Three Gold Medal Rivers Near Basalt Colorado

Category:
Fly Fishing, Planning
Added Date:
Friday, 1 Jul, 2016
Summary
Basalt is situated in close proximity to several of Colorado’s premier trout fishing streams. Though it’s hard to find a bad place to fish in the mountainous state, there are a few stretches of water that have been designated Gold Medal fisheries.
 
Content

Basalt is situated in close proximity to several of Colorado’s premier trout fishing streams. Though it’s hard to find a bad place to fish in the mountainous state, there are a few stretches of water that have been designated Gold Medal fisheries. 

The Gold Medal designation is reserved only for those rivers that meet qualifications of sixty pounds of trout per acre and at least 12 fourteen inch or larger trout per acre. Out of hundreds of great fishing streams, the Gold Medal rivers are the best of the best. Wondering why Basalt is famous for it’s fly fishing?—no less than three of these Gold Medal waters are within close range, and two run right through town!

Basalt’s Nearest Gold Medal Rivers

Colorado River

A short drive from Basalt to Glenwood Springs will get you to great trout waters on the Colorado. At this point, the pocket waters, rifles and pools are flush with rainbows and sizeable browns, ranging from 13 to 20 inches. Guides and experienced anglers will tell you that the bows and browns here are among the toughest to catch in the state. So you better come prepared!

colorado-rivers-map

 

Roaring Fork River 

The Roaring Fork is a tributary of the Colorado, and has as one of its tributaries the Frying Pan (also Gold Medal). It’s no wonder then that this mountain stream is ranked as one of Colorado’s finest trout waters. By the time it winds into Basalt, the Roaring Fork is joined by the Frying Pan and the volume of water increases significantly. The 28 mile distance between Basalt and the confluence with the Colorado at Glenwood Springs is the famed Gold Medal run. The Crystal River converges with the Fork near Carbondale and maintains the Gold medal moniker that started at Basalt. 

Frying Pan River

Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of a man-made dam in 1968 brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish. 

Sound like a great opportunity for avid anglers? With so many top quality rivers nearby, Basalt is always a great place to visit to get in on the trout action.

 
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Destinations
 (1)
Most everyone has heard of Aspen, known for its physical beauty, great access to skiing, high-end resorts, and home to innovative think tanks and institutes. Yet just a ½ hour drive ... morenorth on I-82 will take you to Basalt, a mile-high jewel of the Rockies. Surrounded on all sides by the White River National Forest, Basalt is also where two of the state’s best fly fishing rivers come together – the Gold Medal Frying Pan and Gold Medal Roaring Fork – and it’s a mere 30 minutes to the Colorado River.

Named for the nearby rock formations on Basalt Mountain, this town like many others in Colorado began in the late 1800’s as a mining and railroad junction. Trains were used to move people, charcoal and charcoal kilns, which at the time brought people to the area and employed many. Today the Frying Pan Kilns at Arbaney Park are an important tourist attraction.

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Adventure sports and outdoor activities are the major tourist draw to the area. Within the White River National Forest there are 8 areas officially designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, including Eagles Nest, Flat Tops and the Hunter-Fryingpan. In addition, there are 10 peaks with elevations in excess of 14,000 feet including Snowmass, Castle and Gray’s Peak. The area also features a dozen ski areas including Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, Beaver Creek, Snowmass and Vail.

Anyone planning a fly fishing vacation along with others not interesting in casting a line, there are scores of alternative activities to keep them engaged. They can choose from White water rafting on the Roaring Fork, boating on the Ruedi Reservoir, and needless to say, skiing. For those who like to bike, there are over a dozen, world class, cross country bike trails, as well as lift accessed down-hill biking throughout the valley. Hiking trails are numerous, varying in length, elevation and difficulty.

Not to be outdone by Aspen, Basalt is home to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) new “Net-Zero Innovation Center,” located on the banks of the Roaring Fork. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is also currently building a new, state of the art center near RMI’s.

