Category Archives: Frying Pan River

Frying Pan River – 08/02/2023

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 08/02/2023 Photo Album

It took me thirty minutes to return from the upper Frying Pan River to the tailwater section, and I paused to eat my lunch upon my arrival at a wide pullout across from the river. After lunch I reconfigured my setup with a tan pool toy hopper, an iron sally and a salvation nymph. I lengthened the dropper section below the hopper and did the same to the connecting leader between the iron sally and salvation nymph. Based on my review of the flows, before I left in the morning, I assumed I was fishing at 151 CFS. Upon my arrival back home on Wednesday evening, I realized that the water managers increased the outflows to 210 CFS, while I was fishing! Trout generally take some time to adjust to significant changes in water conditions, and I judge plus 60 CFS to be significant.

Angling to the Far Bank

Another Glimpse

I carefully angled across the river and began fishing upstream along the south (right) bank. During my early afternoon foray on the tailwater I managed to land six brown trout. One stretched the tape to thirteen inches, but most fell within the ten to twelve inch range. Once again the fly fishing was not a torrid affair, and I covered quite a bit of real estate and made an abundant quantity of casts to achieve the six fish count. Many very attractive runs and pools failed to deliver; whereas, some marginal spots produced. The common denominator of the productive spots seemed to be depth and especially depth along the bank. A few refusals to the hopper accompanied the action, but the hopper also produced takes often enough to justify its presence in my lineup.

Yielded One Brown Trout

Not Bad

Near the End

By 2:30PM I realized that I was not going to encounter a safe crossing place, so I laboriously and carefully retreated along the edge of the river to my original crossing point. I maintained a low stance, secured my footing with each step, and made sure each placement of my wading staff was solid; and these precautions enabled me to cross the river without incident. Six fish in 1.5 hours was certainly a respectable haul, but once again I felt like I worked exceptionally hard for the results. Wading was nearly as difficult in the tailwater, as it was on the upper Frying Pan. Insects were largely absent from the landscape during the afternoon session, and I was very surprised by this circumstance. I saw one or two pale morning duns and a handful of caddis. The much anticipated green drakes were totally absent from the scene. Hopefully I will get to visit Amy later in the season, when all the hatches are active.

Fish Landed: 6

Upper Frying Pan River – 08/02/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 12:00PM

Location: Upstream from Reudi Reservoir

Upper Frying Pan River 08/02/2023 Photo Album

My original plan incorporated fishing another high mountain creek on Wednesday, but severe thunderstorms and heavy downpours forced me to scuttle those plans. I stayed with my daughter, Amy, on Tuesday evening, and I decided the safest bet was to fish the Frying Pan River. I decided to inspect the upper Frying Pan first, and if it was clear with manageable flows, that would be my destination. If my scouting mission revealed unfavorable conditions, I could fall back on the tailwater below Reudi Reservoir.

I departed Amy’s apartment at 8:30AM, and this enabled me to arrive at a pullout along the upper Frying Pan River by 9:45AM. The upper river was clear and definitely running higher than what I was used to, but I decided to give it a go. The flows on the DWR web site registered 120 CFS, and that was higher than my typical experience based on visits later in the year. I assembled my Sage R8 four weight and ambled down the road for .4 miles, until I found a suitable spot to access the river.

Deceptively Fast and Deep

I adorned my line with a tan pool toy hopper, prince nymph and salvation nymph; and I began my quest for Frying Pan trout. Between 10:15AM and noon I advanced along the north side of the river and prospected all the likely deep runs and pockets, and I managed to land six trout. A thirteen inch rainbow was the largest, and a surprise cutthroat was the prettiest, and one brown trout brought me within one species of a grand slam. Most of the fish were in the nine to eleven inch range, and I also experienced quite a few temporary hookups and refusals to the pool toy hopper. Of the six fish that found my net, three connected with the hopper, one mashed the prince and two nipped the salvation nymph.


Deep Runs

Six fish in 1.75 hour seems fairly productive, but I worked quite hard for these results. The high flows pushed the strong current against the bank, and the tight vegetation made it impossible to circle around difficult wading situations. I moved slowly and secured my foot plants with each move. For the last thirty minutes I cast to very attractive pockets and deep runs with no action whatsoever, so I decided to execute my fallback, and I drove back to the Frying Pan tailwater.

Fish Landed: 6

Frying Pan River – 08/19/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: East of Basalt

Frying Pan River 08/19/2022 Photo Album

After a series of storms, the stream and river levels in the Roaring Fork Valley elevated significantly, but by Friday I was ready to visit the Frying Pan River. The upper river dropped from 130 cfs to 79 cfs over a two day period, and that convinced me to make the drive from my daughter’s condo in Carbondale, CO. The dashboard displayed a temperature of 60 degrees, when I arrived at my chosen pullout, and as the day progressed, the air warmed into the upper 60’s. Dark clouds and rain, however, dominated the sky in the early afternoon, and this forced the temperature to drop back to the low 60’s  At lunch I pulled out my raincoat, and I wore it until I ended my fishing adventure at 2PM. The raincoat protected me from the rain and kept me warm in the early afternoon.

