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.

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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.

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70% Empty Larva Cases

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Channel Between the Rocks Delivered

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lovely Colors

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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114 CFS on Tuesday Afternoon

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.

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Promising Stretch

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Frying Pan River – 09/01/2017

Time: 9:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between MM 11 and MM 12.

Frying Pan River 09/01/2017 Photo Album

I did not give much credence to the Taylor Creek Fly Shop sentence on their web site, but it stated that now was a good time to visit the Frying Pan River, since crowds were thinned due to the bridge detour in Glenwood Springs. It was positioned at the top of the fishing report in bright red text, but I discounted it, since it came from a fly shop attempting to attract customers. When I arrived at the Frying Pan River on Thursday, the river did in fact seem relatively vacant, but I attributed it to being a weekday, and the more moderate popularity of the section of the river that I elected to fish.

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The Whole Leaf

I camped at Little Maud Campground by Reudi Reservoir on Thursday night, and quite a few vacant sites remained, so I admitted that perhaps there was something to the Taylor Creek announcement. A thunderstorm on Thursday evening soaked my rainfly, and rather than wait for it to dry, I rolled it up along with the tent and footprint and spread them out on the waterproof floor mat in the rear of the Santa Fe. I did not want to delay my start on the Frying Pan River tailwater, and it would be easy enough to spread everything out on the patio when I returned home. I camped within a couple miles of the upper tailwater, and I was not about to squander this convenient location and the ability to beat the hordes to the upper three miles.

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Yellow Buttons

I pulled into a wide pullout above the private water border between mile marker eleven and twelve at 9AM. Amazingly I only passed a couple cars along the way, but it was early for the guide crowd. Fridays generally are a favorite day for extending a long weekend, so I was certain that anglers would arrive in droves for the Labor Day weekend. Since I was ahead of the throngs, my plan was to begin at the bottom of the public water and then work my way upstream as far as time would permit. If I bumped into other fishermen, I planned to circle around them and continue, since I had roughly three miles of stream to work with.

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More Hops Vines

I assembled my Loomis five weight and walked downstream to the first no trespassing sign and began my quest for Frying Pan River trout. I tied a tan pool toy to my line as the top fly and then added a beadhead salvation nymph and a beadhead hares ear. I fished aggressively from 9:45 until noon and covered a significant amount of water, and one small brown trout that grabbed the salvation was my only reward. Needless to say, I was frustrated, and although I carried my lunch in my backpack; I decided to return to the car, since I was in the vicinity. I needed a break and a change of scenery.

After lunch I walked along the road for a short distance and then descended to the base of a series of tiny islands. I persisted with the dry/dropper configuration and added a second small brown trout that nabbed the hares ear. When I reached the nice pool that contains an exposed rock with a tree growing out of it, I saw a few sporadic rises, so I removed the three fly set up and tied on a size 14 parachute green drake. This fly was on fire on Thursday, so why not give it a trial early on Friday?

A cast to the area of a rise just below the large rock elicited a refusal, and after a few additional futile casts to the pool surrounding the rock, I turned my attention to the angled riffles. This area historically produced quantities of fish and several of decent size. I was certain that the green drake would generate some excitement. If one defines excitement as landing another small brown trout from the tail of the riffle where the current accelerates along the bank, then I suppose I was energized.

An attractive deep pool and run represented my next target area, and this prime spot delivered another small brown trout. I began to notice an occasional green drake, and this reinforced my choice to fish the large mayfly imitation, but I began to doubt that the parachute style was a winner on September 1. I stripped in my line and swapped the parachute style for a heavily hackled Catskill style. This fly does a fine job of imitating the fluttering motion, when the large mayflies attempt to become airborne. On the third cast a nice rainbow surfaced and crushed the bushy green drake imitation. Well I thought it smashed the dry fly; however, when I scooped it with my net, I realized that it was hooked in the cheek. Several additional refusals to the hackled imitation convinced me to make yet another change.

The parachute version produced on Thursday, so I resolved to give it another chance; however, this time I selected a size 14. A nice deep run angled into the pool at the very top, so I made a nice left handed cast to the swirling water above me, and suddenly the green drake disappeared. I set the hook, and after a short battle I was pleased to find a nice twelve inch brown trout in my net. This catch represented number five on the day, and it was also my best at that point.

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A Bit Larger

I retreated to the area above the angled riffle and crossed back to the road, and then I hiked upstream and followed an angled path to the left braid, where the river splits around a long island. The left channel is generally very challenging, as it carries lower flows than the right. When I reached the edge of the stream, I paused to observe, and I noticed three rises over a period of three minutes. I decided to cast to the area where I spotted a swirl directly upstream first, and this paid off when an eleven inch brown slurped the parachute green drake. Casts to the vicinity of the rises along the left and right bank were futile, however, so I decided to cross to the bottom tip of the island.

Once this maneuver was completed, I quickly fished some marginal pockets along the right braid, until I reached the spectacular pool below the large square block rock near the top of the island. This was another area that yielded some nice fish in the past, so I was eager to explore it on Friday. By now it was around 2PM, and I expected a dense mayfly emergence to commence, but it never materialized. A few pale morning duns made an appearance along with the occasional green drake, but a dense hatch was not in my future on Friday.