There are several ways to reach Basalt, including:

Fly into Grand Junction Regional Airport and drive approximately 2 hours

Fly into Denver International Airport and drive approximately 3 hours

Fly into Colorado Springs Airport and drive approximately 4 hours

Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport and drive approximately 6 hours
Fishing Waters
Lengthy and litigated is a great way to describe this river. Starting high in the Rockies at La Poudre Pass (elevation over 10,000 feet) the river flows south and west for another ... more1450 miles before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Compacts, treaties and reams of legislation have determined the course of this river for the past two centuries. Luckily, within the state of Colorado the river remains a largely unencumbered, freestone fishery.

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Initially, the river winds its way through the Rockies along the western slopes of the Continental Divide. The river gathers momentum as mountain streams and tributaries flow into it. Further along, it gains additional force with the confluence of the Blue, Eagle, and the Roaring Fork rivers. Its Rocky Mountain run ends after passing through De Beque Canyon and opens into the agricultural flats of the Grand Valley. Here it meets with one of its largest tributaries, the Gunnison, at Grand Junction.

A short drive from Basalt to Glenwood Springs will get you to great trout waters. At this point, its pocketwaters, rifles and pools are flush with rainbows and sizeable browns, ranging from 13 to 20 inches. Guides and experienced anglers will tell you that the bows and browns here are among the toughest to catch in the state, surely an enticing invitation to fishermen who enjoy a challenge. Cutthroat and brook are said to be easier to catch and can be found in limited numbers a bit farther north, closer to its headwaters.

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While indigenous people have lived along the river for thousands of years, it wasn’t until after 1846, when the Americans won the war with Mexico, that new-world explorers began to fully appreciate the full course and commercial importance of the river. In fact, it took until 1869 for an American explorer, J.W. Powell, to actually run the rapids of through the entire Grand Canyon. Now of course, the Colorado is the main source of water for millions of westerners. If you are an angler traveling with friends and family that aren’t that enthusiastic about fishing, the river provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities from wilderness hiking to river rafting and other outdoor sports.
Game Fish Opportunities:
 (1)
With a name like this you know there has to be a story. In fact there are several, but our favorite is the most obvious – that long ago there were so many fish (native cutthroat) they ... morejumped right out of the river and into your frying pan. It begins near Mt. Elbert as a stream fed, heavily pocketed, freestone river. From there the river turns northwest and flows into the Ruedi Reservoir, where since 1968, its waters have been dammed. This 14 mile, Gold Medal, section - from the reservoir to the Roaring Fork at Basalt - is considered one of the state’s best tailwaters. 

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By definition, Gold Medal in Colorado means the fish are plentiful – a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre with at least 12 fish over 14 inches in length. Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of the dam brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish.

Add abundant, year round hatches and it’s no wonder anglers flock here to fish. The Frying Pan is known for its fabled Green Drake hatch that typically starts in late July and extends through October, drawing even the savviest fish to the surface. In addition to Spring Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches, this tailwater is one of only three that hosts the Serratella ignitia, a flightless BWO that attracts fish like ice cream attracts kids.

The river above the reservoir is less crowded and less regulated. The Gold Medal run is catch and release, artificial lures only.
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As a tributary of the Colorado, and the Frying Pan and Crystal as its main tributaries, it’s no wonder that large stretches of the Roaring Fork are ranked as Wild Trout and Gold Medal ... morefisheries. Originating high on the western edge of the Continental Divide near Independence Pass, this steep gradient river is aptly named. During its 70 mile run, the river drops over 7,000 feet, generating speed, turbulence and Class I to VI rapids. The Roaring Fork Watershed is vast, draining over 1,450 square miles, an area comparable in size to Rhode Island.

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Above Aspen, the upper waters can be waded and are flush with brown and rainbow trout. Located in the White River National Forest public access is plentiful and well marked. The distance between Aspen to Carbondale, a 4200 ft. drop, is a highly regarded section for fly fishers and is also easily accessed off Route 82.

