Category Archives: Frying Pan River

Frying Pan River – 09/22/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir Dam

Frying Pan River 09/22/2021 Photo Album

Quite a few cars occupied the prime parking pullouts along the upper three miles below the dam and as expected contending with competing anglers was a given. I found a spot above three other vehicles and marched down to the stream to eat my lunch. Another fisherman occupied the spot that I desired, so I mentally surveyed my alternatives. I returned to the car to jettison my lunch bag, and I decided to walk down the road a bit to assure myself that my target entry point was occupied. As I walked along, I passed a car with its hatch open, and an angler was stashing his gear. Could it be the fisherman that I observed in my desired starting space? It was, so I continued down the road and then cut along an angled path to the edge of the river.

My dry/dropper remained in place, so I prospected some nice runs with the hope that perhaps the trout were interested in the salvation nymph, as it typically imitates a pale morning dun nymph. This was not the case, so I began to carefully angle my way across the river toward a favorite spot, where the main current deflects against the south bank, and in the process the river created a very attractive riffle of moderate depth. The flows of 290 CFS made the crossing much more challenging than normal, but I succeeded in my plan. I began lobbing the dry/dropper to the churning water at the head of the riffle and allowed the three flies to drift to the tail, and I was disappointed to discover a lack of interest from the resident trout.

I began to ponder my next move, and as I watched the stream, several subtle rises manifested themselves. By now my watch displayed 1:30, and a chilly wind gusted up the river. I removed my fleece during the drive from the upper river to where I was presently, and I was wishing that I kept the extra layer in place. Could the anticipated green drake hatch be underway, and could the fish be rising to the windblown adults? I quickly clipped off the dry/dropper flies and shifted to a parachute green drake. The number of rising fish in the vicinity ballooned to five or six, and I made downstream drifts to all of them, but other than a couple refusals, my efforts were thwarted.

In a state of frustration I stretched my seine across the net opening, and I held it and collected samples from the surface film. After a minute or two the only food item of interest was a solitary blue winged olive, so I added a one foot extension to the green drake and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my tippet. Nothing. The tiny olive was treated with even more disdain than the green drake. The wind continued to gust, and I remembered historical BWO hatches in windy conditions, when the trout honed in on emergers, since they were available, before the wind swept them from the surface. I cycled through a Klinkhammer emerger BWO and a soft hackle emerger, but neither of these yielded success, and I acknowledged that my windswept theory was misguided. Typically pale morning duns overlap with green drakes, so I added a cinnamon comparadun of size 18 and then 16 behind the green drake, and once again the trout continued to rise but ignored my offerings.

This Cutbow Was the First Decent Trout

As I focused on a downstream rising trout, I thought I saw a green drake natural, as it danced above the surface. The wind buffeted the large mayfly causing it to touch the surface repeatedly, as it attempted to get airborne. Did my fly need to look more active? I tied a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line behind the parachute green drake and fished a double dry. Finally I managed to hook and land a greedy eleven inch cutbow on a downstream drift, as the greedy eater grabbed one of the green drake imitations. I thought perhaps I was on to something, but after I released my first tailwater fish of the day, I returned to a state of frustration.

I finally decided to surrender to the picky eaters, and I crossed to the roadside bank once again. However, before stepping on land, I paused at the tail of the nice riffle where I began, and I thought I spotted a very subtle sipping rise in the tiny nook at the tail of the riffle tight to the bank. It took four casts to get a drift of the two flies over the spot, where I thought I saw the fish, but suddenly a nose appeared, and it sipped the parachute green drake. I set the hook, and a fight commenced, but the top fly slipped free and the trailing green drake foul hooked the battler. Eventually before I could land the brown trout, it broke free and escaped. The vision of the sipping take remains in my head, even though the brown trout was not among my fish count.

I walked along the shoulder to a point where I could once again angle to the river, where it formed two braids that split around a long narrow island. I progressed along the left braid observing for rises, but none were forthcoming, so I crossed below another angler above the upstream tip of the island, and I negotiated my way through some tight willows to cube rock pool. A huge rock in the shape of a cube occupies the top of the pool thus the name. I explored the near side of the strong center current with a multitude of casts, and only managed to generate three looks. It was maddening to attract the attention of decent trout without being able to close the deal.

Best Fish on Wednesday by Far

I slowly waded back to the top of the island with the intention of moving to another section of the river, but as I was about to cross the north braid below the other angler, I decided to make a few casts to a nice deep but short pocket that spanned the braid. On the fifth drift I noticed that a trout emerged from a position at the lip of the pocket. By now I reverted to the size 16 cinnamon comparadun behind the green drake, and I began to forego casting, as I dragged the two flies to the top of the pocket and then allowed them to drift back to the lip. Eventually I simply lifted the flies and let them flutter in the wind and then allowed them to touch down repeatedly at the lip of the pocket. After quite a few such actions, a large mouth appeared, and the comparadun disappeared. The fight was on, and I managed to land the best fish of the trip, a fifteen inch cutbow. Needless to say catching this fish under difficult conditions was very gratifying.

Tip of the Island Area

I decided to move on at this point. As I drove along the stream during my approach, I noticed a few open pullouts above the wide parking area that is generally filled with guide vehicles. I pulled into one of these. The river narrows in this area, and I was uncertain that low velocity holding spots existed at the higher than normal flows. For the next hour I migrated upstream along the left bank, and I managed to land a nice thirteen inch brown trout from a narrow slot and some slack water next to the bank. By four o’clock I was burned out, and whitewater chutes were all that remained ahead of me, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car and called it a day.

I Fished This Stairstep Edge Water and Landed One Brown Trout

Wednesday afternoon was very challenging. The 290 CFS flows reduced the number of prime fishing spots for the abundant quantity of fishermen. The chill and wind had an impact on the hatches, and I never saw the “profuse” emergences described by the salesperson at Taylor Creek Fly Shop. I should have remained on the upper Frying Pan River, but I did manage to finesse a fine fifteen inch cutbow from an obscure lie. For this I was grateful. I am amazed at the fishing pressure that the Frying Pan tailwater absorbs.

