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