Low Water? High Water? No Problem!

Posted on 07 September 2021

No matter the conditions, there is always somewhere to fish here in the Roaring Fork Valley.


Fly Fishing in All River Conditions in Colorado 

What a difference a year can make in the unpredictable amount of snowfall in the Roaring Fork Valley.  Spring of 2019 left us with a cold and wet March, April and May that provided one of the largest runoffs on record.  The Colorado River swelled with snowmelt like it would never recede. Much to my disappointment, float fishing was nearly impossible in 2019 until the first week of August. In June of that year, the only show in town was the "Flats"; a section of river below the dam on the Fryingpan with nearly 1,000 cfs flowing through the piled up anglers. Crowded and confined wade fishing opportunities made it difficult on the guides and their sports. 

Mix in the general public looking to do some angling and it was hard to find a place to stand. We caught a lot of big fish but the river certainly got a little crowded. As I often do, I missed floating the big rivers in my boat. Although it was a great year for spring skiing, 2019 was not my favorite early season of guiding. 

We had little to seemingly no runoff in 2018. The usual month-long ordeal of high, cold water turned out to be a weeklong blowout of epidemically small proportions. Fishing guides feared for the worst. We are an easily shaken group of people. The year prior we figured that the high water would ruin the float fishing until September. In 2018 it was the opposite situation; there was very little water, about 1/3 of the water that we had just the year before. What would happen in August? Would we all be out of a job? What would happen to the fish? Harsh predictions of doom and gloom were cast all around at the Tipsy Trout. We all worried about August. As it turned out, it ended up being an awesome season of fishing. We were all doing trips at a steady clip by early June. 

Changing Seasons, Changing Strategies

Float fishing started a whole month earlier than in 2019. As you can probably tell, I love to fish from a drift boat. Fishing was outstanding in June 2018. The fish were hungry on the Fork and Colorado. The summer provided us with some excellent rainstorms that filled the rivers with numerous shots of cold water. The river levels and temperatures were decent through July. August was a little more difficult. I had my clients meet me earlier in the mornings so that we would be done fishing before the temperatures of the rivers got too high. Water temps in the high 60s to low 70s are lethal to trout after a hard fight. Fortunately, we all tried our hardest at Taylor Creek to be off the river before the afternoon heat warmed the water too much. The fishing in the mornings was great as the fish fed hard knowing that the afternoons would be hot. A lack of runoff turned out to be not as big of a dire situation as we fishing guides had first thought. 

As long as we receive enough rain in the months of July and August, the Roaring Fork River can sustain fishing during a low water year. The Fryingpan is the Roaring Fork’s best friend on a hot summer during a low water year. Some may argue that the Fryingpan River and Ruedi Reservoir is the best thing to have had happen to the Roaring Fork and Colorado River systems. The Pan’ provides a "cold drink of water" for the lower rivers. Plus, the Fryingpan takes the brunt of the wade angling traffic. I would urge all of you to thank the Fryingpan River for making our floatable rivers better. The next time that you catch one of the little browns on the Pan, give him a hug and tell him or her to keep up the good work. Tell him that his trout brothers downstream appreciate him working on the front line and taking a little of the pressure off. 

Trout fishing and water levels are very unpredictable things. Luckily, we have the Fryingpan. I hope we have a good snow year this season to fill Ruedi Reservoir back up and give us a cushion in the event that we have lower snowfalls. One year we have too much snow to go float fishing early, the next year it was questionable whether we would be able to fish all the way through September.

Making the Most of Any River Condition

The only constant thing that you can rely on is a great day on the river with one of Taylor Creeks guide staff. I urge all of you who would like to book a trip with a float guide to call the shop in May and reserve us early for your summer vacation. By that time we should have a good idea of what the snow levels have in store for us. Thus far, good snow conditions have made for ideal river conditions. I hope to see you all on the river this 2020. We encourage you to come fish with your favorite Taylor Creek guide as often as possible. It helps us scrounge up enough money so that we can go catch tarpon in the Keys and pay the bills. 

Taylor Logsdon, Taylor Creek Guide

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