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On the Fly column: April is a gift for winter-weary fly fishers

Tired of midge fishing for the last five months? April is a gift for winter-weary fly fishers here in the valley. Blue winged olives are the harbinger of spring here, and there is some furious surface activity already underway on the lower Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. BWOs, or baetis, are on the scene in spring and fall, and the fish are keyed in on them almost exclusively at this point. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Just mentioning the word caddis causes most of us to shudder and salivate in anticipation of skating dries and exploding surface action. Tax day through Mother’s Day is the sweet spot for caddis fishing, even though they will be on the menu for the next five months. Be on the water mid-day and again at dusk to keep that rod bent. Most people say the Arkansas River has the best caddis fishing, but local guides know better.

Golden stoneflies are the giants amongst lilliputian bugs we normally deal with, and these aquatic double cheeseburgers are in the process of molting right now. Stoneflies are extremely vulnerable to trout when they shed their exoskeletons and are temporarily whitish-yellow in color, and it’s no secret that blonde stonefly nymphs are on the end of many fly fishers tippets right now.

April also brings pike and carp fishing back to the forefront, especially for guides’ day-off excursions. Most people jealously guard their secret spots, especially when it comes to carp, and for good reasons. Tricking these paranoid 10, 20 and 30 pound omnivores isn’t easy, and can be just as challenging as stalking bonefish on Bahamian flats.

Before you know it, we will be talking about green drakes, pale morning duns and yellow sallies, and midging will seem like a distant memory. On those complex hatch summer days, you just may long for those simplified midge-only winter hatches. Be careful what you wish for.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

On the Fly column: Reading the runoff tea leaves

Without fail, the springtime fly shop parlor game has begun; what’s the spring runoff going to be like this year? There couldn’t be two more vastly different water years than this one and last; wildly swinging snow totals are the new normal. Considering the drought battles of last summer compounded with forest fires, we are certainly sitting prettier compared to last time around. We had historic snow this winter, with Aspen having its second snowiest year ever recorded.

We have already seen some “early runoff” out there as we have warmed up, but don’t let off-color water send you packing quite yet. Runoff won’t begin in earnest until mid-May. The Crystal River has already popped a few times with a bit of mud and increased volume, and we will see all of the freestone rivers yo-yo a bit as we ease in to spring. The Eagle River has contributed some off-color water to the Colorado this week as well.

Once we get a week of bright sun, caddis will enter the equation for fish and anglers alike. Usually by Tax Day we start to see the first waves of these bigger bugs, with the first major emergence anticipated around Mother’s Day just as runoff takes off. The warm and cloudy weather we’ve had all week (and next) has offered up some incredible blue winged olive hatches. We are seeing these mayflies on the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers all the way up to Basalt.

So, what’s runoff going to be like? This depends on how quickly we warm up. Usually you can bet your bottom dollar that runoff will occur from May 15 to June 20, but if I were a betting man, I’d say it will start earlier in May and last later into June this time around. However it works out, it will, and our slippery local river inhabitants will be very happy with more cold water this summer than last time around. Let the tea-leaf-reading begin.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

Familiar winner at Colorado Open disc golf tourney

120 participants, made up of amateur and professional competitors from throughout Colorado and bordering states, were on hand Sunday at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club for the final round of the Colorado Open disc golf tournament.

The event, with play beginning on Saturday, is a two-day format that placed golfers at the GSGC and the Fire Mountain Disc Golf Course in New Castle for the opening round of pool play, and concluded on Sunday in Glenwood with the final two rounds being played on “The Hill.”

The tournament, open to players of all abilities, featured 14 divisions with the top talent vying for trophies and prize money in the Men’s and Women’s Open professional category. Two of Colorado’s top professionals, Joe Rovere of Lafayette and J.C. Kester of Palisade, were the highest ranked players heading into the weekend’s competition.

“The weather was perfect for us this weekend. We had some spectators, and it was an amazing tournament,” said event director Vanessa Porterfield. “We’re looking to make things even bigger for next year.”

