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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rJP9nj7y2Mk/Vfr_kSrjjNI/AAAAAAAA34A/LfKy_4W1mvQ/s144-c-o/P9160096.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09162015FryingPanRiver#6195545236356435154″ caption=”Upstream of the Spring” type=”image” alt=”P9160096.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-MwSpLTzIm8E/Vfr_k8pkV8I/AAAAAAAA34E/ciJ7UymMA7o/s144-c-o/P9160097.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09162015FryingPanRiver#6195545247622387650″ caption=”One of the Better Fish on the Day” type=”image” alt=”P9160097.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-2Re7AUxsfro/Vfr_mYYMO1I/AAAAAAAA34U/MhJehwJpfm8/s144-c-o/P9160099.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09162015FryingPanRiver#6195545272245566290″ caption=”Beautiful Vivid Spots” type=”image” alt=”P9160099.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-e67PPHoCTcs/Vf7fcHlmMQI/AAAAAAAA370/Z4esI1Mq7Ww/s144-c-o/P9140078.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09142015SavageLakes#6196635811474452738″ caption=”Backcountry Couple” type=”image” alt=”P9140078.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-mJlkuRleSuI/Vf9Qu8FEdZI/AAAAAAAA3-Y/zNu30C9bER8/s144-c-o/P9150087.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760379616687506″ caption=”I Began Fishing Just Below the Tiny Island in the Center” type=”image” alt=”P9150087.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wtoq6NLtbEM/Vf9QuSqC6hI/AAAAAAAA3-Q/kK6s4TEot3c/s144-c-o/P9150086.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760368497486354″ caption=”A Pretty Fish to Begin My Day on the Frying Pan” type=”image” alt=”P9150086.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-xzp-gUkNfas/Vf9Qwj8jMAI/AAAAAAAA3-w/gf9anzCzqUc/s144-c-o/P9150090.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760407498240002″ caption=”Cube Rock Pool” type=”image” alt=”P9150090.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ofRJAlufxK4/Vf9QvZ-NjNI/AAAAAAAA3-g/qvoSvpkp1j8/s144-c-o/P9150088.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760387640986834″ caption=”Nestled in My Net” type=”image” alt=”P9150088.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-N2zbRq-7RSA/Vf9QxvVFbwI/AAAAAAAA3_E/V-KZabe7L6I/s144-c-o/P9150092.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760427733806850″ caption=”Held Up for Better Size Perspective” type=”image” alt=”P9150092.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rmClhwy6PsY/Vf9Qyk_vwRI/AAAAAAAA3_Q/zN7HDWsVuk0/s144-c-o/P9150094.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760442139820306″ caption=”Fifteen Inch Tail Wagger” type=”image” alt=”P9150094.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-9HPqCIIsGAA/Vf9QzPyouNI/AAAAAAAA3_U/0Cxu5EtkItw/s144-c-o/P9150095.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09152015FryingPanRiver#6196760453627558098″ caption=”Hops Flowers Along the Frying Pan” type=”image” alt=”P9150095.JPG” ]

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.

 

 

Frying Pan River – 07/17/2015

Time: 12:15PM – 4:00PM

Location: The segment below the spring; mile marker 10.5.

Fish Landed: 15

Frying Pan River 07/17/2015 Photo Album

The Weller method of washing camp dishes is often held up for ridicule by the younger members of our family. The steps involved are heating water in a coffee pot until boiling and then dumping into a white plastic dish bin containing liquid dish washing detergent. Once the dishes are scrubbed with a washcloth, the soapy water is dumped, and the dish bin is rinsed with fresh water. This water is then used to refresh surrounding shrubs before more clean water is added to the dish bin. The soapy dishes, pots and utensils are then rinsed by swishing in the dish bin. The final step is to dry the dishes and return them to their proper place in the plastic car-camping storage bins. The rinse water is then returned to the soil near the campsite.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-8H0Xs79lSpw/VawY4–hz6I/AAAAAAAA1jI/tiSAjN9U4K8/s144-c-o/IMG_1396.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07152015BoganFlats#6173336556475109282″ caption=”Camp Dish Washing Keys” type=”image” alt=”IMG_1396.JPG” ]

Why am I explaining this detailed process to my readers in a fishing blog? On Thursday evening my daughter, Amy, volunteered to execute the dish washing steps as outlined above. Unfortunately she neglected to remove a spoon from the bin before dumping the soapy water. She was extra diligent about disposing of soapy water away from the campsite and elected to toss it over a sharp bank at which point she heard the ringing sound of a metal spoon landing ten feet below. It was almost dark at this point, so she resigned herself to be a camping litterbug.

Friday morning however brought fresh light to the situation, and feeling bad about her inadvertent trashing of the environment, Amy resolved to retrieve the $.50 utensil. Five feet to the left of the spoon a large log angled from the lip of the bank to a point beyond the spoon. Amy used the knobs and broken branches from the large tree trunk to secure her position as she carefully picked her way down the steep eroding bank. Once she was across from the spoon, she carefully slid across some loose dirt and snatched the prize spoon and thus cleansed the environment at Bogan Flats Campground. A few more sidesteps brought her back to the tree, and then it was not long before she pulled herself back to the brim of the embankment with the sought after spoon firmly gripped in her hand. My daughter is an amazing person.

Since we were unable to stay at Bogan Flats on Friday night , we strategically packed the Santa Fe with all our camping, biking and fishing gear. We were careful to place the biking and fishing items near the one accessible door, as we required these components for the planned day’s activities. Fitting everything in the Santa Fe while maintaining access was a significant accomplishment.

Feeling quite proud of this feat, we departed the campground and drove to the spring between mile marker 10 and 11 along the Frying Pan River. This trip took roughly an hour, and we arrived at the large pullout by noon. I quickly prepared to fish, while Jane and Amy readied their bikes for a ride on the road that follows the Frying Pan River to Basalt. The sky was a rich blue, and I expected to enjoy a beautiful sunny day on my favorite Colorado river.

I intended to hike down the road to the downstream border with private land, but two fishermen were already in that vicinity, so I was forced to cut in farther upstream than I desired. I also wanted to cross to the other side, but the shallow wide area was close to the downstream fishermen, so I resigned myself to working up along the roadside. I began with a Chernobyl ant trailing a salvation nymph, and in a short amount of time I landed a small eight inch brown on the salvation.