From Aspen to Basalt, the river loses gradient with another 1300 foot drop but picks up volume from surrounding mountain waters. Most of this section is designated as Wild Trout Water indicating that the river can support trout through an entire, natural life cycle. At Basalt the Frying Pan joins the Roaring Fork and the volume of water increases significantly. The 28 mile distance between Basalt and the confluence with the Colorado at Glenwood Springs is the famed Gold Medal run. The Crystal River converges with the Fork near Carbondale and maintains the Gold medal moniker that started at Basalt.

Restrictions apply in the designated waters and vary from section to section and from season to season, so it’s important to obtain current information before casting off. The Upper part of the river is good for wading. Floating is best suited for the lower stretches but requires someone experienced in whitewater navigation.
Trips
$
345
-
$
445
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
$
400
-
$
475
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Destination:
Current Flow: near Emma -880cfs The Fork topped out near 880cfs at the beginning of the week but has been falling all week due to the cooler weather. The Fork offers some good fishing ... morehigher up above Basalt at the moment but as soon as the temperatures increase the flow will pick up again. So keep you eye on the temperatures for an indication of the rate at which the melt will pick up again.
$
400
-
$
475
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Current Flow: Below the Dam 245cfs. The Pan is OK at the moment with good water conditions. The fish are still laying low but there were reports of reasonable fishing closer to the ... moreDam. Note that from the 3rd of June it is anticipated that the releases will be up with the endangered fish program. The Pan will run high for about a week. When the water comes up it won't be good fishing for a day or so, but when it settles down to a consistent flow it will be good fishing close to the dam where there will be floods of mysis shrimp coming through. The remainder of the river will be hard to negotiate for the few days when it runs at its highest level.

Recommended Flies:Use midges, bwos, nymphs and attractors. The fish are also taking small nymphs.

For mysis at the dam use Mike's Mysis. epoxy mysis, and BDV mysis.

The midges will come off during the day, particularly if it is sunny. So try Wilson's Reverse Candy Cane #20, red and black chironocones #20, nick's larva in miracle pink, olive, and purple back, brassies #18 - #22, midge larva patterns #18 - #22,copper johns #18 - #22, rainbow warriors, black polywings #18 - #22 and bling midges # 18 - #22.

As they come off try the gray loopwing emergers #20 - #22, the FPA special emergers, biot emergers both with and without the trailing shuck and gray RS2's#18 - #22, Johnny Flash in Olive, Grey, and Black, Olive and Red Jujubee, trailing shuck midge black and cream.

In addition try dry patterns such as the z-wing real midge, black cdc midge and any similar dry black and gray patterns in sizes from #20 through to #26.

The fish are taking generic nymphs such as pheasant tails and caddis larvapatterns. The BWO's are coming off as well. Try emerger patterns such as rs2'sand WD-50's.

For BWO naturals use standard BWO's, parachute BWO's, parachute Adams, andThorax patterns.
Outfitters
 (8)
The lower elevations hit a peak in the melt earlier in the week and now the rivers have come down a little with some relatively cooler weather. The Fork is in good condition though ... moreflowing high. The Pan is very clear at its current flow. The best information is that the Bureau will run the Pan up to around 700cfs from the 3rd of June for the co-ordinated release. That will last for a week. Thereafter the flows should come back to remain around 250cfs. However if the Bureau has underestimated the amount of snow they may have to run the flows up again later in the month. The reason they may have underestimated the flows is because we have had quite a lot of rain which fell as snow up higher. There are not enough guages to indicate the snowpack up high so there is a little more guesswork involved than will be admitted.

In the meantime, the fishing on the Pan will be tough when the releases run high so make note. While the cooler weather prevails the Fork will be good above Basalt, but watch the temperatures, as that too could be short lived.
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