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.

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Camp Dish Washing Keys

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.

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Held Over the Net

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!

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Tight Spot on the Frying Pan

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.

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Another Decent Brown

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.

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This Pocket Yielded a Fish

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.

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One More View of Best Brown of the Day

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.

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Pretty Flowers in the River

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.

 

Frying Pan River – 09/24/2013

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Deadfall pool and upstream to MM12

Fish Landed: 8

Frying Pan River 09/24/2013 Photo Album

After a great day on Monday I was anxiously anticipating our last day on Jeff’s fishing trip, Tuesday, September 24. The high temperature for Tuesday was forecast to be in the high 60’s with sunshine and no precipitation. These were certainly good conditions for fishermen, but what about the fish? Could I replicate my success from Monday and how crowded would the river be with a lack of cancellations due to inclement weather?

We woke up early and packed the car, made lunches, checked out of the hotel and visited Saxy’s for tea again and put ourselves in position to begin driving the road toward Reudi Reservoir by 10AM. Once again we parked at the large guide lot as this was a nice central point that allowed us to work upstream or down. By 10:30 we were fitted out in our waders and had our rods ready for action. Once again I decided to walk downstream beyond MM12, but instead of stopping at the long island I continued to the stretch of water just above the boundary with the private water where a dead tree spans 2/3 of the river and touches a small island.

Jeff Next to Our Jam Packed Travel Vehicle

Jeff Next to Our Jam Packed Travel Vehicle

The sky was a brilliant shade of blue and totally void of clouds and the temperature was in the low 50’s as we began the day. I wore a fleece all day and was never overly warm. As is my custom I tied on a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear and then a RS2 as my third fly. In order to warm up I began prospecting along the left bank with the three fly combination but generated only a few looks from trout. As I was reaching the top of the run I noticed two fishermen walking my way so I hustled back to the base of the pool to reserve my space. As the pair came into view I realized it was a man and woman and they set up to fish roughly half way between the fast water at the head of the run and my position at the tail.

I focused on my fishing and prospected over some fish at the tail with no success so I clipped all the flies off and resorted to the size 14 green drake. This also did not attract any interest and concurrently I began to notice a very sparse BWO hatch so I added a CDC BWO as a second fly behind the green drake. Again I couldn’t entice the visible fish hovering near the surface to take either of my offerings. The other fishing pair seemed to be established at their initial stopping point so I gambled they wouldn’t move down to my area and dropped below the deadfall and worked downstream along the channel closest to the road.

When I reached the bottom tip of the tiny island I encountered a deep pool and within the pool two rainbows worked in a circular manner sipping something small periodically. Unfortunately I could not provoke them to sip either of my flies despite fifteen minutes of casting and futile attempts to anticipate their direction and counteract the variable currents in the eddy. After awhile I became frustrated with these challenging conditions and also I worried that I’d lose my prime position at the tail of the deadfall pool before a significant hatch commenced so I moved on. The concern over holding a good position in deadfall pool would repeat itself throughout the day and probably served as an impediment to having a better day.

Nice Hidden Pool Below Deadfall Pool

Nice Hidden Pool Below Deadfall Pool

I moved up to the small hidden pool at the top of the right channel, but didn’t observe any rises nor could I spot any fish subsurface in this area that typically holds 4-5 actively feeding fish. I looked upstream and spotted another fisherman working down the right side toward the tail of deadfall pool so I quickly abandoned hidden pool and moved back to the tail of deadfall but I was now on the south side away from the road and opposite the male and female pair that continued to fish from the midsection of the run and pool.

The other fisherman above me worked the right edge of the river and passed below me to hidden pool and then downstream. By now the BWO hatch had abated and the sun was quite warm and bright and nothing was hatching so I sat on a rock and ate my lunch at approximately 1PM. After lunch I began to fear there wouldn’t be a hatch due to the bright blue sky, warmer temperatures, and lack of cloud cover so I decided to rig up for nymphs and tied on a 20 incher to imitate the green drake nymph and added a RS2 to match the BWO nymph.

