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On the Fly column: PMD mayhem

A Fryingpan River Pale Morning Dun mayfly. Scott Spooner

My favorite bug is starting to hatch on the Fryingpan tailwater. In a world where green drakes get all the attention, pale morning duns seem to get second billing. In my humble opinion, PMDs hatch longer and are the prettiest bug around.

PMDs can vary in size and color here in the Roaring Fork Valley, anywhere from size 14 to size 18, and their colors range from red to gray, and pink to yellow. In my opinion, there’s hardly anything more graceful than a PMD poised for takeoff, experiencing the world outside the cold river for the first time. PMDs are prolific throughout the valley and will begin hatching on the freestones soon, as well.

PMDs will be hatching now until late October. What other insect (besides tiny midges and baetis) offers trout and anglers more pleasure than a bug that hatches four or five months of the year? Caddis, drakes, golden stoneflies and yellow sallies come in a distant second, it seems to me.

For now, we can fish size 14 and 16 imitations, but as the hatch prolongs (and the fish become more “educated”), we will have to downsize our flies and tippet to seal the deal.

Pale morning duns have a one-year life cycle, from larva to nymph, emerger to dun, and then the spinner phase. PMD nymphs (on the Fryingpan, at least) have dark or rust-colored bodies that help conceal them from hungry fish in the red rocked bottom of the river. Fly patterns like red Copper Johns, the Tungsten Split Case PMD and Tungsten Redemptions are excellent imitations for the nymphs.

Emerger patterns consist of Pandemic PMDs, PMD Flag Dun Emergers and Halfbacks, and my absolute favorite dun (dry fly) pattern is the pink or yellow Taylor Creek Sparkledun.

The spinner phase of this mayfly is also rust-colored, and the best patterns are CDC Rusty Spinners and Organza Rusty Spinners. This mayfly undergoes an additional metamorphosis after hatching, and female spinners are oftentimes found dancing above and laying eggs over the water in the evenings and mornings.

These spinner flies are also deadly fished deep under an indicator. Hopefully you get to experience some PMD mayhem this summer — I’m bound and determined to do just that.

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: Ready, set, go

Kyle Holt and a client show off a Colorado River Brown trout.
Randy Doepke

The year’s best dry fly fishing is just around the corner. As spring runoff subsides, our local waters will begin to clear rapidly. As the water warms up, we will begin to see an intensity of hatches. These hatches are what many anglers wait all season for, as there are few things more exciting than watching a trout appear under your fly and engulf it.

Within the next few weeks, anglers can expect to see a variety of different bugs on the water from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and everywhere in between. Most notably will be the first green drake hatches around Glenwood, coupled with pale morning duns and a variety of different caddis. This explosion of insect activity after a period of high, cold and discolored water drives the local trout into a feeding frenzy. Many of these hatches along the Roaring Fork occur throughout the day and into the evening, providing very consistent fishing throughout much of the day. Regardless of your daily schedule, anglers should be able to take advantage of some great fishing. As our area rivers drop and clear, check in with local fly shops as to when and where you can encounter these hatches and where the best fishing will be.

This week the Fryingpan has been fishing very well with clear and steady water flows. Blue winged olives are the main hatch, with lesser numbers of caddis and stoneflies along the lower river. Anglers have been very successful this week near the dam using Tim’s mysis shrimp, blings and pheasant tails, plus Chocolate Thunders and Palm’s biot emergers throughout the river.

Though the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers are high, they remain fishable on the soft inside seams and near the banks as the fish congregate along these softer edges and protected pockets. As long as the river has a foot or two of visibility, the fish will feed happily. Large flies and heavier tippets are needed to pull the fish out of the fast current so anglers can land them quickly. Our summer fishing season is quickly arriving with a vengeance.

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: Here we go again

A few guides taking a shore break on a Roaring Fork float recently.

The gang is finally getting back together again. Guides who work elsewhere in the country (and the world) are making the annual trek back to the Roaring Fork Valley over the coming months in anticipation of yet another bustling guiding season. Some go to the Pacific Northwest in search of steelhead and a slower pace Others head to Argentina, living a veritable “never-winter” lifestyle, fishing hoppers on 2x while we Valley residents are shivering on the Fryingpan flats. The great lakes and all of their tributaries and drainages beckon quite a few itinerant anglers, especially in fall after things slow down around here.