I continued prospecting the pockets and hooked a nice brown trout that raced downstream and eventually shed the hook, and I surmised that his fish may have been foul hooked. Next I hooked a large rainbow in a deep slot towards the middle of the river, and this fish fought valiantly before also escaping my hook. Some dark clouds began to gather in the southwestern sky, and they were accompanied by the sound of thunder.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-FqAG6yaKMcI/Vauov5EDnFI/AAAAAAAA1g0/uhb7t_7cqSc/s144-c-o/P7170029.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07172015FryingPanRiver#6173213254966549586″ caption=”Held Over the Net” type=”image” alt=”P7170029.JPG” ]

I moved up along the left bank to an area where a thicket of shrubs and branches extended over the water. I carefully tossed the Chernobyl ant fifteen feet directly above me, and it drifted back within six inches of the branches. When it nearly arrived at my feet, I spotted a subtle flash in the glare on the surface and immediately reacted with a hook set. What a surprise to be attached to an eighteen inch rainbow with vivid color and distinct spots!

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-EcE2VAEMW08/VauowYL1w7I/AAAAAAAA1hA/WQgDAUhbUIc/s144-c-o/P7170030.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07172015FryingPanRiver#6173213263320695730″ caption=”Tight Spot on the Frying Pan” type=”image” alt=”P7170030.JPG” ]

After releasing the prize rainbow, the sky grew darker, and it became increasingly difficult to follow the yellow spot on the Chernobyl, so I decided to use this time to return to the car and eat lunch. I fished from 12:15 to 12:45, so it was actually lunch time, and it made sense to eat during the less than optimal weather conditions. Initially I was planning to sit by the river to eat, but large raindrops appeared, so I retreated to the Santa Fe and ate there while sheets of rain descended for fifteen minutes. I gave some thought to driving down the road to check on the girls, but they took raincoats along, and I was hopeful that they avoided the storm cell.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-a5dvTdv__gw/VauoyGz0nYI/AAAAAAAA1hU/2qn3b01DvSk/s144-c-o/P7170033.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07172015FryingPanRiver#6173213293016292738″ caption=”Another Decent Brown” type=”image” alt=”P7170033.JPG” ]

The thunderstorm scared off the competing fishermen below me, so after lunch I hiked downstream along the shoulder to the spot just above a small island where it was shallow enough to cross to the opposite shore. I executed my initial plan and worked upstream on the south side of the river for the remainder of the afternoon and landed an additional thirteen fish. One change I enacted was switching the Chernobyl ant for a tan pool toy when I reached the stretch of water above the spring. The Chernobyl was not producing, and I wanted a more buoyant fly that could suspend two beadhead nymphs. This adjustment of course allowed me to add a beadhead hares ear as a second dropper with the salvation.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-xSK3BipQW-4/Vauoyhn_oII/AAAAAAAA1hg/4_7GB7i2gC4/s144-c-o/P7170034.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07172015FryingPanRiver#6173213300214440066″ caption=”This Pocket Yielded a Fish” type=”image” alt=”P7170034.JPG” ]

I kept expecting a pale morning dun hatch to develop, but I never spotted more than a handful of mayflies, and as a corollary to this circumstance, no rising fish. By 3:45 I reached a point where the strong current ran tight to the south bank, and in order to skip this stretch, I was forced to fight through the trees and wade tight to the overhanging branches. I hoped to end by four o’clock in anticipation of the long trip back to Denver, so I reversed direction and waded back downstream along the edge and crossed just above the spring. Jane and Amy were just returning from their bike ride and an afternoon spent exploring Basalt.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-y3sIkXRaGWA/Vauo0S1AATI/AAAAAAAA1h0/2ELcNLIStyM/s144-c-o/P7170037.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07172015FryingPanRiver#6173213330602197298″ caption=”One More View of Best Brown of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P7170037.JPG” ]

The post-rainstorm action consisted almost entirely of brown trout in the 7-11 inch range, although I did land a chunky thirteen inch variety and two twelve inch fish. Roughly half of these fish nabbed the salvation nymph, and the other half grabbed the hares ear. The best results came from the mid-section of slots and pools just as the speed of the drifting dry/dropper began to accelerate.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-eF8qaJgIP6w/Vauo08mAaRI/AAAAAAAA1h8/1wiF33flCrc/s144-c-o/P7170038.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07172015FryingPanRiver#6173213341813598482″ caption=”Pretty Flowers in the River” type=”image” alt=”P7170038.JPG” ]

Friday was a sub-par day compared to most of my time on the Frying Pan River, but the timing was between the spring hatches and the dense summer emergences. I’m not sure where the big browns and rainbows were hiding, but I did manage to land one big boy. I cannot wait to return later in the summer when the green drakes, pale morning duns and blue winged olives are emerging and cause the big fish to abandon their fear.

Frying Pan River – 09/12/2014

Time: 12:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Around the island below rectangular rock and then upstream to the stair step riffles above MM12.

Fish Landed: 10

Frying Pan River 09/12/2014 Photo Album

Fortunately the paving project was complete, and I faced no stoppages on my return trip around Ruedi Reservoir. I drove directly to the pullout above Deadfall Pool where I parked upon my arrival on Wednesday, and I grabbed my lunch and munched it streamside while observing the water, but I was not seeing any mayfly activity. Friday was slightly warmer than Thursday, and the sky was bright blue with minimal cloud cover.

When I began fishing, I walked up the road and angled down a steep path to where it intersected with the smaller left braid around a long slender island. I crossed to the bottom of the island and began working my way up along the island side of the right braid. As I did this, I landed three small browns that were attracted to the salvation nymph. Even these small browns were equal to or greater in size than the fish I landed on the Upper Frying Pan.

When I reached rectangular rock pool I experienced refusals to the Chernobyl ant in a pocket at the tail, so I switched to a large green drake comparadun with a maroon thread rib. One twelve inch brown slurped the green drake at the bottom of the seam along the strong center current, but this proved to be a fleeting success as several refusals ensued. I now began seeing blue winged olives riding the surface film and fluttering up in the air above the water. This spurred me to remove the green drake, and I replaced it with a small size 20 CDC olive comparadun. Unfortunately for me, this fly was ignored as the BWO hatch intensified.

Looking Downstream from Rectangular Rock Pool

Looking Downstream from Rectangular Rock Pool

As I pondered the situation, I glanced behind me, and a guide and two clients had arrived just below the tail of the pool. I decided to hold my ground since the hatch had only recently begun, and they eventually disappeared. I considered trying a different CDC olive with a sparser wing since mine appeared a bit bushy compared to the naturals, but instead I elected to try a strike indicator set up with a salvation nymph on top and a RS2 as the bottom fly. I hypothesized that most of the fish were grabbing nymphs and emergers since the number of rising fish did not appear to correlate with the number of mayflies present in the air. The move to nymphs paid off fairly quickly with a 13 inch brown and fish number nine on the day including the four from the upper Frying Pan River.

Very Fat Brown from Frying Pan on Friday

Very Fat Brown from Frying Pan on Friday

Unfortunately the medium sized brown was the only taker of the nymph offerings despite my numerous solid drifts through the heart of the run. I also added some twitches and various movement during the drift, but this did not spur any takes, so I abandoned the large pool and worked the nice pockets above and beyond the tip of the island. I managed a temporary hook up with one fish in a deep pocket, but then I suffered through a dry spell despite some very attractive water that I knew held fish based on past experience.