Nice Pockets

As I began my fly fishing venture, I crossed to the north side of the river and configured my line with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and a beadhead salvation nymph, while casting my new Sage R8 four weight. I chose the Sage R8 because the river level was higher than normal.

Salvation Nymph Fancier

By the time I broke for lunch at noon, eleven fish visited my net. Nearly all were rainbow trout, and a third of my catch smacked the hopper, another third nabbed the hares ear, and the remainder grabbed the salvation. The rainbows were predominantly spunky trout in the ten to eleven inch range. I managed to lift five silver-sided bows from one particularly productive deep run along the south bank.

Deep Slots Produced

After lunch I continued with the same approach until just before 2PM, and I built the fish count to twenty-four. The early afternoon results were very similar to the morning with a few brown trout sprinkled in including a gorgeous thirteen incher. The success rate on the hares ear faded a bit, and the salvation compensated. The only negative was an increase in the number of temporary hook ups on the pool toy.

Great Fish for These Waters

Friday was a fun day after a week away from fly fishing. Twenty-four trout in three hours of fishing was appreciated. A thirteen inch rainbow and brown trout topped the tally with most of the landed trout in the nine to eleven inch range. Another trip to the Frying Pan would be a welcome addition to the 2022 season.

Fish Landed: 24

Frying Pan River – 05/31/2022

Time: 11;15AM – 3:30PM

Location: MM3 and MM11

Frying Pan River 05/31/2022 Photo Album

After a rewarding day on Sunday, I had two more nights reserved at the Comfort Inn in Carbondale, and I planned to leverage the accommodations into two more days on the Frying Pan River tailwater. The freestones in the area were out of play due to high and turbid run off conditions. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating with my plans; as rain, snow and cold temperatures rolled into the Roaring Fork Valley on Sunday evening. I reviewed my Weather Underground forecast for Basalt, CO, and I noted that the rain was expected to clear on Monday morning, so I decided to hang out in my room and read, until the pavement dried. I researched pickleball in Carbondale and determined that drop-in play was available from 7AM until noon. Prior to the weather deterioration, I gave thought to playing pickleball in the morning before migrating to the Frying Pan for the afternoon. With the change in weather I decided to dress in my pickleball attire and check out the courts and play for an hour or two and then proceed directly to the Frying Pan for some afternoon fishing.

The first part of this plan evolved nicely. I arrived at the courts, and two players sat on the bench waiting for more to arrive. They welcomed me, and within ten minutes a fourth joined us. For the next three and one-half hours I enjoyed myself immensely playing against new and skilled opposition in Carbondale, CO. As the games progressed, the weather worsened, and the wind was an ever-present hindrance to controlling the light pickleball. A heavy layer of clouds shrouded the peak of Mt. Sopris, which was constantly within my view from the courts, and I decided to forego fly fishing for the active game of pickleball on Memorial Day.

Tuesday was my getaway day, and after bypassing fly fishing on Memorial Day I was anxious to pay another visit to the Pan, before embarking on my return drive to Denver. Once again cold temperatures were forecast for the morning, so I enjoyed the warmth of my room, before I checked out at 10:15. The short drive south on CO 82 and then through Basalt delivered me to a roadside pullout along the lower Frying Pan by 10:45AM, and I was perched along the river fly fishing by 11:15. I chose my Sage four weight and rigged it with an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl, salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. These were the flies that produced solid results on Sunday, so why not default to them again on Tuesday?

Looks Prime

Happy with This Landed Trout

I worked my way upstream over the next two hours and landed four trout. An eleven inch brown chowed down on the salvation in the early going, and then after a long dry spell I landed two browns barely over six inches plus the fish of the day, a deeply colored cutbow that smacked the amber ice dub body chubby Chernobyl. My results on the lower river were better than what I achieved on Sunday in the early going; however, I was disappointed, and I decided to once again move to the upper section. I packed my car with my gear and made the drive to the river area between MM10 and 11.

Prime Pockets

I spent the remainder of the day probing the pockets and deep runs upstream from where I ended my day on Sunday. Throughout this time I maintained the chubby Chernobyl and salvation nymph, but the third fly cycled among an ultra zug bug, hares ear nymph, a classic RS2 and the sparkle wing RS2. The fish counter elevated from four to twelve, and the salvation was responsible for all these trout except for one aggressive brown that chomped the chubby Chernobyl. The eight later afternoon fish included one nice rainbow plus seven brown trout. Several of the browns were in the twelve inch range, but most of the netted fish fit in the eight to eleven inch slot.

Olive Brown

I lost six flies during my Tuesday wanderings, and all were due to human error. I actually dropped five of the flies in the river, when I failed to realize that the leader broke, while I rescued them from streamside shrubs. I was quite disturbed about this turn of events. The final demonstration of human blunder occurred at 3:30PM, and this provided a convenient excuse to end my day.

