Time: 1:30PM – 5:00PM
Location: Mile marker 10.5 below spring
Fish Landed: 9
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.