As I was considering a new plan of attack, I noticed two or three mayflies emerging from a small run next to me, and then a couple of rises followed. The mayflies were smaller than the green drakes that rose sporadically earlier in the afternoon, and they displayed a light green coloration. I decided these were flavs so I tied on one of the two light olive green size 14 comparaduns that I stored in my box. I created these flies last winter after Jeff Shafer and I encountered a late afternoon hatch of flavs.

Bam! The new fly produced two fish in a short amount of time as a 12 inch rainbow and a 13 inch brown trout became acquainted with my net. I was excited with this turn of events, but the emergence only seemed to last for ten minutes and then the rises ceased. I decided to explore the left channel on the north side of the island in the hopes that the flavs were still emerging in the slower moving pool, so I climbed the bank to the road and walked to the bottom of the long shallow pool. I began making long prospecting casts to the smooth water with the light green comparadun, but my strategy was exposed as flawed.

Perhaps flavs emerge in faster water? I suggest this because I did manage to land two small browns in some short pockets at the top of the island. The shadows were now extending over much of the river in the narrow stretch above the island, and the brief hatch seemed to be history, so I decided to return to the pool toy, hares ear, and pheasant tail as I prospected the narrow slots along the bank between the island and MM12. This tactic yielded a couple refusals, and then I arrived at the large deep riffle at MM12. Amazingly there were no fishermen at this popular spot, so I made some casts along the inner current seam with no luck, and then moved to the eddy on the downstream side of the large rock that juts into the river between MM12 and the cascading riffle area.

I sprawled on the large rock and made a few casts to the eddy on the downstream side. On the fifth such cast, I allowed the pool toy to stall deep in the nook, and after 20 seconds it dipped, and I set the hook. Instantly a fish rocketed into the heavy current and snapped off the two nymphs. This episode was either a big fish or a foul hooked fish, but I can only speculate.

I turned around and began to fish in the nice long riffle next to the road below a deadfall and continued this for another half hour. There were quite a few rising fish that drew my attention, and I guessed that they were snatching dapping caddis from the surface. Quite a few small caddis buzzed about erratically and occasionally touched the surface of the river. I clipped off the dry/dropper arrangement and tied on a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and after quite a bit of fruitless casting to numerous sighted fish, I seduced one rainbow into eating my fly. That was the last fish of the day as the shadows began to creep over all sections of the river.

My largest fish on Friday was 13 inches so the day was disappointing both in numbers and size. It was truly a subpar day for the Frying Pan River. The hatch was brief and consisted mostly of tiny blue winged olives with very little evidence of pale morning duns or green drakes other than the brief flurry of flav action. I packed up my gear and returned to the campsite where I found Jane perched on her camp rocking chair while basking in the sun. It was time to take a break from fishing for a few days.

Upper Frying Pan River – 09/12/2014

Time: 9:30AM – 11:30AM

Location: From bridge just before the turn to Eagle-Thomasville Road upstream to 50 yards above the turn.

Fish Landed: 4

Upper Frying Pan River 09/12/2014 Photo Album

Despite one of my best days ever on the Frying Pan River on Thursday, for some reason I did not want to return to the same stretch of water. This left me with the option of moving farther downstream toward Basalt, returning to the congested 2.5 miles of water below the dam, or exploring the upper Frying Pan River above Ruedi Reservoir. It had been awhile since I fished on the upper river, but I had experienced some decent success there catching quite a few fish albeit smaller than the fish that populate the tailwater. I didn’t relish working around the other fishermen on the upper tailwater, and I was uncertain I could repeat Thursday’s success in public areas farther downstream. I was lured by the idea of catching a large quantity of smaller fish on attractor dry flies, so I chose to drive to the upper river.

A Low Hanging Cloud Over Ruedi Reservoir

A Low Hanging Cloud Over Ruedi Reservoir

And Some Young Ones Protected

And Some Young Ones Protected

Unfortunately as I made the drive around Ruedi, I encountered road construction a mile before the inlet, and I waited for ten minutes or so until the pilot truck arrived to lead me through a rather lengthy stretch of repaving. The paving project continued all the way to Thomasville, and this prevented me from stopping at several locations that I was targeting. Finally the pilot car turned around, and I was on my own at the eastern end of the small town, so I decided to explore the river near the turn off to the Eagle-Thomasville Road. I parked along the shoulder, pulled on my waders, grabbed my rod and walked back to the bridge that crosses the Frying Pan River before the turn off.

Typical Deep Pocket on the Upper Frying Pan River

Typical Deep Pocket on the Upper Frying Pan River

The flows were abnormally high for the middle of September due to the heavy rain on Tuesday, but the water was very clear, and I was optimistic that I could attract some fish to my flies. In addition to the high flows, the steep gradient of the stream bed created pocket water and deep plunge pools, and this made wading a bit of a challenge. The size 16 gray caddis remained on my line from Thursday evening, so I began prospecting the plunge pools. This lasted for ten minutes or so until I decided that I needed a larger attractor to catch the attention of the fish in these deep pools, and I also welcomed a more visible fly to follow in the morning sun glare.

Small Brown from Upper Frying Pan Took a Prince Nymph

Small Brown from Upper Frying Pan Took a Prince Nymph

I converted to a gray pool toy with a beadhead hares ear and beadhead pheasant tail as this combination was on fire on the tailwater the previous afternoon. These flies produced a small brown and rainbow, but I covered a vast quantity of stream real estate during a hour of fishing, and much of the water appeared to be too attractive to not yield fish.

I was dissatisfied with the catch rate, so I tried a prince nymph made with peacock ice dubbing along with a salvation nymph, and I switched the pool toy for a Chernobyl ant. These flies enabled me to add another small rainbow and brown to my tally along with a few more momentary hook ups. Unfortunately this was not the easy number padding attractor dry fly fishing that I anticipated, so I decided to cut my losses and return to the tailwater for the remainder of the day. Perhaps the fish were still sluggish due to the cold morning air temperatures, and maybe I didn’t allow enough time for the warmth of the sun to get things going, but all I could think about was my 29 fish day on Thursday. I asked myself the obvious question, why was I wasting my time on this small upper river, when I drove four hours to be at one of the best tailwater fisheries in the U.S.? Case closed.

Ruedi Reservoir – 09/11/2014

Time: 7:15PM – 8:00PM

Location: Inlet of Ruedi Creek

Fish Landed: 3

After a spectacular day of fishing on the Frying Pan River, one would think that I’d be ready to relax and toast the day with a cold beer. Unfortunately I still possess the “fly fishing disease”, and I was interested in returning to the reservoir for some evening fishing. In order to save time, I kept my waders on while I prepared and ate my basic dinner. After washing the dishes, I returned to the beach next to where Ruedi Creek enters the lake. Unlike Wednesday evening, however, I used my waders to cross the creek so I could cast from the western shore, and this enabled me to cast upstream and allow my flies to drift back with the current of Ruedi Creek and into the lake.

