On the Fly column: Reading the runoff tea leaves | PostIndependent.com

On the Fly column: Reading the runoff tea leaves

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Shannon Outing and her mother enjoy a day on the river.
Shannon Outing

The annual fly shop parlor game is back in full swing: When will runoff end? This year, everyone is also wondering if or when it will begin in earnest, as well. We’ve luckily stayed cool and wet so far this spring, which has prolonged the usual mid-May runoff conditions we typically encounter. Word around here is the mountain soils are dry, so more water will percolate into the ground versus what would usually enter the river system. Despite this, we should see the freestones increase in volume significantly soon.

Runoff presents its challenges but I believe it provides opportunities, also. Fish still eat, every day, despite what the river is doing. As most of you already know, there’s no big mystery where the fish hang out during high-flow periods –right next to the bank. When the centerline of the river is swift, the fish will look for softer current where they can, to expend as little energy as possible. Hatches can be interrupted when the creeks begin pumping ice-cold water into the main river channels, so fish become very opportunistic feeders during these times. Any way you slice it, we anticipate the runoff to be pretty short this year, and then we’ll need to keep an eye on river temperatures.

Western Colorado has been experiencing decreased snowpack and severe drought for well over a decade now, and anglers have noticed that drought combined with ever-increasing river traffic can stress our resources. If we start seeing river water approaching 70 degrees (in lower elevations) this summer, we as anglers may need to change our game up a bit to take proper care of the fish. Luckily, most waters above Carbondale and Basalt remain quite cold during summertime, regardless of snowpack. It’s hard to fully read the tea leaves thus far, but hopefully it will be a cool and monsoonal summer here in the Roaring Fork Valley.

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.

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