The great fishing continues apace with a few cloudy days and some rain giving some good cover and great hatches for the fish to feed well. The flow in the Pan was dropped on Wednesday with a concomitant reduction in the flow in the Fork below Basalt. The rain earlier in the week caused the cancellation of some floats lower down below Carbondale as the Crystal did its best to color up the water and render it unfishable for a day. However the water cleared quickly and it was back to business by the middle of the week. The Pan is now running at 249cfs which is perfect for fishing. Although the higher flow at 300cfs is great for the fish, the current flow is ideal all round because fishermen should have a more reasonable opportunity to access most of the river except where it is particularly narrow lower down. The rain during the week has increased the flow a little in the tributaries so with the additional flow due the Pan would be running closer to 300cfs close to Basalt.
The Fork is currently running at 555cfs at Basalt and is in perfect condition. It will drop a little more shortly as summer proceeds and when it does that will be the end of rafting above Basalt for the season unless we get some additional rain – which is entirely possible given the past 2 weeks. So if you are coming up to go for a float on the Fork call ahead and check the weather and the river conditions. The weather forecast for the next few days is for ongoing thunderstorms and showers in the afternoon and the evenings. The key to enjoying the excellent fishing at the moment is to be prepared for changeable weather. It actually became very cold on both Monday and Tuesday evenings with a short cold change at the beginning of the week. It was so cold on the river it felt like mid to late autumn and it was necessary to wear an additional warm layer if you wanted to fish into the evening. The watchword is to be prepared for all possibilities when dealing with the weather in the mountains.
We are very busy in town and there are a lot of visitors on the river, particularly on the weekends. However at certain times during the week there have been occasions when there were few on the river and there was ample opportunity to get some room to fish, particularly towards the dam. So be prepared to fish all day and if possible aim for the week rather than the weekends. You will enjoy some great fishing.
Despite the pressure, though, the Fork is still surprisingly untouched in a lot of places around Basalt. Most of the river traffic is below Carbondale as the shallow water limits access to only rafts and to boatmen who are willing to work hard. There is a lot of access available to wading fishermen who even now do not seem to make the effort to walk that little further. If you are prepared to walk a little, get some advice on the public access areas on the Fork and you will find some excellent fishing awaits you.
Current Flow: below the Dam - 249cfs. (if you want more uptodate figures check out current readings on our "Links" page)
As predicted a cool change blew in early in the week and the evenings became quite cold. On Monday, for example, it became overcast early in the afternoon and the temperature dropped quite quickly in the early evening to 61. There was a light PMD hatch and a lot of midges about. The fish took baetis nymphs. Tuesday was similar and possibly a little colder. By sundown the temperature had dropped to the high 50's. It was necessary to wear an extra warm layer to comfortably stay out.
The variations in the water flow and the consequential changes in the water temperature lower down have certainly seemed to have discombobulated the bugs. There were drakes reported to be coming off both at the 7 and 8 mile markers this week even though one was under the impression that they had finished there and were only further up towards the dam. With the hatch drake patterns worked well on Wednesday from the 7 mile mark up.
Later in the week during the day the fish have been taking a variety of patterns but mostly stimulators and pmd's both with droppers. For instance on Thursday, at midday the fish were taking #14 royal stimulators with #18 beadtail bwo emerger with a shuck trailer. As it gets dark, larger dry caddis patterns down to size #10 have been working well to coincide with the caddis hatches which occur on dark on the Pan.
On Friday it was cloudy all day and drizzled during the afternoon and into the evening. It was excellent baetis weather all round.
Saturday started out the same as Friday with cloudy skies threatening to get heavier and rain again. However by late afternoon that had all changed as it became bright and warmer as the clouds dispersed. Mid-river the fishing was excellent on #14 royal and orange stimulators with small bwo emerger droppers. There was not a big hatch and the fish concentrated more on the stimulators. Merle reported good fishing mid-river with a seratella behind a royal stimulator from the 5 to the 8 mile mark. He also reported good drake fishing mid-river from mid-day through the afternoon.
In the evening the fish responded to bwo nymphs such as the #20 black pheasant tail and the #18 beadtail emerger fished down with the nymph. Fish were also feeding on midges in the slower water taking pupae and emergers.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, particularly on the weekends. 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 down to 249cfs, the wading is still a little tricky in the narrower parts of the river and not to be recommended if you are unsteadyon your legs. The water level is now excellent for the fish although it makes it more difficult for the fishermen to get to them. However all in all around 250cfs seems to be ideal for all. The bigger fish have spread out again under the overhanging branches and on the edges in the shade 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. The drakes have moved higher up the Pan although there were reports this week of drakes from the 7 mile mark and drake patterns worked well in the middle of the day on Wednesday so don't be surprised to seem a few mid-river either during the day or in the evenings. 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. BWO's are also coming off in the afternoons particularly when it is cloudy and overcast. So now the fish have a choice of PMD's, BWO's and midges all at once and are likely to chop and change as they feed. 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. 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. In the evenings and after dark there are a lot of caddis such as the pumpkin caddis flying about as well. So large flies such as stimulators and other caddis patterns fished close to the banks with midge droppers have been working well provided you are dressed well enough against the cold.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. 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. This past week saw a cool change with the temperatures dropping to the high 50's in the evenings so be prepared for cold evenings as we move through August onto September.
Ed Chris Travis and Harry have all reported great trips this week on the Fork although a downpour earlier in the week caused the cancellation of floats lower down for a day after the Crystal made its usual colorful contribution to the river. The solution was to fish higher up above Carbondale where the water is excellent unless we get another blowout up the Frying Pan. In that case it will be necessary to fish above Basalt. Check the weather if rain is in the offing and ring the shop to see if there are any adverse reports. A variety of flies has worked on the Fork from princes to streamers, bwos, pmd, caddis and even sanjuan worms. If you are wading, nymphing will yield the most fish as they are not rising a great deal except a little in the evenings. Use PMD and baetis nymphs and even if you think the fish are near the surface fish down to be sure.
Friday I floated the Fork down to Carbondale, and the fishing was excellent for most of the trip. There was a dull spot in the later afternoon but by 6pm the fish were well on the job again. It was overcast for most of the morning so the BWOs were promising for the afternoon. Sure enough immediately the fish began taking the sparkle rs2's. The rain started and the fishing settled down for a little so a switch to the #18 beadtail bwo emerger with shuck trailer with a #18 2tone PMD dropper worked well for the rest of the afternoon. The same nymphs worked well in the evening provided they were fished down even though a few fish were rising. It was wet and a little cold but the fishing was excellent. I saw no-one fishing, either floating or wading in my 7 hours on the river. Its amazing given the fishing pressure just how concentrated it is and how much of the river remains relatively untouched. Here are 2 photos of the indicative fish which were feeding during the afternoon.
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. The fish are not feeding much on the surface so the expectation is that one will be nymphing most of the time. In fact even when the fish are on the surface greater success is to be had with nymphs and emergers fished lower in the water. The caddis are thick towards evenings. 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 fishing on the Colorado is intermittent at best at this time of the year with the rains and the color contributed from time to time by the Lower fork. This week is a good example of the unreliability of attempting to fish the Colorado below Glenwood. So if you are close enough to fish the Colorado you are close enough to make the journey a few miles up the Roaring Fork Valley to get some clear water and great fishing. If you are wedded to the idea of trying the Colorado in our area it is best to check the condition of it day by day and see if there have been recent rains.
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.