The top thrower in the men’s open division is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Joe Rovere, a teacher from Lafayette, captured his eighth Colorado Open title with scores of 52, 47 and 53 for a weekend total of 152, giving him an 11 shot victory over runner-up Nate Metzler of Louisville, Co.

Rovere is a former teacher in the area, having taught at Riverside and Rifle Middle School, so the trip to Glenwood each year carries with it a little extra meaning.

“I was fortunate enough to win here last year, so this is special,” said Rovere. “I get to see some old friends and some people that I taught with years ago. It’s always a fun trip back.”

There was a tie for third place in the tournament’s top division with Evan Jones of Avon and Kyle Griffin each carding two-day 165 totals.

Basalt’s T.J. Meisterheim was the only entrant in the women’s open division. Meisterheim scored rounds of 62, 77 and 75 for a 214 total score. Meisterheim’s first round score was recorded at Fire Mountain in New Castle, which is a par 54, with all holes being a par 3. The two final rounds took place at the Glenwood Golf Club, where the par is 63 due to several longer holes on the layout.

Assistant tournament director Brandon Hesser compared the length and difficulty of the two different courses used in this year’s Colorado Open.

“Fire Mountain is really tight and technical,” stated Hesser. “The players like the Glenwood course a little more because it is wide open and has more of a real disc golf feel. Plus, they like the carts, food and beverages that are offered.”

Other big winners on the day in the women’s division were Jenny Majeski of Poncha Springs (Advanced) with a score of 222. Darian Green of Grand Junction (Intermediate) posted a score of 234 to top her grouping. In the men’s Advanced division, Ty Richards of Glenwood Springs had scores of 60, 57 and 61 to capture the championship. In the 50-plus age category for the men, Richard White of Colorado Springs won the title with a total of 194 shots.

For complete tournament results in all age divisions and categories and amount of cash payouts, go to www.PDGA.com/tour/event/39186.

Disc golf tournament flies into Glenwood, New Castle this weekend

More than 100 professional and amateur disc golfers will be in the area for the annual Colorado Open Saturday and Sunday.

Sponsored by Dynamic Discs, the two-day event will take place at both the Glenwood Springs Golf Club, where they have set up a temporary disc course, and the Fire Mountain Disc Golf Course in New Castle.

“It brings tons of professional and recreational disc golfers from all over,” Tournament Director Vanessa Porterfield said.

Porterfield, who took over the tournament three years ago, says players mostly come from throughout Colorado and the bordering states.

“We have a competitor coming from as far away as Hawaii this year,” Porterfield added.

Porterfield and her husband, Assistant Tournament Director Brandon Hesser, took over organizing the event after the long-time-running tournament had a two-year hiatus after the previous director retired.

“This will be the third year it has been back. It’s usually held in the spring at the start of the disc golf season,” Porterfield said.

Porterfield said she and Hesser fell for the sport five years ago when she was pregnant, and they both picked up the popular sport and subsequently opened Gypsy Disc Golf, a retail disc store in New Castle.

She said there are around 10 disc golf courses in Garfield County alone.

Event schedule

Saturday and Sunday’s tournament will include two of Colorado’s top pros. Joe Rovere of Lafayette and J.C. Kester of Palisade will both be competing.

The pool play tournament will get underway Saturday at both Glenwood Springs Golf Club and the Fire Mountain course in New Castle.

The tournament will be made up of 14 divisions, including professional categories of Open and Women’s Open division, Pro Masters 40+, Advanced, Amateur Masters 40+, 50+, 55+, 60+ men and women, and an intermediate and recreational division.

“The first day they’ll play at both courses. There’s two pools, one pool will starts at Glenwood, the other New Castle, and then they swap,” Porterfield said.

She said Sunday is trophy day, with the final two rounds at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club.

Trophies will be awarded to first, second and third place finishers.

Porterfield said the trophies were handmade by a local metal artist.

Saturday, there will be an insurance policy on hole 4, if anyone gets a hole-in-one. And, depending on disc brand, they will win $5,000 to $10,000.

Porterfield said spectators are welcome.

