The Roaring Fork Watershed: A Fly Fishing Paradise


Colorado’s Roaring Fork River is aptly named, as the sound of rushing water is ever present along its beautiful 70 mile descent from the crest of the Rocky Mountains to it’s confluence with the Colorado River.  As the water tumbles down it’s course, the many rapids inject oxygen into the cool water, creating the perfect conditions for trout and the many aquatic insects they ingest.  Such conditions combined with beautiful settings and a course that runs directly through Aspen makes the Roaring Fork a fly fisherman’s paradise.

The Fork, as the local’s call it, provides a variety of fishing opportunities depending upon the time of year.  In winter, low, clear waters and abundant midge hatches provide anglers with an opportunity to escape the skiing for a quiet and challenging fishing experience that can be surprising productive.  Spring brings high water, and fishing high up Independence pass and the many high alpine tributaries allows anglers to revel in the beauty of the Rockies while pursuing mountain trout in beaver ponds and small stream conditions.  As the waters recede and the Summer days lengthen, anglers move down valley and pursue larger trout from the banks and drift boats with many top water flies, including the Green Drake, which the Fork is famous for during the months of July and August.  With the changing of the colors in Fall comes the baetis hatch and anglers can expect un crowded, clear waters full of hungry fish that are working hard to put on weight for the long winter ahead.

Beyond the main stem of the Fork, the overall watershed offers many other exciting fishing activities to the avid angler.  The world famous Frying Pan River and the more mysterious and less crowded Crystal River are the two largest tributaries to the Fork and both provide excellent angling opportunities.  With many other smaller tributaries and various high alpine lakes in the Aspen area, there are abundant opportunities for the exploring angler to get away from it all.

Finding these spots and the best areas of the Fork can be an exciting challenge, but it is recommended to hire a local guide if one is a beginning angler or is only in the area for a short time.  Aspen Outfitting ( is a long time Aspen based outfitting business that offers wade trips to both public and private waters on the fork in the Aspen area.  Taylor Creek Fly Shop ( is also a long time area expert Based in Basalt that specializes in float trips on the lower section of the Fork and wade trips on the Frying Pan.

Author Chris Burley is an active Aspen local and fly fishing guide for Aspen Outfitting.  He can be requested upon booking.

Get in touch with us