I began migrating up the river but stopped to try a tiny pocket where the main river flow angled toward the bank and amazingly a nice fat 13 inch brown nailed the 20 incher and I had my second fish of the day. I had landed a small brown on the green drake comparadun at the tail of deadfall pool just before lunch. Perhaps the deep nymph strategy would pay off. With renewed enthusiasm I advanced beyond the couple along the roadside bank and began working the riffles at the head of the run and on my side of the strong current that split the river. Over the next half hour I enjoyed great fun as the fish attacked my nymphs. Normally I don’t enjoy fishing nymphs as much as dry flies, but when the fish are aggressively attacking them on upstream casts, twitches and mends it can be a lot of fun, and that is exactly what evolved.

I landed four fish on the nymphs with a couple in the 13 inch range and had two additional fish that felt heavy but escaped my efforts to net them. The second one broke free suddenly and the pressure I was exerting on the fish caused the flies to rocket back over my shoulder. To prevent entanglement in the bushes and trees I quickly initiated a forward stroke, but I was too late and I snapped off both flies on something. I spent a few minutes scanning the brush but couldn’t spot any dangling monofilament or flies embedded in a branch so I wrote them off and tied on a fresh pair. During this time period the fish were attacking the flies at the top of the riffle, slamming them when I lifted to recast, and snaring them as they began to swing at the end of the drift.

But change is constant in fly fishing and just when I thought I had things figured out with my nymph set up, the river came alive with green drakes and rising fish so I returned to the tail of the pool and removed my nymphing flies and gear and tied on the size 14 comparadun but this went unmolested in spite of quite a few green drake naturals on the water surface. The green drakes on the water appeared to be larger than the ones I observed on Monday so I gave the parachute green drake a try. This fly was visible and looked great on the water, but the fish apparently didn’t agree. In a fit of frustration I dropped back down to the faster water below the deadfall and managed to land a 12-13 inch brown along the edge of the heavy current toward the base of the pool.

Despite this success there were at least four additional fish rising in this small area and  they exhibited no interest in the paradrake. This prompted me to return to the tail of deadfall pool where I noticed some fairly regular risers, but again my fly was looked upon with scorn. I decided to ignore these picky eaters and moved up a bit as I felt the good hatch slipping away with my failure to participate. How about the purchased green drake that duped the 19 inch rainbow on Monday? I tied it on to my line and cast it above a pod of rising fish, but again the fish weren’t impressed.

For a short period there were 5 or 6 trout rising in the shallow flats along the right side and just 10 to 15 feet above me, but this was in the shadows and the fly was difficult to see. Nonetheless I popped some casts over this pod of risers and not a single fish responded. Yesterday’s joy shifted into Tuesday’s frustration. Once again I waded up the pool a bit and targeted some risers more to the center of the river in the sunlight and now I noticed quite a few PMD’s joining the green drakes, and I began to wonder if the fish had switched away from green drakes to PMD’s?

First I tied on one of the size 16 cinnamon comparaduns that I purchased at Taylor Creek Fly Shop, but this fly looked too large so I moved to a quill body melon dun that I’d also purchased in a size 18. This looked like a much more representative imitation on the water to me but apparently not to the fish. Finally I resorted to my bedraggled size 18 one fly wonder that produced twelve fish on Monday, and the fish snubbed this fly as well. At this point I decided to abandon the tail to seek faster more forgiving water so I began to move back to the faster riffles on my side at the head of the run. On my way there I switched from the PMD back to the purchased green drake cripple and dropped a cast into another small pocket along the bank where the river angled away from the main channel. Thwack! A brown rose and took the green drake so maybe my luck was improving.

