Note: This report is a part of the FlyCast Lite reporting program and is updated seasonally or in the event of substantial changes that alter fly fishing tactics. FlyCast Lite reports are intended to give anglers a high level overview on seasonal conditions and general fishing tactics.
Moving towards the back end of summer and early fall, flows on the Crystal typically hover around 100 cfs and aside from the spike we are currently observing due to heavy rain, this trend is holding true. Around 100 cfs, the river is boney in most sections, so you’ll want to look for sections of the river that contain deep pools and runs. Overall, water color and clarity is intact, but that can easily change during periods of heavy rain, like we are experiencing right now. While it won’t be as critical in the upper section near Redstone and Marble, afternoon water temperatures in the lower stretch near Carbondale will remain a concern until overnight temperatures drop, which usually happens around September. If water temps hit 67 degrees, it’s best to either postpone fishing until temps drop or move upstream where temps are typically lower. Overall, the Crystal is fishing well right now. Bug activity is strong with midges, mayflies, caddis, stoneflies and terrestrials. These trout love to feed on the surface, so come prepared to fish dry flies and/or dry dropper setups. For a dry dropper, we like to lead with a Chubby Chernobyl, Hippie Stomper or Amy’s Ant and trail a Prince Nymph, Pheasant Tail, Rainbow Warrior or Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear. If you’re not seeing any action, place a medium sized split shot above your dropper. This will help get your nymph into the feeding lane faster. If trout are actively rising, a single or double dry fly setup will work well. When fishing deep pools, runs and pockets, go with a nymph rig. Caddis larva, stonefly larva and flashy searcher/attractor patterns are great lead flies. Baetis emergers, midge pupa, caddis pupa and flashy attractors (Rainbow Warrior, Frenchie, Perdigon etc.) won’t let you down in the trailer position.
Located near world renowned ski areas and nationally recognized rivers (Frying Pan and Roaring Fork), the Crystal River is a hidden gem. The Crystal River originates above the town of Marble, situated in the Elk Mountain Range. From Marble, the river flows 35 miles north where it meets the Roaring Fork River in Carbondale. Situated below some of Colorado’s most iconic peaks, the Crystal provides anglers with incredible views. Located near some of the state’s most highly pressured rivers, Crystal River is a great option for anglers looking for solitude. The Crystal is a small freestone river that provides anglers with a variety of slow runs, deep pools, riffles and tight pocket water. Considering the small size of the river and high elevation, the best fishing is during late spring (pre-runoff), summer (post-runoff) and fall. During the winter, the river freezes over and as snow begins to melt in May, runoff will prevent anglers from fishing until water levels drop. While these trout may be a bit smaller than those found in the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan, there is a healthy population of rainbow trout, brown trout and whitefish that are eager to eat your fly.
Due to receiving considerably less angling pressure than the other rivers in the area, the Crystal is a great option for anglers of all skill levels. In general, these trout aren’t terribly selective and actively feed above and below the surface during the warmer months. As a smaller river, a dry dropper setup is a consistent tactic but if you find yourself fishing a deep pool or run, a nymph rig will be a good way to go. Anglers looking for flatter and slower sections will gravitate towards the section of river closest to the town of Carbondale. Further upstream, anglers will find faster moving pocket water, riffles and plunge pools. The Crystal experiences healthy bug activity spring through fall, consisting of midges, BWOs, PMDs, caddis, stoneflies and terrestrials. When trout are actively feeding on the surface, do your best to match the hatch and fish a single or double dry fly setup. If trout are sporadically feeding on the surface or in the upper half of the water column, a dry dropper led with an Amy’s Ant, Chubby Chernobyl, Elk Hair Caddis or stimulator is a great way to go. Sub-surface, trout will key on imitative midge, baetis, caddis and stonefly patterns, but we’ve found that starting with searcher and attractor patterns is a great way to go. Examples include, Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs, Guide’s Choice Hare's Ears and Rainbow Warriors.
Crystal River parallels Highway 133, providing anglers the opportunity to scout and access the river easily. To get to the river, take I-25 to Glenwood Springs and travel south on Highway 82. Once you hit the town of Carbondale, turn right on Highway 133. Along Highway 133 there are a number of dirt pull-offs and designated parking lots. View the map below for some of the most popular access points.