The tan Charlie Boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead pheasant tail remained on my line from fishing the Frying Pan River, so I gave them a a try first. They were ignored so I tried a Chernobyl ant as the surface fly and swapped the pheasant tail for a zebra midge as I noticed quite a few midges swarming over the water. Unfortunately the fish disdained all three of these offerings, and I’d now used up 20 minutes of my precious daylight fishing time.

I decided to return to a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, since that fly at least producing two takes on Wednesday evening. Once again the caddis did the trick, and I landed three stocker rainbows before it got too dark to see my fly. One of the rainbows was around 12 inches. The evening fishing certainly did not compare to the afternoon on the Pan, but I did entertain myself with some productive dry fly fishing, and that is always a positive.

Frying Pan River – 09/11/2014

Time: 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Location: Began at the boundary with private water just above MM10 and continued until .3 mile above the spring

Fish Landed: 29

Frying Pan River 09/11/2014 Photo Album

If I told you that I spent a full day on the Frying Pan River and did not encounter a significant hatch, you would probably assume that I experienced a slow day. Is this what happened on Thursday, September 11?

The Frying Pan River is my favorite stream in the state of Colorado, and the foremost reason for this ranking is the consistently reliable hatches that occur throughout the summer months and continuing into October. Wednesday was a bit frustrating as three mayflies hatched simultaneously, and I was largely unable to solve the riddle and catch fish consistently. Despite this circumstance the 1.5 hour hatch was still a period of excitement, and I looked forward to a similar event on Thursday. One of the negatives to the Frying Pan River is the presence of a large number of guides and fishermen in the upper 2.5 miles of public water below the dam.

Same Fat Brown Held Over the Net

Same Fat Brown Held Over the Net

I was frustrated with bumping into other anglers and the resultant infringement on my ability to move about, as my style of fishing is definitely to move often and avoid dwelling in one area. The Taylor Creek fishing report suggested that the three major mayflies were hatching from MM8 all the way to the dam, and I have had several superb days in the water between MM10 and MM11. I decided to give this area a try on Thursday.

Thursday morning remained cool, but warmer than Wednesday, and the high temperature would eventually climb to 70 degrees. In the morning I wore my Under Armour shirt and fleece along with my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and I was comfortable until 11AM. When I ate lunch, I switched hats and removed my fleece layer, but by 3PM some clouds appeared, and it got quite breezy, so I pulled on my raincoat for the remainder of the day. The flows appeared to remain at 269 cfs as they were similar to Wednesday.

I began fishing just above the end of the private water near MM10 with a Chernobyl ant, salvation nymph, and RS2. In previous years I had success with the dry/dropper approach in the morning in this area, so I decided to test the approach one more time. I tossed the flies to a run in the narrow channel between the road and a tiny island, and a beautiful 15 inch brown hammered the Chernobyl ant. What a way to start my day!

From here I crossed to the side of the river away from the road and worked my way upstream prospecting all the likely pockets next to the overhanging branches and bushes. By 11:30 I had landed seven fish including a second fat 15 inch brown that came from a deep pocket along the bank. The RS2 that I began with was not producing, so I switched to a sunken black ant for a bit, and this actually yielded a small brown. The glow of the ant was short lived, however, so I switched to a beadhead hares ear as the top fly and moved the salvation nymph to the bottom position. The hares ear and salvation produced the other fish during the morning session.

Beautiful Frying Pan Rainbow

Beautiful Frying Pan Rainbow

After lunch I returned to just above the second island and fished back toward the spring along the left bank. In this area the left side of the river offered some deeper slots and pockets and appeared more attractive than the south shore. During this phase of my fishing adventure I added six more fish to my count including a large rainbow that slurped the Chernobyl ant and a chunky 14 inch brown from a short pocket next to the bushes that were tight to the bank.

The Brown Came from Pocket Along the Bank

The Brown Came from Pocket Along the Bank

Another Big Brown

Another Big Brown

 

When I reached the point where I was across from the Santa Fe and the spring, I began working my way across the river and prospected the pockets along the way. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 1:30, and I was surprised that I wasn’t seeing any green drakes or other mayflies for that matter. With the lack of any surface activity, I continued with the dry/dropper approach, and why not with twelve fish in my tally including some sizable browns and rainbows?

Across from the Spring

Across from the Spring

In a pool in the center of the river I hooked a small brown that jumped on the Chernobyl ant. The tiny brown attempted to escape by spinning numerous times, and this created a massive tangle that involved all three flies. Even after clipping off the two nymphs, I couldn’t unravel the mess above the Chernobyl ant, so I cut everything off and rebuilt my leader. Somehow in the process of doing this and stuffing the waste mono in my front pack so as not to litter, I must have knocked my Simms velcro fly box into the water. When I realized it was not longer present, I scanned the water around me including current breaks that may have trapped a floating fly box. But this was all in vain, and I was heartbroken when I realized I lost an entire box of flies that I diligently tied. On Wednesday I had stuffed the Simms box with an assortment of green drakes and pale morning duns tied specifically for the Frying Pan River, and these were now gone. In addition it contained 15 size 12 stimulators that I made for Argentina and two or three pool toys along with two yellow sallies and three or four lime green trudes. The loss of the Frying Pan specific flies and the stimulators really hurt. I’m not typically superstitious, but I could not help thinking that the small brown was number thirteen.

Since I’d lost my carefully constructed cache of Frying Pan mayfly imitations, I returned to the car and searched through my backup bins. Unfortunately I discovered that only a couple size fourteen green drakes remained, so I grabbed them along with some larger versions and a few additional cinnamon comparaduns. It was at this time that I also pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker.

I returned to the middle of the river, and since I needed to tie on new flies, I decided to prospect with a green drake despite not seeing any in the air. In the past I’ve had success with green drakes as a searching fly since the fish seem to have a long memory for these large morsels. I selected a comparadun style imitation with an exaggerated tall wing and began to cover the water around me. The strategy paid off in a short amount of time as I landed number 14, but then the lack of a good tailing material caused the large fly to sink quickly after drying, so I replaced it with a parachute green drake. This fly looked great on the water, but it quickly generated three refusals, so I was forced to reevaluate.

Since I still was not seeing naturals on the water or in the air, I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach, and only switch back to dries if I witnessed surface rises or an abundance of duns in the air. I tied on a tan pool toy, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph and began to prospect the pockets, riffles and runs on the right side of the river.