I proceeded to the top and I was now just above the male member of the fishing tandem who was sending out long casts across the main center current to the riffles on my side. I got off a few casts and then the crazy wet wading fisherman who was showing off his long ineffective distance casting shouted out that I caused him to lose a fish. It wasn’t clear to me how I caused him to lose a fish, but I realized I was dealing with a lunatic so I apologized and moved upstream beyond the fast water via the woods which made for some difficult bushwhacking.

Next I was across from tree rock again and spotted two browns feeding in the low smooth water so I placed some decent green drake casts over these fish but again they appeared to be sipping something minute. I waded below tree rock pool to gain a better casting position and then tried a money fly but this didn’t produce. I looked closely at the water but couldn’t really see any food source that could be prompting the sipping rises so I gave up and focused on the angled riffle in the later afternoon shadows. I had great difficulty seeing the money fly in these shadows so switched back to the green drake but to no avail.

I gave up on this area as there was another fishermen 20 yards above me and crossed to the road and then hiked up to the top of the island across from rectangular rock pool. The river was totally in shadows here and no bugs were on the water and nothing was rising so I decided to try nymphing again. I returned to the 20 incher and combined it with a yellow caddis pupa after having seen quite a few caddis dapping the water. I worked the nymphs upstream through some juicy pockets on the left side above the island and then covered all the slack water between the bank and the swift current in the chutes area before exiting at MM12.

I was now quite chilled from cold feet and being in the shadows and the air temperature was dropping rapidly so I returned to the car and waited for Jeff. My attention now turned to the long drive back to Denver. If I had Tuesday to do over again, I would not focus on saving my position in a single pool and instead would move about and fish more obscure locations. This worked on Monday so I’m not sure why I obsessed with holding my spot at the tail of deadfall pool.

Frying Pan River – 09/23/2013

Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM

Location: Small island below MM12 up to fast water below MM12; tree rock and angled riffle

Fish Landed: 27

Frying Pan River 09/23/2013 Photo Album

Occasionally the fishing gods smile upon us humble fishermen, and Monday proved to be such a day, but before getting to that part of the story, more on the weather. While sleeping at The Green Drake in Basalt I awoke periodically to the sound of rain pounding down on the roof and as the morning drew near, these periods of heavy rain continued. Would we be able to fish in these wet rainy conditions?

We killed some time by paying for another night’s stay at The Green Drake and then proceeded down the street to Saxy’s coffee shop for some tea. After our morning tea we returned to the hotel and prepared lunches as we were optimistic that the weather would clear based on Jeff’s review of the satellite weather imagery. It remained quite overcast with ongoing periods of moderate rain and drizzle. Next we drove to Aspen to check on a medical issue and then returned and headed back up the Frying Pan River Valley to the upper 2.5 miles below the dam. Here we found a parking place in the large guide lot which only contained two other cars at 10:30 in the morning. Jeff overheard a guide saying that Frying Pan Anglers experienced three cancellations due to the rainy weather, so perhaps the morning rain would keep some of the fishermen off the water.

Upstream View of Right Channel Below Rectangular Rock on Monday

Upstream View of Right Channel Below Rectangular Rock on Monday

Jeff decided to begin fishing near the parking lot, but I elected to walk down the road to the small island just below MM12 where I angled on the path that meets the smooth pool at the bottom of the left braid around the island. At this point I proceeded down the fast water to the bottom point of the island and then began fishing my way up the right channel which contained more favorable volume at the low 115 cfs flow rate. I began once again by prospecting with a green drake and alternated between the size 14 parachute green drake and a size 14 comparadun. I used the parachute pattern with the easily visible white tipped wing post in the faster water and switched to the comparadun in smooth water.

When I arrived at the large pool at the top of the island with the large rectangular rock I substituted an even smaller comparadun for the one that I used previously, and this comparadun seemed smaller than others that I tied because it was not tied on a 2XL hook and it had a lighter tan wing. This comparadun produced far better than the darker winged version and the combination of green drake flies delivered eight fish to my net by approximately 12:30. Meanwhile it was quite chilly but the sky was brightening and the sun peeked through the large puffy gray clouds on a more frequent basis. The weather was changing but presistent wind and breezes were part of the clearing equation.