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Above Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021 Photo Album

I stayed at my daughter Amy’s condo in Carbondale on Tuesday evening, and she needed to report to work early on Wednesday to catch up on some documentation. As she drove to work, she texted me that her thermometer registered 30 degrees. I checked out her garden and noted that five or six leaves on the squash plant were damaged from frost. I decided to take my time to allow the air temperature to warm up, before I hit the stream on Wednesday morning.

Deep Spots Like This Produced

I was somewhat disappointed with my so-so day on Tuesday on the Frying Pan River tailwater, so I decided to spend Wednesday morning on the upper Frying Pan River above Reudi Reservoir. I departed from Amy’s condo in Carbondale at 8:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive along the upper Pan by 10AM, and I was positioned to make my first cast a bit before 10:30AM. I wore my fleece hoodie, since the air temperature, when I began, was 53 degrees. The flows were probably average for September at 30 CFS, and an abundant quantity of large exposed boulders occupied the stream bed.

Small Stream Gold

Speckles Galore

I rigged my Sage four weight with a fat Albert, prince nymph and salvation nymph, and I began to methodically work my way upstream. It was not long before several brown trout jumped on the prince, and this action in the early going was indicative of my two hours on the river. The Frying Pan in the stretches above Reudi is actually more of a creek than a river. Although the action was not as torrid as that which I experienced in the Flattops, it was more interesting than what I encountered on Tuesday on the Frying Pan tailwater. I progressed up the stream at a moderate pace and probed all the deeper pockets and runs with the dry/dropper. More often than not a rainbow, cutbow or brown trout emerged from the clear flows; and I netted eighteen trout in two hours. The air temperature warmed to the sixties, but I remained quite comfortable in my fleece hoodie.

Morning Prize

The species caught split fairly evenly between brown trout and rainbows and cutbows. I was pleased to net five trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, but the size of the fish in the upper Frying Pan were certainly smaller than my better catches in the tailwater. As I moved along, I pondered the idea of remaining on the upper water for my entire time on Wednesday. The higher than normal flows of 290 CFS on the tailwater frustrated me, and I was having a great deal of fun on the smaller and more intimate upper Frying Pan. On the other hand I made the long drive and spent the night in order to experience the fabled hatches on the lower Pan, so should I not return for another shot at green drakes and pale morning duns? The air temperature for Wednesday was forecast to be ten degrees higher than Tuesday, so perhaps the hatches would be longer and more robust. In the end this argument trumped the idea of staying on the smaller Frying Pan, and I threw my gear in the car and drove to a spot within the first three miles below the dam.

Fish Landed: 18

Frying Pan River – 09/21/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 09/21/2021 Photo Album

I suspect I was spoiled by my high fish count days in the Flattops, and consequently I was somewhat disappointed by my day on the Frying Pan River. I decided to make the trip on Tuesday morning and cleared a one night stay at my daughter’s condo in Carbondale.

A cold front moved through Colorado on Monday night, and this produced temperatures near freezing at the Eisenhower Tunnel and at the summit of Vail Pass. The temperature when I began fishing on the Frying Pan River on Tuesday was 55 degrees. I wore my fleece hoodie for the entire time on the river, and I was never too warm.

On my way to the river I stopped at Taylor Creek Fly Shop to buy two spools of 5X tippet, and the salesman informed me that profuse hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, blue winged olives, caddis, and yellow sallies were in play. He also noted that the flows were in the 290 CFS range. He spoke like this was desirable, but it concerned me, since I prefer the water to be the 100 – 200 CFS range. This concern would ultimately prove to be valid.

Near My Starting Point

I rigged my Sage four weight and configured my line with a pool toy hopper, prince nymph and salvation nymph and began prospecting the promising runs and pockets below a small island. On the fifth toss the pool toy hopper darted sideways, and I set the hook. Instantly a missile shot downstream, and I allowed line to spin off my reel at an alarming rate. Just as I prepared to follow the torpedo below a fast chute, the tension released, and I quickly realized that three flies were missing in action from my line. I suspect that I foul hooked a respectable fish, but needless to say I was not pleased with the need to once again configure my three fly dry dropper.

Downstream

By the time I paused for lunch at 12:15PM I notched one small brown trout. I returned to the car for lunch and to restock my fleece wallet with prince nymphs and salvation nymphs. After lunch I cautiously crossed the river at a point across from the Santa Fe and added a second small brown trout to the count, but I was certain that I was bypassing fish, so I decided to implement a change. Crossing the Frying Pan River at 290 CFS was not a walk in the park, but I hoped to position myself to search the less pressured water opposite the road.

Slab

Appreciated Brown Trout

The cool temperatures and intermittent wind suggested a high pressure system, and I rarely do well in such conditions. The 290 CFS flows also reduced the viable fish holding spots, but the fly shop salesman promised profuse hatches. I decided to heed his advice, and I converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a parachute green drake. The change paid off, when I duped a thirteen inch rainbow trout on the green drake, although I lost the original paradrake to a bad knot and landed the rainbow trout on a comparadun. Eventually I switched back to another parachute, and over the course of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from three to ten. Two of these trout slurped the hippie stomper, and the remainder snatched the green drake. A fifteen inch rainbow and two fourteen inch brown trout were part of the afternoon haul.

Lifted for Display

Parachute Green Drake

Long and Lean Brown Trout

By 3:30PM I reversed my direction, and on the way back, along the south bank I landed a medium sized brown trout on a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. The move to the comparadun was dictated by a sparse hatch of pale morning duns. By 4:00PM I returned to the car and drove to mile marker 11.5, where I fished the braids, the pool at cube rock, and the pockets at the upstream tip of the island. These efforts were futile, and I called it quits at 4:30PM. Shadows and glare covered the entire river, and my confidence plummeted.

