Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Between MM12 and MM13 the downstream border of public water
Fish Landed: 22
Change is constant in fly fishing. Having fished the Pan on Thursday, I thought I had it all figured out for Friday. Since we’d only been there for a half day, I asked Bill and Judy if I could stay another evening at Bachelor Gulch and return to the Frying Pan on Friday. They agreed, so I was 1.5 hours away from Basalt for another day of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River. Friday was similar to Thursday with a clear blue sky and no clouds to be seen. The high temperature was probably in the mid-70’s. I left Bachelor Gulch at around 10AM and stopped for gas and a Subway sandwich along my way. The rest of the group planned to play tennis at the tennis center, and then drive to Boulder to begin the weekend festivities.
I arrived at my destination along the Frying Pan by 11:30 and quickly munched down my Subway sandwich and lunch on a streamside rock. I was confident that I’d seen what was going on Thursday, and I’d catch a bunch of fish on Friday. This would turn out to be true, but the path to success was different than my expectations. The first thing I noticed was that more fishermen were on the water on Friday. I parked in the same spot where the guide parked on Thursday, and there was a fisherman below me. I jumped in 20 yards above him at a spot where the river fanned out a bit, and I had 30 yards of open water before another fisherman was visible.
I expected another hatch of small mayflies so I decided to fish nymphs with an indicator. I formed a theory that the deep indicator method is more effective for nymphs during a hatch as the nymphs exhibit more movement as they bounce along the riverbed and portray more movement when lifted from the water or when swinging from a deeper starting point at the end of the drift. I tied on a beadhead hares ear and below that an RS2, then added a split shot and strike indicator.
I began flicking the nymphs directly upstream and also up and across and covering the typical water that holds trout. My success was immediate. Over the next two hours, I picked up 13 trout of medium size fishing the nymphs in this manner. In nearly every deep slot or pocket and even in some fairly shallow spots, I hooked at least one trout. Eventually I moved within a couple of riffles of the fisherman above me, but not close enough to affect his fishing. He continued moving upstream at approximately the same pace that I was moving. I thought that perhaps I shouldn’t fish the water that he recently disturbed, but gave it a try anyway, and didn’t really seem to see much impact. He looked down a few times when my rod was bent with a fish.
At 2PM I reached a point where the stream narrowed and the current became quite forceful. I retraced my steps downstream to a point where I could cross back to the road, and then I walked up the road to another nice spot where the river widened a bit. Unfortunately this area contained 4-5 fishermen spaced out pretty evenly, so there wasn’t room for another. I went back downstream and fished a 30 yard section where the river was channeled next to the road with a high bank. This was definitely not as desirable as other areas, but there were some nice deep pockets and slots along the bank that I prospected with the nymphs. Unfortunately other than a hook up and early release at the start, the stretch proved to be unproductive.
It was now around 2:30PM and the hatch had ended and fishing slowed perceptibly. I decided to drive downstream to the lower edge of the public water below the dam and see if fishermen were also in that area. I parked in my usual spot for this stretch and hiked to the pool where two large fallen trees span the river to an island. Amazingly there weren’t any fishermen in this area. I still had my nymphs on the line, so I began prospecting the tail area and hooked a decent rainbow in short order from behind a large rock next to the bank just above my position. I moved out a bit toward the middle of the tail and experienced a momentary hook up as the nymphs swept past a rock across and below me. As I turned to shoot a cast up and across, I spotted a plastic object floating on the surface. I quickly guessed it was a fly box, so I clutched my wading staff and quickly but carefully worked my way over to the bottom of the pool just above the point where some of the water spills to the small far channel that bends around the island. I reached down and snared the fly box. It was one of the cylindrical boxes used by Taylor Creek when you purchase flies. I glanced at it and stuffed it in my front pack. I could check it out later.
I moved back toward the left center of the pool facing upstream and continued casting my nymphs. By now it was a bit after three and most of the pool and run were in shadows. I began to notice sporadic rises, and as I cast the frequency picked up until a couple fish up and to my left were rising in a fairly regular rhythm. Once again the Frying Pan River was going to deal me a serving of good fortune.
I reeled up my line and stared at the water for a couple minutes, but I couldn’t see any dense form of food that would explain these regularly rising fish. Without any evidence to select a fly, I guessed based on the time of year and time of day that the trout were feeding on a sparse hatch of blue wing olives or baetis. I tied on a CDC BWO with a light olive body and cast it directly upstream where I’d seen one of the fish rising. I couldn’t see my fly so lifted it to create movement in hopes I could spot it. Much to my surprise, there was weight on my line, and I played a nice 12 inch brown to my net. I used my shirt to sop up the moisture from the fly and dried it and fluffed the wing and tossed another cast up and to my left. Once again I had difficulty following the fly in the glare, but I saw a rise where I estimated my fly was, and set the hook, and I was attached to another nice brown trout. This put my fish count at 16, and these fish were nicer than any that I’d caught earlier in the day up closer to the dam.