Nice Chunky Brown From Rectangular Rock Pool on Monday

Nice Chunky Brown From Rectangular Rock Pool on Monday

At around 12:30 a BWO hatch commenced in the large pool and I was still positioned at the tail and continuing to prospect with my green drake imitations, but the fish were either wise to my fraud or had switched to another food source. Within a few minutes the BWO hatch thickened and the pool came alive with rising fish. The fish in the faster current along the main run down the center of the pool rose sporadically and I could see them underwater moving and perhaps feeding on subsurface nymphs and emergers. More of interest to me were two very visible brown trout that began sipping BWO’s along the smoother left side of the large pool where the current fanned  out below a large protruding rock. These fish were directly above my position so I tied on a CDC BWO and began making casts above the two fish. I was careful to shoot my casts high and check them early so the fly fluttered down with plenty of slack tippet. It took quite a few casts and patiently watching these fish snatch natural duns within inches of my fly, but eventually I duped and landed both fish, an accomplishment that I was quite proud of.

Rectangular Rock Pool

Rectangular Rock Pool

By 1PM the BWO hatch had abated somewhat although with the overcast skies it never truly stopped, so I used this period to quickly down my lunch next to the rectangular rock pool. After lunch I waded closer to the top of the pool where the faster water entered and I began to notice a larger mayfly mixed in with the BWO’s. As I looked on I observed a brown trout ten feet in front of me drift back sipping BWO’s and then a larger mayfly fluttered on the suface, and the feeding brown slurped that in as well. Clearly the fish were tuned into this larger mayfly in addition to the BWO’s, and this natural was larger than the BWO’s but smaller than green drakes. I spotted another one drifting on the suface toward me and was fortunate enough to scoop it off the surface with my net for closer observation.

The mayfly appeared to be a size 16 with a light olive/maroon body so I began searching through my fly boxes, especially the two that contain comparaduns that I tied for the many mayflies that hatch in Pennsylvania. Buried along the edge of one of these boxes was a size 18 comparadun with a body blended with light olive and maroon dubbing. The resultant color was a shade of cinnamon with tinges of olive. At this point I thought I had only one of these so I tied it on my line and began to cast it over rising fish. What a choice! Over the next hour and a half I landed twelve nice fish on the one fly wonder, and I was careful to not damage it too much with each release. Several of the fish were in the 14-16 inch range and the remainder were chunky twelve inch browns. At one point I felt abrasions on the tippet near the eye of the hook so I clipped off an inch of monofilament and reknotted the valuable comparadun with smooth line. I rarely pay this much attention to line damage.

This Brown Isn't Missing Any Meals

This Brown Isn’t Missing Any Meals

I moved above the long narrow island and fished the pockets along the left side of the river, but because the flows were lower than normal based on past trips I was able to wade across to the south side and explore new water that is typically out of reach at higher flows. It was in this area between the top of the large rectangular rock pool and one of the larger pools along the right side that I experienced the success with the olive/maroon comparadun.

I Was Attracted to the Small Fin with Brilliant Orange Red Spots

I Was Attracted to the Small Fin with Brilliant Orange Red Spots

There were two nice pools that formed along the south bank where significant current breaks allowed the water to fan out and provide nice feeding stations for hungry trout. The lower pool was smaller and had a branch angling upstream from just below the tail. Here I spotted four or five trout rising regularly and I managed to fool and land several on the size 18 comparadun, but the nicest fish cruised about the pool in a small circle and periodically sipped a fly off the surface. I worked this fish relentlessly, probably longer than I should have during a nice hatch when other fish were more willing to cooperate with my efforts. Unfortunately I couldn’t time my casts, avoid drag and predict where the fish was moving and eventually conceded and moved on.