Hops Dried on the Vine

Tuesday was a fair day on the Frying Pan River. The catch rate was average, the hatch was less than profuse, and I landed four respectable trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. Hopefully warmer temperatures and less wind will yield better hatches and more success on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 11

Frying Pan River – 06/11/2021

Time: 2:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Just upstream from Dallenbach Ranch wedding venue.

Frying Pan River 06/11/2021 Photo Album

I forgot how much fun it is to fly fish the Frying Pan River. It has been at least two years, since I last made the acquaintance of this jewel of a tailwater in the Roaring Fork Valley.

That Smooth Slick Yielded a Brown Trout

My daughter, Amy, moved from Portland, OR to Carbondale, CO to be close to her boyfriend. She obtained a physical therapy position in Carbondale and rented a condominium in the same town. Jane and I were anxious to pay a visit to Amy and her boyfriend, Phil, and we finally made the trip on Friday, June 11.

We arrived in Carbondale at 11:00AM and spent an hour chatting, and Phil and Amy provided an apartment tour, before we cycled to Dos Gringos Burritos for a tasty lunch of tacos. After lunch I was anxious to wet a line, so I left Jane, Amy, and Phil and made the short drive to the Frying Pan River. Because June 11 is early in the season, and the heavy pale morning dun and green drake hatches were not in progress on the upper river, I decided to gamble on the lower water. I stopped at a pullout upstream of the Dallenbach Ranch wedding venue.

Salvation and Chunky Brown Trout

The river was in spectacular condition with crystal, clear visibility and flows in the 125 CFS range. The air temperature was around eighty degrees, and very little cloud cover blocked the intense rays of the sun. Before departing for my stint on the Frying Pan River, I checked the fishing report at the Taylor Creek website, and it mentioned midday hatches of blue winged olives and pale morning duns, so I armed my line with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 16 salvation nymph (PMD imitation), and a size 20 sparkle wing RS2 (BWO imitation). These three flies clicked immediately, and I maintained them for two hours of exceptional fishing on the Frying Pan River.

Speckles and Stripes

I steadily worked my way upstream for .4 mile and landed eleven trout. All but two were brown trout, and the landed population included a pair of fourteen inch browns, and a thirteen inch rainbow, and the remainder were predominantly feisty twelve inch browns. The prime targets were deep slots near large boulders, and pockets of moderate depth.

Promising Small Shelf Pool

In addition to eleven landed trout, I experienced quite a few refusals to the pool toy. Surprisingly very often the flash of a refusal to the hopper revealed the position of a trout, and during a subsequent drift the reluctant surface feeder grabbed one of the trailing nymphs. The pool toy converted one fish, and seventy percent of the remaining landed trout nabbed the salvation nymph, while thirty percent locked in on the RS2.

Length

In summary, I had a blast. I moved fairly rapidly with a flurry of casts to likely spots, and very frequently a hungry trout responded with a grab. The catch rate was fantastic, the size of the trout was excellent, and I basked in the gorgeous natural setting. Hopefully Amy’s presence in the Roaring Fork Valley enables many future visits to the Frying Pan River.

Fish Landed: 11

Frying Pan River – 08/29/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 08/29/2018 Photo Album

A slow day that yielded small fish had me considering alternatives for Wednesday, August 29. I tentatively settled on the upper Frying Pan above Reudi Reservoir, as I dozed off in my comfortable sleeping bag. I reasoned that the feeder stream and smaller fish would at least provide a faster pace, and I presumed that I would have the area to myself during the middle of the week. Most fishermen treat the Frying Pan tailwater as their dream destination, and they ignore the small fish above Reudi.

As I finished packing my camping gear on Wednesday morning, however, I experienced a change of thinking. The freestone section of the Frying Pan would offer even less in the way of hatches than what I observed on Tuesday on the tailwater, and this circumstance might translate to difficult fishing in low water conditions for small fish. I also reasoned that I drove four hours from Denver to fly fish the fabled Frying Pan tailwater, and I probably needed to give it a second chance. Perhaps the slow fishing on Tuesday was attributable to a change in the weather, and an extra day of stability would usher in more consistent hatches. Since I camped at Little Maude at Reudi Reservoir, I was merely two miles from the sought after water just below the dam, and I knew from a trip in May, that a high density of larger than average trout called this area their home.

A Guide and Clients Took My Spot

I turned on to the dirt road that accesses the upper Frying Pan, and I continued along the north side of the river. It was immediately apparent that quite a few other fishermen had the same idea, as all the prime spots, that I envisioned as my starting point, were occupied with early risers. I was disappointed, but I continued downstream on the paved road to check out the premium locations between mile marker (MM) 11.5 and 13. The possibility of finding an open stretch away from competing anglers improved, however, quite a few vehicles occupied the many pullouts along the way.

Yummy Shelf Pool

After assessing the upper four miles, I executed a U-turn and settled into a nice wide pullout .3 miles above the downstream boundary with private water. The air temperature was in the low sixties, as I slipped on two pairs of socks and climbed into my waders. The thicker grip of the five weight had an impact on my tennis elbow condition on Tuesday, so I elected to use my Sage four weight on Wednesday. The Sage was longer than the Loomis five weight with a narrower grip, yet it possessed a stiffer backbone than my Orvis Access four weight in case I tangled with a larger than average trout. In spite of Tuesday’s disappointment I harbored some optimism for a second day on the Frying Pan River.

Looks Appealing

I walked down the road to the long pool where a fallen tree forms a semi-dam, but a guide and two clients claimed the side of the river opposite the road. I retreated back toward the car and slid down the bank just above a long fast chute, where the river splits around a long narrow cluster of tiny islands. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line, and then I added the ever-present beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. I began casting to the nooks and crannies around the small islands, and within ten minutes I hooked and landed a ten inch brown trout that displayed deep coloration and vivid markings.

