The weather was a little unsettled earlier in the week with a few storms and a little rain but nothing of any significance. The water in the Fork had a little residual color early in the week and was flowing higher as a result of the rains at the end of last week. But by the end of the week it had settled down again to be flowing lower than it had 2 weeks ago and had cleared well. The Fork is now not worth floating above Basalt. It is just too low to be comfortable. The crowds have certainly thinned out in the past week with many of the schools returning earlier than normal. As a consequence there have not been as many fishermen on the river. We have certainly seen the passing of the busiest time of the year with labor weekend marking the time that the families who have returned to school give way to those who come for the fishing and the colors.
The weather is definitely cooler although on a bright day the sun still carries some sting. Over the next week the weather is expected to continue with bright clear days possibly giving way to some storm activity in the afternoons. The highest temperatures will be in the 70's. So if one is seeking a long day's fishing be prepared for a range of temperatures, particularly if some cloud comes over.
We are coming into some of our favorite fishing for the year. The fish are now healthy and well fed and continue to consume the hatches in anticipation of the end of the season. A few fish can be seen expending energy in anticipation of the coming spawn, but it is early. The colors are starting to change on some of the scrub oaks and some branches on a few cottonwoods. There are more ducks and geese beginning to move through. I picked up my ski pass this week. We have some great fishing ahead of us this year but time is inexorably passing.
Current Flow: below the Dam - 233cfs. (if you want more uptodate figures check out current readings on our "Links" page)
There were good consistent hatches on the Pan during the week with some good dry fly activity. The unsettled weather earlier in the week gave way to a little more consistent weather and the fish fed well even on some of the brighter days. For example, Saturday was bright and clear. There was a good BWO and PMD hatch mid afternoon which brought a lot of fish to the surface. They keyed into the BWO's so that a small iron blue dun pattern worked the best. The dry fly fishing was very good mid-river until about 4pm. Then as the hatch ended a gray rs2 fished down continued to work well.
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 is beginning to abate. From now until autumn the fishing will remain testing unless you are prepared to spend the time to choose the correct patterns and concentrate of excellent presentation. The range of hatches in the past week gave fishermen a number of options. Remember that midges are the principal biomass in the river and so provided you are comfortable fishing with smaller flies don't hesitate to try them if the fish are not responding to anything else. The mornings and the evenings get the best results with midges as they emerge but a larva down deep might attract attention when everything else is being ignored. The colder and changeable weather is making it essential to take care in dressing for your day out. Don't take any chances so don't make any assumptions with a bright clear blue sky in the morning.
Recommended Flies: With the water level at 235cfs, the level is excellent for the fish and a little easier to wade. The drakes have moved higher up the Pan. There is a consistent midge hatch mid-morning and late in the afternoon into the evening. In addition the PMD's have two hatches a day. BWO's are also coming off in the afternoons particularly when it is cloudy and overcast. There are also caddis in the evenings. 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. In addition in the evenings, throw in a few caddis for variety. 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 as the hatches become more prolific. They will also inspect flies more closely and will refuse anything which is not presented well. 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. And more than ever be well dressed as a bright hot day can turn cold and uncomfortable very quickly with cloud cover and a little rain.
The rains at the end of last week pushed up the flow in the Fork so that on Monday, there was still a little color in the water but not enough to be significant. However by the weekend the water had fallen 140cfs from last week and is too low for any reasonable floating above Basalt. However the wading is still excellent provided it is in the morning or the evenings. The fishing was a little slow when I floated in the afternoon mid-river to Catherine's Store. Ed and Harry are finding that the better fishing is in the morning as it slows in the afternoon and this was certainly the case on Monday. There were a few fish about and they took the befus sparkle baetis #18. There were a few BWO and PMDs about and some caddis in the shade. Harry had good fishing over the weekend with Lafontaine caddis emerger patterns.
Most of the success will be from nymphing although the fish will take a dry close to the banks. However over the course of a day, the number of rising fish is very small so a dry top fly with a nymph or two as droppers is the best way to go. 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. In the afternoon when the fishing quietens down, move to fishing deep in the shade. As the water level is falling, on bright days the fish are moving to the darker deeper holes as well. Most all of the float traffic now is below Carbondale so it you are going to go, try and choose a time when most of the traffic has gone ahead and take your time.
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 fish's 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 effect of the rain has dissipated so that the Colorado is a little clearer. There is enough visibility to make for some reasonable fishing.
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.