Deep Colored Brown

Deep Colored Brown

The remainder of the afternoon was simply insane. I methodically worked my way upstream along the right bank and popped casts of the three fly combination in all the likely pockets. I rarely cast more than ten feet out from the bank as I covered much more of the south side of the river than I’d ever attempted on previous visits to this area. The three fly combination was magical as I landed another fifteen trout to reach 29 on the afternoon. The salvation nymph was the most productive of the three, but the hares ear attracted enough fish to justify remaining on the line.

And what about the tan pool toy? For some reason it seemed to attract large rainbow trout. I landed three more bows in the 15-18 inch range during the late afternoon, and each one surprised me by raising a big nose out of the depths of a pocket to slurp the large buoyant foam grasshopper imitation. What a blast!

As I advanced further away from the spring, the riverbed narrowed, and I was forced to cast to the increasingly small pockets right along the bank. Nearly every spot that looked fishy yielded trout, and I totally blanked out any concerns about a mayfly hatch. In one rare deviation from working the edge I cast to a deep pocket toward the center of the river and something immediately attacked my fly. I executed a swift hook set and the aquatic missile bolted into the heavy current downstream and popped off all the flies including the pool toy. I surmise this may have been a foul hooked fish that refused the pool toy, and my quick hook set dragged a trailing nymph into its body.

I was now forced to tie on three new flies so I went to a tan Charlie Boy hopper with yellow legs as my top fly, and in an effort to preserve my dwindling supply of salvation nymphs, I knotted a beadhead pheasant tail to my leader as the bottom fly. I was pleased to discover that the pheasant tail produced reasonably well during its stay on my line; however, I still feel the salvation’s fish attracting capabilities were superior.

Another Gorgeous Rainbow from the Frying Pan River

Another Gorgeous Rainbow from the Frying Pan River

By 5:30 when I decided to call it a day, I had worked my way .3 miles above the spring, and this was farther than I’d ever ventured in the past, but the steady action continued until at least 5PM. Near the end of my fishing I approached a gorgeous riffle with some decent depth where the current angled away from the bank and back toward the center of the river. I flicked a cast into the head of the riffle and almost instantly the hopper darted sideways, and I responded with a reflexive hook set. As I fought a large rainbow, I spotted another rainbow of similar size chasing the fish I hooked. I never saw a fish chase another similar sized large fish like this in my many years of fly fishing.

On the day I landed 29 fish including five rainbows in the 15-18 inch range and 3-4 brown trout between 14 and 15 inches. In addition a bunch of wild healthy 12-13 inch browns found their way into my net along with some smaller browns to fill out the day. It was just an amazing afternoon. I never observed any consistently rising fish, but once I got on a roll with my dry/dropper approach, I never gave it a second thought. I do not know if the hatches had moved upstream or whether the lack of a hatch was weather related. I had the entire area to myself with no conflict with other fishermen to be concerned about. Thursday September 11 may have been my best day ever on the Frying Pan River.

 

 

 

Frying Pan River – 09/10/2014

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Island below Bush Rock riffle to Jewel Pool at Guide Lot.

Fish Landed: 17

Frying Pan River 09/10/2014 Photo Album

For the last month I anxiously anticipated a trip to the Flattop Wilderness to camp and fish the White River. The second week of September fit my schedule perfectly, and during several previous visits at this time of year, I enjoyed much success. Unfortunately when I told my friend Steve Supple that I was planning this outdoor venture, he suggested that I check the weather on the western slope. Sure enough, as I searched the weather site, I discovered that the Flattops area and in fact all of the western slope were under flash flood advisories for Monday and Tuesday. I can survive some rain while camping, but flash flooding did not strike me as conducive to fishing. Getting to the White River from Denver entails a four plus hour drive, and I decided I did not want to risk a trip of that magnitude only to discover swollen muddy fishing conditions.

I delayed my trip a day to see if the forecast did in fact become reality. When I checked the western slope freestone streams on Tuesday from work, I noted huge spikes on the graphs for the White River, Crystal River and Eagle River. Apparently the forecast was accurate. I noted, however, that the Frying Pan was running steadily at 269 cfs. The Taylor Creek web site called these flows ideal and announced that green drakes, pale morning duns and blue winged olives were hatching with regularity between mile marker eight and the dam. Next I checked the weather forecast for Basalt for Wednesday through Sunday, and saw a series of dry days with highs in the low 70’s. This clinched my decision, and I decided to make the trip to the Ruedi Reservoir campground where I would stay and fish the Frying Pan River. Meanwhile the weather forecast for Denver was much more adverse with warnings of snow on Friday and a high in the 50’s. Could the western slope weather really be that much more favorable than the Front Range? I made plans to find out.

I got off to a reasonably early start on Wednesday morning and arrived at the pullout above Deadfall Pool between MM11 and MM12 at 11:15AM. There was another fisherman in Deadfall Pool so I jumped into the area characterized by a cluster of tiny clumps of grass and small islands. I began my day on the Frying Pan with a Chernobyl ant, salvation nymph, and RS2; and two small browns gobbled the salvation nymph in the small nooks around the cluster island area.

Began Fishing on Wednesday Around This Cluster of Small Islands

Began Fishing on Wednesday Around This Cluster of Small Islands

I broke for lunch at 11:50 as I hadn’t eaten since early before my departure, and I also wanted to be ready in case a hatch commenced. The flows were indeed at 269 cfs, and it was a cool dry day with lots of clouds, and the high temperature probably reached 65 degrees. I took longer than usual on my lunch break, as I organized my fly box and stocked it with green drakes and pale morning duns in case I encountered a hatch of these insects during the afternoon.

After lunch I began at Bush Rock riffle. Bush Rock has a large protruding rock at the top and center position, and the rock has a bush growing from it. As I began casting, I spotted a nice brown trout on the left side of the rock and just below, and I dwelled on this fish. I tried a green drake comparadun with no success and then went through a series of PMD comparaduns of various colors including cinnamon, gray and yellow. None of these brought any interest from the brown so I eventually moved on to Angled Pool. Angled Pool is above and across from Bush Rock riffle and consists of a diamond shaped pool created by a current break where half the river flows toward the opposite bank and then deflects into a deep run. As I began to prospect Angled Pool, I began to see more green drakes and yellowish mayflies.

Scene of a Simultaneous Hatch of Green Drakes, PMD's and BWO's

Scene of a Simultaneous Hatch of Green Drakes, PMD’s and BWO’s

I returned to a green drake comparadun with a maroon thread rib, and this fly magically produced two beautiful rainbows, and then I added a small brown that rose at the top of the pool. I was pretty encouraged by this early afternoon action on the Frying Pan as I moved upstream to the very attractive deep pool directly across from where the Santa Fe was parked. The heavy current covers half the river and runs along the bank that borders the road. The other half of the river consists of a deep run along the main current and then a tapering slower moving pool. I stood at the tail of this pool at 1:30 when things got insane in a good way.

