Well our prediction of last week that a rise in the flow for the Pan was imminent was certainly prescient. On Monday the flow in the Pan was raised to 172cfs and then a few hours later to 228cfs. On Friday a further increase and the Pan was flowing at 293cfs. Consequently mid-river and lower the Pan is running at well over 300cfs at the moment and is difficult to wade in the narrower parts of the river if you are not steady on your legs. Although it will be good for the fish with them being able to spread out more and get better protection, it makes accessing the Pan more difficult in some places and will result in concentrating the fishermen more in the accessible places.
Of course there is a debate as to the merits of these seemingly inexplicable fluctuations in the river this year. The bureau has contractual commitments for the water to be released for those who have a claim to it. It is actually good for the fish when the water is higher because it provides better protection for them and spreads them out more. The other side of the debate is that it reduces access at the height of the fishing season and puts the insects off their cycle a little. In a freestone river the water would be falling now and warming up a little. The bottom release tail water being the Frying Pan below the Dam actually creates the reverse of this cycle with the flow cooling down with the greater release from the bottom of Ruedi together with an increasing flow during the hottest period. Still the extended period of colder water is what spreads out the drake hatch over a longer period and that is what makes the Pan so attractive to fishermen.
The other benefit of the higher flow in the Pan is that it pushes up the flow in the Fork and makes floating below Basalt last longer into the season which is excellent for the fish and great for the quality of the fishing.
All in all, the quality of the fishing will remain excellent well into the season and will afford the fish an opportunity to feed better and provide the stock for next years fishing.
We also had a little downpour during the week. On Wednesday I was floating down the Fork. At 2.30 there was a downpour of substantial proportions. Art called it a monsoon. The angling was excellent during the rain the with fish taking the split case PMD with a rusty spinner behind it. The fish below is a handsome example. At about 5pm a wall of mud arrived where I was fishing. A phone call to Art in the shop informed that the downpour had caused a small mudslide about 2 miles up on the Pan and had actually blocked the road. I rowed ahead of the mud for a hour and a half and got some more good fishing before the mud caught me again at 8pm at Carbondale. The river was clear again next morning. Just a typical event which happens from time to time in the mountains.
We are certainly inundated with visitors at the moment. Although the float traffic higher up on the Fork is still not heavy so that is the best place to get some great uninterrupted fishing while the water level is still high enough. The increased flow from the Pan will keep the water high enough for rafts at least below Basalt for a little while longer. It got very hot towards the end of the week. The mountain fair at Carbondale attracted a substantial crowd and it was as hot as it has been this summer.
With the prediction this week of ongoing thunderstorms in the evenings there is a good possibility of one getting caught in a storm while on the river so be prepared, dress well and fish on through the rain.
Current Flow: below the Dam - 293cfs. (if you want more uptodate figures check out current readings on our "Links" page)
On Monday at 4pm the flow in the Pan was increased to 228cfs in 2 increments. It was a large relative jump given that the increase was from 118cfs. The water was a little colored but fishable. The increased flow coincided with a thunderstorm and some rain. In the early evening there was a good hatch of midges interspersed with some BWOs. Towards 7pm the PMDs came on strong. In the quieter water the fish rose mid-river but concentrated on the BWOs despite the midges in the water. The fish took a gray loopwing emerger #20 but ignored midge emergers.
By Tuesday evening the water had cleared. The fish were not rising and were obviously shifting about to areas which were a little more protected under banks, overhanging willows and in riffles where it had been too shallow a day ago. The higher water is great for the fish but will make it just a little more difficult for fishermen to wade into the middle of the river particularly where the river narrows. After the afternoon rain cleared the evening was cool with only a mild midge hatch mid-river. However that did not stop the fish from taking a #10 dry caddis with a #18 black bead head WD40 just as evening fell. By Thursday the fish were settling into the higher water and there was good dry fly fishing at dark with a large caddis #12 and a PMD stillborn #18.
On Friday, unannounced the Bureau put the flow into the river up again this time to just under 300cfs. Now the water is definitely hard to wade where it narrows and the flow is concentrated. The increased flow put the fish off for 24 hours so that during the day on Saturday reports generally were that the fishing was challenging and required a lot of work. But by Saturday evening with the river running at over 300cfs mid river there was great dry fly fishing with a large caddis #12 and a stillborn PMD #18 and sulphur parachute #18 just on dark. The fish were not rising but as soon as the flies hit the water, the fish would come from the banks and the edges in the slower areas and attack them.
Sunday was bright and a little windy. Early in the morning mid-river the fish took small black pheasant tails as they fed in the surface. It was quite a good rise and is probably attributable in part to the fish having had to adjust again to the higher water over the last 24 hours. However as the evening fell the barometer fell as well and the fish kept low despite a strong midge hatch. They did take a large caddis dry but not particularly enthusiastically.
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 no accessible places which have not been heavily fished by now. From here until autumn the fishing will become testing unless you are prepared to spend the time to choose the correct patterns and get the presentation correct.
Recommended Flies: With the water back up to the 300cfs region, probably for a month or so, the wading is now a little more tricky in the narrower parts of the river. The level will now be dictated by the contractual obligations downstream and calls on the water. The water level is now excellent for the fish although it makes it more difficult for the fishermen to get to them. The bigger fish will be spreading out again under the overhanging branches where the water level has increased by up to 1ft depending on the width of the river. With the higher water, it will be possible to fish with stronger tippet although the fish will still inspect the flies closely before taking them where they are wary because of the heavy traffic. The drakes have moved higher up the Pan although the greater volume of water will keep it a little colder and hence prolong the drake hatch closer to the dam. 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. In the evenings and after dark there are a lot of caddis flying about as well, and caddis patterns have been working at that time.
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 heavy fishing pressure the fish will be looking for protected areas in deeper water or riffles, particularly if the day is bright. 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.
The fishing this week again on the Fork was excellent. The week of fairly clear weather during the mornings to mid-afternoon excepting for Wednesday afternoon afforded excellent fishing all the way to Glenwood. The weather was changeable in the mid to late afternoons and evening during the early part of the week which encouraged some good hatches. Rusty spinners worked well during the week however by Friday it was necessary to fish lower with nymphs such as the split case PMD #18 and the anatomical PMD #18. There were few fish rising on the surface. On Friday there was a nice hatch of BWO's well down the Fork with a hatch at 5pm at the Catherine's store bridge area. The fish were rising quite nicely there for an hour or so. Surprisingly very few fishermen were out at the end of the day enjoying it.
The higher flow from the Pan is contributing to higher water in the Fork from Basalt down ensuring that the floating will persist for a time. This time last year the Fork was running at 736cfs at Basalt with the Pan contributing a little over 202cfs. With the current flow from the Pan running 100cfs higher than last year but the Fork running about 110cfs lower than last year, it means that the natural flow of the Fork this year compared to last year is down over 200cfs! This indicates just how fast the run-off passed this year even with the heavier snow pack.
Overnight on Saturday the Crystal blew out again and therefore the water below Carbondale was colored but fishable on Sunday. With additional thunderstorms predicted during the coming week, there is an ongoing chance that the Fork below Carbondale will get more color particularly from Thompson Creek and the Crystal. So check with the shop as to conditions and if you can fish a little higher up, you will reduce the risk of the water being affected by the weather.
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. 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 water in the Colorado has colored up with a contribution from the Roaring Fork as a result of the Crystal having blown out again on Saturday evening. The Fishing on the Colorado is good when the water is clear enough but with the latest thunderstorms and the contribution from the Crystal and Thompson the good quality water is intermittent. It is best to check the condition of the Colorado day by day if you are interested in fishing on it.
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.