This past week really turned on some hot weather which caused the Fork to become practically unfishable below Carbondale. Towards the end of the week the Fork became colored all the way up towards Aspen for a while, although after Saturday's cold, it settled down a little on Sunday.
The conditions in the Fork have forced a lot of fishermen onto the Pan in the last few days. There have been 2 or 3 cars at various pull-outs and a lot of fishermen on the water. With the end of the ski season, the numbers will drop down a little in the next week or so, but the pressure has certainly been building on the Pan.
Ed reported excellent fishing on the Fork towards Aspen on the Fork. He knows where to find good fishing when the conditions force most fishermen who don't know their way around, to get onto the Pan.
The forecast arrival of colder weather early next week is well received news and it is hoped that the precipitation which might accompany such change is kept to a minimum while the freezing overnight temperatures at least limit the pace of the run-off. This time of the year holds some of the best fishing all year and it would be unfortunate for the run-off to interfere too much with it. On the other hand, the snow pack promises that the water level will remain high throughout the summer so that will be great for the fishing later in the year and excellent for the fish.
As a side note, for those of you who might be contemplating coming out this year and renting the cabins, might we suggest that you do not wait too long to book. We already have July totally booked as well as the first half of August. September is almost fully booked as well. If you want details click on the lodging link on the left. With the high water continuing throughout winter, and the good snow pack the bigger fish will be well rested this winter and not have suffered the usual privations of low water and anchor ice. We think this year will be better than ever.
Current Flow: below the Dam - 289cfs. (if you want more uptodate figures check out current readings on our "Links" page)
The warmth of the weekend persisted on Monday so much so that Taylor Creek was running twice its normal level and putting color into the Pan. We were hoping that the predicted cold weather would arrive and slow things down. The change predicted for Tuesday arrived and then left just as quickly. It looked threatening for a few hours in the morning and in fact a little snow and sleet fell for an hour or two. But it was all gone by midday.
There was not much of a hatch at midday, and no fish were moving at or under the surface. In the faster water the fish responded to a green bodied midge pupa with a silver beadhead. The midge hatch picked up by early afternoon so that the fish were taking emergers by 2pm. The best activity was in a slower stretch of water where the fish took mostly a gray grub #18, a black emerger #20 and one fish responded to an Adams Parachute.
For the remainder of the week the weather was hot causing the run-off to pick up considerably. By Friday Taylor Creek was running as high as it has at the height of the run-off in other years and was dumping distinctly colored water into the Pan. Fortunately the high flow in the Pan dissipated the water quickly so there was no discernible effect, however by the time the Pan reached Basalt, all of the other tributaries contributed to the flow so that the water was much higher and colored.
Saturday morning arrived with snow on the high peaks and a drizzle in the air. It was cold. Time to go fishing. The barometer was falling and the fish were unsettled with the change. I wanted to try a range of midge patterns to see how they worked. A #20 miracle midge worked as well as did an emerger but generally the fish laid very low and were not particularly interested in feeding. No fish rose in the 2 hours I was on the river even though there was a modest midge hatch mid afternoon which should have garnered some activity. I saw one fish which was lying on the bottom and came up about 18 inches to take something and then settled down again. It did this several times. I drifted 4 different midges to it unsuccessfully. A #18 flashback pheasant tail worked the first time it was presented. It was a nice fish and worth the photo below. A second fish was landed shortly thereafter on the same fly. The day ended cold with a mere promise of the weatherman that Easter Sunday would be warmer. However by late afternoon, Taylor Creek had dropped below the height of its flow, so with the weatherman promising colder weather and overnight temperatures below freezing for the next 4 days the flow should drop down a little and hold. Harry fished further up towards the Dam and advised that the fish were taking midges on the surface for a while.
By Sunday however, Harry said that the fish remained on the bottom and it was necessary to get down to them with baetis nymphs. Mid-river the story was similar although the fish did take a little silver bead head green midge larva behind a net-builder caddis larva. One fish took the caddis. The fish also took a #20 sparkle baetis provided it was fished right down to them. There is now a lot of material and debris in the water. It was necessary to clean the fly every 2 or 3 casts when nymphing, so be patient. Harry reported the same conditions towards the dam.