Nice Photo of Green Drake on My Net

Nice Photo of Green Drake on My Net

Suddenly the river came alive with a crazy hatch of green drakes, pale morning duns, and blue winged olives concurrently. I even saw quite a few caddis bouncing around in the midst of the three mayflies. Early during this hatch I landed three medium sized browns at the lower end of the pool on the maroon ribbed green drake comparadun size 14. But then frustration became the norm as my green drake was suddenly ignored. Fish were rising frequently through the length of the pool, but I was unable to find the secret. I tried a parachute green drake and another comparadun with a lighter body that I tied to imitate the flavs, but these were also regarded with scorn by the trout. I went back to the original maroon ribbed green drake version and managed to hook what felt like a bigger fish, but it wrapped my line around something in the middle of the stream and broke off the fly. As you can imagine, this provoked some choice words.

Trying to Get Underside

Trying to Get Underside

This is where my stubborn persistence personality trait got in the way. For some reason I fell into the trap of believing that if I worked hard and cast diligently, I could convince the fish to take my fly. Fish don’t work that way. When my green drake got ignored, I should have tested a pale morning dun or blue winged olive. In all likelihood, the trout sensed a greater density of one of these other forms of foods and switched their preference. Hopefully I can learn a lesson from this experience.

Crippled PMD

Crippled PMD

The hatch waned after 1.5 hours so I decided to move on. There was a terrible glare on the water by this time, but I did see a trout near my feet gulp some lighter colored mayflies that were a size in between the green drakes and pale morning duns. I had placed a pair of  light green comparaduns in my fly box, so I tied one of these on and moved to a short deep pocket along the bank just above the long pool that I just vacated.

I tossed the light olive comparadun to the edge of the faster water of the pocket and almost instantly saw a swirl and set the hook. A huge head appeared, and I was shocked to see a massive rainbow thrashing in the tight quarters of the small pocket. I maintained pressure, and the giant fish ponderously swam downstream into the larger pool, and I followed it until I could apply side pressure. I brought it around below me to the shallow water and extended my net to scoop and lift it for a photograph and a gentle release. Unfortunately my net proved to be too small. I managed to get the fish on top of the net so that it covered the opening and one third of the fish extended beyond the tip of the net. My net opening measures 15 inches so this arithmetic yields a fish in excess of twenty inches. The fish refused to collapse in the net, and instead executed a huge flop and crashed back in the river and then slowly swam farther downstream to some heavier current. As I started to follow it again, it made a sudden move and snapped off the point fly. What a beast! This was the largest fish of the season and perhaps the largest fish I ever landed in Colorado.

I was still shaking from the encounter with the Frying Pan goliath as I continued up along the south side of the south braid of the river where it splits around a long narrow island. This movement required quite a bit of bushwhacking, but I was anxious to reach the pool below the large rectangular rock near the tip of the island. Unfortunately when I arrived, I discovered another fisherman occupying the pool, so I continued around rectangular rock to the pockets on the south bank. I contemplated crossing at this point, but I quickly discovered the current was too swift. As I contemplated my next move, I returned to the Chernobyl ant, salvation nymph and RS2 as the hatches had essentially ended.

I prospected the pockets above where I attempted to cross and landed two medium browns on the salvation nymph, but now I faced a long narrow whitewater chute, so I returned to the bank and fought through some more bushes until I reached a small side pool below the large run and pool at MM12. Despite my certainty that the pool would produce a fish, it failed me, so I tossed my three flies into the next marginal pocket, and this yielded another brown trout. Between the juicy pool and MM12 I experienced two additional long distance releases, and when the fish shook free, the taught line snapped skyward and lodged in a tree adding more frustration to my day.

Hops at MM12 Pull Out

Hops at MM12 Pull Out

The large MM12 pool was mobbed with guides and fishermen, so I climbed back up the bank and skirted the area until I reached the tip of another island. Here the river was fairly wide and shallow, and I knew I could cross back to the road. Before doing so, however, I began working my way upstream and fished the pockets and riffles on the south side of the river. This tactic built my fish count to 15 as small and medium browns began taking the salvation nymph, particularly when I added movement to the flies. In two instances a fish attacked my fly when I purposely made bad mends.

As 4 o’clock passed by, the guides departed, and this created more space for movement, so I decided to visit Jewel Pool next to the guide parking lot. In this juicy area I landed two additional medium browns that grabbed the salvation nymph as I imparted movement to the fly.

The large rainbow was clearly the high point of the day and made up for much of the frustration that resulted from fish ignoring my flies during a dense mayfly hatch spectacle. A seventeen fish day is decent, but other than the large rainbow, the size was lacking compared to many of my previous visits. Despite this criticism, I have to acknowledge that I spent the morning driving from Denver, and seventeen fish in a half day of fishing is a fine accomplishment. I still had Thursday and Friday ahead of me, and the 1.5 hour hatch was rather exciting.

 

 

Frying Pan River – 06/27/2014

Time: 7:00AM – 9:00AM; 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Big Bend just below the dam and later between mile marker 3 and 4

Fish Landed: 10

Frying Pan River 06/27/2014 Photo Album

I’ve read significant amounts of literature about the Frying Pan River, and one of the most frequently mentioned places is the Toilet Bowl. The Toilet Bowl is located where water gushes from the bottom of Reudi Reservoir and forms a huge swirling bowl. One of the prevalent foods that flush through from the dam are mysis shrimp; a small translucent freshwater crustacean. According to written accounts, huge trout reside in the Toilet Bowl and gorge on the mysis shrimp that pour from the outlet of the dam.

A Better View of the Toilet Bowl

A Better View of the Toilet Bowl

My new fishing friend, Danny Ryan, apparently also read these stories, and he was anxious to explore the iconic Frying Pan hole on Friday morning. We were camping at Reudi Reservoir within a couple miles of the bowl, and Danny only had the morning available to fish before he needed to return to Denver and pack for a two week work assignment in Alaska. Why not get up early and head to the Toilet Bowl and secure a spot before the hordes arrived later in the morning? This became our plan as we slid into our tents and sleeping bags on Thursday evening.

I woke up at 6:15, and as I climbed out of the tent, Danny stuck his head out of his tent and greeted me. Clearly this young man was not going to oversleep. For the first time in my life I went from my sleeping bag to my waders without any intermediate step. We jumped into Danny’s Camry and made the short trip to the parking lot, and we were disappointed to discover a white pickup truck occupying the first slot closest to the river. In spite of our best efforts, another fisherman had beaten us to the spot. Several milk crates were on the ground next to the truck, so I hypothesized that the fishermen were still sleeping, but before I could suggest anything else, Danny jumped from the car and ran to a point overlooking the Toilet Bowl.