Tuesday was a mediocre day in my opinion. The weather was pleasant, but the fishing was relatively slow, and the average size of my catch was below my expectations for the Frying Pan River. However, with most options blown out across the state, I felt fortunate for the opportunity to cast in moving water on May 31, 2022. With my daughter, Amy, now living in the Roaring Fork Valley, I foresee more visits during the 2022 fishing season.

Fish Landed: 12

Frying Pan River – 05/29/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: MM1 and Upper River

Frying Pan River 05/29/2022 Photo Album

Jane and I made the drive in separate cars from Denver to Carbondale on Thursday evening after returning Theo to Louisville, CO. Since Phil’s mother was visiting for the Memorial Day weekend, Jane and I reserved a room at the Comfort Inn and Suites from Thursday through Monday nights. We planned to spend Friday and Saturday hiking and gardening, and Amy was scheduled to return to work on Sunday, so Jane planned to return to Denver on Sunday for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend.

Since I drove separately, and I had accommodations available to me, I took advantage to plan three days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River. With most of the freestone rivers in Colorado flowing high and murky, I anxiously anticipated some quality fishing on a low and clear tailwater.

On my way to the river on Sunday morning I stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop and bought floatant and used my visit to query the salesman regarding current insect activity. He informed me that the area below the dam featured an all day midge hatch and a two hour blue winged olive hatch. Small caddis were present throughout the canyon. I told the salesman that I preferred to fish the lower canyon to escape crowds, and upon learning this he suggested that I could get away with larger beadhead flies.

At the Start

Because Sunday was on Memorial Day weekend, and freestones were blown out with run off., I assumed that the upper tailwater was slammed with anglers. I drove to a wide pullout near mile marker one, and a United Rentals vehicle occupied a space ahead of me. I was unsure whether this was a fisherman or not, so I prepared to fish, and just as I was about to depart, the United Rentals angler appeared. He told me he had just fished the stretch I planned to target, but I concluded that the water had been rested long enough and proceeded with my original plan. In retrospect, this may have been a strategic error.

Deep Pools

At 10;00AM the flows were low and clear at 113 CFS, and the weather was quite nice with blue skies and air temperatures in the low to mid fifties. I rigged my Sage four weight and fitted my line with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, a 20 incher, and a salvation nymph and began prospecting all the promising deeper runs and moderate riffles. In the early going two small brown trout elevated to inspect the fat Albert, but those two instances of activity proved to be the only bright spots during my two hours of morning fly fishing. I also experimented with a sparkle wing RS2, hares ear nymph, emerald caddis pupa and iron sally. Nothing unlocked the jaws of the trout, and I decided to move on at 11:45AM.

The flows seemed greater than 113 CFS, and I speculated that a tributary was contributing run off above me, so I decided to move upstream. In hindsight I think the narrow deep canyon was funneling the river through a narrow streambed, and this minimized the number of slow velocity holding spots for trout.

Bankside Pockets

I drove slowly eastward and eventually stopped to fish within the last four miles below the dam. I quickly devoured the lunch that I collected from the Comfort Inn breakfast room, and before departing for the river, I noticed large gray clouds forming in the western sky. I used this observation as an opportunity to pull on my raincoat and my billed hat with earflaps. I walked along a short path to the river and stepped over some slippery branches and resumed casting the fat Albert. In two pockets along the bank a brown trout rose and snubbed the fat Albert. This sudden dose of action raised my optimism, but then a lengthy period of inactivity brought me back to earth. I converted the fat Albert to a peacock hippie stomper and substituted some different nymphs, but the changes failed to alter my skunking status.

The River Ahead

I progressed upstream quite a distance, as the sky darkened, while black clouds moved in from the west. The low light fueled a sparse hatch, and three trout began to rise in an eight foot wide slick behind a large exposed boulder. I removed the nymphs and added a CDC BWO behind the peacock stomper, but the leader was too long, and I was unable to track the size 22 baetis imitation. I was frustrated by my inability to convert during the dry fly opportunity, so I snipped off the flies and deployed a simple dry; the CDC BWO. Finally a small brown barely over the six inch minimum grabbed my offering, and I was barely on the scoreboard.

Chubby Chernobyl Getting It Done

I moved upstream along the left bank, and I spotted a decent brown in a small pocket in front of a large rock, but it was not rising. Once again I initiated a change, as I added a hippie stomper with a silver body and retained the CDC olive on a twelve inch dropper. The visible trout rose to engulf my fly on the fifth drift, but it immediately tucked under the rock and broke off both flies. At this point I was facing the need to replace the lost flies, and this was a natural decision point to reevaluate. I shifted my tactical gears and knotted an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl to my line and then added a salvation nymph followed by a sparkle wing RS2.