“A lot of people are amazed to see some of these guys throw,” Porterfield said. “The more spectators the better, then the more people will understand what the sport is about.”

kmills@postindependent.com

Aspen Skiing Co. passes will include Ikon Base Pass for 2019-20

Aspen-area skiers and riders who have complained about the Ikon Pass this season will find themselves in an interesting position next ski season.

Aspen Skiing Co. announced Tuesday that many of its season passes for 2019-20 will include the Ikon Base Pass, which allows unlimited skiing and riding at 12 resorts owned by Alterra Mountain Co. as well as up to five days of skiing or riding at 25 affiliated resorts.

Ikon Pass users had limited access — seven or five days, depending on the type of pass — to the slopes of Aspen Skiing Co.’s four ski areas this season. Many local skiers and riders blamed Ikon users for creating weekend crowding. Now, people who have done the complaining may become part of the perceived problem at other resorts.

“We’ve been talking about reciprocity since the (Ikon) pass came into being,” Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of communication, said Tuesday.

It took a while to figure out how to set up the system with so many players involved, he said.

On Tuesday, Aspen Skiing Co. started selling 2019-20 season passes that are not eligible for the chamber discount. The “super early price” will be offered through May 31.

The premier pass is $1,899 for 2019-20. The premier adult, chamber, senior and parent passes will include the Ikon Base Pass.

Passes that are eligible for a discount for employees of businesses that belong to a chamber of commerce in the Roaring Fork Valley will go on sale Aug. 12. The prices haven’t been announced yet for those passes.

The double flex is $1,539 and the flex, good for one day per week, is $1,049.

The scheduled opening days for next season are Nov. 29 at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass and Dec. 7 for Highlands and Buttermilk.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Three-day symposium in Aspen will explore building off uphilling phenomena

Representatives of outdoor recreation companies and local governments will convene in Aspen for three days starting Sunday to discuss the “uphilling” phenomena and its potential to grow more.

The symposium called the Aspen Ascent is part of Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron’s vision of how to tap the passion for uphilling as a way to boost and diversify the economy. There has been a surge in popularity over the past decade or so in people using climbing skins on skis or using snowshoes and other specialized gear to ascend ski slopes or backcountry trails. Skiers and snowboarders “earn their turns” by walking up rather than taking a chairlift.

Skadron, an avid uphiller himself, made it a goal a couple of years ago to develop the concept further for Aspen.

“Since the very beginning of setting this uphill economy goal for the city of Aspen, I have been focused on how mountain towns such as ours can diversify and grow its economy while also paying homage to the ski roots that built such Colorado destinations,” Skadron said in a statement.

The goal of Aspen Ascent is to build public-private relationships and identify tangible next steps to build the economy. Aspen Ascent will feature three days of panel discussions exploring data, trends and research related to uphilling and the outdoor industry. Representatives from The North Face, La Sportiva, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the U.S. Forest Service, Aspen Skiing Co. and Aspen Chamber Resort Association will attend.

Uphill ski and snowboard travel is the latest way outdoor recreation is engaging participants of all ages, according to Nathan Fry, deputy director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“Uphill ski activities have extended beyond the trailhead to become an emerging attraction at lift-serviced resorts,” Fry said. “Uphill participants are motivated by the health benefits of earning their turns and the history of the sport. According to Longwoods International, Colorado is by far the top destination for skiing and attracts more than 20 percent of skiing trips in the U.S.”

A discussion on Uphill Market Research will reveal the profile of who spends time and money pursuing uphill fitness, how much money they spend and where they seek their recreational opportunities.

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade will offer statistics and information on future initiatives in the outdoor industry including insights on seasonality, workforce development, infrastructure supports, public-private partnerships and regional integration.

Other panels will feature women and the outdoor industry, market research take-aways, how community development can leverage the outdoor recreation industry and community partnerships.

The event won’t be confined to the great indoors. The Aspen Ascent at Buttermilk will be held Sunday at the base of main Buttermilk. Vendors selling and demoing uphilling gear will be set up at the base from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free beginner uphill clinics will be offered on the half hour between 8 and 10 a.m. Expert clinics will be held at 8, 9 and 10 a.m.