Salty destinations offer wintertime employment opportunities too, many Valley guides switch up their game to tarpon, bonefish, redfish and permit when the flakes are flying here. There are a few trout guides here in the Valley that are also Captains of their own flats skiffs in Florida and Louisiana through the winter. There are only a select few fortunate to work here all twelve months of the year, due to a well-cultivated client roster. If you are willing to get in some serious windshield time and aren’t afraid to truck camp months on end, there is always somewhere to fish and loyal clients and friends waiting to join you.

A fishing guide worth their salt is resourceful, motivated, and truly loves his or her sport, doing what they can wherever they can to keep fishing and teaching. Helping someone hook and land a fish never gets old for them, whether it is a brook trout from a vodka-clear spring creek or a 75 pound tarpon in 30 mph gusts off the front of a skiff. If you truly love it, it never gets old. I can’t wait for the gang to get back together, I’m sure there will be some terrific stories from their off season exploits.

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.

Campground reservations in White River National Forest now available

The summer season for roads and trails on the forest is approaching as well, with many opening to summer vehicles May 21.
File photo

Reservations are now available for many of the campgrounds on the White River National Forest, which open as early as mid-May.

“We expect another very busy summer season on the White River National Forest,” said Matt Henry, acting recreation program manager for the forest. “The more you plan ahead by making reservations early and by being aware of conditions and regulations, the better trip you’ll have.”

While many forest campgrounds are available for reservation at www.recreation.gov, there are also first-come, first-served developed campgrounds on the forest. These fill up quickly and hopeful campers will have a better chance of finding a site if they avoid peak periods such as weekends and holidays.

Campground information, current conditions including fire restrictions, motor vehicle use maps, important alerts and other information to help people plan ahead are available at www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.

Several other popular areas on the White River National Forest require reservations. Reservations to hike Hanging Lake can be made at www.visitglenwood.org. Parking and shuttle reservations for the Maroon Bells Scenic Area are available at www.aspenchamber.org. The White River National Forest also has group sites, day-use areas and rental cabins available for reservation on www.recreation.gov.

“We really encourage people to plan ahead and have a backup plan or two in case their top choice for a campground or trailhead is full,” Henry said.

The summer season for roads and trails on the forest is approaching as well, with many opening to summer vehicles such as mountain bikes, OHVs and four-wheel drive vehicles May 21.

“We are seeing an increasing number of violations from mountain bikers and off-highway vehicles on roads and trails not yet open,” Henry said. “Please help us protect roads, trails and wildlife by being patient and hanging on just a few weeks more until they are open to summer vehicles.”

Hanging Lake ready and waiting for visitors’ return Saturday; reservation-only hiking resumes following Grizzly Creek Fire

Trees along the steep cliffs above Hanging Lake sit charred while the lake itself remains untouched after the Grizzly Creek Fire swept through Glenwood Canyon last summer.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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For Ken Murphy and some of his H2O Ventures crew, the return trip to the Hanging Lake Rest Area this week was almost surreal.

Preparing for hiker visits to resume Saturday, it was the first time they had set foot at the rest area along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon that serves as base camp for the Hanging Lake Trail since they were forced to hastily evacuate the afternoon of Aug. 10, 2020, when the Grizzly Creek Fire broke out.

The famous Hanging Lake sits untouched after the Grizzly Creek Fire swept through Glenwood Canyon last summer.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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The famous Hanging Lake sits untouched after the Grizzly Creek Fire swept through Glenwood Canyon last summer.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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“We had to make sure all of our staff and the guests who were up on the trail got out of there safely,” said Murphy, who runs the Hanging Lake hiking permit reservation system for the U.S. Forest Service and the city of Glenwood Springs.

Within 45 minutes, everyone was out of harm’s way as the fire raged in and around the canyon for the next several weeks. It wouldn’t be declared officially out until Dec. 18, after consuming 32,631 acres.

Murphy hadn’t been back since that crazy day last summer. Nine months later, everything was pretty much right where they’d left it.

“There was a computer tablet we left behind, and lots of personal items belonging to employees — jackets, backpacks, computerized radios, even some paychecks,” he said.

Murphy figures there were maybe a hundred people on the trail when the fire started — far fewer than would normally have been there on a peak day in early August.

The number of daily visitors last summer was limited even more than the usual 615, due to pandemic social-distancing protocols.

Little did Murphy know when that day began that it would end with him canceling thousands of reservations that had been booked for the remainder of the year.

Hanging Lake Reservation System vital statistics

Available daily reservations: 615

Daily time slots available: 12, starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m.