Harry was commenting on the seemingly larger number of big rainbows we have been catching of late. They are certainly moving about more with the higher water, but we also think that the higher water through the winter has brought more fish up the Pan from the Fork. The Pan is a very young river as a tail water and is still finding its equilibrium. This years higher flow will inject a little more variability into that process of finding its balance after the long drought over the past decade with concomitant lower flows.
Recommended Flies: The next 10 days promises colder temperatures at night although the days will be warm. The tributaries will continue to run high, so coupled with the higher flow from Ruedi, it will be a matter of tracking down the fish as they will have moved to the slower water on the edges, or in side channels. The higher flow will also make wading a little more difficult, so if you are unsure on your feet be careful and get advice as to the better places to wade. The narrower the river flow, the harder it is to wade. Make sure you are using light tippet, however as the water colors up and the volume increases, it will be possible to go to 6x and even 5x closer to town as it will now be less visible. The fish are now in the quieter water so tread carefully. If you watch closely you will be amazed where you will find larger fish as they spread out to new locations under banks and next to logs and rocks for protection. Polaroids are essential. Now more than ever one must be a hunter to find your quarry consistently. There is now a consistent hatch between mid-morning and mid afternoon. Being spring conditions, be prepared for a variety of weather on the same day. Continue to spot the fish feeding fish directly at them. Try midge larva and pupa before the hatch starts. If the hatch appears lackluster, use bead head pupa patterns allowing them to drift down. When the fish begin to feed under the surface, try small emergers; olive biot emergers, size #18 - #22 and black special emergers #18 - #22. 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. On the surface, use midge dries with emergers in the film as a dropper. Also try Griffiths gnats #18 - #24. Egg patterns will also work well particularly as an attracter with a midge. The baetis nymphs are now moving about in the water so be ready with very small nymph patterns. So far, micro baetis, sparkle baetis and pheasant tails have been successful. If it is quiet it is worth trying them down deep near the bottom. In the faster water, remember that the water right on the bottom moves more slowly. So fish will remain on the bottom feeding comfortably despite the increased flow overhead.
The Fork blew out most of the way down to Glenwood by the end of the week due to the hot weather. It was necessary to go up higher towards Aspen to get reasonable water. The promised cooler weather will help a little next week and hopefully will bring down the flow a little and make it more fishable lower down towards Carbondale. On Saturday as a result the hot weather up to Friday, the flow at Basalt was well over 850cfs at one stage. It has dropped over 150cfs since, and that is welcome.
Ed and Dave reported good trips outs this week on the Fork. They know where to go to get the fish when the conditions become a little testing. Ed had most success on stone flies but midges are working well in the mornings and baetis in the afternoons as well. On Sunday even though the water had some color at Basalt Ed reported that the fishing remained good. Now that there is color in the water and a bigger flow the fish will seek protected areas where they expend less energy and they try to stay out of the dirtiest water to minimize dirt in their gills. So the skill now in hunting the fish is to find areas where the fish are more protected but still able to feed. That's the biggest benefit in floating now because you can cover a lot more water and get to the desirable places more easily.
Merle also reported good fishing on the Fork higher up with stoneflies. The higher up the Fork one travels now, the better the water, although Ed advises that there is still good fishing below Basalt provided you get to the right water.
Recommended Flies: Above Carbondale use the same flies as the Pan (See our report for the Frying Pan). Generally try midge patterns larva, pupa and emerger patterns. For variety try very small baetis nymph patterns. Stone flies #16 - #10 - try mercers poxy-back, roaring fork stone, 20 incher. Cased caddis patterns will work deep as well. Also remember egg patterns.
The hot weather of the past week and the continuing the work on Shoshone have contributed to make the Colorado unfishable at the moment. In addition the flow from the Crystal has ensured that the Fork is also dirtying up the water at Glenwood. Ed is disappointed because the colder weather had held back the color enough to give him some good fishing. It was great fishing last year as the cold postponed the run-off. Unfortunately this year we miss out. If you are down that way and are disappointed with the water, come to mid-valley where the Fork and Pan will offer you the best conditions for fishing. If you want to try a fish it try midges, and 20 inchers. Also try any nymphs #20 and smaller.
Recommended Flies: midges, both dries and emergers; pheasant tails #16, 18; BWO's #18,20; small copper johns; 20 inchers size #10 - #14; bead head prince nymph red #12 - 16; egg patterns #10 - #18; streamers #6 and #8 and smaller.