Time: 9:30AM – 4:30PM
Location: Between MM 11 and MM 12.
I did not give much credence to the Taylor Creek Fly Shop sentence on their web site, but it stated that now was a good time to visit the Frying Pan River, since crowds were thinned due to the bridge detour in Glenwood Springs. It was positioned at the top of the fishing report in bright red text, but I discounted it, since it came from a fly shop attempting to attract customers. When I arrived at the Frying Pan River on Thursday, the river did in fact seem relatively vacant, but I attributed it to being a weekday, and the more moderate popularity of the section of the river that I elected to fish.
I camped at Little Maud Campground by Reudi Reservoir on Thursday night, and quite a few vacant sites remained, so I admitted that perhaps there was something to the Taylor Creek announcement. A thunderstorm on Thursday evening soaked my rainfly, and rather than wait for it to dry, I rolled it up along with the tent and footprint and spread them out on the waterproof floor mat in the rear of the Santa Fe. I did not want to delay my start on the Frying Pan River tailwater, and it would be easy enough to spread everything out on the patio when I returned home. I camped within a couple miles of the upper tailwater, and I was not about to squander this convenient location and the ability to beat the hordes to the upper three miles.
I pulled into a wide pullout above the private water border between mile marker eleven and twelve at 9AM. Amazingly I only passed a couple cars along the way, but it was early for the guide crowd. Fridays generally are a favorite day for extending a long weekend, so I was certain that anglers would arrive in droves for the Labor Day weekend. Since I was ahead of the throngs, my plan was to begin at the bottom of the public water and then work my way upstream as far as time would permit. If I bumped into other fishermen, I planned to circle around them and continue, since I had roughly three miles of stream to work with.
I assembled my Loomis five weight and walked downstream to the first no trespassing sign and began my quest for Frying Pan River trout. I tied a tan pool toy to my line as the top fly and then added a beadhead salvation nymph and a beadhead hares ear. I fished aggressively from 9:45 until noon and covered a significant amount of water, and one small brown trout that grabbed the salvation was my only reward. Needless to say, I was frustrated, and although I carried my lunch in my backpack; I decided to return to the car, since I was in the vicinity. I needed a break and a change of scenery.
After lunch I walked along the road for a short distance and then descended to the base of a series of tiny islands. I persisted with the dry/dropper configuration and added a second small brown trout that nabbed the hares ear. When I reached the nice pool that contains an exposed rock with a tree growing out of it, I saw a few sporadic rises, so I removed the three fly set up and tied on a size 14 parachute green drake. This fly was on fire on Thursday, so why not give it a trial early on Friday?
A cast to the area of a rise just below the large rock elicited a refusal, and after a few additional futile casts to the pool surrounding the rock, I turned my attention to the angled riffles. This area historically produced quantities of fish and several of decent size. I was certain that the green drake would generate some excitement. If one defines excitement as landing another small brown trout from the tail of the riffle where the current accelerates along the bank, then I suppose I was energized.
An attractive deep pool and run represented my next target area, and this prime spot delivered another small brown trout. I began to notice an occasional green drake, and this reinforced my choice to fish the large mayfly imitation, but I began to doubt that the parachute style was a winner on September 1. I stripped in my line and swapped the parachute style for a heavily hackled Catskill style. This fly does a fine job of imitating the fluttering motion, when the large mayflies attempt to become airborne. On the third cast a nice rainbow surfaced and crushed the bushy green drake imitation. Well I thought it smashed the dry fly; however, when I scooped it with my net, I realized that it was hooked in the cheek. Several additional refusals to the hackled imitation convinced me to make yet another change.
The parachute version produced on Thursday, so I resolved to give it another chance; however, this time I selected a size 14. A nice deep run angled into the pool at the very top, so I made a nice left handed cast to the swirling water above me, and suddenly the green drake disappeared. I set the hook, and after a short battle I was pleased to find a nice twelve inch brown trout in my net. This catch represented number five on the day, and it was also my best at that point.
