Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Same as Friday but upstream a bit
Fish Landed: 22
I woke up Saturday morning to the many sounds of my camping neighbors packing up their RV as they prepared to leave for Kansas. I stepped out of the tent to discover a cold crisp morning, quite a contrast from previous mornings. I quickly found my down parka and gloves and pulled them on for the first time this year. Even though the sky was bright blue and clear, there was more water on my tent and tablecloth due to condensation than could be found the previous mornings after rain.
I quickly took care of the essentials and packed a lunch, but had some time to kill while I waited for the air temperature to warm so I took a walk from the campground to the dam of Reudi Reservoir and back. Along the way I snapped some photos and when I returned to the campground spotted a buck with velvety antlers browsing next to the bathroom. I snapped one photo from a distance and then walked around the loop and clicked some fairly close shots. Meanwhile I pulled out my binoculars that I always pack and never use, and watched the ospreys that built a nest in the high tension wire tower high above the reservoir. I saw an adult and a young osprey fly from the huge stick nest to various perches in the surrounding forest.
By 9:30 I loaded everything needed in the Santa Fe for another day of fishing and drove the short distance to the pullout above mile marker 11, the same place I parked on Friday. I planned to fish upstream from the previous day’s wanderings in the channels around the small island, the large rectangular rock pool, and upstream above mile marker 12 if it wasn’t occupied.
I began fishing at the bottom end of the small island with a Chernobyl ant and beadhead pheasant tail. I plopped one or two casts in all the obscure small pockets and runs that I’m sure are overlooked by other fishermen in their greedy push for the prime spots. Along the way I landed three small browns and one 12 inch rainbow in the large rectangular rock pool at the top of the south channel. The rainbow drifted back under the Chernobyl for three to four feet then turned away and then abruptly turned and lunged on the Chernobyl after it had drifted another foot. I’ve only seen this happen a few times in all my days of fly fishing.
By now it was 11:30 so I decided to return to the car and eat lunch. I walked down the road a short distance and sat on the edge of the bank overlooking the nice pool where I’d landed quite a few fish the previous day. The area was 20 – 25 feet wide with a large boulder hosting a tree or bush at the top of the mild riffle over three to four feet of water depth. I spotted several fish at the tail of the riffle and filed that for future reference.
After lunch I decided to try the technically challenging left channel that ran next to the road. The middle and bottom sections of this channel are relatively slow moving with shallow smooth water. I tied on an ant as I spotted occasional rises but no mayflies on the water. I worked up through the smooth water with a pair of rejections to show for my effort. Perhaps they were on something specific, I thought, as I tied on a CDC BWO. This didn’t even attract rejections. As I got toward the middle area, I spotted one green drake bouncing in a riffle, and a fish slashed and missed the huge fluttering morsel. It almost looked like the fish rejected a real fly! With this episode noted, I tied on a large green drake comparadun, but this resulted in no reaction. I stuck with the green drake for several of the juicy shorter pools at the very top of the left braid, but when I got to the top of the island I declared it a failed experiment and resorted to a parachute hopper with a trailing BHPT.
I picked up a small brown that grabbed the trailing BHPT and then approached the sweet deep pool behind a huge boulder just beyond the tip of the island. I shot some casts to the area where two currents merged and noticed a rainbow leave its holding spot and elevate a foot or so but then return to the stream bottom. It looked like the parahopper was going to be another nonproductive attractor, but I persisted and shot a cast to the edge of the current seam below the large rock. As the hopper drifted along the seam and just before the point where the currents merged, a fifteen inch rainbow tipped up and swallowed the fraud. The fight was on and I worked the rainbow and netted it and shuffled to the bank for a photo.
I continued fishing a bit further upstream, but pretty quickly the river degenerates into a white water chute. As I did this I began to notice a few sparse mayflies emerge, and it was close to 1PM. I wanted to be at a prime spot such as the base of large rectangular rock pool when the hatch blossomed, so I decided to circle back to the bottom of the island and work back up the right channel. I did this with the hopper/dropper and experienced a few refusals in the obscure pockets. One particularly noteworthy refusal occurred in a small deep pocket in front of a horizontal tree that fell across the river. I stood on the downside of the tree and flicked a cast to the still water. While it bobbed and slowly drifted toward the current a large fish rose from beneath the tree to inspect, but spurned my handiwork and returned to its holding spot.
I tried a few more casts but ultimately surrendered and moved up to the large pool. By now I could see more mayflies bouncing along on the surface and rising off the water. They appeared to be the olive colored ones that I’d observed early on Friday, so I went to the size 14 sulfur comparadun. I cast this repeatedly over a fish that rose fairly regularly, but I couldn’t entice a take. I gave up on the fish which was across and down from my position and shot a cast directly upstream. Again I observed several refusals as fish moved to look but didn’t finish. Perhaps the fly was too big? I clipped it off and downsized to the same fly but in a size 16. I flicked this upstream and managed to pick up a couple small brown trout in the 9-10 inch range. I could see sporadic rises higher up in the pool where the faster current fanned into the smooth side pool, so I moved to a position closer to the top.
On my previous pass through this area I’d experienced a refusal to the Chernobyl ant where a small run returned from the left bank to the main current around a rock. I flicked a cast to the tiny pool between the rock and current seam, but nothing happened. I flicked a second cast closer to the seam and a brown smashed the comparadun. This was a nice feisty wild fish and I played it for a bit back and forth in the main pool before eventually bringing it to my net and photographing. I recall noting that this was my tenth fish on the day.
