Colorado is full of great places to fish, including several stretches of Gold Medal water. To reiterate, Gold Medal water must meet these criteria:
1: The water produces a minimum trout standing of 60 pounds per acre.
2: It produces a minimum average of 12 quality trout (14” or longer) per acre.
So, essentially Gold Medal waters are stretches of water that are full of big fish. Which is why I insisted Crystal and I check out a few of these places. My most recent excursion brought us to the Roaring Fork River near Glenwood Springs.
The Roaring Fork is a huge river and flows for roughly 70 miles beginning up in the mountains near Independence Pass and flowing all the way to its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. The last stretch of the river from Basalt all the way to Glenwood Springs, roughly 23 miles or so, is all designated as Gold Medal water. I have now fished maybe 0.7% of this river. But you can fish it too by following my directions to the river.
When I fished the river, the flow was just starting to pick up as more snow melt was beginning to enter the river. Luckily the water was still very clear and wading wasn’t hazardous at all. The flows are now nearing 800 – 1000cfs, so I’m sure the fishing has completely changed and wading might be a bit more difficult so watch your step out there. The flows average over 1,000cfs in the summer so if you do choose to wade in the river please be careful.
As is the case with all Gold Medal waters, the fish see a lot of anglers and a lot of different flies. So, you’ll need to make good presentations and tie on the right flies. When I was fishing, the river was transitioning from winter to spring. Midges were still very active and the fish were keying on them. However, nymphs and stoneflies were becoming more active and prevalent and there were even some Blue Winged Olives hatching so keep your eyes peeled for rising fish later in the day. However, while I was on the water I didn’t see a single fish rise so nymphing was the way to go.
With the flow up the fish were looking for shelter so look for slower pocket water behind rocks and along undercut banks. And remember to always cast twice! Good presentations are a must to catch these finicky fish, so give yourself the best chance of success.
Even if you don’t land a trout the views are amazing, and well worth the trip. If you fish anywhere between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs this is your backdrop:
Mt. Sopris dominates the skyline and its snow-capped 12,966’ peak is breathtaking this time of year.
Access to the Roaring Fork can be a little tricky. There are a lot of homes and private land along the river but there are still points of access for the public. There is a bike path (The Rio Grande Trail) that follows the river from Glenwood Springs all the way to Aspen and offers access at numerous points along the way. There are also a few boat launching points like this one with parking and access, as well as a few city parks like Veltus Park, which offer access in the heart of Glenwood Springs. If you have a float tube or raft these would be very useful on the Roaring Fork and will give you access to areas waders like myself can’t get to.
I split my weekend in Glenwood Springs between skiing and fishing so I only got to spend about 2 hours on the Roaring Fork. However, those two hours were great and I will definitely be back soon to fish The Fork, as the locals call it, again. With 23 miles of Gold Medal water there is a lot to like about this river and I encourage you all to see it for yourselves. Until next time, happy fishing!
– A. Egli