Basalt's Best Fly Fishing Bars

Fly Fishing, Planning, Lodging, Meals, and Fun
Added Date:
Wednesday, 1 Jun, 2016
After a long day of fly fishing in Basalt, Colorado, there’s nothing like settling down to grab a drink and fill your stomach. Here are the top local bars where anglers can feel at home.
After a long day of fly fishing in Basalt, Colorado, there’s nothing like settling down to grab a drink and fill your stomach. Here are the top local bars where anglers can feel at home.

Two Rivers Cafe

156 Midland Ave, Basalt, CO 81621
(970) 927-3348

A local fixture for over thirty-seven years, the Two Rivers Cafe is a regular hotspot for visiting anglers. It’s also a great place to grab a superb breakfast before hitting the water (just make sure you get there early to beat the crowds). If you’re looking for a nice, friendly atmosphere to share tales of your fishing experience, check this place out.

Brick and Pony Pub

202 Midland Ave, Basalt, CO 81621
(970) 279-5021 

If being in the quaint town weren’t enough, the saloon style of the Brick and Pony pub will make you feel like you’re visiting the Old West. Situated in a narrow, 1900s-era brick building, and featuring a bartender who wears a cowboy hat, it’s the kind of place you’d expect to find in a western film. Great food, friendly people, and decent beer prices make this an excellent option for fly fishermen looking to cap off their day on the water.

Stubbies Sports Bar and Grill

123 Emma Rd, Basalt, CO 81621
(970) 927-0501

If you’re looking for an extensive beer menu (18 beers on tap), some great happy hour specials, and games (shuffleboard, darts, and pool tables), then you can’t miss Stubbies Sports Bar. A regular destination among the locals, Stubbies is a good place to unwind after a nice long day. There’s also plenty of television coverage (23 HD TVs) in case you want to catch up on the latest scores.

Next time you find yourself in Basalt for some fly fishing you know where to go afterwards and grab a drink!
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Most everyone has heard of Aspen, known for its physical beauty, great access to skiing, high-end resorts, and home to innovative think tanks and institutes. Yet just a ½ hour drive ... morenorth on I-82 will take you to Basalt, a mile-high jewel of the Rockies. Surrounded on all sides by the White River National Forest, Basalt is also where two of the state’s best fly fishing rivers come together – the Gold Medal Frying Pan and Gold Medal Roaring Fork – and it’s a mere 30 minutes to the Colorado River.

Named for the nearby rock formations on Basalt Mountain, this town like many others in Colorado began in the late 1800’s as a mining and railroad junction. Trains were used to move people, charcoal and charcoal kilns, which at the time brought people to the area and employed many. Today the Frying Pan Kilns at Arbaney Park are an important tourist attraction.

Adventure sports and outdoor activities are the major tourist draw to the area. Within the White River National Forest there are 8 areas officially designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, including Eagles Nest, Flat Tops and the Hunter-Fryingpan. In addition, there are 10 peaks with elevations in excess of 14,000 feet including Snowmass, Castle and Gray’s Peak. The area also features a dozen ski areas including Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, Beaver Creek, Snowmass and Vail.

Anyone planning a fly fishing vacation along with others not interesting in casting a line, there are scores of alternative activities to keep them engaged. They can choose from White water rafting on the Roaring Fork, boating on the Ruedi Reservoir, and needless to say, skiing. For those who like to bike, there are over a dozen, world class, cross country bike trails, as well as lift accessed down-hill biking throughout the valley. Hiking trails are numerous, varying in length, elevation and difficulty.

Not to be outdone by Aspen, Basalt is home to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) new “Net-Zero Innovation Center,” located on the banks of the Roaring Fork. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is also currently building a new, state of the art center near RMI’s.

There are several ways to reach Basalt, including:

Fly into Grand Junction Regional Airport and drive approximately 2 hours

Fly into Denver International Airport and drive approximately 3 hours

Fly into Colorado Springs Airport and drive approximately 4 hours

Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport and drive approximately 6 hours
Fishing Waters
A well kept secret, the Eagle River, once desecrated by mining waste, is now a restored, healthy and great place to fish. This freestone river starts its journey at over 10,000 feet ... moreon the west side of the Continental Divide near Tennessee Pass. During its first 25 miles it drops over 2,400 vertical feet and can only be fished by wading. The first access site is near Camp Hale, famous for training the 10th Mt. Division during WWII, where it is surrounded by scenic Alpine meadows. Here the river is a near-perfect, brown trout habitat with fast water and numerous pockets.

Named by the Ute Indians, who compared the river’s many branches and streams to the feathers of an eagle’s tail, the river flows northward through the Vail Valley until it is joined by Gore Creek near the town of Minturn. At this point the river turns west and basically follows I-70 until it meets up with the Colorado River in Dotsero.

Although the entire river can be waded, because it is a freestone river, water levels can vary considerably throughout the year and conditions can be challenging. Strong currents are frequent as are swirling, invisible teacups. Slick rocks line the river bottom, often described by Eagle River vets as “greased bowling balls.” Before entering, you might consider bringing studded wading boots and/or wading staffs as well as obtaining up-to-date stream flow data.