Cube Rock Pool

This approach became my mode of operation for the remaining time on the river. I experienced very little success in the large attractive pools, and most of the landed trout materialized from obscure lies along the bank or smaller midstream pockets. Two periods deviated from this approach, and I will describe them later. During the course of my dry/dropper prospecting I made several changes. During the morning I exchanged the hares ear for a size 14 prince nymph in an attempt to imitate the underwater stage of a green drake. The large nymph picked up a couple small fish, but it was not a highly sought after menu item. I also swapped the yellow fat Albert for a peacock body hippy stomper, and this conversion prompted me to abandon the prince nymph for an ultra zug bug. The salvation sacrificed its position on my line for a size 18 pheasant tail nymph in an effort to simulate the nymph stage of pale morning duns, but again the move proved ineffective. The ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph occupied my line for the longest time, and each accounted for a fair share of trout.

My What Spots

I progressed from my starting point to MM12, and then I reversed my direction and investigated the smaller left channel, where the river splits around a long slender island. On my way upstream I covered the south braid, so I was now interested in surveying the channel closer to the road. Typically this branch carries lower flows and provides more challenging fishing. On Wednesday I managed a refusal in the lower pool section, and then I netted a ten inch brown in the upper pocket section. I continued until I reached the abundant series of pockets scattered above the island, and I paused to observe. It was around 2PM, and I previously covered this area quite thoroughly on my dry/dropper search, so I was not optimistic regarding my prospects on the second pass.

Fifteen Inch Rainbow Made My Day

As I scanned the deep curled pocket directly above the point of the island and next to the roadside bank, I was shocked to see a fish, as it elevated to sip an unidentifiable object from the surface. I peered into the tail of the pocket, and I was sure that the feeding fish was a very nice rainbow trout. As this transpired, another sizable fish hovered a foot below the surface, and it too snatched a drifting bug along the current seam, where the river swirled around an exposed boulder at the upstream end of the curled pocket. My heart rate accelerated with this fresh sign of surface feeding by larger than average trout.

Now I needed to determine what these feeders were consuming. I paused and observed the air space above the river, and several medium size mayflies made an appearance. They were too small for a green drake but larger than a blue winged olive, although I spotted several baetis as well. I quickly removed a size 18 cinnamon comparadun from my fly box and dropped several nice drag free drifts over the rainbow at the tail of the small pool. No luck. The trout twitched its tail and rose a bit but then resumed its normal holding position. What should I try next? Normally I downsize, but my hunch in this instance was that the pale morning duns were larger than a size 18. I clipped off the size 18 PMD and replaced it with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. I applied a generous quantity of floatant and preened the wing to a nice vertical position, and then I dropped a cast four feet above the target rainbow. I held my breath as the sighted fish slowly elevated and drifted under the fly, and then at the last minute it turned and ate!

I was dumbfounded. I quickly lifted my rod and set the hook, and the rainbow went into intense escape mode. I held tight, eliminated slack and cautiously waited for the thrashing fish to tire. When I concluded that the battle was complete, I slid my net beneath a gorgeous fifteen inch rainbow. I removed the comparadun and snapped a photo, while the pink striped beauty rested in my net, and then I lifted and lowered it to the river, and it was gone in a flash. Was this the beginning of an intense hatch and reckless feeding binge by large Frying Pan trout?

In short the answer was no. I disturbed the active pocket, so the other fish in that vicinity stopped their feeding and retreated to safety. I scanned the other pockets in the area, but I was unable to detect surface rises. Perhaps the pool below the large cube rock on the south braid had come alive? I slowly waded along the edge of the river, but when I arrived at the pool, it was devoid of surface action. Next I carefully waded along the inside edge of the island to the bottom and then crossed to the north branch and once again moved upstream. Again I found no evidence of a hatch or actively feeding trout.

It was now 3PM, and I was reluctant to believe that the brief fifteen minute feeding episode in the pocket above the island was the extent of Wednesday’s hatch. I decided to check out the long pool near the private boundary that was occupied by a guide and two clients at the start of the day. I was pleased to discover that it was vacant, so I stood on the bank and observed. It took awhile, but eventually I noted several sporadic rises. I positioned myself at the tail and made several cross stream casts to no avail. I once again paused, and now I noticed more activity in the moderate riffle on the opposite side of the pool, so I crossed above the fallen tree and positioned myself to cast in the neighborhood of the rises.

Small Pool Produced

For the next half hour I cast pale morning dun imitations and green drakes to the quality shelf riffle and center run seam, but I was unable to generate a single hook up. I spotted two green drakes, as they recklessly tumbled on the surface in an effort to dry their wings to become airborne, and this prompted me to test a parachute and comparadun imitation, but each could do no better than provoke a refusal from a ten inch brown along the center current seam.

At 3:30PM even the sparse random surface activity dwindled to nothing, and modifying my configuration for dry/dropper was not appealing. I was weary and faced a long drive to Denver, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the waiting Santa Fe.

I accumulated sixteen landed fish on Wednesday, but aside from the fifteen inch rainbow and one or two twelve inch brown trout, the rest were small browns in the six to ten inch range, and at least six of the small fish were heavily weighted toward 6-7 inches. The hatch was sparse and brief, and I was frankly disappointed with my two days on the Frying Pan River. The upper water near the dam was crawling with anglers, and even the lower portion of the upper four miles contained a fair amount of competition. Unlike most previous ventures to the Frying Pan, large fish were absent, and I never sighted fish other than the risers during the brief hatch. The flows were a constant 181 CFS and cold and crystal clear. The daytime highs were in the middle to upper seventies. The wind was an annoyance both days, but never a show stopper. I am at a loss to understand why the two days at the end of August 2018 were so lackluster. The Frying Pan River has always ranked as one of my favorites due to the consistent hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns and blue winged olives. Where were they during August 28 and 29?