The next hour would prove to be another highlight of my summer of 2010. I moved to my left as I felt I could follow the tiny BWO when casting from left to right. By now fish were rising all over the place and I could see occasional naturals drifting and fluttering on the surface. My imitation looked like a small piece of gray lint, not very unlike the naturals. But as more fish rose and more natural competition appeared, my fly became less desirable and I noticed quite a few refusals. In the process of false casting vigorously to dry the CDC wing, I snapped it off. I tied on another one but with a denser wing and slightly darker larger body. This fly was universally rejected, and I was beginning to despair. I selected a tiny one from my foam pocket with a sparse CDC wing, and as I was tying it to my line, I heard a voice from the street behind me, “Yo. Do you mind if I wade across at the tail and fish the other side?” I replied, “Go ahead” and refocused on attaching my tiny CDC BWO.
The small sparse CDC BWO began to produce. I picked up a pair of chunky medium size fish, one brown and one rainbow on the third BWO imitation I’d tried. I moved up along the bank so that I was now casting directly across or perpendicular to the main current and doing a curve cast or instant mend and fishing mostly downstream to the 8-10 rising fish in front of me right at the point where the main current in the middle of the river fanned out into a nice riffle and pool. Meanwhile I kept glancing downstream and the gentleman with white hair and a ball cap who had accosted me from the road, had waded in to the river five feet and was working on his line with his back to me. He must have been in this position for at least 15 minutes while I was catching the couple fish described.
He looked like the general in White Christmas, and I envisioned him as a retired military officer who was an intense expert fly fisherman. I refocused on my fishing and the risers now that I discovered a fly that was producing. I noticed there were 4 or 5 fish casually rising and sipping perhaps 20 feet across from me. As I had a side view, I could tell these were larger fish. I began working curve casts straight across with a couple mends and one of the larger fish rose right when the fly began to drag a tiny bit at the downstream end of the drift. Would this fish rise again? I shot a couple more casts and drifted the same lane. On the second cast, the large fish emerged and sipped in my fly. The fight was on, and I eventually coaxed a beautiful fat rainbow into my net. It spanned my new longer net from tip to tail.
As I was working to photograph and release this prize the white haired fisherman declared, “Nice fish. What did you get him on?” I replied, “A tiny blue winged olive”. He was now across and 10-15 feet downstream from me.
I quickly worked to soak the water out of the fly and refluff the CDC wing. When I had the fly in working order, I shot a cast across and above where the rainbow had materialized. Meanwhile the general was now facing toward me and still working at tying on a fly or untangling a line. It didn’t take long after landing the fine rainbow before a trout tipped up and sipped in the BWO. The fight was on and this guy dove and shook and flashed all the characteristics of a brown. Eventually I brought the brown to my net and it was a beauty and comparable in size to the previous rainbow. My new fishing companion couldn’t contain himself, and yelled, “It’s hard to stand over here and watch you catch these nice fish.” I replied that his fly was barely on the water.
Finally the general was ready to fish. While I worked my fly to dry and fluff it, he finally shot a cast upstream and it didn’t take long before he hooked up with a fish. The fish didn’t appear to be that large when it came near the surface, but it took him down to the tail of the pool where he waded downstream and eventually netted it. At this point he announced that he foul hooked it. Next he asked me what size leader I was using. I replied 5X. He seemed to be in disbelief. I was back in business and made some shorter casts to nearer regular risers and landed a 10 inch brown. I glanced over at my companion and I saw him lift his fly in a hook set motion and almost simultaneously a fish rose next to his fly. I asked if the fish went for his fly, and he said he could not hear me over the roar of the river. But shortly afterward, he mentioned that he broke his fly off and he was using 7X! I was catching fish with my tiny BWO on 5X, and he was breaking off flies with his fine 7X.
The hatch was beginning to wane, and I managed to bring a 22nd fish to net while the new friend continued to work on his fly and line. The fish near me nearly stopped rising, and now most of the risers were further away from me on the opposite side where I had difficulty getting a good drift due to the intervening currents. The other fisherman was in perfect position to cast upstream to these fish. The stream was now totally covered in shadows, and I was feeling quite chilled standing in the icy flows with just my fishing shirt for warmth. I decided to leave the nice rising fish for my friend and go back to the car for my fleece. But after I climbed the bank and walked back to the car, I looked at my watch and noticed it was 5PM, and I had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of me, so I elected to call it quits.
I removed my waders and broke down my rod and climbed in the car. I did a U turn and rolled down my window to possibly say something to the other fisherman as I drove by. I assumed he now had the pool all to himself with some risers still entertaining him. As I approached the spot where I’d been fishing I looked down and no one was there. In the course of the hour or so that he was near me, I didn’t see him make more than five casts!
But what an unexpected treat the late afternoon proved to be. I landed 9 fish mostly bigger and stronger than the first 13 including the two 15+ inch bruisers. It was another epic day on the Frying Pan.