A fantastically mellow enclave in this crazy valley. Close enough to Aspen to make day and night trips for skiing and the restaurants and nightlife but without all the hype.
Basalt can be a base for incredible hiking and backpacking in the nearby mountains and is really great for fishing, even right from town.
Fly Fishing in Basalt, Colorado is Unbelievable!
"Fly Fishing in Colorado - what an experience!"
Wading through the shallows in search of that choice position for casting, you’re suddenly aware of how quiet the breeze floats over the tall grass, and only the occasional water splash of an unsuspecting trout interrupts the calm. As you lift your rod and prepare to send the long line soaring across the glistening water, you marvel at the beauty of this wilderness to which you’ve finally arrived. You can’t help but feel like a kid again as you dream of the thrilling experience of landing a large, fighting, leaping trout.
Some of the most exciting trout waters in the U.S. are found in Colorado. Whether joining a wade or float trip or scheduling a private water excursion, a Colorado fly fishing vacation is the perfect escape from hectic schedules, commitments and responsibilities of everyday life.
High mountain creeks, bubbling streams, lakes and reservoirs, and roaring rivers hold large numbers of spectacular fish and abundant hatches of Green Drake mayflies, salmon flies, Caddis and other stoneflies. Great populations of colorful Rainbows, huge Brownies and energetic Cutthroats (the Greenback subspecies was named Colorado’s official state fish in 1994) as well as a variety of other fish, fill Colorado’s beautiful waters.
The Cuttroat Trout is the only Colorado native of its species, a great reason the Greenback was chosen to be the state fish. The Greenback is also on both the state and federal threatened species list (so if you catch one, please throw it back!).
The Rainbow Trout has called Colorado its home since the 1880s, when it was introduced to Colorado waters. One of the more distinctive fish, a reddish stripe runs along its side amidst black spots.
The Brown Trout is native to Europe and Western Asia, and was brought to Colorado in 1890. To date, the record Brown caught here was in the late 1980s and weighed in at 30 lbs., 8 oz.
The Brook Trout, or “brookie”, as it is affectionately called, spawns in the fall, resulting in its ability to outbreed other species of fish. Arriving in Colorado in 1872, this colorful fish is native of Canada and the Eastern U.S.
Basalt, Colorado is part of Colorado's Northwest Region and is centered at the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley near the confluence of the Roaring Fork and the Frying pan Rivers. Following the waters of the Frying Pan River to the east will bring you to Ruedi Reservoir, an area of diverse recreation opportunities. Basalt is surrounded by the public lands of the White River National Forest.
Any number of outdoor experiences are available in Basalt beginning with the spectacular trout fishing offered by the Frying Pan River and the Roaring Fork River. Other activities such as skiing, biking, white water rafting, golf, tennis and much more are all offered in and around the immediate area.
Whether taking in the activities, or just indulging in a weekend escape, I think that you will find Basalt a magical and romantic getaway
And, of course, the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Rivers offer world-class fly and cast fishing waters.
"Roaring Fork River"
When you need an accessible, picturesque place to fish for trout — the 70 miles of the Roaring Fork River fits the bill nicely. Running through the heart of ski country in western Colorado, the Roaring Fork is one of the most underappreciated fly-fishing rivers in the United States (of course, that might be because of its proximity to the world-famous Frying Pan River). The Colorado Wildlife Commission has conferred its “Gold Medal” designation on one 12-mile stretch of Roaring Fork, placing it among the top 2 percent of river-fishing locations in the state.
In its upper reaches, the Roaring Fork is a pleasant mountain stream, with small brook trout in the headwater tributaries and a healthy population of rainbows and browns in the main stem. Although the fish are not as large here as in the lower river, it's hard to complain about a place where you can scramble from pool to pool and catch spunky 10- to 14-inch trout. Public access to the upper river is unlimited in the White River National Forest from the Difficult Creek Access on Highway 82 to the top of Independence Pass.