This combination proved to be a winner, and I moved the fish counter from one to twenty over the remaining 2.5 hours of fly fishing. Initially several fish refused the chubby, but eventually the surface fly proved to be a desirable food source in addition to serving as an effective indicator.

Love the Speckles

In a nice deep V between two merging currents, I netted three very fine trout. The species were cutbow, rainbow, and brown; and each fly produced a fish. The trout were in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, and this sequence was the highlight of my day. The remainder of the afternoon involved a steady progression with relatively constant action. The next sixteen fish were mainly browns in the nine to twelve inch range with a rainbow or two in the mix. Four trout succumbed to the chubby, and three nabbed the sparkle wing. The overwhelming favorite was the salvation, as it accounted for the remainder. Moderate riffles and long narrow slots with some depth were prime trout producing locations.

Melon Color

After fears of skunking and dread of two more days on the Frying Pan River with no viable alternatives, my day on Sunday developed into a very productive outing in terms of both quantity and quality. If only I could train myself to pause for two seconds before setting, when I spy a fish approaching the chubby Chernobyl. This gives me something to practice on Monday and Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 20

Fine Brown Trout

Frying Pan River – 09/22/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir Dam

Frying Pan River 09/22/2021 Photo Album

Quite a few cars occupied the prime parking pullouts along the upper three miles below the dam and as expected contending with competing anglers was a given. I found a spot above three other vehicles and marched down to the stream to eat my lunch. Another fisherman occupied the spot that I desired, so I mentally surveyed my alternatives. I returned to the car to jettison my lunch bag, and I decided to walk down the road a bit to assure myself that my target entry point was occupied. As I walked along, I passed a car with its hatch open, and an angler was stashing his gear. Could it be the fisherman that I observed in my desired starting space? It was, so I continued down the road and then cut along an angled path to the edge of the river.

My dry/dropper remained in place, so I prospected some nice runs with the hope that perhaps the trout were interested in the salvation nymph, as it typically imitates a pale morning dun nymph. This was not the case, so I began to carefully angle my way across the river toward a favorite spot, where the main current deflects against the south bank, and in the process the river created a very attractive riffle of moderate depth. The flows of 290 CFS made the crossing much more challenging than normal, but I succeeded in my plan. I began lobbing the dry/dropper to the churning water at the head of the riffle and allowed the three flies to drift to the tail, and I was disappointed to discover a lack of interest from the resident trout.

I began to ponder my next move, and as I watched the stream, several subtle rises manifested themselves. By now my watch displayed 1:30, and a chilly wind gusted up the river. I removed my fleece during the drive from the upper river to where I was presently, and I was wishing that I kept the extra layer in place. Could the anticipated green drake hatch be underway, and could the fish be rising to the windblown adults? I quickly clipped off the dry/dropper flies and shifted to a parachute green drake. The number of rising fish in the vicinity ballooned to five or six, and I made downstream drifts to all of them, but other than a couple refusals, my efforts were thwarted.

In a state of frustration I stretched my seine across the net opening, and I held it and collected samples from the surface film. After a minute or two the only food item of interest was a solitary blue winged olive, so I added a one foot extension to the green drake and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my tippet. Nothing. The tiny olive was treated with even more disdain than the green drake. The wind continued to gust, and I remembered historical BWO hatches in windy conditions, when the trout honed in on emergers, since they were available, before the wind swept them from the surface. I cycled through a Klinkhammer emerger BWO and a soft hackle emerger, but neither of these yielded success, and I acknowledged that my windswept theory was misguided. Typically pale morning duns overlap with green drakes, so I added a cinnamon comparadun of size 18 and then 16 behind the green drake, and once again the trout continued to rise but ignored my offerings.

This Cutbow Was the First Decent Trout

As I focused on a downstream rising trout, I thought I saw a green drake natural, as it danced above the surface. The wind buffeted the large mayfly causing it to touch the surface repeatedly, as it attempted to get airborne. Did my fly need to look more active? I tied a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line behind the parachute green drake and fished a double dry. Finally I managed to hook and land a greedy eleven inch cutbow on a downstream drift, as the greedy eater grabbed one of the green drake imitations. I thought perhaps I was on to something, but after I released my first tailwater fish of the day, I returned to a state of frustration.

I finally decided to surrender to the picky eaters, and I crossed to the roadside bank once again. However, before stepping on land, I paused at the tail of the nice riffle where I began, and I thought I spotted a very subtle sipping rise in the tiny nook at the tail of the riffle tight to the bank. It took four casts to get a drift of the two flies over the spot, where I thought I saw the fish, but suddenly a nose appeared, and it sipped the parachute green drake. I set the hook, and a fight commenced, but the top fly slipped free and the trailing green drake foul hooked the battler. Eventually before I could land the brown trout, it broke free and escaped. The vision of the sipping take remains in my head, even though the brown trout was not among my fish count.