I retreated to the area above the angled riffle and crossed back to the road, and then I hiked upstream and followed an angled path to the left braid, where the river splits around a long island. The left channel is generally very challenging, as it carries lower flows than the right. When I reached the edge of the stream, I paused to observe, and I noticed three rises over a period of three minutes. I decided to cast to the area where I spotted a swirl directly upstream first, and this paid off when an eleven inch brown slurped the parachute green drake. Casts to the vicinity of the rises along the left and right bank were futile, however, so I decided to cross to the bottom tip of the island.
Once this maneuver was completed, I quickly fished some marginal pockets along the right braid, until I reached the spectacular pool below the large square block rock near the top of the island. This was another area that yielded some nice fish in the past, so I was eager to explore it on Friday. By now it was around 2PM, and I expected a dense mayfly emergence to commence, but it never materialized. A few pale morning duns made an appearance along with the occasional green drake, but a dense hatch was not in my future on Friday.
A few fish began to rise in the slow water along the opposite bank, and after numerous casts I managed to eliminate drag long enough for another eleven inch brown to nab the parachute green drake. I turned my attention to the left side of the pool directly above me, and after quite a few unproductive casts, I managed to hook a ten inch brown. The top of the pool where the heavy current spreads out into the pool generally harbors some nice trout, but on this day I never saw evidence of their presence.
I hated to vacate one of my favorite spots, but my preferred mode of operation is to keep moving and not dwell. This commitment to action paid off, when I migrated to the series of nice deep pockets above the island and the cube rock pool. I was not pleased with the sporadic performance of the size 14 parachute green drake, so I exchanged it for a size 14 ribbed comparadun. This fly change seemed to be popular with the fish, as I added four more trout to bring the fish count to twelve on the day. Several were healthy wild twelve inch browns, but the four also featured an energetic husky thirteen inch rainbow that emerged from the current seam just above the tip of the island.
As 3PM rolled by I realized that a hatch of any significance was not going to happen. It was late in the day, and I did not relish the idea of fishing the edge, where the river funneled through a narrow chute between my position and mile marker twelve. I climbed the steep bank and walked along the road, until I reached the same angled path that I followed earlier. Once again I approached the left braid, but this time I planned to cover it from the bottom to the top. I shot several casts to the left bank with no action, and then I directed a long fling directly above me. I struggled to follow the comparadun in the glare, but my vision detected a dimple and the fly disappeared, so I raised the rod tip and set the hook. I was quite surprised to gain a glimpse of a more substantial fish than I expected, and after a brief fight I netted a seventeen inch rainbow trout. Although this fish was the largest of the day, it was quite slender and did not battle in a manner that one would expect for a fish of that size.
I released the late afternoon surprise catch and continued my progress up the left braid. Near the very top in a series of short pockets, I landed a very small brown, and I was about to call it quits. I was now perched at the tip of the island below the deep pocket that yielded the nice rainbow earlier, and I decided to made a few final casts. I flicked the comparadun to the deep depression just below the pocket seam, and I was again shocked when a fifteen inch brown trout confidently finned to the surface and inhaled the green drake. I made sure to secure some photos and a video, and after I released the wild brown trout, I called it a day.
I fished for seven hours on Friday and managed to land fifteen trout. Only three exceeded twelve inches, and it was in all respects an average day. A fifteen fish day on the Frying Pan River in the absence of significant hatch activity is a testament to persistence. I never encountered a competing fisherman during my entire time on the river on Friday, and I am forced to acknowledge the veracity of the Taylor Creek highlighted sentence. As with all things in life, there is no free lunch. I paid dearly for my solitude on the Frying Pan River on my return trip, as it took me over an hour to pass through Glenwood Springs in order to head east on Interstate 70. Would I do it again? Absolutely!
Fish Landed: 15