Fryingpan River Report
September 8, 2014
WATER CLARITY: Clear with ideal flows.
OVERALL RATING: 8 out of 10
THE SHORT AND SWEET: The Fryingpan River is renowned world-wide for quite a few reasons, the first that come to mind are the prolific and year-round dry fly hatches as well as fish measured in pounds instead of inches. People jokingly refer to Basalt as a small drinking town with a big fishing problem, and we can certainly vouch for that. Hatches currently on the Fryingpan consist of Green Drakes, PMDs, BWOs, and midges in the upper reaches, and down low you can add in stoneflies and caddis too.
FOOD SOURCES PRESENT: Green Drakes, PMDs, BWOs, Stoneflies, Midges, Mysis
IN DEPTH REVIEW: The hatch we all look forward to is officially on our doorstep here in the Roaring Fork Valley.... Green Drakes! We are seeing the strongest hatches mid-day, especially on cloudy or rainy days, from mile 8 up through the dam. It pays to be a junior entomologist these days on the Fryingpan due to the complex hatches, but fishing the upper miles gets easier when you figure our what the heck they're eating. On the other side of the coin, we say a good drift beats the right fly nine times out of ten on the Fryingpan.
The trout on the Fryingpan see their share of flies in the course of their day, especially on the upper. The flipside of this conundrum is that they keep on eating, and usually right at your feet while you provide an eddy for them to hang out in. One of the best pieces of advice (among many) we can offer is to not get "cement shoes" on this river. Simply put, you need to pound a lot of water over the course of your day to remain succesful. Most of us rarely spend more than 15 minutes on a piece of water, and if the fish aren't happy (or the bugs aren't hatching) we are moving on. Regardless if you see hundreds of trout in the pool you're plying, if they're not happy, get moving.
The days on the Fryingpan are typically starting (and ending) with very decent midge hatches. You need midge dry fly patterns that are dark as well as light in color, in sizes 22 and 24. As the summer progresses, our fish become less interested in chasing down lilliputian insects and focus primarily on the larger mayflies, but for now midges are still the preferred appetizers and after-dinner mints. For subsurface, anything red and small on 7x will produce, and this tends to taper off after the sun climbs high in the sky. Midday is mayfly time, and we are seeing drakes, pmds and bwos, usually smck-dab in the middle of the day. Drakes are best fished in sizes 10 and 12, and be sure to flip and flop that big bug to reassure the trout. The baetis are small and olive bodied, and our PMDs vary from pink to yellow hues (16's and 18's) for adults and rusty red bodies for the nymphs. Dry-dropper has been deadly lately if you get into a good PMD hatch.
The tech for dry fly fishing the Fryingpan (and this will pay off on your home waters too) is to incorporate a downstream presentation to the fish. We were all taught to fish upstream, but our trout simply despise fly lines slapping the water anywhere near them, and when they see the fly first (instead of fly line, then leader, then tippet, then ultimately the fly) a strike usually follows. As always, fine flourocarbon tippets are simply a must, so be sure to carry the 6 and 7x year-round.
On the nymphing side of things, small, skinny and dark BWO nymphs always fish well, and you can incorporate those rusty-red PMD nymphs, drake nymphs, mysis shrimp and various midge larva as well. Nymph rigs should be shallow and light, and in the upper mile, firing the strike indicator will result in more hookups for you as well. These fish have learned when they hear the "plop" of an indicator hitting the water, they should shut their mouths and slide out of the way for a few seconds.
The moral of the story is this- Cover a ton of water. We have all had one of those lucky days when we've never needed to move, but those days are few and far between. You and a friend can be fishing 100 yards apart, with you seeing a whole lot of nothing while your friend is in a blanket hatch. Moving around pays for ducking out of the wind too, and the blueprint for success is to ply those flies in as many areas as possible.
DRIES: BDE Green Drake 10-12, Stott's KGB Drake 12, H and L Variant 10-12, Umpqua Green Drake 10-12, Flag Dun PMD 16-18, Melon Quill 16-18, Foam Emerger BWO 20-22, Perfect Baetis 20-22, CDC Comparadun BWO 20-22, TC Sparkledun BWO 20-22, TC Bill's Midge Emerger, Skittering Zelon Midges, Morgan's Para. Midge, CDC Spent Midge, and Griffiths Gnats
NYMPHS: 20 Incher 10-12, Poxyback Drake Nymph 10-12, Gilled Drake Nymph 10-12, TC Black Poxyback Baetis, Chocolate Thunder, Jujubaetis, PTs, BTS Baetis, Stott's Mellow Yellow PMD Nymph 16-18, Juju PMD 16-18, Split Case PMD 16-18, TC Red Midge Larva, Disco Midge, TC Stott's Night Rider Midge, RS2s, Flashdance Midges, Biot Midge, Rojo's, Black Beauty Emerger, TC Tim's Mysis, TC Sands' Epoxy Mysis
STREAMERS: TC Autumn Splendors, TC Stingin' Sculpins, Slumpies
HINTS: Pay attention and read the rise form to catch numbers of fish near or on the surface.