I walked along the shoulder to a point where I could once again angle to the river, where it formed two braids that split around a long narrow island. I progressed along the left braid observing for rises, but none were forthcoming, so I crossed below another angler above the upstream tip of the island, and I negotiated my way through some tight willows to cube rock pool. A huge rock in the shape of a cube occupies the top of the pool thus the name. I explored the near side of the strong center current with a multitude of casts, and only managed to generate three looks. It was maddening to attract the attention of decent trout without being able to close the deal.

Best Fish on Wednesday by Far

I slowly waded back to the top of the island with the intention of moving to another section of the river, but as I was about to cross the north braid below the other angler, I decided to make a few casts to a nice deep but short pocket that spanned the braid. On the fifth drift I noticed that a trout emerged from a position at the lip of the pocket. By now I reverted to the size 16 cinnamon comparadun behind the green drake, and I began to forego casting, as I dragged the two flies to the top of the pocket and then allowed them to drift back to the lip. Eventually I simply lifted the flies and let them flutter in the wind and then allowed them to touch down repeatedly at the lip of the pocket. After quite a few such actions, a large mouth appeared, and the comparadun disappeared. The fight was on, and I managed to land the best fish of the trip, a fifteen inch cutbow. Needless to say catching this fish under difficult conditions was very gratifying.

Tip of the Island Area

I decided to move on at this point. As I drove along the stream during my approach, I noticed a few open pullouts above the wide parking area that is generally filled with guide vehicles. I pulled into one of these. The river narrows in this area, and I was uncertain that low velocity holding spots existed at the higher than normal flows. For the next hour I migrated upstream along the left bank, and I managed to land a nice thirteen inch brown trout from a narrow slot and some slack water next to the bank. By four o’clock I was burned out, and whitewater chutes were all that remained ahead of me, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car and called it a day.

I Fished This Stairstep Edge Water and Landed One Brown Trout

Wednesday afternoon was very challenging. The 290 CFS flows reduced the number of prime fishing spots for the abundant quantity of fishermen. The chill and wind had an impact on the hatches, and I never saw the “profuse” emergences described by the salesperson at Taylor Creek Fly Shop. I should have remained on the upper Frying Pan River, but I did manage to finesse a fine fifteen inch cutbow from an obscure lie. For this I was grateful. I am amazed at the fishing pressure that the Frying Pan tailwater absorbs.

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Above Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021 Photo Album

I stayed at my daughter Amy’s condo in Carbondale on Tuesday evening, and she needed to report to work early on Wednesday to catch up on some documentation. As she drove to work, she texted me that her thermometer registered 30 degrees. I checked out her garden and noted that five or six leaves on the squash plant were damaged from frost. I decided to take my time to allow the air temperature to warm up, before I hit the stream on Wednesday morning.

Deep Spots Like This Produced

I was somewhat disappointed with my so-so day on Tuesday on the Frying Pan River tailwater, so I decided to spend Wednesday morning on the upper Frying Pan River above Reudi Reservoir. I departed from Amy’s condo in Carbondale at 8:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive along the upper Pan by 10AM, and I was positioned to make my first cast a bit before 10:30AM. I wore my fleece hoodie, since the air temperature, when I began, was 53 degrees. The flows were probably average for September at 30 CFS, and an abundant quantity of large exposed boulders occupied the stream bed.

Small Stream Gold

Speckles Galore

I rigged my Sage four weight with a fat Albert, prince nymph and salvation nymph, and I began to methodically work my way upstream. It was not long before several brown trout jumped on the prince, and this action in the early going was indicative of my two hours on the river. The Frying Pan in the stretches above Reudi is actually more of a creek than a river. Although the action was not as torrid as that which I experienced in the Flattops, it was more interesting than what I encountered on Tuesday on the Frying Pan tailwater. I progressed up the stream at a moderate pace and probed all the deeper pockets and runs with the dry/dropper. More often than not a rainbow, cutbow or brown trout emerged from the clear flows; and I netted eighteen trout in two hours. The air temperature warmed to the sixties, but I remained quite comfortable in my fleece hoodie.

Morning Prize

The species caught split fairly evenly between brown trout and rainbows and cutbows. I was pleased to net five trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, but the size of the fish in the upper Frying Pan were certainly smaller than my better catches in the tailwater. As I moved along, I pondered the idea of remaining on the upper water for my entire time on Wednesday. The higher than normal flows of 290 CFS on the tailwater frustrated me, and I was having a great deal of fun on the smaller and more intimate upper Frying Pan. On the other hand I made the long drive and spent the night in order to experience the fabled hatches on the lower Pan, so should I not return for another shot at green drakes and pale morning duns? The air temperature for Wednesday was forecast to be ten degrees higher than Tuesday, so perhaps the hatches would be longer and more robust. In the end this argument trumped the idea of staying on the smaller Frying Pan, and I threw my gear in the car and drove to a spot within the first three miles below the dam.