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Left Side of the Pool Is Prime

A few fish began to rise in the slow water along the opposite bank, and after numerous casts I managed to eliminate drag long enough for another eleven inch brown to nab the parachute green drake. I turned my attention to the left side of the pool directly above me, and after quite a few unproductive casts, I managed to hook a ten inch brown. The top of the pool where the heavy current spreads out into the pool generally harbors some nice trout, but on this day I never saw evidence of their presence.

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Settled Down

I hated to vacate one of my favorite spots, but my preferred mode of operation is to keep moving and not dwell. This commitment to action paid off, when I migrated to the series of nice deep pockets above the island and the cube rock pool. I was not pleased with the sporadic performance of the size 14 parachute green drake, so I exchanged it for a size 14 ribbed comparadun. This fly change seemed to be popular with the fish, as I added four more trout to bring the fish count to twelve on the day. Several were healthy wild twelve inch browns, but the four also featured an energetic husky thirteen inch rainbow that emerged from the current seam just above the tip of the island.

As 3PM rolled by I realized that a hatch of any significance was not going to happen. It was late in the day, and I did not relish the idea of fishing the edge, where the river funneled through a narrow chute between my position and mile marker twelve. I climbed the steep bank and walked along the road, until I reached the same angled path that I followed earlier. Once again I approached the left braid, but this time I planned to cover it from the bottom to the top. I shot several casts to the left bank with no action, and then I directed a long fling directly above me. I struggled to follow the comparadun in the glare, but my vision detected a dimple and the fly disappeared, so I raised the rod tip and set the hook. I was quite surprised to gain a glimpse of a more substantial fish than I expected, and after a brief fight I netted a seventeen inch rainbow trout. Although this fish was the largest of the day, it was quite slender and did not battle in a manner that one would expect for a fish of that size.

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Nice Length, but Lean

I released the late afternoon surprise catch and continued my progress up the left braid. Near the very top in a series of short pockets, I landed a very small brown, and I was about to call it quits. I was now perched at the tip of the island below the deep pocket that yielded the nice rainbow earlier, and I decided to made a few final casts. I flicked the comparadun to the deep depression just below the pocket seam, and I was again shocked when a fifteen inch brown trout confidently finned to the surface and inhaled the green drake. I made sure to secure some photos and a video, and after I released the wild brown trout, I called it a day.

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Very Respectable Brown Trout

I fished for seven hours on Friday and managed to land fifteen trout. Only three exceeded twelve inches, and it was in all respects an average day. A fifteen fish day on the Frying Pan River in the absence of significant hatch activity is a testament to persistence. I never encountered a competing fisherman during my entire time on the river on Friday, and I am forced to acknowledge the veracity of the Taylor Creek highlighted sentence. As with all things in life, there is no free lunch. I paid dearly for my solitude on the Frying Pan River on my return trip, as it took me over an hour to pass through Glenwood Springs in order to head east on Interstate 70. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Fish Landed: 15

Frying Pan River – 08/31/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Upper river below Reudi Dam

Frying Pan River 08/31/2017 Photo Album

I declared 2016 the year of the green drake, and I made a concerted effort to find green drake hatches. Unfortunately I only met green drakes a few times, and I never made a trip to the Frying Pan River. The Pan is one of my favorite rivers in Colorado, and it produces one of the best green drake hatches, with the added bonus that the emergence spans from July until October. Although I never set a goal to encounter green drake hatches in 2017, good fortune blessed me with a large number of western green drake experiences.

We returned from Canada on Sunday August 27, and various commitments prevented me from resuming my fly fishing wanderings in Colorado. As I reviewed the calendar, I noted a gap on Thursday and Friday just before the Labor Day weekend, so I decided to squeeze in a two day and one night trip to the Frying Pan River. The fishing report on the Taylor Creek website noted that the crowds were down because of the detour around the route 82 bridge in Glenwood Springs. I was skeptical that this annoyance would have an impact on the avid fly fishermen who visit the Frying Pan, but it gave me another reason to commit to the drive.

I left the house at 6:50 on Thursday morning, and in spite of the roundabout detour in Glenwood, I arrived at the Little Maud Campground by 10:30. I cruised the loop and noted that quite a few sites were unoccupied for Thursday night, and I eventually secured site number 5. I removed my water container and deposited it at the campsite, and then I reversed my direction and drove below the dam to a spot in the upper five miles of public water.

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Downstream View of the Frying Pan River

Thursday was a hot day, and the temperature was in the upper seventies when I began fishing at noon. Fortunately a nice cloud cover moved in by 1:30, and this maintained comfortable conditions for the remainder of the afternoon. The flows were 267 CFS, and this proved to be nearly ideal, although crossing the river was a challenge. The number of cars parked along the river, as I drove from the campground to my starting point was lighter than normal, so perhaps the detour was impacting the angler visits to the Frying Pan River.

After I parked, I assembled my Sage One five weight, and then I hiked downstream along the road for .3 mile, until I was just above a no trespassing sign. I entered the river here and began casting with a size eight Chernobyl ant that trailed a salvation nymph and a beadhead pheasant tail. I persisted with this combination for thirty minutes, until I returned to the car for lunch, and the only result of my efforts were a couple empty looks at the Chernobyl.

At the end of lunch I noticed a green drake, so I tried a parachute and ribbed comparadun for a short amount of time with no positive results. Since several fish looked at the Chernobyl earlier, I tested a Jake’s gulp beetle, and this fly placed me on the scoreboard, when a small brown trout in a tiny pocket along the bank snatched it. A couple arrived while I ate lunch, and the male member began fishing one-third of the way between the parking space and the private boundary. Rather than hiking back to the area just above the private water, I cut down to the bank twenty yards below a small island. After the beetle ceased to be productive, I returned to the dry/dropper with a tan pool toy, beadhead salvation, and a beadhead hares ear. These flies began to produce, albeit small fish.