Reservations booked to date: Approximately 23,000, or 20% of the total available May 1 through Oct. 31; 75% are Colorado residents

Where to make a reservation: visitglenwood.com/hanginglake/

Popular destination reopens

The Hanging Lake Trail and its iconic lake destination reopens Saturday to permit holders for the first time since the Grizzly Creek Fire erupted, and for the first time at maximum capacity since before the pandemic.

Reservations are filling up fast, especially on weekends through September, said Lisa Langer, director of tourism for Visit Glenwood Springs, during a press conference Thursday before members of the media were allowed a sneak preview hike up the trail.

“So far, we have almost 23,000 reservations made for the entire six-month period (from May 1 through Oct. 31),” she said.

That represents only about 20% of the total number of reservations available, but many weekends throughout the summer are already booked solid, with the exception of some 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. slots, she said.

When reservations opened, 7,500 were made in the first 90 minutes alone.

To date, 75% of reservations are from Colorado residents, Langer said.

“We actually have 56 international guests who will be making the hike,” she said. “I find that very encouraging for travel.”

Rockfall, debris flow concerns

A couple of post-fire concerns persist as people begin making the trek up the 1.2-mile trail to the pristine lake and back.

While the trail and lake area were mostly unscathed by the fire, there’s still a concern for falling rocks and trees from the burn-scarred slopes above, and for debris flows if there is a major rain event, advised Leanne Veldhuis, Eagle Holy Cross District Ranger for the White River National Forest.

Eagle Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis speaks to members of the media during the Hanging Lake media day on Thursday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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The Forest Service in 2019 launched its partnership with the city of Glenwood Springs, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and others to implement the new Hanging Lake management plan, requiring a permit and limiting the number of hikers, due to parking issues at the rest area and resource impacts along the trail.

“That enabled us to be flexible in addressing social distancing and post-fire challenges just one year later,” Veldhuis said. “And safety will be really important this year.”

Due to the debris flow potential, H2O Ventures will not be running the usual shuttle between Glenwood Springs and the trailhead this year, so that people can more quickly evacuate in their personal vehicles, if need be.

CDOT will also be keeping a close eye on the weather each day in order to be prepared to close areas and implement an evacuation plan if heavy rains are expected over the canyon.

“We are also advising people to be sure to check the weather if you’re planning on coming up to Hanging Lake, or just traveling through the canyon this year,” Elise Thatcher, CDOT Region 3 Communications Manager, said during the press conference.

Colorado Department of Transportation Region 3 Communications Manager Elise Thatcher speaks to reporters during Thursday's Hanging Lake media day.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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She said CDOT is working closely with NOAA to obtain the most detailed hourly weather reports as possible, so that any trouble spots can be pin-pointed before a rain event happens.

If heavy rains are expected on a given day or over a period of several hours, CDOT may close the recreational path and rest areas along I-70 in order to limit the number of people who could be in harm’s way, she said.

“That way, when we evacuate, we can do it much faster and more safely if people are in their cars and not at the rest areas or on the bike path,” Thatcher said.

If there’s a flash flood watch, CDOT will have workers on stand-by and equipment at the ready, and those areas will be closed. If it turns into a flash flood warning, the canyon will be evacuated completely, the highway closed and law enforcement will be on hand to monitor things.

In the event of an I-70 closure in Glenwood Canyon lasting longer than two hours, CDOT is advising motorists this summer to take the northern detour via U.S. 40 and state Highways 9 and 13. The southern route via U.S. 50 is not recommended this year, due to a major construction project along that stretch, Thatcher said.

Fire recovery and rehabilitation

Along the Hanging Lake Trail on Thursday new growth was already visible in the underbrush, some amid charred trees that have fallen and been cut up and removed from the foot path by Forest Service crews.

The first patches of snow left over from the winter appeared about halfway up the trail, where the stream is beginning to flow.

A trout swims in the pristine water of Hanging Lake.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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The famous Hanging Lake sits untouched after the Grizzly Creek Fire swept through Glenwood Canyon last summer.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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At one spot a little farther up the trail, one of the new interpretive signs showed slight damage, likely from a falling tree or other debris. But the remainder of the infrastructure is still intact, including the numerous foot bridges, handrails and the boardwalk along the south end of the lake itself.

At some point over the winter, a major rockslide covered the short trail spur up to Spouting Rock, one of the popular features near the lake.

