Frying Pan River – 05/29/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: MM1 and Upper River

Frying Pan River 05/29/2022 Photo Album

Jane and I made the drive in separate cars from Denver to Carbondale on Thursday evening after returning Theo to Louisville, CO. Since Phil’s mother was visiting for the Memorial Day weekend, Jane and I reserved a room at the Comfort Inn and Suites from Thursday through Monday nights. We planned to spend Friday and Saturday hiking and gardening, and Amy was scheduled to return to work on Sunday, so Jane planned to return to Denver on Sunday for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend.

Since I drove separately, and I had accommodations available to me, I took advantage to plan three days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River. With most of the freestone rivers in Colorado flowing high and murky, I anxiously anticipated some quality fishing on a low and clear tailwater.

On my way to the river on Sunday morning I stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop and bought floatant and used my visit to query the salesman regarding current insect activity. He informed me that the area below the dam featured an all day midge hatch and a two hour blue winged olive hatch. Small caddis were present throughout the canyon. I told the salesman that I preferred to fish the lower canyon to escape crowds, and upon learning this he suggested that I could get away with larger beadhead flies.

At the Start

Because Sunday was on Memorial Day weekend, and freestones were blown out with run off., I assumed that the upper tailwater was slammed with anglers. I drove to a wide pullout near mile marker one, and a United Rentals vehicle occupied a space ahead of me. I was unsure whether this was a fisherman or not, so I prepared to fish, and just as I was about to depart, the United Rentals angler appeared. He told me he had just fished the stretch I planned to target, but I concluded that the water had been rested long enough and proceeded with my original plan. In retrospect, this may have been a strategic error.

Deep Pools

At 10;00AM the flows were low and clear at 113 CFS, and the weather was quite nice with blue skies and air temperatures in the low to mid fifties. I rigged my Sage four weight and fitted my line with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, a 20 incher, and a salvation nymph and began prospecting all the promising deeper runs and moderate riffles. In the early going two small brown trout elevated to inspect the fat Albert, but those two instances of activity proved to be the only bright spots during my two hours of morning fly fishing. I also experimented with a sparkle wing RS2, hares ear nymph, emerald caddis pupa and iron sally. Nothing unlocked the jaws of the trout, and I decided to move on at 11:45AM.

The flows seemed greater than 113 CFS, and I speculated that a tributary was contributing run off above me, so I decided to move upstream. In hindsight I think the narrow deep canyon was funneling the river through a narrow streambed, and this minimized the number of slow velocity holding spots for trout.

Bankside Pockets

I drove slowly eastward and eventually stopped to fish within the last four miles below the dam. I quickly devoured the lunch that I collected from the Comfort Inn breakfast room, and before departing for the river, I noticed large gray clouds forming in the western sky. I used this observation as an opportunity to pull on my raincoat and my billed hat with earflaps. I walked along a short path to the river and stepped over some slippery branches and resumed casting the fat Albert. In two pockets along the bank a brown trout rose and snubbed the fat Albert. This sudden dose of action raised my optimism, but then a lengthy period of inactivity brought me back to earth. I converted the fat Albert to a peacock hippie stomper and substituted some different nymphs, but the changes failed to alter my skunking status.

The River Ahead

I progressed upstream quite a distance, as the sky darkened, while black clouds moved in from the west. The low light fueled a sparse hatch, and three trout began to rise in an eight foot wide slick behind a large exposed boulder. I removed the nymphs and added a CDC BWO behind the peacock stomper, but the leader was too long, and I was unable to track the size 22 baetis imitation. I was frustrated by my inability to convert during the dry fly opportunity, so I snipped off the flies and deployed a simple dry; the CDC BWO. Finally a small brown barely over the six inch minimum grabbed my offering, and I was barely on the scoreboard.

Chubby Chernobyl Getting It Done

I moved upstream along the left bank, and I spotted a decent brown in a small pocket in front of a large rock, but it was not rising. Once again I initiated a change, as I added a hippie stomper with a silver body and retained the CDC olive on a twelve inch dropper. The visible trout rose to engulf my fly on the fifth drift, but it immediately tucked under the rock and broke off both flies. At this point I was facing the need to replace the lost flies, and this was a natural decision point to reevaluate. I shifted my tactical gears and knotted an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl to my line and then added a salvation nymph followed by a sparkle wing RS2.

This combination proved to be a winner, and I moved the fish counter from one to twenty over the remaining 2.5 hours of fly fishing. Initially several fish refused the chubby, but eventually the surface fly proved to be a desirable food source in addition to serving as an effective indicator.

Love the Speckles

In a nice deep V between two merging currents, I netted three very fine trout. The species were cutbow, rainbow, and brown; and each fly produced a fish. The trout were in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, and this sequence was the highlight of my day. The remainder of the afternoon involved a steady progression with relatively constant action. The next sixteen fish were mainly browns in the nine to twelve inch range with a rainbow or two in the mix. Four trout succumbed to the chubby, and three nabbed the sparkle wing. The overwhelming favorite was the salvation, as it accounted for the remainder. Moderate riffles and long narrow slots with some depth were prime trout producing locations.

Melon Color

After fears of skunking and dread of two more days on the Frying Pan River with no viable alternatives, my day on Sunday developed into a very productive outing in terms of both quantity and quality. If only I could train myself to pause for two seconds before setting, when I spy a fish approaching the chubby Chernobyl. This gives me something to practice on Monday and Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 20

Fine Brown Trout