Veteran angler reveals secrets to fall fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley
October offers more choices than brilliant leaves, brisk mornings and big-game hunting.
The change of seasons affects fish and fishermen, making the former more aggressive (particularly the fall-spawning brown and brook trout), which in turn makes the latter more aggressive, particularly when chasing the large trout stocking up on winter calories.
The Roaring Fork Valley, which for our purposes includes the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan, Crystal and Colorado rivers, offers an angler several opportunities for midfall fishing.
The broad-shouldered brown trout in the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are eager to slash at a colorful streamer, while the gin-clear water of the Fryingpan demands tying on some 6x tippet and lofting size 20 Blue-winged Olives for the selective browns and rainbow trout.
You don’t need to be a local to know where the best fishing is, but it never hurts to know one. In this case, Kirk Webb might be the perfect person to know.
Webb, a 17-year veteran of the Roaring Fork Valley, the past seven spent guiding and teaching for Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt, will present a Powerpoint show titled “Fishing The Four Seasons of The Roaring Fork Valley” on Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Grand Valley Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Pinyon Grill at Tiara Rado Golf Course, 2360 S. Broadway.
I recently caught up with Webb, Taylor Creek’s assistant manager, on what he laughingly referred to as a “day off,” most of which he spent teaching a fly-tying class.
Daily Sentinel: The Bureau of Reclamation recently reduced water releases from Ruedi Dam to around 115 cubic feet per second into the Fryingpan. How does this affect the fishing?
Webb: I think it’s probably as ideal a water level as you can get up there. We’ve been through such high water seemingly all summer and it’s finally down to where it’s really good fishing.
DS: Doesn’t the low water deter some anglers?
Webb: It’s true, which means it’s really a magical time of year when the crowds we saw all summer are much less.
DS: But what happens to the famous Fryingpan insect hatches when water levels and temperatures drop?
Webb: We’re still seeing some insect hatches in decent abundance, particularly with some late PMDs, Blue-winged Olives and midges throughout the fall. There’s a lot going on bug-wise, which definitely adds to good fishing.
DS: Being a dam-controlled river, will these hatches last all winter?
Webb: With that constant 42 degree or so water temperature, the hatches become delayed, meaning they last for longer periods. And you don’t have to worry about getting out there early.
DS: Those cold mornings are great for another cup of coffee before hitting the water.
Webb: That’s right. We’re in that magical, mid-day time slot, things don’t start happening until noon or so and last until 4 or 5 (p.m.). You want to give the sun some time to beat down on the water and warm the temperatures up a little.
DS: Is this also true for the Roaring Fork? That water always seems a bit cold.
Webb: The Roaring Fork is fishing very well right now, especially down toward Glenwood Springs. At these flows (697 cfs at Glenwood Springs) you can pick your place to wade much easier than during higher water.
DS: Is the Fork still high enough to float?
Webb: Definitely, and for rivers like the Fork, which go through a lot of private land, floating is the only way to fish half the water. Floating provides you access to water you’d never get wading. And we’ll float the Fork until midwinter, when there’s too much ice and slush.
DS: October makes us think of streamer fishing, and we’ve been partial to the Autumn Splendor, a throwback sort of streamer developed by your friend Tim Heng. Any other suggestions for streamer patterns?
Webb: That’s a great pattern, especially since it’s a local pattern. Another favorite is the Sculpzilla, an articulated fly, which allows you to use a much smaller hook, and a streamer tied by Will Sands of our shop called a Stinging Sculpin.
The last one is the Sacrilege, a big bunny-type streamer tied with a spinner blade. Hence the fly-fishing sacrilege.
DS: You haven’t told us all your secrets, have you?
Webb: There are lots more. I guess you’ll have to come Thursday night to find out more.