Between 12:30 and 1:30 I tallied eight additional fish to increment the fish counter to nine. A couple ten inch browns crushed the pool toy, and the remainder grabbed the nymphs. Two of the eight fell for the salvation, and the remainder favored the hares ear. The largest of this group was an eleven inch brown that snatched the hares ear, as I began to lift at the end of a deep narrow slot. As usual the elevation of the nymphs at the lip of pockets and the end of deep runs and slots proved to be effective.

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Nice Early Catch

At 1:30 I approached the wide riffle with pockets across from the Santa Fe. This was the position I desired to reach in case green drakes became a factor. Right on cue I spotted two large mayflies, as they floated up from the river. Prior to the Frying Pan trip I loaded my fly box with some size 12 ribbed parachute drakes as well as some Catskill style ties, and I now elected to attach one of the parachutes to my line. Bingo! I began landing fish in rapid fire succession. Initially the small pockets produced small fish, but as I migrated upstream to the prime deep pools and pockets along the right bank, the size increased. Over the course of Thursday I added another twenty-five trout to the fish count to end up at thirty-four.

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Cutbow or Rainbow?

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Chunky Specimen

Between 2:00 and 4:00 I was on fire, as nearly every likely spot produced a fish or two. The parachute took me to nineteen, and then I snapped it off on a tree branch. A second parachute continued the streak, until it broke off in a fish. At this point I decided to try a Catskill style, but it produced refusals and a couple foul hooked fish, so I returned to a size 14 parachute. The last parachute was not as effective as the first two, although the hatch waned, and that may have been a contributing factor. The green drake victims included a spunky fourteen inch rainbow and a deeply colored fourteen inch brown trout. A fair number of twelve and thirteen inch browns comprised the afternoon count, but only one additional rainbow rested in my net.

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One of the Better Fish on Thursday

Downstream casts were far and away the most productive approach. The trout inhaled the first two parachutes with a great amount of confidence as evidenced by the lack of refusals, temporary hook ups, and foul hooked fish. I was a bit disappointed to not encounter a fifteen inch or greater fish, but it is hard to complain about a thirty-four fish day on the Frying Pan River with nearly constant action on large visible green drakes. Hopefully my boat box contains enough parachute green drakes to get me through tomorrow. The year of the green drake continues into September.

Fish Landed: 34

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Beer Making

 

 

Upper Frying Pan River – 07/27/2016

Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: Above Reudi Reservoir between Meredith and Thomasville

Upper Frying Pan River 07/27/2016 Photo Album

On day two of our fly fishing trip to the Frying Pan River, John Price and I decided to avoid the crowds and fish the upper Frying Pan River above Reudi Reservoir. We agreed to spend the morning there, but if we were dissatisfied with the action, we could return to the tailwater in the afternoon. The upper Pan is a freestone stream and not a tailwater like its cousin below Reudi Reservoir. On Wednesday July 27 the flows were 130 cfs compared to 250 cfs on the tailwater. The presence of large and deep Reudi Lake makes the two segments of the river fish like two separate streams.

Unlike Tuesday the sky was blue and the sun was bright all day, and consequently the high temperature reached the low eighties. Since John fished the upper Pan more than me, I allowed him to lead, although the water we chose to fish was essentially the same that I fished several times in the past. We began below a concrete bridge just before Thomasville, and we each landed one trout, although we quickly encountered a stretch of very fast whitewater and changed locations.

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Same Fish, Different View

Although the flows were clear and very comfortable for fishing, they remained higher than normal mid-summer levels. I was able to cross at wide points, but I exercised a high degree of caution due to the swift current. John did not carry a wading staff, so in all locations that we fished, I accepted the task of crossing, so we could fish somewhat in parallel. I began my day with a gray stimulator, but this did not generate any interest. Next I shifted to a tan pool toy, with a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line for the entire time I fished on Wednesday, and the reader will discover why by continuing to follow this post. The first fish landed early in the day was a small brown trout that consumed the salvation nymph near the bank in a narrow band of slow water.

When we abandoned the first spot, we returned to John’s truck and reversed our course a short distance and pulled into an angled two track dirt lane. The water here was wider, and wading and fishing were much more manageable. I crossed at a very wide shallow area and then went downstream a moderate distance. In order to avoid disturbing some appealing bank side pockets, I exited the river and made difficult progress through bushes on a steep loose bank. It paid off to some degree, as I landed three small fish in a nice pocket of moderate depth next to the bank, as I fished my way back up to the crossing point. Another fish that felt a bit larger rose and slammed the pool toy next to a protruding rock in this same pocket, but it quickly shrugged free of the hook.

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Delicious Pool

When I caught up to John, the fish count was at seven, as three more small fish found my net, as I worked the pockets between our two positions. John was entrenched at the tail of a gorgeous deep pool, and he had already landed six fish on a dry fly. He beckoned me to join him, and I accepted his offer. I was grateful for John’s generosity in relinquishing the  productive pool, as I landed three additional fish from the bottom portion on the salvation nymph bringing my count to ten. These three fish were some of the best on the day and measured in the 11-12 inch range.

