Frying Pan River Colorado – Aug/Sept 2015
Bobs Prator & Chambless, Phil Sehenuk and I spent Monday through Saturday fishing the cold tumbling waters of Basalt, Colorado…predominantly the Frying Pan River with some brief excursions into the Roaring Fork River and a Pan Tributary–Rock Creek. There are 14 miles of Gold Medal water flowing from the dam into the town of Basalt. Our cabin was at Mile 5. As with “our” mile, much of the Pan is marked by No Trespassing markers–including at least a mile under the stewardship of Bass Pro Shop’s Johnny Morris. The fly shop has a display map showing the locations of public waters and some private waters allowing public access. You can find fishable water without the map, but seeing or having one does help planning.
Nascar and Seahunt fished with Cameron Cipperoni of Frying Pan Anglers. Cameron is possibly familiar to many of you as a prior speaker to the club in 2013. I think Nascar has suggested we begin referring to him as Jesus due to his dexterity dashing across, up and down the challenging currents and slick rock of the Pan. It has been my good fortune to have fished with this knowledgeable and enthusiastic fellow twice. In my opinion no trip’s dates to the Pan will be set without first checking his availability.
We paired off by Nascar and Seahunt taking Day 1/Monday with Cameron while Taj and I availed ourselves of the approximate mile of the Pan reserved by Frying Pan Anglers Fly Shop which is adjacent to the cabin rented from Taylor Creek Cabins. Our day with Cameron went much as Nascar’s and Seahunt’s. We began by nymphing up in the Day Use Area just below the Ruedi Reservoir dam. There we relied on Cameron’s confidence in our ability to cast 3 and 4 nymph/midge rigs to pull in some browns. During the day he kept moving us downriver in anticipation of the recent green drake hatches which typically appeared around 1:30-2pm and might last ’til after 4pm. More frequent were Blue Wing Olive hatches, but the fish definitely preferred the larger protein offerings of the drakes. Some days the hatches were stronger than others but always enough to draw the fabled rises we seek. And these bugs were big enough that our imitations–of many varieties–were easy to see and tie onto 6 and 6.5X tippets! The 7X might’ve been better, but the fish and the currents made 7X too challenging. In fact, the currents necessitated an unusual downstream presentation for the greatest success.
Brown trout were by far the most prevalent species taken. And their coloring was spectacular. The rainbows were fewer but seemed more eager to fight and to be fatter compounding the challenge of landing on 3.1lb rated tippets.
We made a brief excursion to wade the Roaring Fork on the edge of town Friday morning, but water and weather conditions made it a short and uneventful attempt. We decided that in hindsight taking a day for a guided float trip on the Roaring Fork would have rounded out the trip better. I made a short run early Saturday morning pre-dawn up to the dam to apply a bit of Alaskan salmon fishing technique with a 6wt lined with a sinking line to blind cast into the torrents exiting the powerhouse. In what they called the “power hour,” you could see behemoths surfing the eddy line mostly taking the mysis shrimp coming from the reservoir. But instead of nymphing I was chucking a large streamer. Ten minutes into my effort I hooked one that I could only vaguely make out was 28″…not landed but had a blast for about 5 minutes playing him.
Taj lays claim to the biggest fish landed, and Nascar gets the honor of most fish. We all experienced one or two periods of few to no fish, but I believe everyone caught fish everyday either nymphing outside the hatch or casting dries during the hatch. We should circulate a petition to the Colorado Division of Wildlife to name one particular 30′ section of the Pan “Home of Nascar” as he MUST be on first name basis with the 20-30 fish resident in that stretch.
The river’s wading was doable most everywhere, but there are a few stretches where its flow is restricted into a dangerous channel or over impossibly slick pebbles, rocks and boulders. A wading staff is highly recommended. And a guide willing and capable of dashing around with a large net is doubly so if you want to ensure quality trophy photos. While we were there at the “right time,” environmental concerns over adequate flows for a pike minnow forced the releases to 300cfs–about 50cfs more than locals usually had or 100cfs more than preferred. With a matching “normal” flow, the wading and accessible pools and riffles would have been much better.