Fish Landed: 16

 

Frying Pan River – 08/28/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Folkstead Spring

Frying Pan River 08/28/2018 Photo Album

There is no denying that I had high expectations, and I was disappointed with my first day of a two day fly fishing trip to the Frying Pan River. I am repeatedly attracted to the Pan because of the consistent hatches in an intimate tailwater environment. An explanation for my subpar day on August 28 is difficult to formulate. A drop in air temperature occurred on Monday night, and generally this results from a cold front or high pressure system. Historically I have not experienced many solid days of fly fishing the day after a front moves through an area, so perhaps Tuesday’s results were attributable to this weather situation.

The Frying Pan River

I left Denver at 7:30, and this enabled me to arrive at the wide parking area by Folkstead Spring by 11:30. By the time I climbed into my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight, I was ready to fish. Another angler arrived, as I was gearing up, and he asked which direction I was heading. I intended to go downstream a bit, but his presence caused me to start directly across from the spring.

I launched my day with a size 14 parachute green drake, as I hoped that the fish were accustomed to seeing the large olive mayflies. It did not work. I prospected for twenty minutes with nary a look, so I migrated to a tan pool toy with a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph. This combination was also not effective, although I did manage to net a six inch brown trout to eliminate the possibility of a skunking.

As the start to my day was evolving, a different angler charged across the quality run thirty yards upstream, and he began working along the right bank. He appropriated my intended path! Some undisturbed quality water remained, before I overlapped with my nemesis, so I continued, but the lack of response to my dry/dropper offering caused me to revert to the parachute green drake. I noticed a sparse number of blue winged olives in the air, so I concluded that the water temperature elevated enough to generate increased mayfly and trout activity.

Nice Early Catch

Before tying a tiny blue winged olive fly to my line, I decided to go large. The strategy paid off, when a gorgeous rainbow inhaled the green drake in a long deep trough in the center of the river. The striped stream resident measured fourteen inches, and I was quite pleased with this fortuitous turn of events. Eventually I would discover that this was the highlight of my day.

I conjectured that perhaps I reached a turning point in my day, but despite some scattered refusals, the drake could not repeat its magnetic impact. I downsized to a size 18 light gray comparadun, when I observed some pale morning duns, but only a refusal or two resulted from this change. Next I stepped up to a size 16 comparadun, as the visible duns appeared larger than the size 18 on my line. Again I was thwarted.

Button Flowers

I now speculated that the trout were following through on blue winged olive emergers, so I switched to a pool toy, salvation nymph and RS2. It was a great idea, but it appealed to fishermen and not to fish. I also experimented with a 20 incher to imitate a green drake nymph during this phase, but this ploy was yet another disappointment.

Finally I progressed to a point where the river morphed into a fast water chute, and the only attractive locales were pockets along the right bank, and this was water that the upstream angler disturbed. I abandoned the spring area and walked downstream a considerable distance, and I reverted to the parachute drake. The green drake provoked a pair of refusals along a band of slow water next to the bank, so I once again forsake the dry and returned to a dry/dropper. The water ahead was fast and consisted of a large quantity of pockets and deep runs, and these conditions are more suited to the dry/dropper approach.

A Bit Larger. Salvation in Lip

During the 2-3:30PM time frame I cast a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph, and several versions of a pheasant tail nymph. I finally earned some consistency and built the fish count to ten. Unfortunately this included three more browns in the 6-7 inch range, but also a muscular thirteen incher joined the mix along with some wild browns in the 10-12 inch range.

Hops Blossoms

By 4PM I found myself across from the spring again, but the less than torrid catch rate subsided to inactive status. I jumped in the car and moved to mile marker 12, where I made a feeble effort to add to my fish count. It did not work, and I abandoned my efforts at 4:30 and secured a campsite at Little Maude.

Tuesday may have been my slowest outing ever during the July – October time frame on the Frying Pan River. I applied considerable effort to my approach during the afternoon to reach double digits, but the size was lacking. Consistent hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, and blue winged olives are the hallmark of the Frying Pan River, but they were absent or meager compared to historical standards on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 10

 

Frying Pan River – 05/10/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Location: Between the dam and Baetis Bridge; .5 mile below Baetis Bridge and back to Bend Pool below the bridge; Taylor Creek Cabins private water

Frying Pan River 05/10/2018 Photo Album

After a tough but rewarding day on Wednesday, my feelings toward Thursday were divided, as we prepared to once again attack the Frying Pan River. Steve’s weather forecast projected highs in the eighties with minimal cloud cover, and this augured challenging conditions. I also dwelled on my lack of minuscule gray midge imitations, and nothing changed overnight to alter that situation. On the positive side I managed to land sixteen excellent trout including several above average in size on dry flies during a hatch. The latter accomplishment added a layer of positive anticipation for Thursday.

Were my reservations and optimism misplaced? Thursday proved to be a very challenging day on the Frying Pan River. In my opinion the tough conditions were attributable to pure blue skies and warm temperatures. Ed, Steve, and I parked near the Wednesday pullout, and I was prepared to fish by 9:30AM. I deployed my Sage four weight once again, and since I observed no evidence of surface feeding, I rigged a dry/dropper configuration and skirted the pool that occupied me for most of Wednesday.

I began prospecting with a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and a sparkle wing RS2; and I covered the faster water between Wednesday’s pool and an upstream weir that spanned the river. The dry/dropper did not produce in the early going, so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a bright green caddis pupa. My efforts continued in a futile trend, until I neared the end of the fast water section, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout on the RS2.

At this point I circled back to a point just below the car, and as I observed from the high bank next to the road, several trout began to pluck invisible morsels from the surface. I scrambled down the rocky bank and spent the remainder of the morning in a state of frustration, as I churned through all manner of tiny gray flies contained in my twenty-five year old midge box. After a lengthy trial run in the first section I surrendered and moved to a gorgeous area between several large exposed boulders. Large fish were rising everywhere in the deeper channels between shallow flats.