I backed out of the pool and continued progressing up the left side and added seven more fish before lunch, but these required more work in the form of repetitive casts through especially attractive deep pockets and runs. At around 1PM we returned to the truck and drove another .5 mile downstream, where we parked in a pullout across from a lot with several sheds and a for sale sign. We took our lunches to the edge of the river, but the mosquitoes were ridiculous, so John and I lathered up with more repellent.

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Pool Toy Chomper

At this location I angled across the shallow tail of some riffles and then walked through a pasture for thirty yards, before I cut back to the north bank of the river. In this case the extra effort was hardly worth it, as the thirty yard section was marginal and required difficult wading. I may have landed one fish in this entire escapade.

I caught up to John, and fortunately for me the water on my side was higher quality than along the bank next to the road. Between 2 and 4 I moved the fish counter from 17 to 40. It was ridiculous fast paced fishing, although the fish were all in the 7-12 inch range and primarily rainbows. I established a nice rhythm and began popping casts to every possible fish holding lie. I am not sure if there were a lot of PMD nymphs subsurface, but the fish absolutely pounced on the salvation. 75% of the landed fish in this time period snared the salvation, and the remainder nabbed the hares ear.

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Brilliant Spots and Color

The fish were small, but the action was fabulous. Every spot that looked like it might hold a fish, did. In many instances a fish snatched the nymph as soon as it touched the water. I am always amazed by this phenomenon. By four o’clock we reached another section of very fast water, and it was quite warm and the action slowed slightly, so we agreed to tentatively call it a day.

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A Fine Brown Trout after Difficult Cast

As we drove back to the reservoir, however, we spotted a sketchy lane consisting of two bare tire tracks, so we could not resist exploring. John guided the truck over some large protruding boulders, and we parked and assembled our rods and followed a shaky seldom used path to the river. We found ourselves above the bridge just above the inlet to Reudi. The water here was wide and relatively shallow with lots of pockets of moderate depth. We spread out a bit, and I worked up the left bank and added three fish to the counter. I probably hooked and lost an equal number, and the salvation and hares ear continued to be productive.

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Pockete Water Everywhere

What a fun day on the upper Frying Pan River! We saw one other fisherman during our entire outing, and he was below the bridge just above Reudi, and he did not appear until the last half hour before we quit. We had the Frying Pan River to ourselves, and when can you say that? The fish were small, but they aggressively attacked my nymphs. I love the scenario where a fish emerges from nearly every likely holding spot, even relatively short shallow pockets in the middle of the river. That was the case on Wednesday, and I reveled in the action. I only regret not switching back to dry flies in the afternoon to determine if the fish were selective to subsurface offerings. July 2016 continues to impress.

Fish Landed: 43

 

Frying Pan River – 07/26/2016

Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: Four spots along the Frying Pan River between MM3 and MM10.5

Frying Pan River 07/26/2016 Photo Album

Jane met Brenda Price through tennis, and they became steadfast hiking and golf buddies. By coincidence Brenda’s husband, John, is a fly fisherman; so we made plans for a joint camping/hiking/fishing trip to the area around Reudi Reservoir. Jane and I arrived on Monday July 25 and set up camp, while Brenda and John stationed their Casita in the campsite across the road at Little Maud Campground.

On Tuesday morning John and I set out for a day of fly fishing adventure. The Taylor Creek reports suggested that green drakes were present in the lower one-third of the Frying Pan River, so we began our quest for trout there. Supposedly pale morning duns were emerging throughout the river corridor, so with this knowledge, we agreed to begin on the lower river and work our way upstream and thus avoid the crowding that inevitably frustrates a fisherman on the upper four miles below the dam.

Our starting point was mile marker 3, and I crossed the river at the tail of a run, and then I began fishing up along the right bank until a point just above a huge eddy where a small side channel entered the main river. The weather was actually overcast and cool in the morning, but I did not feel the need to wear an extra layer over my fishing shirt. From a flow perspective the river was near ideal levels at 250cfs. This enabled comfortable wading, but the water was high enough, so that fish were not abnormally skittish.

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John Price Fishes a Deep Pool on Tuesday Morning

As I rigged with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, 20 incher (green drake nymph proxy), and zebra midge; John began fishing along the roadside bank. After fifteen minutes with no sign of fish, although the water quality on my side of the river was marginal at best, I abandoned the tiny zebra midge and switched to a salvation nymph. Finally in a slightly more attractive short pocket along the bank I landed a twelve inch brown trout that slurped the large foam indicator fly.

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Nice Run

In the unusual wide eddy where a small side channel reentered the main flow, I foul hooked a small rainbow trout. The water above the eddy was unfavorable for fishing, as the fast current rushed tight to the bank, and John continued to prospect the juicy shelf pools farther downstream, so I cross the river at a shallow riffle to reach the bank next to the road. Here a narrow five foot wide ribbon of slow moving water existed between the fast current and the bank, and I began to cast my three fly dry/dropper. I was excited to land four fish from this nondescript section of the fabled Frying Pan including a fifteen inch brown that smashed the Chernobyl ant. The other three fish grabbed the hares ear and salvation, as they trailed the lead fly.

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Best Fish of the Day

At the top of the narrow ribbon I encountered another section of fast whitewater next to the bank, so I retreated to John, and we decided to moved to another location. We jumped in John’s Chevy truck and migrated upstream to the massive pool at MM4.5. Much to our amazement it was unoccupied, so after gulping my lunch, I crossed at the tail and moved to a wide deep run and riffle that angled toward the opposite bank. The dry/dropper was ignored, and John reported some looks to his green drake, so I made the switch to a parachute green drake size 12. On the first cast the large paradrake elicited a splashy refusal, but that was the extent of the action. I cycled through some different variations of the drake including a Harrop deer hair drake and a size 14 comparadun, but the changes were fruitless.

