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Heading Up Valley

NOTES FROM THE ROAD

Heading Up Valley

Chase Bartee

The travel from West Virginia to Colorado went about as expected; long, with very few breaks.  Bullwinkle purred with excitement and relief over his newly welded exhaust. We were heading for Carbondale, for no other reason than to spend some time with Aimee’s cousin, Julia. The climb over the Rockies and down through the Vail Pass was harrowing to say the least. We topped out at about twenty-five miles per hour, and had to run the heat on high to keep the engine cool. Angry motorists revved their engines aggressively as they sped around us.  What should have taken forty minutes took the better part of three hours, but we eventually reached the peak and slipped down the winding roads at a cool sixty-five. As we neared the bottom we started to notice an increase in anglers, and some spectacularly enticing water. Unbeknownst to us, Carbondale sits centrally in the Roaring Fork Valley, arguably the greatest stretch of blue ribbon trout water the state of Colorado has to offer.  We’d of course read about the famed Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers, and the names of all the local holes had strangely familiar rings to them, but until we arrived we couldn’t have pointed to them on a map. Needless to say, we didn’t waste any time getting on the water.

frying_pan_bullwinkle-7.jpg

            The Frying Pan is a nearly perfect river. Arguments about tailwaters aside, the water is cold, full of bugs and fish, and only about 40 feet across at its rocky, cascading, widest. We’d lucked out and hit it perfectly, with cool wadeable flows, and thousands of hungry browns and rainbows eager to take a big, fluffy, Parachute Adams.  Side note: Aimee and I fish a #12 Parachute Adams nearly exclusively, all summer long, in nearly all water types and conditions. It hasn’t let us down yet. Maybe it’s the fact that fish are getting more and more used to seeing #22 cripples, but seriously, if you’ve forgotten how effective a simple, classic attracter pattern can be, it's time to reacquaint yourself. 

            Julia’s apartment is about a two-minute bike path walk from easy wade access to the Roaring Fork as well, and although flows were still high, I snuck out for an evening of Green Drake action (again, the big Adams seemed a good imitation) and was treated to a particularly impressive big fish display. Thirty yards of average water produced several fish twenty inches, and countless others over fifteen. It was easily one of the most productive evenings of dry fly fishing I’ve ever experienced.

            Eager to learn to cast a fly rod, and ready for some good weather trail time (In fact, upon our arrival, Carbondale hadn’t seen rain in over 6 weeks), Julia suggested we take her Jeep into the high country in search of cutthroat.  Bullwinkle was ready for a rest, and we were ready to see Colorado’s crown jewel; the Rocky Mountains. How beautiful the country and fish would be, however, was beyond our wildest imaginations…