The event is free. “All athletes, abilities and non-motorized equipment are welcome to participate,” said a statement from Aspen Skiing Co. “Options for uphilling include ski touring, trail running, snowshoeing, split boarding and hiking.”

Designated uphill routes and aid stations will be established at the ski area. The Cliffhouse restaurant at the mountaintop will offer complimentary hot chocolate and lemonade. Food will be available for purchase.

The symposium kicks off at 4 p.m. Sunday with the “Uphill Economy Dinner and Panel Discussion” at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. A panel will discuss growth of the outdoor recreation industry, state and local economic development and positioning businesses and communities to benefit. Presentations and panel discussions will be held throughout Monday and Tuesday also at the St. Regis.

Tickets range from $50 for local government and ACRA members, $75 for participants who don’t require lodging and $500 with lodging. Registration is available at www.aspenascent.com.

On the Fly column: Fly Fishing Film Tour comes to Aspen

One of the most anticipated nights of the year is coming to the Wheeler Opera House at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28. The Fly Fishing Film Tour is your chance to catch up with your fishing friends and make some new ones, too. F3T showcases “shorts” of all of the fly fishing films from this year and gives the viewer a taste of where this sport can take you. This year is no exception, with many highly anticipated films on deck for 2019.

“Aphlexo” is a film about the Alphonse Fishing Co. in the Seychelles and how its guides finally created the perfect crab fly pattern for ultra-selective Indo-Pacific permit. Finding the perfect fly for these fish has been stumping guides and tyers for years, and they finally found a breakthrough pattern that doesn’t send the permit running for the hills when they see it.

Local favorite RA Beattie has an offering in the tour this year. “Nexgen” is about Jack Buccola, a 12-year-old fly fisher from Bend, Oregon, and his development as a young angler. Jack experiences fire on his home waters, gains respect for the steelhead of the northwest, and gets to fish for native cutthroat in the South Fork of the Snake River.

“Glorious Bastards” will take you to Australia, specifically the Wessels Islands in the Northern Territories. South African and Australian anglers (normally rivals) team up to explore an almost-untouched fishery with two species of permit and plenty of other species willing to eat a well-presented fly. After obtaining permission from the aboriginal land owner, they set sail for an experience like no other.

Dave Sweet and his daughter Diana, a fisheries biologist, are on the front lines of bringing Yellowstone cutthroat trout back from the brink of extinction. “The Return” follows this father-daughter team deep into the Thorofare area in Yellowstone to see if these native fish are regaining their foothold and spawning in one of the most remote and beautiful places to be found in the lower 48.

You’ll have a chance to win some sweet gear, meet the crew from Casting for Recovery and the Roaring Fork Valley Fly Fishing Club, plus plenty of industry professionals. We hope you join us at the Wheeler.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

Carbondale’s Van Horn nearly clinches North American uphill record

Carbondale resident Sean Van Horn fell a mere 800 feet shy of breaking the North American record for most feet skied uphill in a 24-hour period on Sunday and Monday.

The record stands at 61,200 feet, which equates to between 39 and 40 laps up Aspen’s Buttermilk ski area. Van Horn uphilled 60,400 feet between 11 a.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. Monday.

His performance earned him the record for the best ascent numbers at this elevation (9,900 feet above sea level at the top of Buttermilk), and the second-place title.

The event, “24 Hours Of Vert For Aspen Strong,” raised funds for a local organization promoting mental health awareness and resource sharing from Parachute to Aspen. Van Horn’s Go Fund Me page had raised $8,209 as of Tuesday morning.

“Although Sean fell a few hundred feet short of the record, the example he is setting for strong men throughout our area is an invaluable gift to our valley,” said Rodney O’Byrne, communications director for Aspen Strong.

“I hope the exposure this event has brought to national outdoor brands encourages them to join this conversation so important in saving the lives of the athletes who live and survive in our mountains.”

enduring too much

Van Horn struggled with depression, addictive behavior and an eating disorder in his younger years.

