Although the weatherman put a low probability on rain last week, in the evenings during the first half of the week it was a good bet. It was a little cooler each day and by the afternoon clouds had gathered and rain fell. The rain was pleasant and not too troublesome up valley but the Crystal River and Thompson Creek got some real rain. So much so that it colored up the Fork below Carbondale sufficient to cause a few floats to be abandoned. The change in the water condition was swift. Early on Thursday morning the river looked fine but by mid-morning the flow from the Crystal River had hit the Fork and rendered it dark and forbidding. The condition persisted through Friday but by Saturday although it was a little colored it was fishable again. Some rain fell up towards Independence Pass on Thursday so that by Friday the Fork was running 150cfs higher at Basalt within 24 hours. The fishing was still excellent and the conditions were good as far down as Carbondale. Its just one of those attributes of the mountains. Changeable weather a mountain range away changed the river conditions while we enjoyed a pleasant evening.
The fishing continues to be generally excellent. It slows down a little mid-afternoon but for those willing to put in a good day the rewards are certainly there. The drakes are now well along the Pan but again it is interesting. The well known midday hatch is not as prolific as in previous years. But as it gets dark drakes can be seen coming off reasonably frequently. It is possible that the fluctuating water level this year has put a few insects off their cycle confusing them with the inconsistent conditions. In addition there seem to be a lot more blue herons along the river as well for those interested in watching them.
For the coming week the weatherman has made the same prediction as last week with a low probability of evening thunderstorms and showers following hot days. The heat of the past few days is predicted to continue a little longer with the temperatures possibly cooling a fraction towards the end of the week.
It has to be getting close to the time for calls to be coming for the water to be released from Ruedi. That of course will increase the flow in the Pan quite markedly given its low flow of 118cfs at the moment. It will also push the Fork up by that amount below Basalt and will make floating a little more consistent. The water was getting a little shallow up high this week so the increased flow from the rain was welcome in getting the raft over some of the shallows which were impeding progress.
We are very busy now. There are a lot of visitors in town and a lot of fishermen along the Frying Pan Road. Amazingly however, there are still places along the Fork which have seen little activity apart from the few rafts floating by. In 2 floats from Basalt during the week I saw a total of 3 rafts on the water and no fishermen wading except where it was 100 yards from an easy access point. There are plenty of public access points which would afford the keen fishermen great fishing if one decided to walk just a little. So if you are in town come by the shop and pick up a copy of Micheal Shook's map which will show you the public access points worth getting to particularly along the Fork.
Current Flow: below the Dam - 118cfs. (if you want more uptodate figures check out current readings on our "Links" page)
The fishing on the Pan is now as heavy as it gets all year with maximum numbers of visitors as well as locals. Monday started out bright but as the day progressed the rain came up and there was a thunderstorm in the afternoon. It was very promising weather for BWO's but there was not a great deal of dry fly activity. The best results were on PMD emergers and nymphs. However fish did take the #20 parachute Adams.
Tuesday turned out to be similar weather to Monday just a little later in the day. It was raining by 8.30pm. During the morning there was a reasonable drake hatch with both the fish taking them off the surface and the birds catching them as they flew into the air. By the afternoon it had quietened down on the surface, but down deep the fish took nymphs such as Hengs little mayfly#18 and the hunchback PMD #18. In the evening just before the rain the fish took the loopwing emerger gray #20 and the black midge emerger with a shuck trailer #20.
As the week progressed and the heat picked up the best fishing again is in the mornings since the moon is on the wane and in the evenings. On cloudy afternoons however the PMD hatch comes on a little earlier.
The morning PMD hatch is well underway and on some days continues until early afternoon. There are a few BWO's coming off and the usual evening midge hatch will provide good fishing at dusk.
The evenings at dusk have also been providing some good midge fishing for those who are prepared to persist with small flies at this time of year.
The key to good fishing now is to be prepared to spend time on the river. There will be dull periods during the day but the fish have to feed and eventually provided your presentation is good and the fly selection correct, there will be ample success. The pressure on the Pan now is at its greatest. Most pull-offs all the way to the Dam have cars during the day so there are not many accessible places which have not been fished by now. From here until autumn the fishing will become testing unless you are prepared to spend the time to get the presentation correct.
Recommended Flies: The fish have now adjusted to the lower water again and have moved to the darker deeper areas in the bright light. Even in the bright days though the fish will be found on the edges in the shade where there is nice cover and protection. It is just a matter of walking very quietly along the bank and offering PMD or baetis emerger patterns when you see them. The lower flow has made wading a little easier. The water is so low and so clear it is now essential to use either 6x or 7x tippet. There is a consistent midge hatch between mid-morning and late afternoon into the evening and the PMD's are now well in their cycle of 2 hatches a day. The fish are feeding solidly on PMD emergers after the hatch starts. The drakes are also coming off although to date the hatch seems to be a little more sporadic than in past years. Perhaps the variable flow in the Pan and the heat with such low water has confused them a little. Given the patchy drake hatches, a combination of drakes and PMDs has worked well.