Just above this smaller pool was the larger wider version and this also contained some visible fish. The most visible was a large fish that resided in a deep depression at the very tail of the pool next to a large rock that extended from the bank. The water in the pool funneled through this narrow deep trough before pouring downstream. I observed this fish rising occasionally, but my magical comparadun was not of interest. At this time I also noticed two green drake naturals on the surface of the water so I removed my valued comparadun (the wing had by now been reduced to a small cluster of five deer hair fibers), and replaced with the size 14 comparadun with the tan wing, and cast to some decent water to my left and above me and landed two medium sized browns.

My eyes returned to the big guy in the trough and again I observed a sipping rise. I ran a few drifts of the comparadun green drake over the large target, but they were ignored. Jeff had given me three green drake flies that he purchased at Taylor Creek Fly Shop so I decided to try one of them on this stubborn fish right in front of me. I nervously removed my comparadun and tied on the purchased version with a tall dark gray CDC wing and yellow hackle wound parachute style around the wing post. This fly looked quite similar to the naturals while on the water as it created the illusion of fluttering movement similar to the ones that floated by.

I flicked a short cast above the fish and as it drifted toward the target, the large fish drifted up and sucked it in! What a visual moment! Somehow I remained under control and waited for a second or two so as not to pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth. Now the battle was on and the rainbow charged up and down the pool and thrashed vigorously from time to time, but much to my relief it never attempted to escape the pool and swim into faster water. I carefully lifted the thrashing fish so its nose was above the water and quickly slid my small net opening beneath the long body and the net bowed out with the weight and length of an eighteen or perhaps nineteen inch rainbow. In addition to the discovery of an effective fifteen year old fly, I had now landed perhaps my longest fish of the summer.

A Green Drake Fooled this 19 Inch Rainbow

A Green Drake Fooled this 19 Inch Rainbow

This pool was actually the last piece of good water along the right side so I backtracked along the bank and crossed above the island and fished the deep pocket above the island on the left side with the purchased green drake and landed a few more fish. At this point it was 4PM so I exited and walked down the road to “tree rock” pool, a nice small pool with a large protruding square rock at the center top with a small tree growing from it. I spotted two fish below the rock and made some solid casts with the green drake but they ignored it and seemed to be focused on smaller food. I acknowledged their preference and removed the green drake and tied on a CDC BWO and placed some casts over the fish in tree rock pool, but they were not interested so I turned my attention in the direction of angled riffle.

I was positioned in the middle of the river and to my right was a nice wide riffle where much of the river angled toward the south bank and then deflected and ran swiftly along the bank for twenty feet. From past experience I knew these riffles held quite a few nice fish so I began drifting my BWO along the current seams sequentially covering the water closest to me and then extending away. This search yielded a nice rainbow on the BWO but other visible fish were not reacting. After I’d worked the area for awhile Jeff arrived and began making downstream casts from the bank next to the road, and he experienced some success.

I was quite chilled and weary at this point with quite a successful day behind me, so I wandered back to the car and left the area for Jeff. When I arrived at the lot I noticed that Jewel Pool directly across from the parking lot was void of fishermen, so I decided to wade part way across the riffles and give it a try. I spotted small tan wing caddis on the water, so I tied on a light gray caddis and prospected with that for a bit, but it only generated refusals. Suddenly the pool came alive with slashing fish that occasionally broke the surface and I noticed some fairly large midges flying by. These natural insects appeared to approximate size 20 flies, so I tied on a Chernobyl ant as my indicator and then added a trailing zebra midge larva. This did not generate a response but the fish continued to slash and move subsurface for something. I clipped off the midge larva and replaced it with a griffith’s gnat, and once again my flies were simply treated like floating leaves or debris. Nothing was working and it was getting quite cold so I called it a day and retreated to the car and waited for Jeff who arrived fairly soon thereafter.

On this chilly autumn Monday I experienced some great surface action and landed 27 fish on green drakes, PMD’s and BWO’s. I discovered an old fly that was eaten like candy and I landed a 19 inch rainbow. It was certainly one of my better days on the Frying Pan River.