Aspen Outfitting Company’s Upper Roaring Fork River Report 5/26/23

Cian McGillicuddyFly FishingLeave a Comment

Flows and Water Clarity

Water levels have risen significantly! Flows are 980 cfs below Maroon Creek and 1640 cfs at Emma. Visibility is low. 


The Roaring Fork is roaring! Runoff is in full swing, but the fishing remains good. Visibility is definitely low, but clarity is better as you move higher up valley. High flows and cloudy water means that it’s time for the big nasty bugs! Stoneflies, worms, big jig style nymphs, flashy bugs and streamers are the name of the game. Caddis have also started popping on the fork, if you haven’t tried fishing some bigger caddis nymphs yet, give it a try!

With increased flows, it’s always important to be mindful of safety when out on the river. At this water level, the river is very powerful and poor visibility can make wading difficult. Be sure to wear a wading belt when you fish, and don’t take any unnecessary risks when moving around the river. The fish are pushed up against the bank anyway during these flows! There’s no need to try to get out into the middle.

Reading water is an important skill this time of year. As flows jump, fish will be pushed closer to the bank, into eddies and behind rocks where they can stay out of strong current. Focus your efforts on these likely places, often when you find one fish you find many during this time of the year!

As runoff occurs, think about where tributaries that are likely to bring turbid water into the system are. Fishing higher up in the system usually means better water clarity and visibility– remember that conditions aren’t uniform throughout the entire valley!

As mentioned above, conditions will probably be variable this week. If you want more in depth information on a specific day this week, give us a call or drop by the shop to get the most recent conditions and information. 

Changing conditions require you to adapt as an angler, making this a fun time of year to put your skills to the test! There is some great fishing to be had, but you need to know when and what to fish. As always, our guides are on the water every day and in tune with these changes. Booking a guide trip is a great opportunity to brush up on technique before the summer season starts and increase your chances of landing fish!

Common Hatches and Food Sources 

Stoneflies, Worms and Caddis

It’s time to Switch over to bigger flies like stones, worms and caddis with the increased flows and decreased visibility. Smaller stonefly patterns (size 14-18) that were productive earlier in the spring are still definitely working, but larger bugs (size 8-12) are working now too. If you can fish big, why wouldn’t you! We’re seeing caddis get active on the fork, fishing hare’s ears, frenchies, sparkle caddis, and UV caddis has been working well. Any jigged flies with CDC have been working well too!

Hot flies & Techniques


Point Flies

Hot Flies: Pat’s Rubber Legs/Girdle Bug (size black, coffee, brown 6-14), 20 incher (size 8-14, natural), Prince Nymph (size 8-16), Squirmy or San Juan Worm (Tan, Pink, Blood Worm), Guide’s Choice Hare’s ear (size 12-16), Frenchie Style flies (12-16), Perdigon (pearl, size 16).

Tungsten jigs with hot collars (yellow, brown, pink, size 12-16), Eggs (chartreuse, peach, white). Pheasant Tails (black, natural, flashback 12-16). 


Caddis are hatching on the fork, and in certain spots you can find some great dry fly action, particularly lower down the valley. That being said, the high water has made dry fly fishing a bit tough the last few days. Midge and BWO hatches are still happening on the fork, but the dry fly fishing has been very sporatic given the high flows.

Hot Flies: Griffith’s gnat (classic or hi-vis, 18-22)

Element Hi-Vis Midge (black, size 20) Parachute Adams (18-20), BWO Hackle Stacker (18-20)


Bring a streamer rod with you this time of year! It never hurts to target some structure and see what happens! It’s been a little streaky, but we love fishing streamers whenever we can!

Hot Flies: Thin Mint (size 8-10), Trick Or Treat (size 6), Mini Dungeons (black, white, natural (size 8)

Mini D&D (purple, olive size 6), Motor Oil (black, size 6), Slumpbuster (natural, size 8-12), Thin Mint (size 6-10). 


Nymphing is the most productive technique during this time of year. Finding deep holding water and using weight to get your flies down will be crucial to success. Longer leaders and heavy split shot will help you get your flies in front of more fish. Leading with larger jig style or tungsten patterns has been a very productive technique for helping smaller flies get down deeper. 

Decreased visibility during runoff provides us the opportunity to fish larger, flashier flies and use heavier tippet. Adjust size, flash and tippet selection depending on the water clarity where you’re fishing. As water levels continue to rise, fish will get pushed into pockets and eddies closer to the bank, but if whitewater isn’t ripping through your favorite holes yet, there are still fish hanging out there, 

Streamers are also an important tool in your toolbox during the spring! Small streamers with a slower retrieve tend to be best when water temps are low and the water is clear. As water temps increase and clarity gets off color, try the big nasty flashy stuff! It’s a ton of fun. Focus your efforts on deep pools and structure and cover a lot of water for the best results. 

Information About The Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork River is a freestone river that runs 70 miles from Independence Pass through Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale until it reaches its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. The cold, clean waters of this famous river support an incredible array of aquatic life including brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout. The Roaring Fork is designated as a “Gold Medal” fishery, meaning it offers some of the best trout fishing in the nation to beginners and seasoned anglers alike.

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