Next I observed a brown rising at the very top of the run in some fairly heavy current before it dumped into the pool. Typically fish that move into heavy water such as this are big strong fish. As I looked on I saw the fish rise a second time, but the rises had fairly lengthy intervals in between. Meanwhile I ran quite a few casts along the edge of the wave and into the small smooth pocket next door with no success. As I continued to observe, a huge green drake popped through the surface, and my target fish refused it but then turned and ate it two feet below the initial refusal! This was like watching a movie. I immediately dug into my fly canister and removed a green drake and tied it to my line. Surely this fish would go for my imitation. Not even close. I put ten or more drifts over the fish, and not even a dinker showed interest.
I returned to the size 16 light yellow comparadun, and I noticed my buddy rise a couple more times to PMD naturals. I also noted more precisely where the fish was surfacing and began running my drifts right on the edge of the heavy current. Finally on a nice drift the brown humped up and engulfed my fly. It was a nice strong fish, but not as large as I suspected, but an interesting challenge nonetheless.
I left the pool and worked up through some nice deep pockets with no success. I tried the run and pocket where I’d earlier duped the 15 inch rainbow, but nothing was doing there. I decided I didn’t want to circle back a third time, and I considered fishing the same water as Friday, but then rejected that idea and resolved to continue working upstream along the edge of the heavy white water chute. I picked up a decent brown in the soft edge at the start of the chute, but the remainder of this type of water was unresponsive to my quick prospecting with the PMD comparadun.
The pool and run at mile marker 12 were occupied so I hiked along the road to the nice series of stair step riffles of moderate depth. There was a guide with a man and woman above the four stair step riffle sections, so I had room to fish here. I slid down the bank and landed a pair of small browns in the first riffle section. The hatch was now reduced to a sparse shadow of its former self, but this was the time on Friday when I experienced a lot success with opportunistic late feeders. I’d bypassed the large rectangular rock that juts perpendicular from the bank and creates a twenty foot back eddy, so I decided to wade downstream ten yards and crawl out on the rock and see what was happening. As I flopped on my belly and peered over the edge, a huge rainbow drifted to the surface and sucked down a PMD. Did I have a shot at this big boy?
I dapped my imitation in the vortex off the edge right next to the rock, but I fear the rainbow had spotted my rod on its way up for the previous meal. I spotted two fish facing downstream looking into the eddy current. One was six inches from the bank in an extremely shallow position. I flicked a cast beyond the fish and it showed no response. I placed my second cast nearly on the bank to the right of the target fish, and as the small dun did a little curl as the current caught the leader the fish darted up and ate it. I jumped down from the rock and netted a pretty 13 inch brown.
I returned to my perch and focused on the second fish that was twenty feet downstream and two feet out from the bank. I placed two casts behind and to the left of the fish, but the third cast was perfect and two feet ahead of the fish. As the fly came over the fish it confidently rose up and sucked it in. This trout turned out to be a nice 13 inch rainbow and I was feeling pretty good about my day so far. Seeing no more fish in the eddy I vacated and returned to the stair step riffle area.
I prospected through the second section and third section and picked off a couple small browns, but also spotted quite a few refusals in the process. When I peered into the fourth area, I spotted a decent brown in front of a small rock in a very shallow lie. I shot several casts over this fish and it demonstrated the telltale tail wiggle and slight acknowledgment that it saw my fly but wasn’t interested. I cycled through a series of fly changes in an effort to dupe this guy with the last being a parachute ant. I also spotted a couple additional fish in this area that also flipped their fins at my offering.
I was considering wading across the shallow riffles to another medium depth stretch in the shadows on the other side of the river, but as I was working the obstinate brown, two new fishermen arrived and crossed below me and cut me off from the desired water. I gave up on the area and walked back to the car and decided to have a final look at the spot that I overlooked while eating lunch. From above I could still see the rainbow at the tail of the riffle. I cautiously descended the bank with a low profile and positioned myself to cast upstream at an angle as the current bent around the large rock. I still had the parachute ant on my line and decided to give it a try.
It turned out to be a good move as I fooled a pair of small browns and a twelve inch rainbow with the ant. I also had a few refusals and the longer I cast to the area and watched the more I saw a few lingering mayflies and rises to them. I clipped off the ant and returned to the size 16 light yellow comparadun and added another catch in the faster riffles below and to the right of the large rock. I hadn’t really tested the water up high to the left of the rock and slightly above it, so I moved to the left a bit and shot a cast two to three fee above the rock. As the small fly danced in the riffles next to the rock a large form emerged and engulfed my fly. The fight was on, and I played a beautiful 15 inch brown into my net and carefully released it to fight another day.
It was now close to four o’clock and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air temperature was quite warm particularly compared to the previous two days. I thought about wading across the tail to the area where the main river current angles against the far bank where I’d experienced nice success on Friday, but I didn’t relish staying Saturday night and putting a wet tent in my car for the return trip in order to beat heavy I70 traffic. I decided to call it a day and return to the campground and pack everything up and return to Denver.
It was a great three days of fishing on the Frying Pan River, and in spite of some great action on the Taylor River in 2012, the Frying Pan remains my favorite Colorado river.