On the Fly column: Don’t fear the muddy water
Just one look at the local rivers and you know changes are upon us. Flows are rising despite the cool temperatures as of late, as snowmelt makes its way to the valley floor. This will dramatically increase as soon as we can string a few hot days together, but there’s no reason to be afraid of the mud. One of the many great reasons to live here is the variety of fishing waters available. You can always head to your go-to de-iced lake, too.
When you see discoloration on your favorite stream, head up in elevation to find cleaner water. Whether it’s the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, or Crystal, climbing higher above feeder creeks usually pays off. Another phenomenon of note is that our rivers will be at their muddiest in the mornings, and clearest in the afternoons. This occurs because of the travel time involved in melted snow making its journey from high to low elevations. When you notice the lower Fryingpan running red, be not afraid, as this typically comes from Seven Castles creek near mile 4 when it rains. Clean water usually awaits you above it.
As far as finding fish goes in discolored water, keep in mind how lazy trout are. When the center line of the river is ripping fast, the fish will transition right to the banks, where you would normally be standing. This is the time when large attractor dries with droppers or big stonefly nymphs shine. Bye bye 5 and 6x, you can usually get away with heavier tippet, bigger flies, and sloppy casts. Work the soft water on the edges, and cover a lot of water while you’re doing it.
Despite the big water conditions, most locals consider this time of year pretty special. Most of us are up for a challenge, especially when the majority of anglers stay home this month. Sneaking up on the fish is a hell of a lot easier when the river is fast and brown, plus if you just wait until afternoon, conditions can radically improve. Don’t sweat the big water, go fish! You’ll be glad you did.
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Born in New Castle, Alice McKennis Duran learned to ski at 2 at Sunlight Mountain with her father and older sister, Kendra. She also had a brief stint training with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club prior to joining the national team.