MIDDLE RIVER FRYINGPAN
WATER CONDITIONS: Clear
FOOD SOURCES PRESENT: Green Drakes 10-12, PMDs 16-18, Midges 20-24, BWOs 20-22, Caddis 14-18, Craneflies 6-8
OVERALL RATING: 8 out of 10
THE SHORT AND SWEET: The middle section of the Fryingpan sees far, far less pressure than the upper miles, and this can play to your advantage. The middle river also offers plenty of places to duck out of the ever-present wind. Temperatures warm with the drop in elevation, so the lower and middle river typically see earlier and later hatches in the year as well.
IN DEPTH REVIEW: Some people (ok most people) skip this section of river in their quest to go hog-hunting in the upper mile, but big fish and often better hatches are found in the middle section, too. Some of the top spots to hit are Seven Castles, Big Hat, Forest Service #1 and the ever-popular Eagle Pool. Stop by the shop with your map and we will show you all of these spots plus a few more. This section holds the infamous Seratella, a flightless tiny mayfly that has been baffling anglers here in the valley for years. These bugs, only found on the Fryingpan, are still a month away or more, but keep your eyes peeled. This week we are seeing Green Drakes, BWOs and PMDs in decent numbers, with a few caddis, stones and even a few craneflies too. Hatches are typically similar to the upper river, meaning midges early and late with mayflies and sporadic caddis hatching mid-day. Caddis need to be fished here like everywhere else, skated, bumped, picked up and laid back down to reassure the fish and get them interested in your offering.
DRIES: Same as upper river
NYMPHS: Same as upper river
STREAMERS: Same as upper river
HINTS: There are some very decent dry fly sections in the middle river, keep your eyes peeled for subtle rises as you drive through.
WATER CONDITIONS: Heavy rains have muddied the lower miles in recent days. Challenging conditions, but changing by the hour. Call the shop if you are a low-Pan junkie, and we will let you how she's looking. Dry days are on the horizon!
FOOD SOURCES PRESENT: Green Drakes 10-14, PMDs 16-18, Baetis 18-20, Caddis 16-18, Midges 20-24, Golden Stones 6-10
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 10.
THE SHORT AND SWEET: Are you the angler that doesn't want to see anyone (or at least just a few others) all day? This is your section. Hatches get rolling down on the lower river before the upper due to warmer temperatures, and we are already seeing good numbers of caddis, PMDs and baetis. Green Drakes are starting to show up on our radar, although numbers are still on the light side.
IN DEPTH REVIEW: The fish in the upper miles do trend towards being larger, but they also tend to be much, much more selective. The fish closer to town face far less angler pressure and tend to be opportunistic feeders, meaning you can get away with larger tippet and larger flies, in general. The baetis and PMD hatch has been rock-solid with increasing numbers of caddis, green drakes and stoneflies.
As mentioned above, the lower Fryingpan will always offer up the first hatches of the year because of its lower elevation and warmer temperatures. This means you will fish caddis, PMDs and even green drakes before everyone who flocks to the upper miles get a chance to. Already there are decent caddis hatches up to mile 4, and when you add in stonefly nymphs, San Juan Worms and other attractor nymphs to your mix during non-hatch periods, you can clean up out there.
The lower river isn't as "easy" as the upper when it comes to access, so be prepared to billy-goat around here and there on steep hills, big boulders, and so on. (This is another reason for light angling pressure) A wading staff can save your day and keep you from going ass-over-tea kettle getting down to the water. The lower river has it all- riffles, deep pools, long runs and plenty of plunge pools and pocket water. Dry-dropper rigs are ideal when conditions are favorable, as well as various Czech nymphing and Tenkara setups.
Don't be fooled by thinking all of these fish are on the small side, as there are plenty of fish over five pounds to be found down low. You just might catch your biggest Fryingpan fish ever in this water, and they usually catch you with your pants down and daydreaming when they smash your fly. Be ready for anything and pound all the water you can.
DRIES: BDE Green Drake 10-12, Stott's KGB Drake 10-12, Colorado Drake 10-12, TC Sparkledun Baetis 20-22, Perfect Baetis 20-22, Collett's Parachute BWO 18-22, Ripcord Caddis 16-18, Renegade 16-18, EC Caddis 16-18, PMD Sparkledun, PMD No Hackle, CDC PMD Sparkledun
NYMPHS: Cat Poop Stone 8-10, Spanflex Stone 6-8, Twenty Incher 10-12, Beaded Tungsten Prince Nymph 18, Tungsten Ready Baetis 20-22, RS2 20-22, Sands' STD Dark 20-22, Barr's Graphic Caddis 16-18, Barr's Cased Caddis 16-18, Guide's Choice Hare's Ear 16-18
STREAMERS: Sands' Stingin' Sculpin 6-8, Slumpbuster 6-8, Sculpzilla 6-8, Crystal Wooly Bugger 8-10
HINTS: Cover a lot of water, some spots will be barren and others loaded up with willing fish.
Link to the USGS Real Time Flow Chart for the Frying Pan River
Warming trend is on the horizon...perfect!