After several weeks of high flows on local rivers, runoff has peaked and trout streams in the Vail and Roaring Fork valleys are clear and dropping. Because rivers such as the Colorado, Eagle and Roaring Fork are still on the high side, making fly fishing a little tough for wade fishing, float fishing gives anglers the mobility and access necessary to catch trout. In our part of the Rockies, some of the best fly fishing of the entire season occurs directly after runoff when trout begin to feed heavily, and the best way to target these hungry fish is from a drift boat or raft. The next several weeks will offer intense hatches and excellent dry fly-fishing.
Here is quick rundown of current float fishing conditions:
Our backyard trout stream is ready to bust loose as flows reach ideal levels for float fishing. Each day the river is dropping and water temperatures are rising. While the Eagle requires experience and skill behind the oars, rowing a raft anywhere between Edwards and Gypsum will reward anglers with trout willing to consistently eat a dry fly and dropper rig fished near the banks. The post-runoff caddis hatch will begin any day. This tan colored fly runs between size 12 and 16 and is effectively imitated with stimulators, foam caddis and the guide’s choice. Evening floats are a local’s favorite.
The Colorado River
As reservoirs fill and tributaries drop, the Colorado is steadily improving. Flows are still high but clarity is good and the fish are eating well. After a couple of low water years, the Colorado River got a good flush this spring which should benefit the trout fishery. Trout are responding well to streamers, large nymphs and big attractor dry flies. Caution should still be exercised for rowers using drift boats on the upper river in Lower Gore Canyon below Pumphouse and Yarmony Canyon below Radium. Less experienced oarsman should use rafts and focus on floats between Rancho Del Rio and Dotsero. With all the new and improved boat ramps, access is now much improved, with lots of options for half days, full days and overnight trips on the Colorado River.
The Roaring Fork River
With Gold Medal status, the Roaring Fork is one of Colorado’s best wild trout fisheries and this river is just days away from reaching good flows for floating between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Each year beginning in late June, the famous Green Drake hatch gets a lot of attention from local and visiting anglers. These big olive mayflies should begin appearing soon along with a solid caddis hatch as well as PMDs and Yellow Sallies giving the trout plenty of feeding opportunities. The Fork has a lot of private land bordering the stream so fly-fishing from a boat gives anglers a serious advantage for accessing prime stretches of water. Avoid the morning rush by waiting to put your boat in after lunch.
Conditions are setting up for a fantastic summer season of float fishing. As always, remember to be safe out there. Check with Vail Valley Anglers in The Riverwalk at Edwards for information on guided float trips, latest fly-fishing reports, hot fly patterns and shuttle information.
Brody Henderson is a senior guide for Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-0900.