After hopping on his bicycle in his teens, he discovered the world of endurance sports, which helped him combat his mental health issues. But, after suffering a back injury that derailed a professional cycling career, he said he was left to confront the reality that athletics alone are not fully adequate.

“While endurance sports can be a saving grace, it’s not enough when you’re talking about mental health issues,” Van Horn said before his record attempt. “You have to deal with the underlying issues.”

Now, at age 32, Van Horn wants to spread the message that it’s OK to seek help to deal with mental maladies, especially in the Roaring Fork Valley, which suffers from a suicide rate that mental health professionals find disturbing.

“It’s important that, as a society, we do our best to support people struggling with these issues,” Van Horn said. “Talking about these things openly and honestly helps people realize that a lot of people struggle with this. It’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with them. They just need a little help to overcome those issues.”

O’Byrne emphasized the importance of reaching at-risk individuals in the valley’s seemingly healthy, outdoorsy community.

“We’re looking at hitting people from the bottom up, or from the top down,” he said. “The bottom up are people that are totally lost and don’t really know that mental health is even a thing, or they have such shame and stigma around it that it’s this old school way of thinking that there’s something wrong with you.

“The top down is the resources. There are so many amazing resources that are out there trying to solve the crisis … [which] Aspen Strong steps in to help promote.”

O’Byrne pointed out that the organization’s name is derived from Aspen trees appearing to be individual organisms, when in fact they share the same root structure and genetic composition across a stand of trees.

Van Horn fits well into that metaphor and was largely responsible for organizing the logistics of the event, attracting brand support and helping to raise funds.

“Sean has run with almost all of this, and that’s fantastic. To have someone show up in this capacity is such a gift,” O’Byrne said.

training tough

In preparation for Sunday’s uphilling extravaganza, Van Horn completed the Power of Four endurance ski race and performed back to back days of 40,000 feet verticals.

Friends and family were present at the bottom of Buttermilk’s Tiehack area to administer food and water (as well as his wife, Kylee Van Horn, a professional dietitian) and speed up his transitions. Friends took turns accompanying him for a lap or two to offer emotional support.

Although he did not beat the standing record, Van Horn considers his performance a triumph.

“While I did fail to achieve my goal of breaking the North American record for vertical by a few hundred feet, I can’t help but feel that this effort was a huge success,” Van Horn wrote on his Facebook page afterward. “Creating this event has allowed me to be open and honest about my struggles with mental health issues in a way that I haven’t been comfortable doing before. The feedback I have gotten has been nothing short of remarkable.”

Added his wife, Kylee, “I felt like he went through all of the human emotions that we all experience throughout our lives, but in one 24-hour period. It was difficult in the low points seeing someone you care about going through so much pain.”

She described how her husband ran into a mental and physical roadblock about halfway through the event, requiring him to take a break and relax with breathing exercises.

With support and rejuvenation, “it was incredible to be able to see him bounce back from that and then have this extreme high around three in the morning,” Kylee said.

“He went from an extreme low to an extreme high. It was almost a metaphor for the whole purpose of the event, to promote mental health resources — we all go through those highs and lows ourselves, and when we’re at those lows being able to reach out and ask for help,” she said.

In addition to Van Horn’s integral team of 15, both he and his wife were astounded by the outpouring of community support.

“It brought together the community in a way I did not realize,” Kylee said. “There are so many people that offered up support, even people we didn’t know. I was blown away by the community support.”

Donations to Aspen Strong can still be made at https://www.gofundme.com/24-hours-of-vert-for-aspen-strong.

Justin Patrick is a freelance writer living in Carbondale.

On the Fly column: Time to get used to dry fly fishing

What a difference a week makes. While we are all trying to adjust to an hour’s less sleep, fish in the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers are making the adjustment to looking up and eating dry flies. Strong emergences of midges are commonplace now instead of sporadic. We have been seeing midges from one to three o’clock, a few blue wings from two to four o’clock, and a resurgence of midge activity from six until dark.