Fish Landed: 18

Frying Pan River – 09/21/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 09/21/2021 Photo Album

I suspect I was spoiled by my high fish count days in the Flattops, and consequently I was somewhat disappointed by my day on the Frying Pan River. I decided to make the trip on Tuesday morning and cleared a one night stay at my daughter’s condo in Carbondale.

A cold front moved through Colorado on Monday night, and this produced temperatures near freezing at the Eisenhower Tunnel and at the summit of Vail Pass. The temperature when I began fishing on the Frying Pan River on Tuesday was 55 degrees. I wore my fleece hoodie for the entire time on the river, and I was never too warm.

On my way to the river I stopped at Taylor Creek Fly Shop to buy two spools of 5X tippet, and the salesman informed me that profuse hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, blue winged olives, caddis, and yellow sallies were in play. He also noted that the flows were in the 290 CFS range. He spoke like this was desirable, but it concerned me, since I prefer the water to be the 100 – 200 CFS range. This concern would ultimately prove to be valid.

Near My Starting Point

I rigged my Sage four weight and configured my line with a pool toy hopper, prince nymph and salvation nymph and began prospecting the promising runs and pockets below a small island. On the fifth toss the pool toy hopper darted sideways, and I set the hook. Instantly a missile shot downstream, and I allowed line to spin off my reel at an alarming rate. Just as I prepared to follow the torpedo below a fast chute, the tension released, and I quickly realized that three flies were missing in action from my line. I suspect that I foul hooked a respectable fish, but needless to say I was not pleased with the need to once again configure my three fly dry dropper.


By the time I paused for lunch at 12:15PM I notched one small brown trout. I returned to the car for lunch and to restock my fleece wallet with prince nymphs and salvation nymphs. After lunch I cautiously crossed the river at a point across from the Santa Fe and added a second small brown trout to the count, but I was certain that I was bypassing fish, so I decided to implement a change. Crossing the Frying Pan River at 290 CFS was not a walk in the park, but I hoped to position myself to search the less pressured water opposite the road.


Appreciated Brown Trout

The cool temperatures and intermittent wind suggested a high pressure system, and I rarely do well in such conditions. The 290 CFS flows also reduced the viable fish holding spots, but the fly shop salesman promised profuse hatches. I decided to heed his advice, and I converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a parachute green drake. The change paid off, when I duped a thirteen inch rainbow trout on the green drake, although I lost the original paradrake to a bad knot and landed the rainbow trout on a comparadun. Eventually I switched back to another parachute, and over the course of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from three to ten. Two of these trout slurped the hippie stomper, and the remainder snatched the green drake. A fifteen inch rainbow and two fourteen inch brown trout were part of the afternoon haul.

Lifted for Display

Parachute Green Drake

Long and Lean Brown Trout

By 3:30PM I reversed my direction, and on the way back, along the south bank I landed a medium sized brown trout on a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. The move to the comparadun was dictated by a sparse hatch of pale morning duns. By 4:00PM I returned to the car and drove to mile marker 11.5, where I fished the braids, the pool at cube rock, and the pockets at the upstream tip of the island. These efforts were futile, and I called it quits at 4:30PM. Shadows and glare covered the entire river, and my confidence plummeted.

Hops Dried on the Vine

Tuesday was a fair day on the Frying Pan River. The catch rate was average, the hatch was less than profuse, and I landed four respectable trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. Hopefully warmer temperatures and less wind will yield better hatches and more success on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 11

Frying Pan River – 06/11/2021

Time: 2:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Just upstream from Dallenbach Ranch wedding venue.

Frying Pan River 06/11/2021 Photo Album

I forgot how much fun it is to fly fish the Frying Pan River. It has been at least two years, since I last made the acquaintance of this jewel of a tailwater in the Roaring Fork Valley.

That Smooth Slick Yielded a Brown Trout

My daughter, Amy, moved from Portland, OR to Carbondale, CO to be close to her boyfriend. She obtained a physical therapy position in Carbondale and rented a condominium in the same town. Jane and I were anxious to pay a visit to Amy and her boyfriend, Phil, and we finally made the trip on Friday, June 11.

We arrived in Carbondale at 11:00AM and spent an hour chatting, and Phil and Amy provided an apartment tour, before we cycled to Dos Gringos Burritos for a tasty lunch of tacos. After lunch I was anxious to wet a line, so I left Jane, Amy, and Phil and made the short drive to the Frying Pan River. Because June 11 is early in the season, and the heavy pale morning dun and green drake hatches were not in progress on the upper river, I decided to gamble on the lower water. I stopped at a pullout upstream of the Dallenbach Ranch wedding venue.

Salvation and Chunky Brown Trout

The river was in spectacular condition with crystal, clear visibility and flows in the 125 CFS range. The air temperature was around eighty degrees, and very little cloud cover blocked the intense rays of the sun. Before departing for my stint on the Frying Pan River, I checked the fishing report at the Taylor Creek website, and it mentioned midday hatches of blue winged olives and pale morning duns, so I armed my line with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 16 salvation nymph (PMD imitation), and a size 20 sparkle wing RS2 (BWO imitation). These three flies clicked immediately, and I maintained them for two hours of exceptional fishing on the Frying Pan River.

