Take a stab at the Roaring Fork
Suddenly, the summer season is upon us and the spring runoff is complete for another year. The Eagle is dropping below 400 CFS (cubic feet per second) and becoming more conducive to wading rather than floating. The Colorado is fishing great. Soon, the cold-water releases from the upper reservoirs will make the fishing out of control, usually during the hottest weeks of August. Now is time also a great time to fish the Roaring Fork.Starting in the high country of Independence Pass, the Roaring Fork is a fast freestone stream, tumbling 70 miles northwest to the town of Glenwood Springs. This “Roaring Fork” of the Colorado has great wade fishing in its smaller, calmer, upper reaches and can be floatable year around below the confluence with the Frying Pan.
In the state of Colorado there are more than 9,000 miles of trout streams, yet only 168 miles are considered “gold medal.” This distinction represents the highest quality aquatic habitat with opportunities to catch larger trout in great numbers. The lower 12 miles of the Roaring Fork below the confluence with the Crystal River is gold medal.There are a multitude of hatches on the Fork, including the famous Green Drakes and a large Mother’s Day Caddis. I fish many Stonefly patterns year around since much of the water is rocky and fast, providing plenty of good habitat for the oxygen needy insect. Blue Winged Olives and many Midges are constantly appearing and supply an important part of the fish’s diet, especially in the fall and winter. I fished the river this week with Matt Warner, a favorite client and frequent guest in my boat, and we did exceptionally well on large terrestrials – hoppers, ants, beetles and bees. As with many heavily fished rivers, I think presentation is most important for a successful day; accurate casts and drag free drifts are a must.
Sometimes the fish behave opportunistically and they seem to eat anything properly floating in their sight rather than matching a specific hatch.Daytime temperatures are reaching into the 100s by mid afternoon and the best fishing is early morning or late evening. Typically there will be 10-20 boats daily on the lower river below Carbondale and going late or early will also help eliminate the crowds. Floaters will enter the Colorado for a few hundred yards before the takeout at Two Rivers Park, and its always fun to try to catch fish in two different rivers in the same day!
When the lower river gets too busy, I head upstream to Hooks Bridge (El Jebel), a 10-mile float to Carbondale, and catch cutthroat in addition to rainbows and browns. Here the river flows through the woods away from roads and development with only a few beautiful homes tucked back in the trees. I think this is the prettiest section I float commercially and is worth checking out. The water here is faster and has many wing dams with a few small drops- anglers will need a small raft to safely navigate the river.Although it’s a little off the beaten path, the trip to fish the Roaring Fork is well worth it. The trout are plentiful and will often measure over 20 inches in length. I recommend fishing a 6-weight rod on the Fork to catch these larger fish in the often-fast current. The Fork also boasts a large population of mountain whitefish, which can save the day when the trout are not cooperating. Long riffles, exciting rapids, deep pools and tremendous scenery keep me coming back to the Roaring Fork all year long. However now may be the best time to try your luck.
See you there.Pete Mott is a guide for Gorsuch Outfitters. He can be reached at 926-0900. Vail, Colorado