Much of the Day Spent Here

I finally brought some stream analysis to the endeavor, and I seined the water, and within seconds the white mesh was clogged with a massive quantity of midge larva, emerging midges, and a few adults. The adults were size 24 or possibly smaller, and the larva were very slender and also a size 24. Fifty percent of the residue in the net was larva casings. I was astonished by the amount of protein collected in a brief dip of my net. The midges more than made up for their tiny size with an astounding quantity of insects in various stages of the life cycle.

70% Empty Larva Cases

Dense Midge Hatch Lingered for Four Hours

After I finished my stream life analysis, Steve joined me, and he assumed the downstream position, while I targeted the top of the runs. An abundant quantity of visible fish elevated my heart rate, as they finned just below the surface and slowly sipped tiny midges in a steady rhythmic cadence. Surely one would mistake my small gray offering for the real thing! Finally just before lunch I tied a size 24 black midge adult to my line, and the minuscule fly duped a twelve inch rainbow trout. Ed donated this fly to my cause on Wednesday during lunch.

Thursday morning featured 2.5 hours of frustration. Flies that worked albeit temporarily on Wednesday were totally ignored on Thursday. I was in a state of bewilderment and clueless regarding my afternoon approach to the dense hatch of diminutive midges.

Surprise Caddis Chomper

After lunch Steve and I once again manned our positions of the morning, and after additional futile casting I began to experiment with large visible lead flies trailing small midge larva imitations, that were impossible to track. Much to my surprise I hooked and landed a feisty thirteen inch brown trout that attacked the size sixteen olive brown deer caddis that served as my lead fly. In addition I experienced a temporary hook up with the caddis.

Another period with no action and decreased surface feeding provoked me to experiment with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The wind was gusting intermittently, and I postulated that terrestrials were in the mix. Once again I was pleasantly surprised, when the beetle produced a temporary connection, and then it fooled a much appreciated rainbow. The pink striped missile streaked up and down the pool, until I finally coaxed it into my net. I photographed and admired my best fish of the day.

Beetle Visible in the Mouth

After the rainbow landing the midge food source dwindled, and the trout scaled back their feeding activity. Steve decided to investigate the bridge pool, and I accompanied him. When I stood on Baetis Bridge, I observed only placid water with no evidence of rising fish, and the high sun caused the air temperature to soar, so I decided to hike downstream via the road for .5 mile, until I found some faster water. I theorized that a dry/dropper approach in the faster currents improved my chances of success given the higher air temperatures and lack of cloud cover.

The Pool Above Baetis Bridge

My theory was in fact upheld, as I deployed a yellow fat Albert, emerald caddis pupa, and salvation nymph and guided six additional trout into my net. Two were rainbows in the thirteen inch range, and the others were smaller brown trout. One of the rainbows snatched the caddis pupa, and the salvation yielded the other landed fish.

Channel Between the Rocks Delivered

Healthy Wild Brown Trout from Thursday

When I reached the slow bend pool below Baetis Bridge, I climbed to the road and circled back to the bridge and then continued toward the car, where I found Ed and Steve next to the same spot that frustrated us earlier in the day. I once again waded in above Steve and converted to a black parachute ant, but it was soundly ignored by the occasional risers in front of me. I was about to switch back to Jake’s gulp beetle, but Ed and Steve were ready for happy hour, so we stowed our gear and returned to the cabin.

The Log Jam on Taylor Creek Cabins Private Water

Before removing my waders and breaking down my rod, I decided to sample the private water across from the cabin, and I moved upstream from the “log jam” to the bench at the end of the path across from the driveway to the cabin. During this brief foray in the middle section of the Frying Pan River I prospected with a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph, and I landed two additional brown trout that attacked the salvation.

End of Day Brown Trout

Thursday was a tough day, but I managed to land twelve trout including a few in the 13 – 14 inch range. I also invested some time to research the prevalent food source, and I discovered that size 24 midge larva, emergers and adults were on the menu. Although it is unlikely that I will return to the Frying Pan River near term to leverage this knowledge, I plan to add some tiny imitations to my fly boxes in case I visit again in the spring of future seasons. A new design is already dominating my thought patterns.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Frying Pan River – 05/09/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Reudi Reservoir and Baetis Bridge

Frying Pan River 05/09/2018 Photo Album

While we visited the Taylor Creek Fly Shop on Tuesday, I mentioned to Ed and Steve that during past trips I capitalized on the misfortune of other anglers, when I scooped two plastic canisters containing purchased flies from the currents of the Frying Pan River. I estimated that the quantity of flies contained in these two cylinders was thirty-five, and at $2 per fly this equates to $70 worth of flies. Relating this story reminded me of the cylindrical containers, so I searched the zippered pocket of my wader bib and discovered that they were missing. I recalled removing them prior to my trip to New Zealand, so I searched the pockets in my fishing bag and recovered them and returned them to my wader pocket. This bit of foresight would prove to be critical to my fishing story of Wednesday, May 9.

After breakfast at the Taylor Creek Cabins on Wednesday morning, my friend Steve checked his weather app, and it forecast clouds and overcast skies for the entire day. We rejoiced at this bit of news, and in fact the prediction was mostly accurate. Whereas the high temperature in Denver reached eighty degrees, cloudy skies predominated along the Frying Pan River, and this translated to cooler temperatures in the low seventies at our fishing destination.

Ed, Steve and I once again teamed up; and Ed drove to the upper section of the river below Reudi Reservoir. We turned left before Baetis Bridge and parked along the road on the north side of the river. We immediately split up with Ed migrating upstream, while Steve and I walked along the road in a downstream direction. I chose the first left after passing some thick impenetrable brush, and then I waded along the edge of the river to a long pool with a relatively strong current closer to the opposite bank.

