Eager paddlers watch rivers rise | VailDaily.com

Eager paddlers watch rivers rise

Janet Urquhart
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesFast water flows over rocks on the Roaring Fork River Wednesday at Toothache in Old Snowmass. Heavy runoff due to melting snow and local rains are creating muddy conditions causing fly fishermen to find calmer, cleaner streams.

ASPEN ” An angler’s bane is a paddler’s paradise.

Spring runoff, while hardly at its roiling peak, has apparently begun.

Last weekend’s high temperatures finally turned the Roaring Fork River muddy all the way to Aspen, and it has largely remained that way. The lower Fork and Colorado rivers well may be lost until sometime in June, from a fly-fishing perspective, but local kayakers are watching the daily flow rates with eager anticipation.

“With the Fork coming up, everybody’s starting to drool about paddling Slaughterhouse and the Fork runs,” said Chris Vogt, co-owner of Glenwood Canyon Kayak.

The river was flowing at 517 cubic feet per second over Slaughterhouse Falls, below Aspen, at midday Wednesday.

“You know that’s doable. You’re bumping rocks, but it’s doable,” Vogt said.

Even more encouraging, the Crystal River was running around 900 cfs through the Meatgrinder section when Vogt checked.

“It’s at the bottom of good, but it’s good,” he said. “It’s coming up quicker than the Fork.”

Cooler weather may slack things off a bit, which would be just fine with local rafting companies ” they’d like to see the upper Roaring Fork get big for a prolonged period when there are more customers around to enjoy it, but both upper valley outfitters are ready to go, as are Glenwood Springs-based rafting companies.

Blazing Paddles in Snowmass Village expects to put its first boat on the Shoshone section of the Colorado River late this week while it awaits runnable flows on the Fork, and Aspen Whitewater Rafting aims to start running the Fork from Woody Creek to Basalt late next week. Slaughterhouse may or may not be ready for rafting by then, as well, but kayakers don’t need the larger flows that the raft guides want.

Meanwhile, anglers who were enjoying clear water on the upper Fork through Saturday saw the river go muddy overnight ” literally. However, cool weather may give the river some fishable spells for a bit yet in its upper reaches, said Tim Heng at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.

Stretches of the river may clear in the afternoon, especially after a cold night, until the torrent begins in earnest.

As the Roaring Fork rises, trout will huddle in whatever calm pockets they can find along the banks.

“If you’ve got a foot of visibility or two, it can fish pretty good because they’re all kind of concentrated,” Heng said.

As for the lower Fork, below its confluence with the Crystal, “it’s pretty much not fishable,” said Tom Trowbridge at Roaring Fork Anglers in Glenwood Springs. The same can be said of the Colorado.

Now’s the time to get out on a raft, he advised.

The Colorado River is now running above 5,000 cfs below its confluence with the Fork, and the Shoshone stretch in Glenwood Canyon edged above 3,000 cfs Wednesday afternoon.

The Colorado is at the fun ” but not yet scary ” stage, area outfitters agreed.

Anglers will be flocking to the Fryingpan River above Basalt, where the dam-controlled flow is keeping the water low and clear. Blue-wing olive patterns and midges are still the best bet on there, Heng said.

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