As the Roaring Fork river winds its way down from the high country, it transforms from a running stream to the deep and wide flow of a mighty river.
The view and the landscape undergo a similar transformation, as does the character of of the river itself.
The Roaring Fork descends from an elevation of over 2 miles to the lowly (for Colorado) 5,800 feet, making the descent just over 1 mile in elevation over 70 miles of river, where it joins the Colorado in the Roaring Fork Valley.
While the area is still developing and expanding with new homes and commercial ventures, there is still plenty of wild water and Gold Medal fishing to be discovered along the Roaring Fork River.
The headwaters of the Roaring Fork are found in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness just a little southeast of the well-known skiing retreat of Aspen. For the most part, the river follows Independence Pass road through Aspen proper, and from there descends into the Roaring Fork Valley. The good news for sportsmen is that nearly all the headwaters of the Roaring Fork can be accessed from public property as the river makes its way through White River National Forest.
The designated Wild Trout Waters of the Roaring Fork run from Hallum Lake (located in Aspen) all the way downriver to Upper Woody Creek Bridge (found between the towns of Aspen and Basalt). Cutthroat., Rainbow, and Brown trout are particularly plentiful along this section of the Roaring Fork.
From Basalt to Carbondale, the river widens and gains depth as the Frying Pan River connects to the Roaring Fork proper. During high water, this is a great area for floating, and you can access the river in and around Basalt and Carbondale. All in all, this is a beautiful stretch of water with excellent trout fishing flowing down through one of the most majestic valleys in all of Colorado.
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There are two Gold Medal stretches of water to fish from along the Roaring Fork, both of which provide easy public access to the river for boating or floating.
The first section to visit is on the waters between Hallum Lake in Aspen and Upper Woody Creek Bridge just before you reach Basalt. The easiest way to access this area is from the Rio Grande Trail running along the north bank of the Roaring Fork. Some avid sportsmen even load their gear onto their mountain bike and follow the trail down to fish for those elusive Gold Medal Rainbows and Brook trout that are found along this particular section of the river.
The second Gold Medal trout waters are found at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and the Crystal River just outside Carbondale. The area continues downstream all the way to the where the Roaring Fork meets the Colorado itself near Glenwood Springs.Rainbows, browns ,and mountain whitefish are plentiful here. The character of the river changes dramatically along this stretch, and has often been compared to fishing in Arkansas or upstream Colorado waters further to the north. This Gold Medal stretch is a popular floating area due to the increased depth and wider river. It is also the most scenic section of the Roaring Fork with the Maroon Formation to the east and the 13,000 foot peak of Mount Sopris to the south.
What makes the Roaring Fork such a great river to fish is that there are fly hatches year round. Regardless of the season, something is hatching and the fish are biting.
Midges and BWOs hatch in their largest population in the springtime, but they see small population booms even on warmer winter days.
Recommended flies for the Roaring Fork River:
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Roaring Fork River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Roaring Fork River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
It is important to not that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife has different rules governing each area of the river, including:
Eagle County Airport is just 70 miles from Aspen, and during ski season you can often get excellent rates for roundtrip flights. Otherwise, Denver will be closest at roughly 124 miles away (about a 2 hour drive).
Due to this area being something of a vacation hot spot, there are plenty of motels, bed and breakfasts, condos, campgrounds, vacation rentals, and hunting/fishing cabins in the area.
Check Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, and Basalt for the best places to stay that fit your budget and your accommodation preferences. To get to the river itself, just follow Highway 82 from Glenwood Springs all the way to Independence Pass.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish.
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