Neat Spot Pattern on This Brown Trout

I considered defaulting to a tyical dry/dropper approach, but I paused to observe and noticed several rising fish. A source of food was not readily evident, but quite a few tan colored midges buzzed about above the river. My fly box did not contain a matching adult midge fly, so I plucked a griffiths gnat from a foam slot and knotted it to my line. I learned from past experience that a griffiths gnat is a solid all purpose adult midge imitation.

Spent Nearly All Day in This Spot

As this thought process and fly selection played out, more and more fish began to rise, and most ignored my gnat, but through persistent casting I landed two nice brown trout. The second one was a fine muscular specimen that measured in the fifteen inch range, and I savored my early dry fly success. This scenario continued throughout the remainder of the day. Fish rose throughout the pool in waves, and I repeatedly advanced and retreated along the twenty yard length. Unfortunately I could never identify a consistent fly. My best producer was a size 24 parachute Adams that I discovered in…one of the windfall canisters that I returned to my wader bib pocket before departing for the river! This fly accounted for six brown trout, before I returned to Ed’s car for my lunch break. By this time the hackles unraveled, and the hook was bent from repeated removal from the tough bony mouths of the fish. Before I returned to the river after lunch, I once again searched in my fishing bag and removed a small plastic fly box that was broken at the hinge. This relic of early 1990’s fly tying efforts harbored a decent supply of tiny midge larva and emergers, so I stuffed it in my front pack for the afternoon.

Lovely Colors

S Curve

The micro Adams was unfortunately one of a kind in my fly supply. In the afternoon I rolled through RS2’s, WD40’s, and an emerger style RS2 with a stubby white tuft of poly for an emerging wing. All these flies were fished like a dry fly, as I applied floatant to the bodies of the tiny nymphs, and they produced eight additional trout. I found and tried nearly every fly in my possession that had a gray body and was small. Eight trout may sound impressive, but each fly generated a couple random takes, before they were ignored like inert flotsam. I executed a prodigious number of casts and utilized dead drifts, twitches, and skating techniques. Between 12:30 and 3:30 the entire pool was alive with an impressive quantity of feeding fish, yet my fly was ignored a high percentage of the time. I could not comprehend why a few fish munched my flies, while the bulk of the fish selectively fed on the naturals.

Outstanding

By 3:30 I departed the pool that I occupied since 9:30 and shifted to the gorgeous run and pool just above Baetis Bridge, where I joined Steve. My last two trout came from this area, with one attacking the parachute RS2 and the other chomping a classic RS2.

Beauty with Fins

Sixteen trout was a very rewarding day on the Frying Pan River, and at least three measured in the 15 – 16 inch range. The downside to Wednesday was the unbelievable number of casts and fly changes required to achieve fishing success. By the end of the day I was exceedingly weary of attempting to follow tiny flies that enabled me to catch one fish among fifty casts. A significant hatch was preferable to none at all, but matching barely visible midge emergers carried a heavy dose of frustration. What would Thursday deliver?

Fish Landed: 16

Steve Creates a Loop

Frying Pan River – 05/08/2018

Time: 4:00PM – 6:30PM

Location: Folkstead Spring upstream to MM 11

Frying Pan River 05/08/2018 Photo Album

My fishing friend, Steve, invited me to join a group that was renting one of the Taylor Creek Cabins along the Frying Pan River from May 8 through May 10. Renting a cabin entitles the temporary residents to fish the Frying Pan Anglers’ private water across from the cluster of rustic log buildings. I readily accepted Steve’s invitation, especially when I heard that my share of the lodging cost for three nights was $140. The per night lodging cast barely exceeded the cost for a night’s stay in a national forest campground.

On Tuesday morning I drove to the Wooly Mammoth parking lot along Interstate 70 near Golden, CO, and there I met Steve and his friend Ed. Ed volunteered to drive, so I transferred my bags and gear to his Volvo station wagon. After navigating through some construction in Glenwood Canyon, we arrived in Basalt by 12:30, and here we met the other three members of our crew at the Stone Pony. We ordered our lunches, and I was introduced to the other members of the team; John, Steve and Bob. All were anxious to get a jump on three days of fishing, but after lunch we stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop to obtain information and purchase a few flies. I bought four mysis shrimp, as these are prevalent on the Frying Pan River below Reudi Reservoir, and I do not tie the popular tailwater crustacean.

After we exhausted our questions and made last minute fly purchases, we continued along the Frying Pan River Road and checked into our Taylor Creek Cabin. Initially we were disappointed to learn that the temporary quarters contained only two bedrooms with two single beds in one, a double bed in the other, and a futon in the kitchen. Some quick math yielded the conclusion that two of us would need to sleep together in the double bed, but before total panic prevailed, Bob discovered a separate building that used to be a garage that was converted into another bedroom and bathroom combination. We were relieved by this discovery and stashed our belongings, and then Ed, Steve and I departed to fish.

Ed and Steve Ready to Go After Trout

The shop suggested that the river from MM 10 to 12 contained the best opportunity to encounter blue winged olives, so we chose that section as our destination. I was the most knowledgeable person regarding the stretches of the Frying Pan River, so I guided Ed to the parking lot next to Folkstead Spring, but once we exited the car and surveyed the river, I sensed that the water was too fast for their tastes. We piled back into the Volvo and continued for another .5 mile, where we parked near the upstream border with private water. This section offered quite a few nice pools, and this appealed to the other guys more than the water near the spring.

114 CFS on Tuesday Afternoon

Steve and Ed fished a nice pool just below the private boundary, and I hiked down the road to Folkstead Spring. I crossed the river at the spring, and this was unusually easy, as a result of the relatively low flows of 114 CFS. Tuesday was a warm day with the temperature along the Frying Pan approaching the low eighties. The sky was perfectly blue without the hint of a cloud. These weather conditions are generally indicative of challenging fishing, and I was skeptical that the anticipated blue winged olive hatch would materialize.