It wasn’t discovered until the snow melted just a few weeks ago, said Sarah Strehle, Glenwood Canyon Recreation Program Leader for the Forest Service.

This past week, crews were called in to rebuild the trail using pry bars and shovels to position the rocks that had fallen into a new stair-stepped trail that now serves the Spouting Rock area.

Views from above the Hanging Lake on the trail to Spouting Rock on Thursday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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“We wanted to make sure it was ready for this weekend, and that it would be safe for people,” Strehle said.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, which arranges volunteer crews for trail projects in the area, has been heavily involved in raising funds for trail restoration work in Glenwood Canyon after the fire.

“There has been a lot of enthusiasm for that restoration effort,” said Jacob Baker, communications and engagement manager for RFOV. “Our job is to convert that enthusiasm to on-the-ground volunteers.”

On May 13, RFOV is hosting a virtual town hall at 6 p.m. with some of the stakeholders involved with the fire recovery effort, including city, Forest Service, CDOT and Union Pacific Railroad representatives.

The event will also serve to kick off a new $100,000 fundraising campaign to complete the trail work, Baker said.

Already, Alpine Bank has agreed to match the first $25,000 raised and Black Hills Energy has kicked in $12,000.

A man looks out at Hanging Lake during a media day Thursday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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“Many businesses and hopefully individuals understand that Glenwood Canyon is important, and they need to make a commitment to its restoration,” he said.

The first volunteer trail project in the canyon is slated for May 22 on the Jess Weaver/No Name Trail.

And, on Sept. 25, National Public Lands Day, RFOV will be doing a major trail project to rebuild sections of the Hanging Lake Trail to National Park Service standards, Baker said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

On the Fly column: Under no obligation

Gifford Maytham holds a Roaring Fork brown trout.

The universe is under no obligation to make sense to us, and this is doubly true when applied to trout fishing, don’t you think? In the course of a busy day in the fly shop, anglers from around the world (and from around the block) celebrate their successes with us, as well as their crises of fishing faith. Some days the trout do what they are expected to, but more often than not, they don’t. The same goes for insect hatches.

This doubly applies to an angler that fishes here a few days a year and expects the world from the insects and fish. Most of us can accept the randomness of hatches and fish behavior, while others expect a certain hatch to happen at a certain time at a certain place, which can set that angler up for a frustrating day. We all should be thankful for what the river offers us on any given day, and the more you fish, the more gifts she will eventually bestow upon you.

We have all had one of those fishing days where everything clicks together easily, and when we go back to the scene of the crime the following day, absolutely nothing is working despite identical conditions. This is a teaching moment, to be sure. Deep breaths and a change in game plan is needed on these days. The tough days are down payments, as I’ve said before.

The rivers here in the Roaring Fork Valley can spoil us rotten, given the prolific insect life and thousands of trout we enjoy. Whether you’ve fished here for a lifetime or it’s your first time, we should all come to the realization sooner or later that these waters can be tough once in a while. Trout can make us laugh one minute and cry the next, because they are under no obligation to make sense to anybody, right?

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.

El Día de la Tierra: un tiempo para la justicia ambiental

El jueves 22 de abril marca el 51 aniversario del Día de la Tierra y este año lo celebro con un gusto por el renovado sentido de urgencia en torno a la justicia ambiental que veo en los miembros de la comunidad, los funcionarios electos y las organizaciones medioambientalistas. Los continuos llamados a la justicia y la equidad mientras nos enfrentamos al mayor desafío de nuestra generación, un planeta que se calienta a un ritmo acelerado y sus efectos en todos los aspectos de nuestras vidas.

Durante esta devastadora pandemia y un año agotador, he encontrado paz y consuelo al estar en contacto con mi gente, los increíbles líderes latinos locales y nacionales que juntos estamos construyendo nuestro poder colectivo y elevando los llamados a la acción. Cada día, trabajo con estos líderes para plantar semillas de esperanza en nuestra comunidad que producirán una sociedad más justa. Una sociedad que garantice que todas las personas, independientemente del color de piel, etnia, idioma, estatus migratorio, poder económico o político, tengan acceso a aire y agua limpia, fácil acceso a la naturaleza y un clima estable.

Durante las elecciones del 2020, estos mismos líderes y nuestras comunidades se organizaron como nunca antes y latinos acudieron en cantidades récord a votar y elegir a funcionarios que están abordando las entrelazadas crisis de salud, económicas y climáticas. En este momento, la administración Biden-Harris está centrando el cambio climático y la justicia ambiental en muchas de sus políticas a nivel federal. Un nuevo proyecto de ley nos ayudaría a hacer lo mismo aquí en Colorado.