John shifted positions and once again announced some refusals, so I returned to a parachute version, albeit a size 14. Finally at the top of the riffle on the right side of some strong current, a  fourteen inch brown trout sucked in the green drake. I speculated that this was the beginning of a more significant emergence, but this turned out to be wishful thinking. I sprayed numerous drifts over the delightful run and riffle, but to no avail, so I reverted back to the dry/dropper approach with the Chernobyl, 20 incher and salvation nymph. The change allowed me to land a small brown to reach a fish count of seven, as the fish grabbed the salvation when it began to swing at the end of the drift in some swirly water.

John and I finally abandoned the giant pool and moved up the right side of the river to two short faster pockets that contained some depth. Although these areas appeared promising, neither of use landed fish, but as I returned downstream, I observed two decent fish in the shallow water at the end of the return current in an eddy. Just prior to this I spotted two crumpled pale morning duns along the edge of the river, so I suspected that the pair were hovering just below the surface, as they looked for PMD’s. I tied one of my size 18 cinnamon comparaduns to John’s line, and he landed one of the spotted fish. It turned out to be a fourteen inch brown trout.

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Success

After John departed I attempted to fool the large rainbow, but it was resolute in ignoring my fly. I gave the big fish a salute, and John and I crossed at the tail and once again moved to a new location. This time we only drove .3 mile to the huge pool in front of an island at the Seven Castles area. We languished here for an hour, but our efforts were largely thwarted. I did manage to land a small rainbow trout that mistook my cinnamon comparadun for a natural fly, but this event was apparently an aberration. Despite fairly frequent although sporadic rises in the area, I was unable to repeat my early success. I was certain that a size 18 black ant would be the answer, but that fly was likewise treated like inedible flotsam. John reported similar frustration in the smooth flat pool farther upstream, so we once again pulled up stakes and moved.

We debated quitting since it was nearly four o’clock, but we decided to stop at the spring for one last ditch effort. By now some thick clouds appeared in the west, so we agreed to fish until the rain chased us from the stream. We hiked downstream on the shoulder of the road, until we were just below a small narrow island. John jumped in at the top, and immediately witnessed a green drake refusal, while I moved below the downstream point of the island. I thoroughly prospected the attractive pockets below the island and along the south side with no response from fish, and then I bumped into John in some sweet deep riffles near the middle of the river.

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Afternoon Landing

As I observed, two fish refused the green drake, and then another gulped it with utter confidence. I congratulated John and then reconsidered my approach and made a change. You guessed correctly. I abandoned the dry/dropper trio and tied a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. To give John space I moved to the pockets along the road and added six additional brown trout to my fish count before we retired at 5:30. The fish were in the 8-12 inch range, but they were aggressive toward my green drake, and they chomped it with confidence. In fact they cut the parachute hackle on the first imitation, and I was forced to tie on a new version for the last two fish. During this time period I spotted my first and only natural green drake of the day.

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MM 10.5

In summary I landed fourteen fish including a fifteen and fourteen inch brown trout. On average however the fish were smaller than my historical experience on the Frying Pan River. It was fun to find a new fishing buddy, and we were pleased to avoid competition from guides and other aggressive Frying Pan fly fishermen. We returned to the campground weary and hungry, as Jane and Brenda rolled out appetizers and delicious tamales. July 2016 continues to be a fabulous fly fishing month.

Fish Landed: 14

Frying Pan River – 09/16/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: MM10 and then upstream beyond the spring

Fish Landed: 16

Frying Pan River 09/16/2015 Photo Album

I read my post from a visit to the Frying Pan River in September 2014 when I fished the area near the spring with much success despite the absence of any significant hatch. On Tuesday I chased hatches in vain on the upper four miles while working around quite a few other fishermen, so I decided to drop down lower to avoid crowds, and perhaps capture the same magic that favored me in 2014.

The wet weather continued in the Frying Pan Valley, as I woke up several times during the night to the sound of steady rain on the Big Agnes tent roof. Since I planned to return to Denver after fishing on Wednesday, I needed to pack up all the camping gear including the tent, and the tent was quite soggy after two nights of rain plus a shower late Tuesday afternoon. In order to keep my sleeping gear and fishing bag dry, I conceived a packing plan that worked out quite well. I placed the tablecloth, tent footprint, tent and rainfly on the waterproof mat in the rear of the Santa Fe and then stacked the cooler and food bins on top. The strategy worked quite well as all the intended items remained dry for a day of fishing and for the return drive. My fishing clothes were an exception, but more on that later.

By the time I completed the elaborate packing configuration to work around rain soaked gear and yet keep my fishing equipment accessible and dry, I arrived at the parking pullout next the spring by 9:30. Once again it was quite overcast with heavy gray clouds blocking attempts of the sun to break through, and this translated to chilly temperatures in the low 50’s. I wore my raincoat as a windbreaker, and extracted my Loomis five weight for duty. I planned to chuck a heavy foam top fly in a dry/dropper configuration to mimic my successful day in 2014, and the eight foot six inch Loomis performs this task quite well and also seems to place less strain on my aging right shoulder. The weather on Wednesday was shaping up to be very similar to what I documented during the previous September. The flows were a bit high for my tastes at 270 CFS, but I guessed that this was also comparable to the September 2014 outing that I was attempting to replicate.