In a bizarre coincidence, Danny recognized the pickup truck as belonging to another Instagram acquaintance named Justin who goes by the screen name of Screamingdrag. Danny has only lived in Colorado for a year and knows only three or four other fishermen and had somehow stumbled into one of those fishermen at the Toilet Bowl at 7AM on a Friday morning in June. After Danny and Justin hugged like long lost brothers, Justin invited us to join him at the Toilet Bowl, but we decided to opt for a bit more space and chose our second choice; the Big Bend pool just downstream. I think Danny and I both felt that Screamingdrag and his friend deserved to have the Toilet Bowl to themselves as they drove all night and slept in their pickup truck next to the river to obtain first rights.

Big Bend Pool Below the Toilet Bowl

Big Bend Pool Below the Toilet Bowl

Danny and I crossed the river in some shallow flats that separated the Toilet Bowl and Big Bend and configured our lines to fish a mysis shrimp and zebra midge larva. It was quite chilly early in the morning particularly in the shadows created by the steep canyon wall, and we were standing in cold water just released from the bottom of the dam that probably registered 45 degrees on a stream thermometer. I began to drift my nymphs at the top of the large pool, and Danny took a position near the tail. It was strangely silent as I flipped cast after cast to the head of the pool and allowed the tandem subsurface offerings to dead drift through the slow moving water.

As this was taking place I began to notice very sporadic bulges near the surface and occasional rises. An hour of dredging with the nymphs failed to interest any fish, so I removed the flies, split shot and strike indicator and tried a black parachute ant. Previous experience has taught me that trout love ants and often sip them opportunistically even if they do not represent the predominant food source. This was a great train of thought, but it didn’t produce a fish. I’d seen a fair number of small caddis flitting about on Thursday, so I removed the ant and tied on a size 16 gray deer hair caddis and covered the top one half of the pool with this imitation. Again my strategy was soundly rejected.

By 8:30AM Danny and I met up and compared notes and discovered that neither of us had landed a fish or even experienced a refusal. Two hours of fishing in Big Bend allowed me to improve my stack mending technique, but that was the most positive outcome. Both of us were feeling quite hungry after skipping the necessities of life to reach the Toilet Bowl early, so we agreed to return to the campground for some sustenance.

We finished removing our vests and packs and threw our rods in the car, when Danny remembered that he needed to say goodbye to Screamingdrag, so he darted off to the edge of the parking lot. Apparently Justin and Danny have some sort of sensory connection, because at that very moment Sceamingdrag appeared on the other side of the stream and called out Danny’s name. Justin had spotted some nice fish and was returning to the parking lot to recruit Danny to “catch the biggest fish of his life”. Danny asked if he could use Screamingdrag’s rod, and Justin agreed, so off they went to the channel on the far side of the Toilet Bowl where a small stream joins the Frying Pan and creates a wide slow-moving lagoon.

Justin and Danny Return from Landing 21" Cutbow

Justin and Danny Return from Landing 21″ Cutbow

I waited for twenty minutes or so and killed time by walking back to Big Bend and taking some photos. Eventually the two Instagram buddies appeared, and Danny announced that he had in fact caught the largest fish of his life, a 21″ cutbow that Screamingdrag guided him to. Justin invited me to return later in the weekend, and he would put me on a similar fish, and then we said our goodbyes and returned to the campground. Danny’s last hurrah before heading to Alaska proved to be quite rewarding.

Jane prepared a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, and then Danny packed up his tent and departed for Denver and beyond.  I stayed in my waders as the plan was for Jane to drop me off along the river so she could keep the car and go on a hike to Savage Lake. I made a lunch and shoved it in my backpack along with my raincoat, and then we made the drive back downstream along the river. Because there weren’t any large hatches at the end of June, I was convinced that I could catch fish with buggy flies anywhere along the Frying Pan River, so I decided to explore some new water. I asked Jane to pull into a large pullout above mile marker 3, and I planned to hike downstream to the first available path and then fish upstream to whatever point I could reach by late afternoon. Jane agreed to return to the drop off point after her hike, and then I would loop back and meet her there.

I held to my plan and hiked downstream to a place where the river curved back toward the  road and away from some spectacular vertical red cliffs. Here I found a faint path through the brush that led to the river. I began my second fishing venture of the day with the tried and true Chernobyl ant and hares ear nymph, but this combination did not produce, so I added a salvation nymph to the point. The salvation nymph is becoming the rock star of 2014, and Friday would prove to be no different than earlier outings, as I landed three medium size browns before lunch on the attractor nymph.

Big Pool Created by Large Red Rock

Big Pool Created by Large Red Rock

At 12:30 the sun was high and the air warm so I decided to take a break to eat my lunch. I found a nice perch on a huge red rock that jutted into the river below the pullout where Jane dropped me off. I observed the nice deep pool in front of the rock and the riffle at the head of the pool, but I didn’t see any insect activity or active fish. After lunch I slid down the side of the rock and carefully maneuvered to a position where I could cast to the seam created by the riffle at the drop off to the deep hole. On the third or fourth cast I spotted a swirl near the Chernobyl ant and set the hook only to discover that I foul hooked a pretty 14 inch rainbow trout. I was disappointed but pleased to see a fish attracted to the surface fly.

I continued fishing the left bank, but only landed one 12-13 inch brown between 12:30 and 3:00PM as the bright sun and warm temperatures made this an unusually slow period. By 3PM the periodic clouds became larger and the wind stronger, but I was never concerned about rain. The cloud cover did, however, provoke a very sparse blue winged olive hatch so I moved the salvation nymph to the top subsurface fly position and then knotted a size 20 soft hackle emerger as the point fly. This paid a small dividend as a twelve inch brown attacked the emerger in a shallow riffle below a small island.

Small Right Channel Around Island

Small Right Channel Around Island

The Rainbow Lifted from the Net

The Rainbow Lifted from the Net

 

The bank along the left channel next to the island appeared to be nearly impassable due to dense vegetation, so I waded up the smaller south channel to get above the island. Over the next hour I moved fairly quickly between attractive locations and added five additional trout to my count. All these fish attacked the salvation nymph, and the net felt the weight of a fourteen inch brown and a thirteen inch rainbow. It’s not clear whether the increased catch rate resulted from the overcast skies or the difficult access to this stretch of river, but nevertheless I enjoyed the fast action immensely.

Same Brown Held Above Net Momentarily

Brown Held Above Net Momentarily

By 4:10PM I reached a point where I could ascend the steep bank and reach the shoulder of the road, so I took advantage and made the climb. I quickly hiked back along the road to the large pullout where Jane dropped me off, and there I found her reading in her new camp rocking chair. I changed out of my waders and returned my rod to its tube, and we continued on to Basalt where we enjoyed beers and appetizers on the deck at the Riverside Cafe. It was an appropriate ending to a fun day on the Frying Pan River.