The middle river — from Aspen down to Carbondale — is the most popular stretch for wading anglers. Small enough to wade across in places but big enough to hold large trout in its rocky pockets and dark green pools, the river is a perfect match for the fly rod. The river is easily accessed from a number of points, and when it's fishing well, a few hundred yards of river can keep you occupied for several hours. Heaver line and larger flies are often used and I have found the fish here are generally spunkier than the trout found in the more popular Frying Pan River.
The Frying Pan River adds its volume and nutrients to the Roaring Fork at the town of Basalt. The Frying Pan River is well known as a tremendous tail-water fishery. The tail-water section of the Frying Pan averages from 40-80 wide for most of its length. Some areas may tighten up while other areas widen. Flowing from the dam at extreme depths, the Frying Pan River's water is super cold (in the 40's – low 50's) for most of its journey to Basalt. This cold flow protects the trout from warm summer temperatures and also provides the river with consistent hatches of mayflies, caddis and some stoneflies. Trout, especially rainbows, have been caught in the river over 10 pounds. These phenomenal weights are achieved mainly from feeding on mysis shrimp and also from the river's other hatches and available food. The mysis shrimp were originally placed in Ruedi Reservoir to benefit the trout in that fishery. Since, the shrimp have been flowing into the river from the dam providing the trout with a "healthy" diet.
From Basalt downstream along Two River Road to the Lower Bypass Bridge, there is excellent public access. There have been some incredible caddis hatches along this stretch and often guides take their charges off the world-famous Frying Pan to find better fishing on this section of the Fork. The wading here can be treacherous, and it's best not to attempt a river crossing except during low flows. If you are in the area for several days, be sure to book a day of wade-fishing on the Frying Pan.
The lower river — from the confluence of the Crystal River at Carbondale down to the meeting of the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs — is an expanse best suited for float fishing. Most of the guide trips in the valley occur here. Unlike the transparent waters of the upper reaches, the water here is a rich green, and the mossy river bottom harbors the most abundant insect life on the river. There are large trout here — browns up to 10 pounds have been taken. Green Drakes (a favored trout snack food) generally start on the lower river and move upstream as the season progresses. The Mother's Day Caddis hatch works the same way.
Fly Fishing the Frying Pan & Roaring Forks Rivers
"If you are new, use a fishing Guide Service"
The Taylor Creek Fly Shop (970-927-4374) is western Colorado's oldest fly-fishing specialty store and guide service. I have used them three times now and have been completely satisfied each and every time. They are located in the town of Basalt at 183 Basalt Center Circle near the Best Western Aspenalt Lodge.
In fact, the two hotels that I’ve used while fishing near Basalt are the Best Western and the Aspenwood Lodge (800-905-6797 or 970-927-4747). Both of these are close by and only a short walk to the fly shop but the Aspenwood Lodge is closer to the great breakfast restaurant, Two Rivers Café at 156 Midland Ave. I recommend their breakfast special!
"Gearing up on a Guided Fly Fishing Trip"
A guided fishing trip costs about $340 per day for up to three people. This doesn't include your fishing license and any fish hooks lost during the trip. It also doesn't include the hats, jackets, shirts, bug repellant, water proofing, and other paraphernalia that you might purchase.
Call ahead for reservations as there are a limited number of guides available. Depending upon the season, you'll have your choice of taking a guided river float trip or just a wading trip to the nearby locations. Wading is what our group chose for this particular trip.
If you are taking a wading trip then once at the shop, unless you brought your own, you will be provided with waders and boots. You will need to be sure to have a hat, layers of warm clothes and water-repellant jackets depending on the time of year and weather patterns as you fish. You will usually put the waders and boots on at the shop and then depart using the guide's vehicle.
The folks at the fly shop are happy to answer any questions or help you with any issues that you might have and you will find them to be very friendly to the new or casual fisherman and very easy to deal with.