There are two small islands in the segment of water between mile marker ten and the spring. One tiny snip of land surrounded by water is just above the border with private property, and I fished from that point to the second larger island on Tuesday. I planned to cross the river across from the spring after lunch, so for the morning session I elected to fish from the tip of the second island back up to the car but along the bank next to the road. During 2014 a Charlie boy grasshopper was favored by large Frying Pan rainbows, so I tied one of these buoyant flies to my line as a top fly, and then knotted on a hares ear nymph followed by a salvation nymph.

I worked my way up to the car by 11:00 and registered two small brown trout. It was too early to eat lunch, so I decided to sample the left edge from the spring upstream and along the road until 11:30. Because of dense trees and vegetation, there were limited paths down to the river, and it was difficult to wade due to the swift flows tight to the bank. I did manage to land a couple more small browns during this time to advance the fish count to four before I returned to the car and devoured my light lunch.

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Upstream of the Spring

The weather after lunch improved moderately with some extended breaks in the clouds that allowed the sun to break through, although long segments of dense cloud cover made me appreciate the decision to continue wearing my raincoat. Before I resumed fishing, I took the time to replace the Charlie boy hopper with a tan and gray pool toy. As was my intention, I crossed the river across from the spring after lunch and fished some small pockets along the way. I carefully angled my way upstream and across until I approached one of my favorite spots where a nice deep riffle moves from the center of the river toward the opposite bank. Here I managed to land a small brown, but missed an opportunity to land a large rainbow. As the dry/dropper drifted along the current seam near the tail, a huge football shaped rainbow rose to inspect the pool toy. My pulse exploded, but the big boy did not like what it saw and dropped back to its resting position. I attempted quite a few more drifts, but unfortunately the bruiser ignored the trailing nymphs, and waited for something other than what I was offering.

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One of the Better Fish on the Day

I moved on and continued fishing upstream along the right bank for the remainder of the afternoon. I managed to land quite a few additional brown trout, but I never settled into a smooth rhythm akin to my 2014 experience. In addition, the fish were mostly in the nine to twelve inch range with the two best catches extending to thirteen. I made some excellent drifts through some very attractive pockets with no reward for my efforts. I was handicapped by being right handed, and as I progressed upstream, this necessitated backhand casts. I felt that I needed to use three flies, and the combination of three flies and backhand casts is a recipe for massive tangles. Wednesday confirmed this theory.

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Beautiful Vivid Spots

One highlight occurred when I approached a wide smooth pool behind a large rock that provided a significant current break. Just as I was about to loft my flies to the middle of the slick behind the rock, a huge rainbow tipped up and sipped in an unidentifiable morsel of food. I decided to give my flies a try and dropped the pool toy and trailing nymphs five feet above the scene of the rise. Once again my heart stopped as the big boy slowly elevated and slurped my fly. Initially I thought it gulped the large pool toy, but as I applied pressure to leverage the beast toward my net, it became clear that the rainbow had inhaled one of the trailing nymphs. The fish did not show much early reaction to my attempts to steer it toward me, but apparently it had a slow fuse, because as I guided it within eight feet of my position, and as I was about to pressure it across some faster water in between, it suddenly grew concerned. The fish was clearly in excess of twenty inches, and now it began to throw its weight around. First it shot back to the center of the midstream pool, and then it did what I feared. It shot to the tail just above the fast water chute, and once again I thought I arrested its retreat. This proved to be momentary, however, as it made a sudden turn and shot down the chute. I made a futile attempt to allow my reel to spin and prepared to follow the prize downstream, but before I could make one step the pool toy came flying back toward me minus two nymphs. It was that sort of day.

I cannot understate the effort required to negotiate my way upstream along the south bank. Dense brush bordered the river, thus I was required to wade the rocky edge. This was not an easy task, and twice one of my feet slid on angled mossy rocks causing me to fall softly on my side next to the water. At 3 o’clock however, the ultimate indignity transpired. I found myself in a predicament where there were overhanging branches and a very large mossy angled rock ahead of me. The river at this point was a white water chute, so I had a tiny gap where I hoped to slide around the large boulder. It was a mistake. I placed my foot next to the base of the rock, and immediately it slide out toward the river. In addition, my other foot glided toward the flowing water as well, and the next thing I knew, I was on my back in the small pocket below the large rock. I managed to drop my rod and avoid breakage, and I righted myself as fast as I could but not before ice cold bottom release river water rushed over the top of my waters. It was quite a shock to my system, and I despise the sound of water sloshing inside my wader feet.

Fortunately the sun was out to warm me a bit, and I was close to a wide shallow section where I could cross to the road. But before doing so, I spotted a nice run of moderate depth ahead of me, so I flicked a couple casts along the current seam and induced a twelve inch brown to grab the hares ear. I was a soggy mess, but I still persisted in attacking the Frying Pan trout population.

When I reached the car, I found a dry change of clothes, and then I created a new layer of wet items on top of the rain soaked section in the back of the Santa Fe. I probably quit an hour before I intended due to my mishap, but this enabled me to get a jump on my return drive.