Speckles and Stripes

I steadily worked my way upstream for .4 mile and landed eleven trout. All but two were brown trout, and the landed population included a pair of fourteen inch browns, and a thirteen inch rainbow, and the remainder were predominantly feisty twelve inch browns. The prime targets were deep slots near large boulders, and pockets of moderate depth.

Promising Small Shelf Pool

In addition to eleven landed trout, I experienced quite a few refusals to the pool toy. Surprisingly very often the flash of a refusal to the hopper revealed the position of a trout, and during a subsequent drift the reluctant surface feeder grabbed one of the trailing nymphs. The pool toy converted one fish, and seventy percent of the remaining landed trout nabbed the salvation nymph, while thirty percent locked in on the RS2.


In summary, I had a blast. I moved fairly rapidly with a flurry of casts to likely spots, and very frequently a hungry trout responded with a grab. The catch rate was fantastic, the size of the trout was excellent, and I basked in the gorgeous natural setting. Hopefully Amy’s presence in the Roaring Fork Valley enables many future visits to the Frying Pan River.

Fish Landed: 11

Frying Pan River – 08/29/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 08/29/2018 Photo Album

A slow day that yielded small fish had me considering alternatives for Wednesday, August 29. I tentatively settled on the upper Frying Pan above Reudi Reservoir, as I dozed off in my comfortable sleeping bag. I reasoned that the feeder stream and smaller fish would at least provide a faster pace, and I presumed that I would have the area to myself during the middle of the week. Most fishermen treat the Frying Pan tailwater as their dream destination, and they ignore the small fish above Reudi.

As I finished packing my camping gear on Wednesday morning, however, I experienced a change of thinking. The freestone section of the Frying Pan would offer even less in the way of hatches than what I observed on Tuesday on the tailwater, and this circumstance might translate to difficult fishing in low water conditions for small fish. I also reasoned that I drove four hours from Denver to fly fish the fabled Frying Pan tailwater, and I probably needed to give it a second chance. Perhaps the slow fishing on Tuesday was attributable to a change in the weather, and an extra day of stability would usher in more consistent hatches. Since I camped at Little Maude at Reudi Reservoir, I was merely two miles from the sought after water just below the dam, and I knew from a trip in May, that a high density of larger than average trout called this area their home.

A Guide and Clients Took My Spot

I turned on to the dirt road that accesses the upper Frying Pan, and I continued along the north side of the river. It was immediately apparent that quite a few other fishermen had the same idea, as all the prime spots, that I envisioned as my starting point, were occupied with early risers. I was disappointed, but I continued downstream on the paved road to check out the premium locations between mile marker (MM) 11.5 and 13. The possibility of finding an open stretch away from competing anglers improved, however, quite a few vehicles occupied the many pullouts along the way.

Yummy Shelf Pool

After assessing the upper four miles, I executed a U-turn and settled into a nice wide pullout .3 miles above the downstream boundary with private water. The air temperature was in the low sixties, as I slipped on two pairs of socks and climbed into my waders. The thicker grip of the five weight had an impact on my tennis elbow condition on Tuesday, so I elected to use my Sage four weight on Wednesday. The Sage was longer than the Loomis five weight with a narrower grip, yet it possessed a stiffer backbone than my Orvis Access four weight in case I tangled with a larger than average trout. In spite of Tuesday’s disappointment I harbored some optimism for a second day on the Frying Pan River.

Looks Appealing

I walked down the road to the long pool where a fallen tree forms a semi-dam, but a guide and two clients claimed the side of the river opposite the road. I retreated back toward the car and slid down the bank just above a long fast chute, where the river splits around a long narrow cluster of tiny islands. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line, and then I added the ever-present beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. I began casting to the nooks and crannies around the small islands, and within ten minutes I hooked and landed a ten inch brown trout that displayed deep coloration and vivid markings.

Cube Rock Pool

This approach became my mode of operation for the remaining time on the river. I experienced very little success in the large attractive pools, and most of the landed trout materialized from obscure lies along the bank or smaller midstream pockets. Two periods deviated from this approach, and I will describe them later. During the course of my dry/dropper prospecting I made several changes. During the morning I exchanged the hares ear for a size 14 prince nymph in an attempt to imitate the underwater stage of a green drake. The large nymph picked up a couple small fish, but it was not a highly sought after menu item. I also swapped the yellow fat Albert for a peacock body hippy stomper, and this conversion prompted me to abandon the prince nymph for an ultra zug bug. The salvation sacrificed its position on my line for a size 18 pheasant tail nymph in an effort to simulate the nymph stage of pale morning duns, but again the move proved ineffective. The ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph occupied my line for the longest time, and each accounted for a fair share of trout.