La semana pasada, la representante Dominique Jackson, la senadora Faith Winter y la senadora Janet Buckner, presentaron una emocionante propuesta de ley en la Cámara de Representantes, HB21-1266 el Proyecto de Ley Justicia Ambiental para las Comunidades con Impacto Desproporcionado, esta propuesta busca abordar las desigualdades de justicia ambiental a nivel estatal. El proyecto de ley requiere que la Comisión de Control de la Calidad del Aire promueva el acercamiento y la participación de las comunidades afectadas de manera desproporcionada mediante la creación de nuevas formas de recopilar información y promover la participación de estas comunidades en todo el estado, utilizando varios idiomas y creativos formatos.

Además, el proyecto de ley crea un grupo de trabajo especial para proponer recomendaciones a la Asamblea General con respecto a los medios prácticos para abordar estas inequidades en la justicia ambiental. Este grupo de trabajo creará una estrategia de justicia ambiental para toda la agencia estatal y un plan para implementar esa estrategia, incluidas las formas de abordar las brechas de datos y el intercambio de datos entre las agencias estatales y la participación de las comunidades afectadas de manera desproporcionada. Si bien esto es solo el comienzo y no aborda todos los problemas de justicia ambiental, es un gran primer paso.

Del 19 al 23 de abril, algunas organizaciones en el estado de Colorado estaremos observando la Semana de la Justicia Climática, que se centra en las personas y las comunidades para crear un mundo en el que todos prosperen. Los animo a unirse a Defiende Nuestra Tierra y Wilderness Workshop en nuestro apoyo a la propuesta de Ley HB21-1266, que está programada para una audiencia del Comité de Energía y Medio Ambiente de la Cámara el 22 de abril. Visite www.wilderenssworkshop.org/Take-Action para indicarle a sus funcionarios electos que es necesario que apoyen esta importante propuesta. ¡Qué mejor manera de celebrar el Día de la Tierra que actuando sobre la justicia ambiental!

Beatriz Soto es la Directora Defiende Nuestra Tierra para Wilderness Workshop. Ella es una inmigrante de Chihuahua, México y madre de un niño que es primera generación de Colorado. Ella y su familia viven en New Castle.


Earth Day: a time for environmental justice

Thursday, April 22 marks the 51st Annual Earth Day or El día de la Tierra. This year, I am celebrating the renewed sense of urgency around environmental justice I see from community members, elected officials and organizations. Continued calls for justice and equity could not be more important as we face the greatest challenge of our generation, a rapidly warming planet and its effects on every aspect of our lives.

During this devastating pandemic and an exhausting year, I have found peace and comfort by being in touch with my gente – the amazing local and national Latinx leaders whom together we are building our collective power and elevating calls to action. Each day, I work with these leaders to plant seeds of hope in our community that will yield a better, more just society. A society that guarantees all people – regardless of skin color, ethnicity, language, country of origin, economic and political power – have clean air and water, easy access to nature, and a stable climate.

During the 2020 election, these leaders and our communities organized like never before and turned out in record numbers to elect officials that are tackling the intertwined health, economic and climate crises. Right now, the Biden-Harris administration is centering climate change and environmental justice in many of their policies at the federal level. A new bill would help us do the same here in Colorado.

The Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community Bill, HB21-1266, was introduced at the statehouse just last week. Rep. Dominique Jackson, Senator Faith Winter, and Senator Janet Buckner backed this bill that seeks to address environmental justice inequalities at a state level. The bill requires the Air Quality Control Commission to promote outreach to engage with disproportionately impacted communities. The commission would create new ways to gather input from communities across the state by using multiple languages and formats.

Additionally, the bill creates a task force to propose recommendations to the General Assembly regarding practical means of addressing these environmental justice inequities. This task force will create a state agency-wide environmental justice strategy and a plan to implement that strategy, including ways to address data gaps and data sharing between state agencies and the engagement of disproportionately impacted communities. While this is just a beginning and doesn’t address all environmental justice issues, it’s a great first step.