"Nymph Fishing on the Roaring Fork"
It is often claimed that the highest percentage of fish taken on flies are taken on nymphs. The fly should be bumping along the streambed. Strike indicators, based on little bits of day-glow colored water resistant material, can be a helpful method of 'seeing' what your fly is doing. Another way to accomplish the same thing - making the action of your fly visible - is to use a high buoyancy dry fly with the nymph as a dropper. A highly visible fly makes it even better. With the strike indicator or the top-water fly as an indicator, you raise your rod tip when the indicator disappears under water. Yes, it's just like using a bobber. Sometimes fish will take the top fly to which is a real bonus.
Here is a friend of mine, Jim Bernhardt from Atlanta, nymph fishing in the Roaring Fork River near Carbondale, Colorado.
"Finding the trout in Colorado's Rivers"
A series of pools and riffles will provide a multitude of good lies for trout, with options to move to other areas depending on water temperature and condition. The more varied a river or stream bottom, the better it will be for holding places for fish. This is true of even tumultuous mountain streams and riffles etc. There will be an area of dead water in front of rocks or similar obstacles where the pressure from the running water is less, as well as behind. Look or expect to find a fish lying in depressions caused by fast water cutting into a riverbed, for example where a riffle meets a pool. Tails of pools are popular as they tend to be narrower than the pool itself, so funneling food into a narrow neck and there will be slow water along the bottom as the water flowing from the pool meets the shallow tail waters. Look for rocks in rivers or indications of sub-surface rocks where there are changes in current flow, wrinkles or boils on the surface.
Fish like to lie near banks, particularly where there are over-hanging trees and bushes or even rushes and grass. Caterpillars and terrestrials may fall from trees overhanging rivers and streams, giving trout a perhaps unexpected meal. As well as falling, insects can also be blown into the water. However they arrive, the end results are the same: a meal for an observant trout. Over-hanging trees and bushes provide much needed shelter and protection from predator’s overhead. Banks can often be under-cut, particularly on the outside where the water flows faster. Such an under-cut will provide a first class lie for one or more fish.
Look for fish where fast water meets slower flows. Trout can rest in slower water and dash out to intercept food flowing by in faster water and then return to digest their meal in calmer conditions.
Trees growing near the water's edge or ones that have fallen into a river will provide a number of potential lies. Never pass-by such an obstruction without spending some time studying the water and seeing if a fish does rise.
Another good place to cast a fly is close to a line of foam. Foam lines can happen when currents of different speeds meet and foam or air bubbles, perhaps caused by decaying vegetation, are merged into a line of foam. Trout will feed in such an area on flies that get trapped between the two currents. The foam tells you that something is happening in the water, to the fish's advantage and yours, if you take it.
In warm weather when water temperatures rise and the amount of available oxygen starts to fall, fish will move into fast, broken and well-oxygenated water. During the spring and summer, the need to capture food is equal to or more important than protection from enemies-as long as there is some cover close at hand when danger threatens. As the food supply dwindles and water temperatures drop and streamside vegetation recedes, the need for protection from winter floods, anchor ice, and predators becomes the primary factor in a trout's existence.
The biggest fish will always claim the best lies, with smaller fish in progressively less pleasant lies. If the biggest fish is caught, dies or is killed, the fish behind will move up in to the prime position. So if, one day, you catch a fish in a good lie, it is highly likely that another fish will take its place. This means that it is worth checking the lie the next time that you are on the river - there should be another fish there.
Jim Bernhardt and our fishing guide, Gifford, are surveying a section of the Roaring Fork to determine where the trout are likely to be.
"Catching the Rainbow - trout of course!"
Within a one hundred mile stretch, the Roaring Fork Valley has four rivers that offer Gold Medal Trout Fishing. The Colorado, The Roaring Fork, The Frying Pan and the Crystal rivers are enough to keep the angler here for days. They have a plethora of Brown, Rainbow and Cutthroat trout as well as white fish. This whole area is known for its sizable, active fish and great fly hatches. But what most anglers desire the most is catching a wild rainbow trout.