My What Spots

I progressed from my starting point to MM12, and then I reversed my direction and investigated the smaller left channel, where the river splits around a long slender island. On my way upstream I covered the south braid, so I was now interested in surveying the channel closer to the road. Typically this branch carries lower flows and provides more challenging fishing. On Wednesday I managed a refusal in the lower pool section, and then I netted a ten inch brown in the upper pocket section. I continued until I reached the abundant series of pockets scattered above the island, and I paused to observe. It was around 2PM, and I previously covered this area quite thoroughly on my dry/dropper search, so I was not optimistic regarding my prospects on the second pass.

Fifteen Inch Rainbow Made My Day

As I scanned the deep curled pocket directly above the point of the island and next to the roadside bank, I was shocked to see a fish, as it elevated to sip an unidentifiable object from the surface. I peered into the tail of the pocket, and I was sure that the feeding fish was a very nice rainbow trout. As this transpired, another sizable fish hovered a foot below the surface, and it too snatched a drifting bug along the current seam, where the river swirled around an exposed boulder at the upstream end of the curled pocket. My heart rate accelerated with this fresh sign of surface feeding by larger than average trout.

Now I needed to determine what these feeders were consuming. I paused and observed the air space above the river, and several medium size mayflies made an appearance. They were too small for a green drake but larger than a blue winged olive, although I spotted several baetis as well. I quickly removed a size 18 cinnamon comparadun from my fly box and dropped several nice drag free drifts over the rainbow at the tail of the small pool. No luck. The trout twitched its tail and rose a bit but then resumed its normal holding position. What should I try next? Normally I downsize, but my hunch in this instance was that the pale morning duns were larger than a size 18. I clipped off the size 18 PMD and replaced it with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. I applied a generous quantity of floatant and preened the wing to a nice vertical position, and then I dropped a cast four feet above the target rainbow. I held my breath as the sighted fish slowly elevated and drifted under the fly, and then at the last minute it turned and ate!

I was dumbfounded. I quickly lifted my rod and set the hook, and the rainbow went into intense escape mode. I held tight, eliminated slack and cautiously waited for the thrashing fish to tire. When I concluded that the battle was complete, I slid my net beneath a gorgeous fifteen inch rainbow. I removed the comparadun and snapped a photo, while the pink striped beauty rested in my net, and then I lifted and lowered it to the river, and it was gone in a flash. Was this the beginning of an intense hatch and reckless feeding binge by large Frying Pan trout?

In short the answer was no. I disturbed the active pocket, so the other fish in that vicinity stopped their feeding and retreated to safety. I scanned the other pockets in the area, but I was unable to detect surface rises. Perhaps the pool below the large cube rock on the south braid had come alive? I slowly waded along the edge of the river, but when I arrived at the pool, it was devoid of surface action. Next I carefully waded along the inside edge of the island to the bottom and then crossed to the north branch and once again moved upstream. Again I found no evidence of a hatch or actively feeding trout.

It was now 3PM, and I was reluctant to believe that the brief fifteen minute feeding episode in the pocket above the island was the extent of Wednesday’s hatch. I decided to check out the long pool near the private boundary that was occupied by a guide and two clients at the start of the day. I was pleased to discover that it was vacant, so I stood on the bank and observed. It took awhile, but eventually I noted several sporadic rises. I positioned myself at the tail and made several cross stream casts to no avail. I once again paused, and now I noticed more activity in the moderate riffle on the opposite side of the pool, so I crossed above the fallen tree and positioned myself to cast in the neighborhood of the rises.

Small Pool Produced

For the next half hour I cast pale morning dun imitations and green drakes to the quality shelf riffle and center run seam, but I was unable to generate a single hook up. I spotted two green drakes, as they recklessly tumbled on the surface in an effort to dry their wings to become airborne, and this prompted me to test a parachute and comparadun imitation, but each could do no better than provoke a refusal from a ten inch brown along the center current seam.

At 3:30PM even the sparse random surface activity dwindled to nothing, and modifying my configuration for dry/dropper was not appealing. I was weary and faced a long drive to Denver, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the waiting Santa Fe.

I accumulated sixteen landed fish on Wednesday, but aside from the fifteen inch rainbow and one or two twelve inch brown trout, the rest were small browns in the six to ten inch range, and at least six of the small fish were heavily weighted toward 6-7 inches. The hatch was sparse and brief, and I was frankly disappointed with my two days on the Frying Pan River. The upper water near the dam was crawling with anglers, and even the lower portion of the upper four miles contained a fair amount of competition. Unlike most previous ventures to the Frying Pan, large fish were absent, and I never sighted fish other than the risers during the brief hatch. The flows were a constant 181 CFS and cold and crystal clear. The daytime highs were in the middle to upper seventies. The wind was an annoyance both days, but never a show stopper. I am at a loss to understand why the two days at the end of August 2018 were so lackluster. The Frying Pan River has always ranked as one of my favorites due to the consistent hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns and blue winged olives. Where were they during August 28 and 29?

Fish Landed: 16