Fourth forecast: Rivers swell, stonefly hatch ‘going strong’

Water flows on the upper Roaring Fork River near Aspen are around 550 cfs and water clarity is improving. The river still is a bit cloudy and anglers should be careful when wading but there isn’t much fishing pressure. This stretch was deserted Sunday except for a couple of kayakers.

With the Fourth of July weekend looming ever closer, anglers are looking to the high country to escape from the heat and enjoy the first long weekend of fishing.

Or not.

Weather forecasters are calling for continued hot and dry, which means the runoff will swell rivers and streams at least for a while longer.

Looking south from Aspen into the Elk Mountains divide toward Crested Butte, an observer still can see plenty of snow hanging in the north-facing mountains.

The Gunnison River close to Gunnison was running Tuesday at 1,330 cubic feet per second (cfs), still too fast to wade, according to the guides at Dragon Fly Anglers in Crested Butte.

“We’re still going to the Taylor (River), that’s fishing real good right now,” Chris Eaton said. “And then there’s the stonefly hatch, which should be going strong by now.”

The stonefly hatch on the lower Gunnison River around the North Fork confluence still is in its early stages, said Bob Burk at Cimarron Creek Fly Shop in Montrose.

On his website ( Monday, Burk wrote that the hatch began over the weekend and adult stones are in the air and enjoying the heat.

Once the trout finally figure out to look up to feed instead of nosing around for nymphs on the bottom, the action should improve greatly.

Dale Ohde at Western Anglers (244-8658) in Grand Junction said he talked Monday to an angler who fished upstream of the Pleasure Park over the weekend.

“He said it was an epic day, with bugs flying all over the place,” Ohde said.

Burk advised anglers to watch for top-water action as early as Tuesday all the way to the Smith Fork, about 3 miles upriver and as far as you can hike before getting cliffed out.

If you prefer avoiding the madness that accompanies one of the West’s most-sought after big-bug hatches, you can try smaller streams around the area.

There still are Pale Morning Duns, caddis and other topwater bugs to fish, depending on where you go.

The higher you go, the better the water. That’s only to a point, of course, because some high-country streams still are snowbound.

However, many upper streams are starting to clear, well ahead of the main streams below.

One example is the Roaring Fork River, never an easy river to fish because of its heavy flows and slick bottom but one that holds plenty of big-bodied, hard-fighting brown trout.

In recent days, the flows around Aspen have stabilized around 500–550 cfs, and this time of year, if you pick your spot carefully, you can find plenty of solitude on what’s often a very popular river.

There are a couple of often-overlooked access points to the Roaring Fork just across from the end of the runway at the Aspen airport.

The gates are hidden in the willows and can be a bit hard to find and you still have 500 feet or so of serious downward hiking to reach the river, but the end is worth the struggle.

As you go farther down the Roaring Fork, flows pick up from various feeder streams and water quality goes way down.

By the time you reach Glenwood Springs, the Roaring Fork is up to nearly 3,750 cfs and the water too murky to see through, much less fish.

Much of the water and the mud load is coming in from the Crystal River at Carbondale, which is flowing unchecked at 1,610 cfs.

Don’t even think about fishing below Carbondale, where the Crystal is throwing big water and lots of color into the Roaring Fork.

“The Crystal is blown out and adding a lot of color to the Fork,” said Kirk Webb at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt. “If you want to fish the Roaring Fork, I’d suggest you stay near Aspen.”

If you’re in the area and can’t fish the Roaring Fork, there’s the dam-released flows on the Fryingpan, which as of Monday were in the 380 cfs range.

A series of cutbacks in releases from Ruedi Dam has greatly improved the fishing on the Fryingpan, although there’s no sign yet of the much-awaited Green Drake hatch.

The word from Taylor Creek Fly Shop says flows are expected to stabilize or even drop as some of the side streams reduce their inflows.

Flies are consisting of mainly Baetis and Blue-winged Olives imitations with midges, mysis and eggs rounding out the mix. Pale Morning Duns are just starting to show, the shop said.

It’s that time of the summer when conditions change weekly, if not daily. Stay close to your favorite fly shop.


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