Time: 1:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: MM11.5 near downstream boundary with private water
Fish Landed: 14
After spending 2.5 weeks in tropical weather I was anxious to return to the Rocky Mountains and some cool clear streams in search of fly fishing heaven. Jane and I spent five days in Hilton Head Island and had a grand time visiting family and enjoying the many activities available in this lovely resort island, but there is no getting around the humidity present at all times during August. I spent the last week of August working and then Jane and I flew to St. Louis, MO for a wedding on September 1. We did touristy things on Saturday, September 1 and you guessed it, St. Louis experienced highs near 100 degrees and the air was thick with humidity.
My previous trip to the Frying Pan River was during the week, and Jane needed to work, so she could not accompany me, so we made plans to make another camping trip on September 5 – 8. I packed the Santa Fe on Thursday morning and made the drive to the Frying Pan River, and then Jane got off work at noon on Friday and made the same trip to join me Friday evening.
The last week of August and the first week of September worked out to be some of the hottest weather of the summer, so I was a bit concerned about the quality of the fishing on the Frying Pan River, although a cold tailwater is usually the best option during these heat waves. At least the humidity was much lower than either Hilton Head or St. Louis.
I got off to a reasonably early start on Thursday morning after attending the Dodgers vs. Rockies game on Tuesday night. This meant I needed to pack everything from scratch in the morning. The drive to the upper Frying Pan River is approximately 3.5 hours assuming no traffic snags and that is about how long it took me. I arrived by the upper river at around 12:15PM and .2 miles above the boundary between the public and private water below the dam. I grabbed my lunch bag and walked down the road a bit and then sat on the shoulder overlooking the river to observe while I quickly munched down my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. As I was doing this, a silver SUV passed me, did a quick U-turn and then stopped across from the spot where I planned to begin my afternoon of fishing. A guide dropped off his client who proceeded to put on his waders while the driver parked the vehicle. Apparently this guide saw me and was pulling out all the stops to reserve his favorite stretch of water.
I returned to the car and grabbed my rod and walked down the road, but seeing the man putting on his waders, I went beyond him and crossed below the place where a large dead tree spans two thirds of the river at the tip of a small island. I waded to the midpoint of the island and then fished downstream to the bottom tip and then worked my way up the smaller south channel with a parachute green drake. This produced two long distance releases and then I landed two medium size browns. Near the top of the island a large rectangular boulder protrudes in the middle of the braid and creates two nice small pools on either side. I looked up the river as I was considering fishing opposite the guide and fisherman, but by now the guide had arrived and crossed and was standing in the very spot I considered fishing. He made a funny motion with both his arms pointing downward like and umpire giving the safe sign on a play at a base. Was he saying that the spot was his, or was he saying it was OK for me to fish there? I assumed it was most likely the former, so I refocused on the nice little pools near the rectangular rock. I was annoyed by the guides tactics, but didn’t feel like creating a scene on my first day on the river.
The large rectangular rock had a nice ledge that was about the width of my boot so I edged my way as far as I could to the upstream point. This put me in a nice position to cast to the slack water and eddy directly across from me as a strong deep run separated me from the little pool. A nice brown began to rise but it ignored my green drake so I switched to a size 14 sulfur comparadun and this didn’t tempt the cruiser along the far bank, but more fish began to dart to the surface and snatch food. Several risers were right along the current seam not more than five feet across from me so I began to focus my casts on them. I could flick my fly to the top of the seam and then hold my rod tip high so that virtually no line was touching the water. While performing this technique a fine 15+ inch brown tipped up and sipped in my fly and I landed it and snapped a photograph.
Unfortunately as the hatch intensified, the fish became much more selective and I made many unproductive casts to the area until I ran through a series of fly changes including a light yellow and light gray comparadun. The light gray comparadun produced three small browns during the course of the heaviest hatch, but there were a ton of empty casts around these small successes. I did manage to hook and lose a sizeable rainbow and medium brown during this period as well.
As the hatch waned I finally gave up on my small hidden pool and crossed the small island and then fished a nice little run and pool below the dead tree. I decided to return to the green drake for prospecting and landed a medium size brown and then hooked a decent fish that dove under a submerged log and snagged my fly. I was forced to break off the green drake and then climbed the bank and moved to the position where the client fisherman was orignally putting on his waders. The guide and customer had by now vacated the tail of the run and pool that I so desired to fish.
I began prospecting the lower section with a new green drake and landed a nice brown and then proceeded up along the slack edge water next to the steep bank that bordered the road. This stretch did not produce any fish and the hatch had dwindled so I tied on a Chernobyl ant with a Craven soft hackle emerger and worked around the tiny group of islands. The Chernobyl attracted two fish, one a small brown and the second a decent rainbow that was in the right channel where a tree limb extends over the water.
The next nice area I reached is the thirty foot wide riffle and pool with a square rock containing a tree in the upper center of the pool. I worked this area from right to left and managed to hook a decent rainbow on the Chernobyl, but it shed the hook and escaped before my net could scoop it from the river. I slid over toward the right bank to the area where the current angles against the south bank, and began prospecting the seams and slack pools with the Chernobyl and emerger and this paid off with another very nice rainbow on the Chernobyl ant.
I finished out my day by moving up along the right bank, but this strategy didn’t result in any additonal fish so I retreated and crossed back to the road along the same path that I’d followed to reach the south bank. I could now see some streaks of lightning and heard distant thunder, but it seemed to be quite a distance to the east, so I continued walking beyond my car to the path that angles back down to the smaller north channel of the river. The north braid is typically more challenging than the south channel here as the flow is only 1/4 the volume and the bottom half is relatively shallow slow moving water. However, from past experience I know that it harbors some nice albeit difficult fish.
I worked my way up the bottom half with no success so I swapped the Chernobyl and emerger for a light gray deer hair caddis and eventually landed a small brown that mauled the caddis in front of a rock. That was the last fish of the day as the weather became more threatening, and I realized I needed to set up the tent, unload the bicycles and prepare dinner before darkness. It was a fine four hours of fishing on the Frying Pan River, but I was a bit frustrated with the fisherman competition and my inability to fish the water I targeted.