Early in the day, when the fish begin to feed under the surface you might not be sure whether they are feeding on emerging midges, BWO's or PMD's or a combination so be prepared to experiment. As the fishing pressure increases, the fish are becoming more selective with the greater fishing pressure and will only take particular colors and/or sizes as the hatches become more prolific. A little after the PMD hatch ends try spinners fished low in the water. They will take time to sink to the bottom so the spinners can be fished for some time during the morning and at night.
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. Switching to a dry pattern too early can cause you to miss good opportunities. With the bright days for the next week, the fish will seek the protection of the deeper water or the riffles. Otherwise fish in the shade. Depending on the time you start out first use nymphs then move to emergers, cripples and then dries and spinner to finish off in the evenings. 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. The best hatches of BWO's seem to come off in the rain. So it is essential to dress well for the changeable weather even if it looks bright a clear in the mornings.
In addition don't overlook the caddis. There are a lot of caddis about close to and after dark. The proof is easy to see at night around the outside light which attracts the caddis after dark. So there is an ample range of hatches to fish to during a whole day on the river.
The conditions on the Fork remain excellent although there was a dramatic increase in the flow on Friday as a result of Wednesday and Thursday rain up high in the catchment area. The flow jumped on Friday from about 575cfs to 750cfs. It has since settled back to 555cfs. The increased flow introduced a little color but above Carbondale it did not interfere with the quality of the fishing. Ed, Travis, Chris and Harry have been fishing all week and reported consistently great fishing all day and into the evenings. The drakes have still been coming off higher up and the fishing is still excellent. Generally the drakes have finished below Basalt. However the PMD and Caddis fishing has been excellent. In the bright hot afternoons it slows down a little and it is necessary to fish in the shade or deep down and in the riffles, with baetis and PMD nymphs. Chris recommends using the PMD spinners both in the morning and in the evening and reports he had a 70 fish day on one float with clients early in the week. The sparkle baetis #18-#20 and the split case PMD #18 have worked will in the slower part of the afternoon. Other recommended flies are the rusty spinner patterns as well as a range of nymphs including princes nymphs. Later in the afternoon when the hatches pick up the fish will come to the surface again although they have been a little quieter on the surface because of the changeable weather. Towards Carbondale the caddis are prolific in the evenings.
I floated twice this week on Wednesday the Friday. The increase in the flow on Friday from the Wednesday night and Thursday rains was very noticeable and very welcome getting the raft over some of the shallow parts which had required a bit of manual labor on Wednesday. The fishing was excellent both days between Basalt and Carbondale. The photo below is a nice rainbow taken on a befus sparkle baetis #18. PMD nymphs, spinners and baetis patterns such as the black pheasant tail #18 worked well in the riffles even though there were not a lot of fish rising. When the clouds came in on Wednesday afternoon it was so dark the caddis came out a few hours earlier than normal.
Generally now the Fork offers excellent fishing if you are prepared to spend the time and find the right conditions in the water. Floating offers the best opportunity for this although there are plenty of excellent access points for those who want to wade. The secret though is to be prepared to walk a little. The most easily accessible spots see half a dozen or so fishermen in the evenings shoulder to shoulder. There is so much excellent water is it a pity not to take advantage of it.
Recommended Flies: Above Carbondale use the same flies as the Pan (See our report for the Frying Pan). Generally try PMDs, caddis and BWO's. In addition the green drakes are still coming off higher up so emerger and dry patterns are a must. After a while the fish will get a little choosy from all the offerings so carry cripple patterns as well. Try nymphs until the fish are moving under the surface then try emergers switching to dries only when the fish are taking the flies off the top. The caddis are thick now so caddis pupa patterns and free swimmers as well as dries. Lower down below Carbondale the reports are caddis, BWO's and PMDs. In the hotter afternoon the fishing gets a little patchy but it picks up again towards evening. Basically be a little more imaginative now in your fly selection. The fish have seen a lot of flies now and are getting wary. Patterns with a little difference will stand out and will attract the fishes attention until they are over-used. However the Fork is such a big river and there are so many places which are not fished extensively that persistence will pay great dividends.
The Colorado was in great condition until the weather hit on Wednesday evening. Thursday the Colorado was mud from Glenwood down and it will take a day or so for that to clear. The drakes are finished on the Colorado but the PMD's, baetis and midges are excellent. On Sunday I floated the Colorado with Sandy up above Dotsero. The fishing was slow and hot with the water temperature not being conducive to active fish. We were successful with a range of flies with the most successful combination being a hopper with a small stimulator dropper. The ride was lovely but the fishing is not recommended where the other options at the moment are the Fork and the Pan.
Recommended Flies: PMD's #16, #18, baetis #18,20 and midges, both dries and emergers; 20 inchers size #10 - #14; streamers #6 and #8 and smaller; terrestrials such as hoppers and beetles.