How many places can boast having an incredible medium sized tailwater, a world class larger freestone, and big, brawling mix of both; all within thirty minutes of each other? The Roaring Fork Valley, which spans from Aspen downstream to Glenwood Springs, represents a trout fisherman’s paradise, float or wade. Small creeks to the massive Colorado River, technical Frying Pan River trout, plus year round fishing at its finest! Wild and untamed Roaring Fork rainbows and browns, steelhead-like Colorado River trout that average sixteen inches, and amazing scenery from high alpine lakes to the red walled canyons of the Pan await you.
The Roaring Fork Valley is where I got my start trout fishing, and it is still the finest mix of water types anywhere that I’ve encountered. There is something here for any type of trout bum, no matter his or her preference. Dry fly purists are treated to the entire gamut of western hatches, without exception. Technical nymph fishers can fish light rigs to tough tailwater trout on the Pan, hone their big water skills on the Fork, or go industrial strength on the Colorado. Streamer junkies have two fantastic rivers to float and pound the banks on. For the small stream and high mountain lake trekker, there are thousands of acres of national forest lands to explore.
One of the by-products of having all of these venues so close together is that fishing on any given day is bound to be good somewhere. Regardless of the time of year, weather, runoff, low flows, or other tough conditions, there are few times when all of the rivers are affected simultaneously. The end product is a valley where fishing is as close to fail-safe as it is anywhere. In the same day, an angler may find difficult fishing on one river, drive a couple of miles to try another, and then finish up on a third.
Highlights of fishing in the valley depend on time of year. Frenzied caddis hatches occur in March and April. The green drake hatch is the most famous, beginning in Glenwood Springs on the Roaring Fork in July, and peaking on the Frying Pan in late August, offering fantastic dry fly fishing. Fall streamer fishing is incredible from a drift boat or raft. Spring and Fall hatches of blue winged olives create great dry and nymph fishing throughout the valley. Winter is the best time to seek out a giant on the Frying Pan, when the water is low and hungry fish feast on midges and mysis shrimp.
To the destination fisherman, the Roaring Fork Valley is a no brainer. So long as the decision of “where to fish” is left up to a capable local guide, or resourceful fly shop, the opportunity for productive fishing always exists. Any angler who has travelled to fish understands the risk of blowouts or unpredictable dam releases. Booking a trip here comes with its own form of travel insurance.
Access to the valley is easy via Interstate 70 from Denver, or by flying into Aspen Airport. Lodging options vary from simple motels to five star accommodations and beyond. Add the hustle and bustle of Aspen and its worldwide reputation; or stay closer to the heart of the fishing in Basalt and go low-key. Public fishing access abounds on all of the rivers, and equipment is available to rent if going unguided is your preference. Plan your trip as convenience and circumstance allow, and let the rivers provide the fishing.