If you are anything like me, it takes a while to adjust to casting dries after a winter’s worth of nymphing. Spending an hour or two at the park with your dry fly rod can help scrape the rust off and reawaken your muscle memory, especially if you practice with a few goals in mind. Casting aimlessly doesn’t do anybody much good. I usually drop my hat on the ground and use it as a target, playing around with different distances to begin with. Next up is remembering how to deal with casting into and across the wind, always with that target on the ground.

The next “problem” I usually encounter (if these are problems, life must be rough) is letting the fish actually eat my dry fly before I snatch it away on an aggressive hook set. Last week I literally did this over 10 times in a row. Remember that adage, saying “God save the Queen,” before you bring your line tight. Slow hook sets trump aggressive ones on dry fly presentations. We all get excited out there, whether you’ve been fly fishing for an hour or a lifetime. Let ‘em eat it.

Lastly, consider your “angle” while angling. Controlling your flies on the surface is much easier when you present them across and downstream versus casting upstream. Upstream dry fly casts tend to pile your line and leader on top of the fish, across and down allows them to see your flies first, line last. Repositioning your drift in this direction is as simple as raising the tip of the rod. Take some time when you see rising fish, and determine the pace in which they are sipping on the surface. You’ll find that most of them establish a rising pattern. If that fish you’re stalking eats every 10 seconds, start counting and time your presentation accordingly. Whether you prefer to wade or float, we are definitely back in business here in the Roaring Fork Valley. Be safe, have fun, and let spring commence.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Reach them at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

Shiffrin, Pinturault get wins for the World Cup record book

SOLDEU, Andorra — Citius, altius, 40th.

Embodying the Olympic motto in a World Cup slalom Saturday, Mikaela Shiffrin went faster in her second slalom run and higher in the World Cup all-time lists by being stronger than Wendy Holdener to win an intense duel.

Shiffrin’s 40th career victory in World Cup slaloms tied her with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark’s record for wins in the discipline.

“It was just a really amazing day to be racing,” Shiffrin said in the sun-bathed finish area in Andorra, one hour after Alexis Pinturault also set a record winning the final men’s giant slalom of the season.

Pinturault became the most prolific French skier on the 52-year World Cup circuit with his 23rd career victory.

Shiffrin had trailing 0.28 seconds behind first-run leader Holdener and won by just 0.07 after both racers visibly pushed their limits slicing through the gates.

Holdener’s unlucky defeat extended her own unwanted World Cup record with a 22nd career podium finish in slalom without a victory.

That’s the most top-three placings in a single discipline without winning for any man or woman in World Cup history.

“I can see the frustration in her eyes,” Shiffrin said. “I have a lot of respect for Wendy. She is so strong.”

Shiffrin, the 2014 Sochi Olympics gold medalist, earned 100 race points to lift her season-long total in the slalom standings to a remarkable 1,160 — more than every woman skier’s total over all disciplines, except for overall standings runner-up Petra Vlhova.

Shiffrin’s mammoth 2,104 points overall — the second-highest total ever — is more than 800 ahead of Vlhova. Holdener is third.

Vlhova placed third Saturday but trailed more than a second behind the standout leading pair.

Frida Hansdotter, the 2018 Olympic slalom champion competing in her final World Cup race, placed fifth, 1.89 behind Shiffrin.

Pinturault retained his first-run lead to finish 0.44 seconds ahead of Swiss prospect Marco Odermatt, who earned a career-best result.

Zan Kranjec was third, trailing 1.03 behind Pinturault, who broke a tie with Carole Merle for the all-time record by a French racer. Merle got her 22 wins in giant slalom and super-G from 1988-93. Alpine great Jean-Claude Killy won 18 times.

Marcel Hirscher placed sixth, 1.74 back, having already clinched his fifth straight title in the season-long giant slalom standings.

“It’s really cool to have this globe,” Hirscher said, holding the crystal trophy he also won in 2012. “It’s surreal to have it for six years now.”

The Austrian star has also secured a record eighth straight overall World Cup title, though had his lead cut to 415 points by Pinturault ahead of the season-ending slalom on Sunday.

The World Cup finals meeting ends Sunday with overall champions Shiffrin and Hirscher favored for victory in, respectively, a giant slalom and slalom.