Sixteen fish is a decent number for the Frying Pan river in September, but I was disappointed by the absence of hatches, the lack of size, and of course my opinion was tainted by my unintended swimming lesson. I have fished the Frying Pan in September and October and enjoyed fairly dense hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, and blue winged olives; so I am perplexed to explain the lack of hatches during my recent visit. The only explanation I can suggest is the cool weather. The week before on the White River was nearly perfect, so perhaps the fishing gods were throwing some adversity my way to even things out.

Frying Pan River – 09/15/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Mainly around MM 11.75, but fished above MM12 from 4:30 until 5:00

Fish Landed: 12

Frying Pan River 09/15/2015 Photo Album

The middle of September, a weekday, and the Frying Pan River would certainly coalesce to provide another outstanding fishing experience on September 15. Or at least that was my thinking, as Jane and I packed the car to drive to Ruedi Reservoir on Monday morning. We drove separately so I could hike and camp with Jane on Monday at which point she would return to Denver on Tuesday leaving me to fish intensely on the Frying Pan River on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Backcountry Couple

We arrived at Little Maude Campground next to Ruedi Reservoir at around 12:30 on Monday, and then we quickly consumed our lunches and set out for a hike to Savage Lakes. The four mile round trip hike was a strenuous uphill for the first half and then a delightful downhill on the return, but it was well worth the effort, as Jane and I languished by the placid shores of Lower Savage Lake and soaked up the beauty. When we returned to our campsite we set up the tent, enjoyed some craft beers for happy hour, and then Jane prepared a tasty dinner of beans, rice and bratwursts. As we finished cleaning the dishes, we noticed some dark clouds building in the west, and we just managed to get situated in our sleeping bags in the tent before steady rain commenced.

The rain fluctuated between drizzle and a steady downpour, and when we woke up on Tuesday the campsite was a soggy mess. Rather than try to dry the tablecloth and picnic table to prepare breakfast, I suggested to Jane that we both drive to Basalt and find a breakfast spot. Jane was returning to Denver, so she transferred her necessary belongings to her car, and we were off. Breakfast was quite pleasant in the warm and dry confines of Cafe Bernard, and I savored a yogurt parfait topped with fruit and granola. This was an interesting twist on camping. After breakfast I said my goodbyes to Jane, and I drove back east along the Frying Pan River until I reached the wide shoulder parking space next to the spring half way between mile marker ten and eleven.

The weather continued to look quite threatening with huge gray clouds enveloping most of the sky, and it would remain this way for much of the day. The thick clouds resulted in high temperatures in the mid-60’s, and consequently I began my fishing day wearing my fleece and raincoat and New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps. The only time I shed layers was when I broke for lunch and returned to the campground from 12:15 until 12:45.

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I Began Fishing Just Below the Tiny Island in the Center

By the time I was prepared to fish it was 10AM, and I selected my Sage four weight to probe the waters of the Frying Pan River. I walked downstream until I was just above the private water and began my day with a gray pool toy, salvation nymph, and an ultra zug bug. Within the first fifteen minutes I landed a nice twelve inch brown trout that snatched the salvation nymph as it drifted along a current seam. I was convinced that I was in for a memorable day of fishing.

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A Pretty Fish to Begin My Day on the Frying Pan

I crossed to the side of the river away from the road and worked the edge pockets along the south bank. Several times in previous years I covered this section of the Frying Pan in the morning with positive results, but on Tuesday I could only manage two additional small brown trout. This was fairly disappointing since I was executing some expert backhand casts beneath the many overhanging tree limbs. The second fish was an interesting fish as it appeared to be a tiger trout with spots that were scrambled in a pattern quite different from the brown trout I usually land.

At eleven o’clock I completed a dicey crossing above the second island and hiked back along the shoulder to the Santa Fe. Since Jane and I left the campsite early for breakfast in Basalt, I needed to return to prepare lunch since all the food was stashed in the bear bin. By one o’clock I was back on the river, but this time I parked at the wide pullout above mile marker eleven. There was one other car parked a bit to the west, but I could not see the related fisherman, so I decided there was enough space to cover the bottom end of the upper four mile stretch of public water.

I grabbed my rod and walked westward until I was in the nice runs below deadfall pool. A huge dead tree spans the entire river from the bank along the road to the tip of an island thus the name deadfall. I could not interest any fish in my offerings below the tree, nor could I induce a take in the lower end of the pool created by the deadfall. As I was prospecting the pool with futility, I observed several rises and also spotted tiny size eighteen tan caddis dapping on the surface of the river. I did not really possess a matching fly, but I did experiment with a size 16 gray deer hair caddis with no response. The fish stopped rising so I returned to the dry/dropper arrangement but replaced the pool toy with a Chernobyl ant. I advanced upstream along the left bank, but once again my efforts were thwarted.

Next I encountered the span where the river flows around a host of tiny islands. In reality they are small clumps of grass, and in the past this area usually delivered several medium sized fish. On Tuesday I nabbed a small brown to take my fish count to six, but these fish were beneath the usual Frying Pan River trout from a size perspective. The nice pool below the large rock that hosts a tree appeared as my next fishing destination. I covered the area with the dry/dropper configuration and only attracted refusals in the form of subsurface inspections.

Periodically throughout the day some very thick clouds moved above me, and when this occurred, it provoked a flurry of dapping tan caddis. This in turn prompted a few sporadic rises from the observant fish in the river, and this circumstance reappeared at tree in rock pool. Once again I abandoned the dry/dropper approach and converted to a single dry fly. Unfortunately before I could thoroughly test the waters of the small pool, I executed a sloppy cast and actually hooked a branch from the tree growing out of the protruding rock, and this forced me to disturb the pool to retrieve my fly.