Jane and Dave Toast Basalt with Waters

Jane and Dave Toast Basalt with Waters

 

 

 

Frying Pan River – 06/26/2014

Time: 1:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Mile marker 10.5 below spring

Fish Landed: 9

Frying Pan River 06/26/2014 Photo Album

The rivers and streams in Colorado are gradually receding, but not fast enough for an avid fly fisherman like myself. Three weeks elapsed since my fun day in Wisconsin, and the brief foray in Eleven Mile Canyon only served to whet my appetite for more. I exchanged some emails with my new fishing friend, Danny Ryan, and he suggested doing a trip a bit further away from Denver such as the Frying Pan River.

I fired up my laptop and learned that the flows on the Frying Pan were 220 cfs, and that reading is nearly ideal for my favorite Colorado tailwater. I also noted that the Taylor River below Taylor Reservoir was at 401 cfs, and that is an attractive flow as well. I checked with Jane to see if she was interested in a camping trip to Reudi Reservoir, and she indicated that she approved. I wasn’t sure what campsite availability would be, so I logged into the web site to make reservations and discovered that twelve sites were unreserved so I staked my claim to number 7 in Little Maud. Jane and I were now committed to the trip, so I informed Danny of our plans in hopes that he and his girlfriend, Juls. would also make the camping trip to the Frying Pan River.

Early in the week I heard from Danny, and Juls was unable to accompany him, and he needed to prepare for a two week work assignment in Alaska beginning on the weekend, so he could only stay for one night. He asked if he could put his tent up on our site Thursday night, and of course we agreed. Danny’s plan involved getting up very early on Thursday morning, and then leaving on Friday after some early morning fishing right below the dam. I asked Danny to describe his car, so I could look for it along the river on our way from Basalt to Reudi Reservoir on Thursday.

Jane and I finished packing the Santa Fe with our excessive array of camping gear on Thursday morning and departed by 9AM. The drive was relatively uneventful and by noon we were driving up the twisting two lane road that follows the Frying Pan River. Sure enough at mile marker four we spotted Danny standing next to his green Toyota Camry with a Missouri license plate. He informed us that he’d had a good morning and was about to move further upstream to another location. I told him that I’d seek him out after we ate lunch and shed some of our cargo at the campground.

Jane on Her New Camp Rocking Chair

Jane on Her New Camp Rocking Chair

Much to our surprise, Danny appeared at our campsite as we were eating lunch. Apparently most of the pullouts that he targeted were full so he continued on so he could pick me up and allow Jane to have the Santa Fe for the afternoon.

After I finished lunch, I put on my waders and threw my gear in the trunk of the Camry, and we were off on our Thursday fishing adventure on the Frying Pan River. I suggested parking at the spring or below the spring if no one else was there, and Danny agreed as it was only his second visit to the fabled Frying Pan River. The spring pullout was open, but we continued downstream to the border with the next private water and parked there at mile marker 10. The river was wide enough that we decided we could fish both sides as long as we stayed across from each other.

First Fish Landed on Thursday Afternoon Was a Nice Brown

First Fish Landed on Thursday Afternoon Was a Nice Brown

Danny began his afternoon with a nymph rig, but I elected to start with my traditional Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear nymph. This was the earliest in the season that I ever fished the Frying Pan River, and the reports I read suggested there was very little mayfly activity, so I felt that the fish would be more opportunistic compared to my normal visits in late July, August and September. Within the first 15 minutes I foul hooked a brown trout that refused the Chernobyl ant, and as I reacted, I set the trailing hook in the fish.

Unfortunately after this early encounter with a fish, I continued along the left bank with no action, so I decided to make a change and tied on a yellow Letort hopper and then added a salvation nymph as a third fly behind the hares ear. The deer hair wing of the Letort hopper is more visible than the low riding Chernboyl ant, and I was hoping that perhaps the slender body and profile of the hopper might imitate golden stoneflies should they be present.

18" Rainbow Was Number Two

18″ Rainbow Was Number Two

The stonefly theory never materialized but the addition of the salvation nymph paid big dividends. The hopper dipped as I was across from Danny, and I set the hook and played and landed a strong 14 inch brown trout. The salvation nymph was indeed living up to its name as I cast further upstream along the bank and again saw the hopper disappear. I set the hook and this time I battled an eighteen inch rainbow that eventually flopped into my net. This brought Danny across the river so that he could snap some photos while I attempted to pose with the scarlet beauty.

Danny Took an Underwater Photo with His New GoPro

Danny Took an Underwater Photo with His New GoPro

Since I’d landed two very nice fish with the salvation nymph, I asked Danny to accept two of my flies so he could experiment with them over the remainder of the afternoon. A short distance above the spot where I landed the large rainbow, we encountered a small island, and I elected to fish the pockets on the side of the island that was away from the road. I also realized that the Letort hopper was not producing, and it was not very buoyant due to the dubbed body, so I swapped it for a pool toy. The large foam pool toy was much more effective at supporting the two trailing nymphs in the turbulent pocket water that I was now prospecting. Danny meanwhile found a stone to sit on and rest and observe, as he was feeling the effects of his early start to the day.

Over the remaining two hours of the afternoon I used the pool toy with the hares ear and salvation nymphs as droppers and picked up seven additional brown trout at a fairly regular pace. I was using my favored technique of popping casts to all the likely holding spots, but then quickly moved on if a fish did not emerge after three or four casts. I gradually angled across the middle of the river above the island and began working the south side, and I was pleased to see that Danny resumed fishing the bank closest to the road, and he began landing fish on the salvation nymph.

Looking Downstream at Danny

Looking Downstream at Danny

Eventually we were separated by 50 yards or more. Danny reached some juicy deep slots between the bank and the main current, and I later learned that he was slowed down my some nice catches. As I was now directly across from the spring, I checked my watch and discovered that it was 5PM. Some of the best water between mile marker 10 and 11 was ahead of me, but I did not wish to commit to crossing again to the south bank, so I carefully waded back to the left bank and climbed to the shoulder of the road.

Danny Displays His Nice Catch

Danny Displays His Nice Catch

I quickly hiked back downstream and found Danny with a sharp bend in his rod, and as I looked on, he landed his own 18 inch rainbow. It was his second of the day as it matched a pink striped beauty that he landed in the morning. I returned the favor and snapped some photos of Danny with the rainbow, and then we called it quits for the day. We both rode the short distance back to Little Maud campground in a euphoric state. Danny informed me that in addition to the rainbow, he landed several other fish in excess of 15 inches and also battled a large fish that escaped his fly. A chubby chernobyl was performing well for him along with a large black foam creature, and the salvation nymph also contributed greatly to his afternoon success.

As we backed into the parking space at site number 7, we discovered that Jane prepared appetizers, so we joined her and sipped some tasty beers while telling fish stories. It was a great start to a three day camping trip.