are getting smaller. So if one pattern is not working don't waste too much time. Instead change and try something else and keep changing until you can discern what they are taking. Of course if your presentation is suspect, it doesn't matter what you are using. The fish are now noticeably more selective and will only take particular colors and/or sizes. In the midst of a strong hatch there is no reason they will take your fly out of the hundreds on the water if they are all identical. So consider putting on something just a little larger or smaller or a slightly different color which may catch the fish's eye.
If you are fishing to rising fish, don't fish too shallow too quickly. Even if you think the fish are feeding just under or on the surface, persist with keeping the fly lower until there is no question that they are on dries. Watch carefully and discern whether the fish are taking mergers or dries. If you don't take care and switch to a dry pattern too early can cause you to miss good opportunities. Start out with midges then BWO's as they come off. Then by evening the fish will be back to midges if they are still feeding. There are still a few PMD's about so be prepared to try one if you are not getting results. It promises to be a long day so consider starting to fish later in the day so you can fish well into the evening. If it starts to rain, keep fishing. And more than ever be well dressed as a bright day can turn cold and uncomfortable very quickly with cloud cover and a little rain.
The better fishing this week on the Fork was above Carbondale and above Basalt when the Pan blew out early in the week. The flow has jumped up quite dramatically and if the flow in the Pan had not been dropped by 100cfs it is possible the Fork would have been running at close to 800cfs on Saturday morning. The coming week promises more rain so there is every chance that the Fork will run up again. The Crystal has certainly made the fishing below Carbondale problematic so even at the moment despite the fact that the Crystal is dropping quickly, any more rain and it will run it up again.
The number of rising fish is very small and more the exception than the rule. It is best to nymph down deep and keep experimenting with weights if the fish are not responding and you are certain you have the correct fly on. The fish are taking a range of flies from BWO and PMD emergers, to caddis, streamers, and the ever reliable combination of princes and san juan worms. This week the greatest success continued to be on small bwo nymphs and emergers. The smaller the better. With the increased flow, it is possible to raft from Basalt if you want to put in the work in the shallower sections. However most of the float traffic now is below Carbondale. Another thing to note below Carbondale is the greater incidence of slime on the bottom. Fishing deep therefore has the disadvantage of forcing one to clean off the flies more regularly than one would like.
The rain has blown out the Colorado below Glenwood so until it clears the Colorado is not good fishing.
Recommended Flies: PMD's #14, #16, baetis #18,20 both nymphs and emergers; 20 inchers size #10 - #14; streamers #6 and #8 and smaller