Once I crossed the unusually gentle Frying Pan, I began working upstream for the next two hours. Given the low clear conditions I began with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, but after testing it in some very attractive runs with no positive results, I shifted to the dry/dropper approach. I opted for a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph, and RS2. I continued prospecting with these flies, but once again I suffered through a dry spell. I paused to observe, and I noticed occasional caddis touching the water, so I exchanged the RS2 for an emerald caddis pupa.

Promising Stretch

 

Bronze Brown

This three fly combination remained in place for the remainder of my time on the water. Before I quit at 6:30PM, I landed seven trout; three rainbows and four browns. Three of these trout favored the hares ear nymph, and the other four snatched the emerald caddis pupa. This suggested that the fish were opportunistic in the faster water and not selective to any single food source. All three of the rainbows were larger than the brown trout. The last fish of the day was quite obviously also the best, as it was a rainbow trout that measured sixteen inches. I landed this beauty, after I returned to rendezvous with Steve and Ed, and I fished a moderate run below their pool. Another ‘bow was thirteen inches, and the third was in the twelve inch range. Two brown trout measured out at twelve inches, and the remaining two were smaller cousins in the seven inch range.

Showing Off Crimson

The fishing on Tuesday was quite slow, and I was very pleased to land seven fish. Many spots that seemed to be sure things failed to deliver. Success required frequent movement and repeated casts, and I never identified the water type that was most consistently productive. It was a decent start to our three day visit to the Frying Pan River. Early May represented the earliest in the season that I ever fished the popular tailwater, so I was uncertain regarding what to expect.

Fish Landed: 7

 

Frying Pan River – 10/26/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Within one mile of Reudi Dam.

Frying Pan River 10/26/2017 Photo Album

I reviewed the stream flows on other rivers within a reasonable driving distance from Bachelor Gulch, and I discovered that the Frying Pan River was trickling out of Reudi Reservoir at 81 CFS. Another possibility was the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir, and the DWR site reported flows there of 41 CFS. I never fished the Frying Pan at volumes below 100 CFS, so I browsed the Taylor Creek web site. The report indicated that pale morning duns and blue winged olives were emerging, and this convinced me to make the tailwater east of Basalt, CO my fishing destination on October 26.

I asked my fishing companion of Wednesday, Todd, whether he cared to join, and he enthusiastically agreed and volunteered to drive. Todd picked me up at the Timbers at Bachelor Gulch on Thursday morning at 8:30AM, and we completed the drive to the upper one mile section below Reudi Dam by 10:15. The temperature was around fifty degrees when we began casting our flies at 10:30, and it never climbed above 55 during our day on the river. Intermittent gusts of strong wind made casting difficult especially during the afternoon. The flows were indeed lower than I ever witnessed at 88 CFS, and a constant stream of green scum attacked our fly lines and flies throughout the day. Removing the green algae with cold hands was an annoyance that we could have done without.

Todd Casts Next to His Nemesis, Green Scum

Todd parked his Denali at the parking lot next to a bathroom and picnic area below the dam, and we began fishing in a long slow moving pool. I knotted a stimulator with a tan body to my line, and then I added a dropper with a zebra midge. I noticed three splashy rises in the early going, but I covered the entire pool without a look, refusal or take. Upon completion of the pool search, I reversed my course and prospected some runs and pockets of moderate depth, but again my efforts were futile. Todd returned from his pursuit in some flats upstream and reported a similar lack of success, so we drove downstream and parked by the first bridge below the dam.

It was now 11:30, and I flicked a few casts in a short deep run above the bridge, but again I was not rewarded for my persistence. Todd positioned himself at the bottom of the large pool just above the bridge, and I decided to explore some long pockets along the left bank and just above the pool that Todd was prospecting. I crossed the bridge and walked up the dirt road to my new target area. After a few ineffective casts of the stimulator, I decided to shift gears; and I moved to a Chernobyl ant, beadhead salvation nymph, and a RS2. The conversion paid off when an eight inch brown trout nipped the RS2, and a fourteen inch rainbow snatched the salvation. Both trout grabbed my flies deep in the V where two currents merged. In the next pool above the V run I nicked a fish, as it probably latched on to the RS2. After connecting with a pair of fish I was more optimistic about my day, as I returned to the car, and then Todd and I consumed our lunches.

One of Two Landed Fish on October 26, 2017

After lunch I decided to explore the left side of the large pool that Todd sampled before lunch. When I approached the narrow shelf pool along the left bank, I observed three nice trout along the strong current seam eight feet away. Two fish elevated to inspect the Chernobyl, but they would not commit to eat. After ten minutes of fruitless casting, I spotted numerous rises throughout the wide pool. I took the plunge and replaced the dry/dropper with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive, the same fly that helped me record a spectacular day on the Eagle River on Wednesday. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast various sizes of CDC BWO’s to rising fish; and the best I could manage was one foul hooked rainbow, a couple temporary hook ups, and a bunch of refusals.

Halloween Fly Fishing

In addition to the CDC BWO I mixed in four different colors and sizes of caddis, a size 20 soft hackle emerger, and a Jake’s gulp beetle. The baetis hatch came in waves. When the clouds blocked the sun, BWO’s emerged, and a flurry of fish activity ensued. The return of sunshine and strong gusts of wind caused a suspension of the emergence. It appeared to Todd and I that the trout were snatching emergers just below the surface. I watched many dorsal fins break the surface, and frequently the sides of fish flashed, as they shifted to intercept an emerger.

By 3:30 some gray clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped, the wind acceleratied, and the surface rises ceased. This combination of conditions motivated us to reel up our lines, as we called it a day. Thursday was a disappointment, although we were fortunate to encounter a steady hatch of baetis for at least three hours. We had our opportunity but could not solve the puzzle and convert the presence of a large number of feeding fish into success. This experience has me contemplating tying blue winged olive emerger patterns this winter.

Fish Landed: 2