The rainbow trout needs no introduction to most anglers. Wild, high-jumping, spawned-in-the-gravel Colorado rainbows are big, strong and wonderful for fishing on light tackle or fly fishing and Colorado has become a place to go for serious trout anglers the world over. There are as many fishing techniques for the rainbow as there are fishermen who pursue them.
Our group of five anglers and two guides spent two spring days on the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Rivers catching mostly brown and rainbow trout. With a few exceptions, most of our time was spent nymph fishing these clear, cold waters. Often we were actually standing within feet of and could clearly see the trout that we were attempting to catch. Especially on the Frying Pan, these trout have been caught and released so often that they are very wary and canny making them difficult to catch.
I had pretty good luck catching both brown and rainbow trout, especially on the Roaring Fork River. Here in the river, very near to Basalt, I have just caught a nice rainbow trout that I released immediately after the picture was taken.
"Colorado weather can change very fast indeed!"
Our first day of spring fishing provided us very nice weather. It was in the 40’s (Fahrenheit), which met we really didn’t need coats or even long shirts except to keep from getting sunburned. But the weather was changing as the day went on from mostly sunny to partly cloudy and the wind freshened. Fish are finicky and strike best during times of low pressure. And they don’t like barometric pressure changes very much. So the fishing that first day was slow and spotty. The barometer was falling all day and, although we didn’t know it at the time, a storm was moving in. So it was quite a shock to all of us the next morning when we opened the door of our hotel to discover it was snowing and had been for a while.
Of course this did not deter us from fishing, it just changed the way we outfitted ourselves. Being from Atlanta, and it already being spring in Colorado, none of us had really brought winter clothes or gloves so we made do the best that we could.
Our entire group decided that we wanted to start fishing in the higher elevations of the Frying Pan River today, near the dam. After a hearty breakfast, we departed for the upper Frying Pan. The two groups chose different spots from which to try their luck. As it turned out, one party stayed and fished that area, which is close to the dam, with excellent fishing results but at the expense of being intensely cold and uncomfortable. The other group, of which I was a part, decided to start fishing at the stretch of river known as “old faithful”. The two of us, and our guide, spent the morning fishing this area and caught about 10 trout—but we were freezing! My hands were so cold they were going numb.
The picture shows my friend John Mullen getting his tackle ready as a heavy snow continued to fall. The snow lasted about an hour and made conditions difficult. But with the lower barometric pressure we found the fish more energetic and ready to feed than they had the day before.
"Overcoming obstacles to catch a rainbow - trout!"
Here is an example of the conditions we found ourselves in during our morning of fishing the "old faithful" pool area on the Frying Pan River.
My friend Jim Bernhardt caught this nice rainbow trout pretty quickly after we began fishing. But you can see that the snow is still briskly and heavily falling. Neither Jim nor I had gloves and we both suffered from the exposure of the snow and cold water to our hands. Of course, we kept fishing anyway because - after all - we WERE catching fish!
"Changing rivers to get away from the snow"
At lunch time my group headed to lower elevations to escape the bone-chilling cold we were experiencing on the Frying Pan River.
Gifford, our guide, took us back to a spot on the Roaring Fork River that we had fished the day before with spotty luck. Today, however, it proved to have much better fishing with the lower pressure.
As an aside, my two-day experience was that the trout on the Roaring Fork tended to be more energetic, producing more fight and leaps, than those on the Frying Pan making it more fun for all of us.
Gifford, our guide, also put heavier line on our rods which dramatically reduced the number of novice, cast-induced line tangles that we suffered.
All in all it was an excellent two days of fishing through two completly different weather patterns. Every member of our group caught and released a goodly number of fish. The members of the other group that stayed on the Frying Pan all day the second day caught some really big trout up near the dam--some over 20 inches in length.
I am really looking forward the the next time that I can come back to Basalt and fish in these wild streams again. I am thankful that my company is headquartered near Boulder, Colorado and I get to come out to Colorado and do this several times each year.
If you haven't fished in these rivers near Basalt, Colorado you have missed a marvelous time. Do try and get out here at least once for the way fishing was met to be!