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Cube Rock Pool

At this point I ascended the bank and passed my car and then cut through the woods and under some large evergreen trees to reach the area below the tip of the next island. I rounded the downstream point and worked up the right channel. This water is more conducive to dry/dropper as it displays numerous small deep pockets, so I once again made the conversion to the Chernobyl ant, hares ear, and salvation. I managed to increase my fish count to seven before I approached one of my favorite spots; cube rock pool. I paused to observe for a bit, but I saw no surface activity and resumed prospecting with the Chernobyl and generated another refusal.

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Nestled in My Net

Once again the sky darkened, and the small tan caddis left their perches on the bushes and began their unruly surface antics, and this again provoked a few aggressive fish to rise. I did not have any caddis in the 18-20 size range nor did I possess any with a tan body, so I once again tried to improvise with a light gray size 16 deer hair imitation. Unlike my earlier attempt at this ruse, I did manage to at least create a few refusals. While this frustration was transpiring, a few PMD’s made an appearance, so I leaped at the opportunity to forsake the ineffective caddis, and knotted a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line. This made no difference, so I defaulted to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun tied specifically for the Frying Pan River.

I cast the small mayfly imitation upstream just below a large exposed rock where I could see a decent fish rising sporadically, and on the third drift I was rewarded with a confident slurp. I fought a very nice brown and brought it to my net. This was my best fish of the day so far, and the first that I was able to fool with a dry fly. Perhaps my luck was about to improve. Another fairly regular riser continued to work seven feet below the point where I hooked the nice brown, so I resumed drifting the cinnamon comparadun over this feeding lane. I stayed with this fish far too long, as it gave me hope by continually inspecting but not taking my fly until I finally conceded and moved to the pockets next to and above the tip of the island.

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Held Up for Better Size Perspective

In one of the lower deep narrow pockets a rainbow appeared, and I was able to nick it momentarily with my comparadun. I was scrambling for success, so naturally I was quite upset that this fish evaded me. I persisted with some more casts in this small area, and I was surprised to see a small brown follow my fly downstream only to turn away as the fly dragged near the chute at the tail. I was not to be deterred, so I resumed popping casts to the very top, and eventually I hooked and landed a fat fourteen inch rainbow. Since the rainbow apparently had short memory and forgot the mayfly with a pointy tip, I worked the tail again and also nabbed the small brown. I generally move on quickly, but in this case it paid to dwell a bit.

I was now on a bit of a run with the cinnamon comparadun, and I moved to the pocket that takes the form of a deep curl shaped like a comma above the island. Here two fish were rising, so my pulse ticked up a beat. Unfortunately I managed only a long distance release on one fish, and the other stopped feeding. What should I do now? The river now morphed into a fast chute until mile marker twelve which was likely occupied with several fishermen. I climbed the bank and circled back down the road and carefully slid back to the base of the left braid. The left braid is smaller than the right and features a long difficult placid pool followed my some smaller pockets that occasionally produce nice fish. I was certain that the small cinnamon comparadun would attract interest in the long pool and the pockets at the top, but I was mistaken.

I once again climbed the steep bank and walked back to the car. It was now getting quite dark and the wind was escalating, so I stopped and pulled my fleece on under my raincoat. I walked along the shoulder a bit beyond my car and stopped to observe tree in rock pool from the road. Perhaps the cinnamon comparadun could produce where the caddis was ineffective? I gave it a try, but once again the pool defeated me. I decided to angle my way cautiously across the river to probe the angled riffle for the first time. I perched at the edge of the riffle and made some nice downstream drifts, but the fish were having none of it. By now I spotted a few small blue winged olives, so I switched to a size 20 parachute BWO, that I salvaged from a fly box that I found floating down the river on a previous trip. The BWO had a white wing post, but it was still difficult to follow in the dim light created by the dense late afternoon clouds and sun glare.

The BWO did not create interest, so I switched back to the cinnamon comparadun and worked my way to the top of angled riffle. Here in a nice deep trough next to some overhanging branches the small dun disappeared, and I hooked and quickly landed a feisty twelve inch brown. I continued upstream to inspect the nice pool across from the Santa Fe and again suffered a “look but no take” episode. I had already worked the right channel around the island, so I retreated back the way I came and crossed to tree in rock pool. I inspected the pool once again and spotted a fish that rose twice three feet below the rock.

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Fifteen Inch Tail Wagger

The tan caddis were out again and doing their dance, so I tied on a size 16 gray caddis, but I had low expectations. I began making some excellent casts by checking high and allowing the caddis to flutter down, and on the fifth such action, a beautiful fifteen inch brown slowly moved up and sipped in my fly. What a thrill!

It was now getting late so I walked up the road beyond mile marker twelve to the nice stair step riffle segment below the large parking lot popular with the guides. This water was now open, so I cast there for a bit with no success, and then I checked out the nice hole next to the parking lot. I did spot a fish that rose twice in a deep small pocket behind a huge large square flat rock, but I was unable to create any interest from my caddis.

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Hops Flowers Along the Frying Pan

It was a tough day on the Frying Pan River, and I was quite pleased to manufacture twelve fish. The hatches were very short and sparse, and that is unusual for the middle of September based on my past experience. Three of the last five fish that I landed were in the fourteen to fifteen inch size range, so this enabled me to end my day on an up note. Hopefully Wednesday will produce better results.