Flows and Water Clarity
The Roaring Fork is running low and clear. Flows are 32 cfs below Maroon Creek, and 245 cfs at Emma. Water temperature is 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s the first week of February and it looks like the coldest part of the winter is behind us. Fishing remains very productive, particularly during the middle of the day. As always, safety is the number one priority on the river. With significant temperature changes from night to day, ice shelves are prone to breaking. Keep an eye up-river for ice flows and if you see the water levels starting to rise, move away from the water. With cold temperatures and low flows in the Upper Fork, the fish are stacked up in slower, deeper water. Focus on deep holes and eddies near natural structure for some great results.
Common Hatches and Food Sources
Midges, Baetis, and Eggs.
Midge Larvae and Baetis nymphs are the main sources of food present in the upper fork. But, we’re also seeing some slightly larger mayfly and cased caddis lingering on rocks and twigs. During this time of the year, trout occasionally feed on eggs, but it can be hit or miss. On warmer days, we’re seeing some fish rise intermittently to eat hatching midges.
Hot flies & Techniques
Midges and Baetis
Zebra Midge (black, gray, size 18-22), WD40 (black, gray, size 18-22), Miracle Midge (gray, brown, size 18-22) RS2’s (cdc, crystal wing, black, gray, size 18-22), Juju Baetis (red, olive, black size 18-22).
Tungsten jigs with hot collars (yellow, brown, pink, size 14-18), Bead Head Rainbow Warrior (classic, purple, red, size 16-20), Eggs (chartreuse, peach, white).
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)
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 by far. 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 patterns to help get smaller flies down deeper has been a very productive technique. With the cold temperatures, your floating line and line guides are at risk of freezing over, using ice off paste can help extend your time on the water. With low water temps there are less insects hatching, so the fish are hungry. Small midges and baetis are the staples when this time of year, but don’t be afraid to try something out of the ordinary. If you’re not finding success, get creative and you might stumble into an unexpectedly productive fly pattern.
With warmer days forecasted ahead, keep an eye out for pods of rising fish. Winter dry fly hatches can be few and far between, but are incredibly fun and rewarding to fish. Midges are the predominant hatch right now, so switching to small dry flies and fine tippet is your best chance at fooling fish. Small streamers are also an option this time of year, but be sure to focus your efforts on deep pools and structure.
Wintertime Fish Feeding Habits
Trout are cold blooded, so their metabolism is regulated in large part by water temperature. With the water temp resting in the low thirties, trout metabolism is at a low for the year. But, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t eating. Water temperature has a greater impact on the metabolism of small fish than it does on larger fish. So, we’ve been finding that you’re more likely to catch bigger fish this time of year as they tend to feed more regularly than the smaller ones.
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.
Written by Aspen Outfitting Company Staff, Photo by Anna Stonehouse