Fly Fishing, Planning
Sunday, 3 Jul, 2016
Looking to do some fishing in Basalt, Colorado? It's a great place to cast a line, but don't get caught without a fishing license! Here's a list of some places nearby where you can go to pick one up
Looking to do some fishing in Basalt, Colorado? It's a great place to cast a line, but don't get caught without a fishing license! Here's a list of some places nearby where you can go to pick one up:Frying Pan Anglers
231 Midland Ave Ste 205, Basalt, CO 81621
(970) 927-3442Taylor Creek Fy Shop
183 Basalt Center Cir, Basalt, CO 81621
(970) 927-4374Crystal Fly Shop
1087 Highway 133, Carbondale, CO 81623
You can also get a fly fishing license by applying online. Visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website
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.
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
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.
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.
Often overlooked by visitors to the area, the Crystal is an undiscovered gem worth finding. Starting at the confluence of its north and south forks, the river winds down from the alpine ... moremeadows of the Elk Mountains above Marble, Colorado and drains into the Valley of the Coal Miners. Because there are large shale deposits in its drainage basin, the “crystal” water can get muddy after a hard rain or during spring runoff, but if you catch it right it can deliver some great trout fishing.
Public access is quite good since most of the river flows through the White River National Forest and runs nearly parallel to highway #133. In the fall, brown trout come up from the Roaring Fork River to spawn, which can provide a great opportunity for anglers. The state stocks rainbow and cutthroat in the public sections between Marble and Redstone because hatches tend to be lower here than in other parts of the river. This is the only section that is stocked.
Higher concentrations of rainbow are found as you move toward the river’s confluence with the Roaring Fork. Because this is a swift moving river, the fish are known to hold out in current seams and banks where it’s possible for them to feed without exerting too much energy. Most consider late spring to early fall the best time to fish this wading river.
Between Crystal City and Marble, the river works its way through the Crystal River Canyon, a narrow valley with a challenging landscape. Fishing is known to be good here but the terrain is rugged and access is difficult due to seasonal mudslides, snow slides and rockfalls. If this type of adventure appeals to you, be sure to only go in with an appropriate, 4 wheel vehicle.
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.
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.
With the flows pick up quickly, leave the Colorado alone at the moment. Unless we get a burst of colder weather which settles down the flows it won't be worth fishing.
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.