Early Summer in the Roaring Fork Valley, scene 1.

What to expect when you are expecting

A seasonal forecast for the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado.

Early Summer in the Valley means one thing, runoff conditions. As of the writing of this, it has not started yet. A spring snow storm brought new snow to the mountains that crown the Roaring Fork watershed. Unseasonal weather has delayed the onset of runoff allowing another week of fantastic fishing opportunities along the lower reaches of the watershed. If you can get out in the next two days, do so. Call in sick, quit your job...do whatever it takes to cash in on this bonus round of fishing opportunities before the big flush.

Future water for the lower Roaring Fork River is stored on Mt. Sopris. It will not take long for this snow to melt and fill the lower river with a vital flush of water to scour the river bed clean allowing for a healthy benthic macroinvertebrate habitat.

Future water for the lower Roaring Fork River is stored on Mt. Sopris. It will not take long for this snow to melt and fill the lower river with a vital flush of water to scour the river bed clean allowing for a healthy benthic macroinvertebrate habitat.

While my guests were busy honing thier angling skills during a recent wade trip, I took an opportunity to perform a benthic macro invertebrate sample. My kick seine sample from about a one square foot of substrate revealed final instar stages of Drunella grandis grandis, the green drake, Ispoerla mormonoma, the yellow sally with one or more instar stages yet to undergo before reaching maturity, Ephemerella dorothea inermis & Ephemerella excrusians, the PMD's. Two gastric lavage samples yielded green drake and mature stonefly nymphs which so happened to be the two fly patterns that we were using to catch these fish in the first place.

Finding so many mature green drake and pale morning duns caused some silent jubilation on my behalf. These are the dominant hatches that define summer fly fishing in the Roaring Fork watershed. Despite the recent snow, the presence of these insects gave me hope in warmer days ahead.

Contrary to the colorful name given to Drunella grandis, the Green Drake, these insects are not very green. If you collect a natural from a stream bearing these specimens, you will notice that they range from a dark reddish brown on the dorsal surface while the ventral surface can be a pale tan to tannish olive. These large nymphs are an example of the countershading that dominates aquatic habitats helping organisms to blend in with thier environment.

Flashback Drunella

  • Hook: Firehole Sticks 633 #8-14
  • Bead: metallic olive tungsten bead. Paint the top of the bead with a black marker prior to application of UV resin and coat with resin.
  • Collar: (optional) Veevus stomach body, small, chartreuse (M11) or a chartreuse Bug Band.
  • Thread: 50D GSP white thread.
  • Underbody: White thread.
  • Tail: Medium or dark pardo Coq de Leon.
  • Abdomen: Medium brown D-Rib, dorsal side colored with a dark gray marking pen (Copic W8). Dorsal surface coated with UV resin.
  • Thorax: Hareline Dubbin golden brown (HD38).
  • Legs: Micro grizzly flutter root beer.
  • Wingcase: Flash back olive brown. Make 1 coat of resin and color with marking pen, apply a second coat of UV resin.

As runoff starts to wane, the green drakes of the Roaring Fork begin to hatch. This is the best time of the year for Roaring Fork bound anglers to experience truly epic dry fly fishing. The water can still be running high so plan on floating the river in order to best fish the hatch and carefully plan your start of the float to coincide with the late hour that the hatch begins in the lower river. As the season matures, the rivers drop into normal summer flows, the green drake hatches works their way upstream and up into the Frying Pan River. The green drakes can hatch all summer long on the Frying Pan River and as late as October in some years providing dry fly anglers opportunity for *tactical surface action. 

* Long fine leaders 7-8x diameter, drag free drifts, and flawless imitations.

Don't forget that during the daytime hours, the yellow sally stoneflies stoneflies are active. This hatch can also last all summer with hatches occurring almost everyday. Be sure to fish a soft hackle wet fly for this hatch as the nymphs of the genius Isoperla emerge mid stream much like a caddis with the newly emerged adult swimming towards the surface. I like to use a small size #16 yellow foam Humpy with a trailer hitch for use as an indicator dry while fishing a Simple Sally or Sally Flymph as a shallow dropper. I often do well at the head of riffles with this combo for large predatory browns and bows.

If you are planning on visiting the Roaring Fork, be sure to keep an eye out on the hydrographs and plan your visit when the water level is dropping. I anticipate runoff to commence any possible day when the temperature and direct sunlight starts to melt the snow. Given the recent addition to the snowpack and a good overall snowpack, we could be in for an extended runoff season.

Knot Sense.

My top three knots

One of the many tips and tricks that I share with anyone that joins me on the water is a few of my favorite fishing knots. Over the past 40 years I have tried numerous knots. Some of the knots that I have tried have been a dismal failure and I wish everyone would stop using them such as the surgeons knot and the cinch knot. Sure, they are mindless to execute but would you trust a fish of a lifetime on a knot that saved you 10 seconds to tie? Both of those knots have failed me too many times to document.

My favorite knot to affix tippet to my leader is the figure 8 hemostat knot. In my practical field experience, I have found this knot to be easier to tie and stronger than a blood knot or surgeons knot. 


An almost identical knot as the previous hempstat knot that I use exclusively to affix my non jig patterns.


For affixing my jig flies I prefer the non-slip loop knot which allows my jigs suspend properly and bounce freely off the rocks. Have no fear dear friend that is cringing at the idea of putting an overhand knot in your tippet, when you pass the tag end back through the overhand knot, it is no longer an overhand knot.