The Roaring Fork of Colorado

Fabulous Fly Fishing Near Aspen
By Al Marlowe
  |  Gorp.com

The Ute Indians were among the earliest recorded people to inhabit the area around Glenwood Springs. They named the Roaring Fork"Thunder River" with good reason. The Roaring Fork is aboisterous river. Even from a distance its current is audible.

From the headwaters near Independence Pass to the confluence with the Colorado the RoaringFork is a free-flowing river, making it unique. Few rivers in the state are completely free of dams, though the Fork does have many irrigation diversions. It's one of the few floatable rivers in the state. From its beginnings to the Colorado River the Fork is only about 70 miles long. It has big fish, too. (See map).

If you're not accustomed to fishing large streams, the Fork can intimidate you. Its current is strong.The water is often slightly off-color, hiding deep holes. Footing can be tricky on its rocky bottom.One thing in its favor is that the river fishes well nearly all year.

Rainbows and browns are the predominant species in the Roaring Fork. The upper stretches havesmall brookies: According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, they average 12 to 18 inches. Frommy experience this is no bureaucratic exaggeration. In the river upstream of Glenwood Springs toaround Carbondale you'll find many whitefish and suckers. They also readily take a fly and fight well.

THE HEADWATERS

From its headwaters a mile north of Independence Pass downstream to Aspen, the Roaring Forkruns through the White River National Forest. Not until it is within 3 miles of Aspen does the stream cross private land, with the exception of a few private holdings within the forest. The headwaters section upstream from Aspen is managed to allow a regular limit of trout with no restrictions on method. The river is small and holds lots of pan-sized brookies, along with rainbows. (See map).

Seasons

Because of the high elevation, this stretch offers summer angling after runoff extending into fall.

Equipment

Because this section is primarily a small-stream brookie fishery, it's a place to use light tackle. Hip waders should be adequate.

Patterns

Little brookies are seldom picky. Dry flies and nymphs should be small, #14-#20.

Access and Parking

State Highway 82 east of Aspen follows the river to its headwaters near Independence Pass.

White River National Forest
Forest Service campgrounds provide access and parking in addition to the road shoulders. West of the summit of the pass several patented mining claims are the most common private holdings along the river within the national forest. Although these may not always beposted against trespass, it is still illegal to do so. In many cases mines are no longer active, and in some areas old shafts (vertical holes) may have caved in but could appear solid on the surface. They can be unstable, presenting the possibility of an unseen hazard. Use caution if you decide to fish these stretches of the Fork.

North Star Access
There is county property along both sides of the river here, 2 miles east ofAspen along State Highway 82. The half-mile stretch is well marked.

ASPEN TO BASALT

Downstream from Aspen the Fork becomes a meandering meadow stream. The gradient is less than in the headwaters though still significant: The river drops about 1,000 feet in 15 miles. You will find lots of riffle sections with a few pools. This stretch of the river is fishable for most of the year. Eventhough it runs through private property, several areas are open to the public. (See map).

Between Hallam Lake in Aspen and Upper Woody Creek Bridge the river is designated as WildTrout Water. From McFarlane Creek to Upper Woody Creek Bridge angling is permitted with flies and lures only. All fish caught in this section must be released unharmed. Below the bridge and downstream to the confluence with the Colorado River, fishing methods are still restricted to flies and lures, but two fish over 16 inches may be kept.

Seasons

This stretch is open for most of the year. It offers good fishing even during the spring runoff if the river is reasonable clear. In the summer you will find good fly flishing here when other sections of the river become too warm. Although it is not known as a winter fishery, open runs can be worth trying then.

Equipment

The Fork's slippery rounded rocks make for interesting wading unless you have felt soles or studs.

Patterns

Dry flies: Adams, Blue Dun, Blue-Winged Olive, Brown Hackle Peacock, Elkhair Caddis, Ginger Quill, Green Drake, Griffith Gnat, Humpy, Rio Grande King, Royal Wulff. Nymphs: Breadcrust, Caddis Emerger and Larvae, Gold-Ribbed Hare's EAr, Green Drake Emerger, Halfback, Prince, Little Yellow Stone.

Access and Parking

SeasonsThis stretch is open for most of the year. It offers good fishing even during the spring runoff if theriver is reasonably clear. In the summer you will find good fly fishing here when other sections of theriver become too warm. Although it is not known as a winter fishery, open runs can be worth tryingthen.EquipmentThe Fork's slippery rounded rocks make for interesting wading unless you have felt soles or studs.PatternsDry flies: Adams, Blue Dun, Blue-Winged Olive, Brown Hackle Peacock, Elkhair Caddis, GingerQuill, Green Drake, Griffith Gnat, Humpy, Rio Grande King, Royal Wulff. Nymphs: Breadcrust,caddis emerger and larvae, Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear, Green Drake Emerger, Halfback, Prince, LittleYellow Stone.Access and ParkingState Highway 82 follows the south side of the river between Basalt and Aspen. Pitkin County Road 19 runs north and parallel to the river but a short distance away. Both roads provide access to open sections of the Fork.

Aspen Area
The Rio Grande Trail Access is between Hallam (some sources spell it"Holum") Lake near Aspen, downstream to Upper Woody Creek Bridge. Access is along the north side of the Roaring Fork and extends from Upper Woody Creek Bridge downstream to 500 feet. This makes5.5 miles of river accessible on the right (north) bank.

Lower Woody Creek Bridge Access (Gerbaz and Aspen Village)
Between Gerbaz and Aspen Village, go north off State Highway 82 to the Roaring Fork and Lower Woody Creek Bridge. Fishing access is upstream for 2 miles along the south bank. Starting 100 feet downstream from the bridge, anglers can fish the north bank for 0.75-mile.

Other Access
Some sources mention additional access points in this area. One is the Aspen RiverValley Ranch between mile markers 28 and 29 on State Highway 82. Another is Old Snowmass, atthe junction of State Highway 82 and Pitkin County Road 11, downstream from the Old Snowmass Bridge. A mile of the river is open between Old Snowmass Bridge and Lazy Glen Trailer Park.

© Article copyright Pruett Publishing.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Aspen

$177
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#1
The Gant - Destination Hotels & Resorts
$108
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#2
The Limelight Hotel Summit Hotels and Resorts
$469
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#3
The Little Nell Preferred Boutique
$159-$219
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#4
Aspen Square Condominium Hotel

advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »