Category Archives: Roaring Fork River

Maroon Creek – 08/30/2023

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between Aspen Highlands and Maroon Lake

Maroon Creek 08/30/2023 Photo Album

Wow. I explored another high elevation mountain stream in Colorado. How was it? Read on.

In August of 2022 my wife, Jane, and daughter, Amy, accompanied me on an e-bike excursion from Aspen Highlands to Maroon Lake and back. Along the way I was in awe of Maroon Creek, as it tumbled along the valley floor toward its junction with the Roaring Fork River near Aspen, CO. I knew that one needed to take a shuttle from May through October to reach Maroon Lake and the fabled photography site for the Maroon Bells. Would the shuttle drop off fishermen at points in between? Fishing before and after the shuttle period was another option, but November and April would be quite chilly at that elevation. My daughter pointed out that autos were allowed to drive before 8:00AM or after 5:00PM. Given all the logistical issues with accessing Maroon Creek, I was convinced that the fishery was lightly pressured and worth the effort to explore.

On Wednesday, August 30, fly fishing on Maroon Creek became a reality. As I prepared for the Maroon Creek adventure, I called the White River National Forest ranger district office in Carbondale. The folks there were extremely helpful, and I found myself at the East Maroon Portal on Wednesday morning at 8:30AM. The air temperature was fifty degrees, so I procrastinated my preparation for thirty minutes, while I waited for the sun to rise and warm the high elevation valley. Eventually I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my fleece and rain shell, and I crossed the pedestrian bridge to access the Maroon Creek Trail on the east side of the creek. The temperature eventually rose into the seventies, and I shed my rain shell, but I removed and added back the fleece several times during the day in accordance with the fluctuating cloud cover.

Massive Pool

The man that I spoke to at the ranger district office mentioned a huge and very popular pool downstream from the bridge crossing, and the young lady at the welcome station echoed his recommendation, so I veered to the left and wandered downstream along the trail for forty yards. Sure enough, a huge horseshoe shaped pool appeared where the creek made a sharp, greater than ninety degree bend. Wide shelf pools existed on both sides of the main current which deflected off the eastern bank and turned back toward the northwest. I found a gap in the bushes to allow unobstructed backcasts on the eastern bank, and I rigged with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper and a salvation nymph. I was new to the pool and somewhat intimidated by the size, but I began lobbing casts to the main current. The entire area was shrouded in shade, but a glare made following my fly difficult, as it bounced along the entering center current. Much to my surprise, as I was prospecting left, right and straight ahead; several rises appeared. I attempted to spot some casts in the vicinity of the surface feeders, but I managed only a refusal for my efforts. At least five rises were visible, so I decided to abandon the dry/dropper and switched to a single olive-brown size 14 deer hair caddis. A caddis is always my go to default, when I am uncertain about the source of trout feeding, but in this case the ploy failed, and after fifteen minutes of futile casting, I surrendered to the pool and resumed my original plan.

I walked back to the bridge and picked up the Maroon Creek Trail which paralleled the creek southward to the junction of East and West Maroon Creeks. A crude estimate on the parking lot map suggested that the creek ran a mile from the East Maroon Creek Portal to the confluence, so I hiked for .3 mile to get away from the parking lot but also to allow sufficient stream distance to cover over the course of the day. The trail began to angle uphill and away from the creek, so I cut through the woods and quickly found a space between the trees to access the creek.

This Small Pocket Produced Quite a Few Trout

Big Mouth

Between 10:00AM and 3:30PM I battled my way southward, and I landed thirty-six trout. This sounds like a resounding success, but this fish count was achieved with a large amount of adversity. The gradient for the .7 mile of creek coverage was rather severe, and this limited the fish holding lies quite a bit. At least four times I was forced to bash through thick bank vegetation in order to advance due to very swift current across the entire creek bed accompanied by thick brush and bushes tight to the water. The other downside was the size of the fish. Of the thirty-six fish that rested in my net, thirty-four were brook trout, and the largest of these catches stretched the measuring tape to ten inches. The predominant length was six inches, but these char made up for lack of size with their brilliant display of colors. Orange bellies, white-edged fins and elaborate patterns of aqua, green, yellow and purple vermiculation on the backs of these fish dazzled my eyes. Two of the landed trout were cutthroats, and these were eleven and twelve inch fish that offered significant pound for pound resistance.

So Pretty

Lots of Orange

I cycled through a range of flies during my day on the rapidly tumbling mountain stream, but the top producers were the size 8 tan pool toy hopper and a size 14 peacock hippie stomper. During the early morning session I utilized a deer hair caddis, the pool toy with a salvation nymph and then a prince nymph. By lunchtime at 11:45 these flies produced sixteen trout, but in truth all but one smacked the pool toy hopper. Ten of the sixteen trout came from two honey holes that featured slow current and at least four feet of depth. If I could find productive water, the fish were there.

Rare Trout Holding Spot

After lunch I switched to a single classic Chernobyl ant for the exceptional floatation qualities, but it only induced one take. Next I tried a yellow size 8 fat Albert with a salvation nymph dropper, and this combination delivered another hungry brook trout, but clearly I was bypassing some attractive spots with no success. I paused and analyzed the situation, and I converted to a single dry fly in the form of a tan-bodied size 14 chubby Chernobyl. I was optimistic about this fly, but it attracted one fish and then failed to produce thus provoking another change.

Under Control

For the remainder of the afternoon I cast a double dry offering, and the one constant was the hippie stomper. I boosted the fish count from eighteen to thirty-six, and the stomper was complemented with a purple haze and parachute green drake; and toward the end, the hippie stomper was fished solo. The purple haze and green drake accounted for a combined total of five fish, so the hippie stomper was the overwhelming star of the afternoon and only trailed the pool toy on the day.

Prime Pool

Pool Resident

Upper End of Pool Produced As Well

Toward the end of my adventure on Maroon Creek I encountered some massive deep pools upstream from some huge log jams. The water was over six feet deep with a significant amount of dead logs, and these locales harbored quite a few colorful brook trout. As I moved upstream, I monitored the surrounding terrain, and for awhile both sides of the creek featured steep banks, and I grew concerned about my ability to find an exit point. Beyond the last deep pool, the left ridge moderated, and when I approached a spot that was clear of trees and bushes, I decided to take advantage. At 3:30 I tucked my fly in the rod guide and mounted the bank, and then I ambled perpendicular to the stream through some tall grass and thistles, until I intersected with the trail. One mile later I was back at the parking lot and climbing out of my waders.

Cutthroat Number Two

Home of Cutthroat

Maroon Creek certainly ranks among my favorite outings of 2023, but unlike others that featured large fish or quantities of fish, the appeal of Wednesday was the feeling of remoteness and venturing, where others may not have attempted. I also felt a sense of accomplishment from being able to endure fast water and difficult wading conditions during my senior citizen status. I was extremely cautious, and in many circumstances I was very measured with each step or in planning my moves over logs, rocks and between nettlesome bushes and branches. Of course, the spectacular surroundings were another plus, and simply developing a successful plan that afforded access to Maroon Creek provided a deep sense of accomplishment. Would I return? Possibly. A lot of unexplored creek remains, and I suspect that some lower gradient sections might offer superior fly fishing. Getting familiar with a creek is another challenge that I enjoy. Wednesday was a lot of effort for small fish, but that is certainly part of the fly fishing equation.

Fish Landed: 36

Roaring Fork River – 07/21/2023

Time: 9:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Carbondale to Glenwood Springs

Roaring Fork River 07/21/2023 Photo Album

Friday, July, 21, 2023 was my second scheduled guided float trip of 2023. I completed my first float on the Eagle River on 07/07/2023. As I mentioned in the 07/07/2023 post, my friend, Dave G., booked around ten trips per year, and I signed up to share two dates with him. Jane and I drove to the home of Dave G. and his wife, Beth, on Thursday evening, and I was situated perfectly for an early start on Friday morning. Dave G. transported us from his home in Eagle, CO to our meeting location with Reed of Cutthroat Anglers. Reed has been our guide for nearly all of our guided float trips, and he does a tremendous job of choosing the right rivers, flies and trout lies that lead to consistent success. For Friday, Reed selected the Roaring Fork River as our destination. Flows between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs remained on the high side and ranged between 1,000 and 2,000 CFS, but the river was crystal clear, as we unloaded the drift boat just below the CO 133 bridge in Carbondale.

Ready to Start

I assembled a Scott five weight owned by Dave G., as Reed felt that its flex was more appropriate for dry fly casting than the Sage One five weight that I waved on my previous float trip. The launch site was quite crowded with anglers, but we were able to depart on our float trip by 9:30AM. Reed rigged a dry/dropper rod and a dry fly rod for each of us, and I began the day in the rear of the drift boat. The air temperature was already in the seventies, and it peaked around ninety degrees on the warm summer day.

Reed Creation

Rear Fly

Except for a short period of dry/dropper fishing in the mid-morning time frame, Dave G. and I tossed double dry fly offerings for most of the day. We cycled through quite a few flies, but the most effective were a size twelve parachute mayfly imitation with an iridescent purple body and a trailing shuck for a tail. Another favorite was a size 16 parachute with a bright yellow wing and a brown body. The latter seemed to work well during the early afternoon, when a sparse pale morning dun hatch was visible. Other flies included a parachute hares ear, a tan foam hopper, an extended body green drake and purple hazes of varying sizes.

Lunch View

My casting was vastly improved compared to 07/07/2023, and I was able to consistently place my casts within a foot of the bank, when the conditions dictated. Dave G. and I switched places twice, and my stint in the bow was in the late morning and early afternoon. During this time I enjoyed decent success; however, my performance in the rear did not lag significantly. We spent nearly the entire day banging the banks, as Reed rowed us back and forth from left to right depending on how promising each side of the river projected. Casting accuracy, and the ability to mend and reach cast to achieve long drag free drifts were the keys to success. As I observed the fishermen in the other rafts and boats, I noted that most were sporting nymph rigs with large Thingamabobbers hugging their lines. Our approach enabled us to fish areas of the river that were avoided by the deep nymphing crowd.


Did the results justify the approach? I am pleased to report that I landed fourteen trout over the course of six hours of casting. Four were brown trout, with the first fish of the day being a sturdy fifteen inch brown that grabbed a pheasant tail tied on a jig style hook. Reed called this fly a Frenchie. The other three browns were “small” fish in the twelve inch range. The other ten landed trout were rainbows and cutbows, and two were twelve inchers, while the remainder measured between fourteen and eighteen inches. The cutbows were particularly noteworthy with red cheeks, orange slashes and a background of speckles behind a pink stripe along the side. Several of the cutbows exhibited a relaxed approach to eating, as they circled around their targeted prey, before they chomped down on my fly.

Nose Up Location

In one memorable instance, Reed pulled the boat along the shoreline to work on Dave G.’s line. I decided to cast upstream from the stern to a slow moving shelf pool, and as the flies sat stationary, a large mouth materialized to chomp on the PMD parachute. It was quite a thrill to catch a very respectable cutbow without the guidance of Reed, although I do not mean to imply that I do not value his expert advice and direction. In another case shortly thereafter, Dave G. hooked a very fine fish near a foam patch. As he was battling his fish, I decided to toss a cast to the left of the boat and near the same foam area. Dave G.’s trout would periodically swirl near the surface, as it resisted attempts to be landed. I spotted one of these swirls near my flies, so I lifted to remove them and to avoid a tangle. Much to my surprise, the swirl was to my flies, and I found myself attached to an angry cutbow. Dave G. and I did our best to maintain a safe distance between the fish, and eventually we landed them both to record a cutbow double. Excitement ruled the boat for a good fifteen minutes.

Cutbow Double

Nine very robust trout in the fourteen to eighteen inch range represents a very successful day in my book. These fish were energized and unwilling to bow easily to the pressure of our rods. My casting and line management was vastly improved compared to my previous trip, and I was very satisfied with my fourteen fish day on the Roaring Fork River. I look forward to my next fly fishing adventure of 2023.

Fish Landed: 14

Roaring Fork River – 06/29/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 6:30PM

Location: Carbondale to Glenwood Springs

Roaring Fork River 06/29/2022 Photo Album

My friend, Dave Gaboury, typically books ten guided float trips throughout the fly fishing season, and he invites me to join him on as many, as I choose to. For 2022 I selected two dates, and the first one arrived on Wednesday, June, 29, 2022. As you will note on my previous post, Dave G. invited me to meet him on Tuesday to fish the club water on the Eagle River. I stayed at Dave’s house in Eagle, CO on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning we met our guide, Reed, with Cutthroat Anglers at the Eagle rest area. We stowed our gear in Reed’s SUV, and he drove us to the boat launch just below the CO 133 bridge in Carbondale, where we launched the drift boat for a day of fly fishing.

Our Driftboat Ready to Launch

The temperature was in the seventies and very comfortable, as we began at 11:00AM. Two afternoon thunderstorms caused us to pull on our raincoats, and the sky was cloudy off and on for much of the afternoon. The flows on the Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs were 1700 CFS. The river was high but very clear and almost ideal for float fishing.

Wet Edna Joins Dave G.

We began our trip with Dave G. in the bow, while I manned the rear. We switched positions after a late lunch at 1:30PM. Our mode of operation for the day was pretty consistent. Reed set us up with relatively large dry flies, and we cast double dries to the banks. When we encountered a very attractive long pool and eddy, Reed rowed us into a nose up or rear forward position, so that one of us could shoot long casts upstream. This technique produced positive results quite often.

A Cripple Was on the Morning Menu

Parachute Hares Ear

We cycled through quite a few different flies, but the most productive was easily a size 14 or 12 purple haze. Other flies that delivered results during different time frames throughout the day were a parachute hares ear, rusty haze, parachute pale morning dun, and an extended body green drake.

A Respectable Brown Trout

A Quick Shot of a Rainbow

I landed ten fish from the rear position in the morning and early afternoon, and then I more than doubled the fish count to twenty-two by the end of the day from the forward spot. I estimate the mix of fish to have been five cutbows, five brown trout; and the remainder were rainbows. Roaring Fork River trout were a blast to catch, as most fell within the fourteen to eighteen inch range. The fish in this river were not weak, washed out stockers, but thick, wild fighters that featured streaking runs. My arm and back muscles were severely tested by all the fish on my line, and I was pleased to be using 3X tippet to prevent breakoffs.

The Roaring Fork and Mt. Sopris

Solid casting skills were definitely an advantage during this type of fast-paced bank fishing. The ability to cast forty feet to locations within a foot of the bank was quite valuable. In addition, reach casts and mending capability enhanced the probability of connecting with trout. My shoulder, neck and arm were very fatigued by the end of our Wednesday adventure.

A Convoy

My favorite moments were a pair of slow motion eats in relatively shallow and rocky lies near the bank. Seeing a large fish slowly close on a naturally drifting dry fly after executing an accurate cast is hard to beat. I have one more guided trip scheduled for July, and I am eagerly looking forward to it.

Fish Landed: 22