April 19-23, organizations all throughout Colorado are observing Climate Justice Week, which centers people and communities to create a world where everyone thrives. I encourage you to join Defiende Nuestra Tierra and Wilderness Workshop in our support of HB21-1266, which is scheduled for a House Energy and Environment Committee hearing on April 22. Please visit www.wilderenssworkshop.org/Take-Action to let your elected officials know you support HB21-1266 and celebrate Earth Day by taking action on environmental justice!

Beatriz Soto is the Directora Defiende Nuestra Tierra at Wilderness Workshop. She is an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico and mother to a first-generation Coloradan. She and her family live in New Castle.


On the Fly column: Fryingpan River wanderings

Recently I decided to drive up the Fryingpan River. Although I always have several rods rigged and ready to go, there was no real intention to fish this day. Even though I secretly had hopes of finding some rising fish at some point to make a few casts, we really were headed up towards Ruedi to walk the dogs along the river. Along our way up the canyon a good group of bighorn sheep crossed the road in front of us, and some impressive rams were among them. Of course the camera was at home.

Surprisingly, for as warm as it was, and with snow lightly falling, we did not encounter any anglers until “Old Faithful.” Turning into the Rocky Fork day use area, we got the dogs out and headed towards the dam. Several anglers were on the river, and since it was midafternoon (the most productive time of day right now), we witnessed several anglers hooking up and landing fish. Although the light was fairly flat, if you looked hard enough with good polarized glasses you could see actively feeding fish. There were a few rising fish, but the most active fish were feeding on nymphs sub-surface. Sometimes spending a few hours just walking and watching what goes on along the river can be both entertaining and educational.

Driving downriver back to Basalt a bald eagle cruised upriver, the bighorns were still grazing the same hillside, and we crossed paths with a few of our guides headed up river to fish. They reported good fishing the next morning. Flies of choice were foam topped RS2s, Medallion midges, Bill’s midges and House of Harrop midges.

Good fishing abounds throughout the Roaring Fork valley right now; the warming weather has been the key factor. This is “bonus season” (fit neatly between winter and spring), and hatches are improving daily. Whether you need to know where to go, what to use, or hire a guide, stop by your local fly shop and check out what’s happening.

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.

Skiathon fundraiser for Spring Gulch Nordic trail system evolves into 9-day challenge

The view over the Elk Range from Paul’s Point at the Spring Gulch Nordic ski trail system west of Carbondale.
Post Independent file photo

What: Ski for Sisu cross country skiathon fundraiser

Who: Mt. Sopris Nordic Council

When: Feb. 6-14

Where: Spring Gulch trail system, seven miles west of Carbondale on Thompson Creek Road (County Road 108)

Info: springgulch.org

A Super Bowl Sunday tradition for the better part of the last three decades has been the Mt. Sopris Nordic Council’s Ski for Sisu skiathon fundraiser.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, the popular event to help support the Spring Gulch trail system near Carbondale will be a solo affair this year, with skiers participating over multiple days starting Saturday.

The 29th annual Ski for Sisu — sisu being Finnish for demonstrating extraordinary determination and grit in the face of adversity — runs from this Saturday, Feb. 6 through Valentine’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 14.

Cross country skiers who sign up and, if they choose, collect sponsorship pledges, will be challenged to ski as many kilometers as they can over those nine days.

Participants can enter for a $20 minimum fee at springgulch.org, or gather sponsorship pledges on a per-kilometer basis, or a flat sponsorship if they choose.

Participants can then ski as much as they can anytime of day at the Spring Gulch trail system, located seven miles west of Carbondale on Thompson Creek Road, starting Saturday for the nine-day stretch.

There will be marked 3.5-kilometer, 10K and 12.5K loops to make it easy to keep track of the distance skied.

It’s an honor system, but participants will then report their daily distance, also at springgulch.org.

“We’ll tally up the KM’s and cheer you on (from a distance) throughout the week,” organizers said in a press release.

There’s also a prize drawing for participants.

Spring Gulch Trail is a network of more than 21 kilometers of professionally groomed cross-country ski trails that are available for free to use (no dogs, snowshoes or hiking without skis).

The trail system is operated by the member-based Mount Sopris Nordic Council in partnership with the private landowners who graze cattle there in the summer.

“Trails are groomed nightly for an exceptional ski experience where it’s not unusual to encounter grade schoolers on skinny skis for the first time, old school wool-clad Nordic diehards, or locally raised U.S. Ski Team members training for their next competition,” according to the release.

The Ski for Sisu skiathon is the only fundraising event held by the Nordic Council each year and has historically been held on a single day, which in recent years has been Super Bowl Sunday.