The lower portion of the river from Minturn down can be floated in a drift boat, although going with a guide who knows the waters is also worth considering. Given that there are several privately owned sections of the river, a boat will give you entry to waters you might otherwise miss. The river is not known for an abundance of fish, but both the rainbows and browns are wild and often exceed 20 inches. The limit on the lower river is 2 trout per person.
Game Fish Opportunities:
With a name like this you know there has to be a story. In fact there are several, but our favorite is the most obvious – that long ago there were so many fish (native cutthroat) they ... morejumped right out of the river and into your frying pan. It begins near Mt. Elbert as a stream fed, heavily pocketed, freestone river. From there the river turns northwest and flows into the Ruedi Reservoir, where since 1968, its waters have been dammed. This 14 mile, Gold Medal, section - from the reservoir to the Roaring Fork at Basalt - is considered one of the state’s best tailwaters. 

By definition, Gold Medal in Colorado means the fish are plentiful – a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre with at least 12 fish over 14 inches in length. Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of the dam brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish.

Add abundant, year round hatches and it’s no wonder anglers flock here to fish. The Frying Pan is known for its fabled Green Drake hatch that typically starts in late July and extends through October, drawing even the savviest fish to the surface. In addition to Spring Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches, this tailwater is one of only three that hosts the Serratella ignitia, a flightless BWO that attracts fish like ice cream attracts kids.

The river above the reservoir is less crowded and less regulated. The Gold Medal run is catch and release, artificial lures only.
As a tributary of the Colorado, and the Frying Pan and Crystal as its main tributaries, it’s no wonder that large stretches of the Roaring Fork are ranked as Wild Trout and Gold Medal ... morefisheries. Originating high on the western edge of the Continental Divide near Independence Pass, this steep gradient river is aptly named. During its 70 mile run, the river drops over 7,000 feet, generating speed, turbulence and Class I to VI rapids. The Roaring Fork Watershed is vast, draining over 1,450 square miles, an area comparable in size to Rhode Island.

Above Aspen, the upper waters can be waded and are flush with brown and rainbow trout. Located in the White River National Forest public access is plentiful and well marked. The distance between Aspen to Carbondale, a 4200 ft. drop, is a highly regarded section for fly fishers and is also easily accessed off Route 82.

From Aspen to Basalt, the river loses gradient with another 1300 foot drop but picks up volume from surrounding mountain waters. Most of this section is designated as Wild Trout Water indicating that the river can support trout through an entire, natural life cycle. At Basalt the Frying Pan joins the Roaring Fork and the volume of water increases significantly. The 28 mile distance between Basalt and the confluence with the Colorado at Glenwood Springs is the famed Gold Medal run. The Crystal River converges with the Fork near Carbondale and maintains the Gold medal moniker that started at Basalt.

Restrictions apply in the designated waters and vary from section to section and from season to season, so it’s important to obtain current information before casting off. The Upper part of the river is good for wading. Floating is best suited for the lower stretches but requires someone experienced in whitewater navigation.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
Animas Valley Anglers offers a guided float trip down the Colorado river. Schedule your adventure today!
/ Boat
1 - 3 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
Book a trip on one of Colorado's finest fly fishing rivers, located near Basalt Colorado. The Roaring Fork river is known for fiesty trout and lots of them. Schedule an experienced ... moreguide to show you the hot spots on the river and help you reel in a great catch!
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
Frying Pan River Float Trip in Colorado The Pan is OK at the moment with good water conditions. The fish are still laying low but there were reports of reasonable fishing closer to ... morethe Dam. Note that from the 3rd of June it is anticipated that the releases will be up with the endangered fish program. The Pan will run high for about a week. When the water comes up it won't be good fishing for a day or so, but when it settles down to a consistent flow it will be good fishing close to the dam where there will be floods of mysis shrimp coming through. The remainder of the river will be hard to negotiate for the few days when it runs at its highest level.

Recommended Flies:Use midges, bwos, nymphs and attractors. The fish are also taking small nymphs.

For mysis at the dam use Mike's Mysis. epoxy mysis, and BDV mysis.

The midges will come off during the day, particularly if it is sunny. So try Wilson's Reverse Candy Cane #20, red and black chironocones #20, nick's larva in miracle pink, olive, and purple back, brassies #18 - #22, midge larva patterns #18 - #22,copper johns #18 - #22, rainbow warriors, black polywings #18 - #22 and bling midges # 18 - #22.

As they come off try the gray loopwing emergers #20 - #22, the FPA special emergers, biot emergers both with and without the trailing shuck and gray RS2's#18 - #22, Johnny Flash in Olive, Grey, and Black, Olive and Red Jujubee, trailing shuck midge black and cream.

In addition try dry patterns such as the z-wing real midge, black cdc midge and any similar dry black and gray patterns in sizes from #20 through to #26.

The fish are taking generic nymphs such as pheasant tails and caddis larvapatterns. The BWO's are coming off as well. Try emerger patterns such as rs2'sand WD-50's.

For BWO naturals use standard BWO's, parachute BWO's, parachute Adams, andThorax patterns.
The lower elevations hit a peak in the melt earlier in the week and now the rivers have come down a little with some relatively cooler weather. The Fork is in good condition though ... moreflowing high. The Pan is very clear at its current flow. The best information is that the Bureau will run the Pan up to around 700cfs from the 3rd of June for the co-ordinated release. That will last for a week. Thereafter the flows should come back to remain around 250cfs. However if the Bureau has underestimated the amount of snow they may have to run the flows up again later in the month. The reason they may have underestimated the flows is because we have had quite a lot of rain which fell as snow up higher. There are not enough guages to indicate the snowpack up high so there is a little more guesswork involved than will be admitted.

In the meantime, the fishing on the Pan will be tough when the releases run high so make note. While the cooler weather prevails the Fork will be good above Basalt, but watch the temperatures, as that too could be short lived.

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