Monday, August 27, 2012


The best friend of an angler who has painfully failed to develop all their abilities is ADAPTATION. And adaptation is what some friends and I had to resort to on a recent trip to the Frying Pan river.

At the start it was just two of us. We started out below Ruedi Reservoir at a place that looked good, and below the res most everything is good. Or at least it's supposed to be. We both caught a fish or two in the first hour, but it was very very slow. We hit a ton of what looked like extremely productive water but caught only a couple fish here and there. Not exactly what we were hoping for and not what we had experienced last year.

But hope remained alive because there had been an epic green drake hatch here last year that started right around dusk and that had left us fishing well past the point where we could no longer make out our flies on the water. We stuck around below the res for this epic hatch, and cousin John joined us right at dusk. But nothing was happening. There were a few fish here and there rising every 10 or 15 minutes, but nothing active enough to fish to. And when we got to the point where flies were no longer visible we chalked it up to a loss. Back to camp it was for a regroup, some beer, some whiskey, and some epic shooting stars. At least something was epic.

The plan for the next day? Actually nothing different than our original plan. Which was to head up above the reservoir to an area we had hit last year with moderate success and a ton of fun. It's a really cool and scenic area that requires some very technical casting and approach, but fly selection isn't as important. That's exactly my kind of fishing. So a short drive, a nice hike down to the river, and we were off to the races, and all three of us caught one in the first thirty minutes or so. And after those three fish it was pretty much over.

For the remainder of the day until early afternoon we struggled to find many more. If memory serves me right, we each got another or a couple more, but not much. Not what we had been hoping for, so despite the nice scenery and lazy time spent hanging out on the bank, we called it in the early afternoon and decided to head downstream quite a ways to another spot we had had luck the year before. On our way down there we talked to a couple locals who had been fishing just downstream of us. I am happy to report that despite our dismal success, the report from these two locals made us feel pretty good because they had chalked up snake eyes.

The next spot was a higher gradient section of river in a steeper canyon. For those of you not in the know, higher gradient means less need for being stealthy because the water is much more broken up. For some reason I find this stuff to be easy to fish. Just toss your flies in every single pocket of slow or non-moving water. EVERY pocket. If you can manage a dead drift you WILL catch fish. This section was a little more effective for me, although I think John and Brady struggled a bit.

We fished there until early evening, then headed back down below the res in hopes of a better green drake hatch. There were some fish rising, and a bit more than the night before, but it was pretty slow again. We all picked up a couple fish and had a good time, but memories of last year continued to tug on our hearts desires. We had a good time, as you can see from the picture here, but we weren't hooking fish left and right. You can't win them all.

As an aside, the picture here is a great testament of point and shoot cameras. I hit the snap button early because I could see this fish was still a bit green and I wanted to get a pic before it got away. This is what I ended up with. I would say it worked out for the best.

As you have gathered, this trip just wasn't panning out as well as we hoped. With another only sort of decent day (am I allowed to call a 10+ fish day "sort of decent"??) behind us we began to discuss what to do for the next day around the campfire that night. The plan we ended up with was to try fishing directly below the res if it wasn't too crowded for a while, then head back over independence pass and maybe fish some high mountain streams. With another upcoming day on the brain we all headed to bed and dreams of the fish we didn't manage to catch that day.

The next day was no surprise, if you've been to the Pan before on a weekend day. About one million people below the dam combat fishing shoulder to shoulder. We each had a section in mind to try, and they were all taken by at least three anglers so we said screw this and headed to Aspen. After a quick fill-up at exorbitant gas prices in Aspen we went up and over the pass and started looking for a place to fish the high mountain stream that flowed down the other side. We stopped at what looked like as good a spot as any, pulled out the rods, slathered on some sunscreen to cover the burns we had already attained, and headed down to the water.

It took about one cast each to sting a fish and they more or less kept coming. There were a ton of fish in a river you could almost jump across; it was pretty crazy. And I love brookies. They are just about the prettiest trouts out there. We fished this section for a while but were a bit hemmed in by marsh up and downstream, so eventually drove a few miles downstream and did it all over again with the same results.  In just a few hours in the morning I racked up something like 20 fishes, albeit all well under 10 inches. But there's something fun about catching a bunch of little fish from very small water where you have to be fairly stealthy and manage a good presentation. This is my kind of technical fishing. What is not my kind is what we already passed up that morning; well educated fish that will only take a perfect fly choice presented in the perfect way even as you stand directly over the fish. Give me the tough cast under an overhanging bush to a wary fish who is gone if you get close, please.

After those two spots we headed on down to give the Ark a few hours of our time, which produced about as well as the Pan had the days before. A couple fish, but slow in general. I guess the fish in Colorado are beginning to feel the drought. I hope they can all make it and I look forward to the big hearty fish in the coming years....


  1. Any trip to the Pan or the Ark is never wasted time. Glad you had your time here.

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