Friday - Sunday, June 9-11, 2006 - Fryingpan River, Basalt
Beautiful weather all days - partly cloudy, water clear, flows 189 cfs
First off, let me say that the Fryingpan experience is only what you make of it. There are three different sections of river that have loads of fish in it, and it is up to you to choose your best experience. If you are chasing fat rainbows and browns and only want to catch a few fish and be amongst 25 other anglers with the same attitude, the first mile or so below the dam is your stretch. If you enjoy faster water with lots of plunge pools and rapids, with fewer people but still anglers within site, the stretch between mile markers 12 and 6 are your best bet. Finally if you like faster water, with fewer long stretchs, harder wading, slightly smaller fish, but easier fish to catch, and no other anglers within site you want miles 6 through 1 of the canyon.
The canyon is a 13+ mile stretch of road with sparse public and private land throughout. Of course some of the prettiest stretches are private, but there is plenty of public acces including the last 2.5 miles or so to the dam. The canyon is beautifully lined with red rocks and shear cliffs with green tree lined deep mountain sides. The only thing prettier than the scenery are the fish. The browns are magically beautiful this time of year, and the rainbows are equally vibrant. The browns are by far more colorful. Of the many that were caught, each wore their personality on their outsides. The browns were all different, but their vibrant red spots, deep golden bellies and red tail fins made them unique. They fought the hardest and offered the greatest rewards.
Chad and I arrived around 9 am on Friday, after driving by the Roraring Fork we made a subconscoius decision to stay away from that water way. We hit the canyon and immediately started fishing about 1 mile into the canyon. The water was fast and the walking was treacherously slippery, but the rewards were awesome. The canyon comes right down to the water, which makes wading along the edges impossible around trees, bushes and huge boulders covered in moss and red dirt/muck. But the deep holes and edge slicks makes for the perfect hiding places for larger than average fish. Chad of course caught his share, hooking some impressive fish with a streamer rig. He quickly found that a size 10 caddis pupa nymph trailing a bugger picked up huge strikes. I managed to land a few also, much smaller than Chad's. I did hook and land a nice rainbow that took me by surprise. We only fish the stretch for about a two hours or so and decided to go set up camp at the campground just on the other side of the dam.
We set up the camper and then decided to hit the river again. We jumped back on the water around noon at just above the 11 mile marker. There is a really deep stretch that rolls into two long straight aways with huge trees laying across the entire river - then it runs into private water. Chad and I split up relatively quickly. I was having problems getting into the fish - I knew they were in there from last year, but the little browns were a lot trickier than expected. I managed to hook and land a few. We only stayed for about an hour and then moved again up to mile marker 12 area. We fished the area quite well and saw tons of fish. I managed to hook and land 4 fish in one particular hole on dry flies - including a nice 19 inch rainbow, a 16 inch rainbow, a small brown and a silvery small rainbow. We found some huge fish that we toyed with for a while with streamers, but with no luck. At around 4:45 we decided to head back to town and get cell service and call Jason who was meeting us there that day. We ate dinner, made contact with Jason and made plans to meet up with him at the dam area around 8 or 8:30. We were back on the water by 7 pm.
We fished the usual areas - the hog pen, the straight away just before the water fall and slightly below there. The fishing was slow and I found myself fishing the hog pen. A sudden down pour came on as I was throwing a mysis at a bunch of feeding fish and one huge hog which had no interest in feeding. The down pour lasted only a few minutes, but right in the middle of it I hooked and landed the hog - he was a huge brown trout - with deep coloration - he was about 25 inches and weighed about 10 or 11 lbs - he was huge. Unfortunately the fish only made a few head thrashs but didn't make any runs - thank God. I had help landing him and getting my picture taking. By the time it was all over, the rain had stopped and the fish stopped feeding. It was an amazing fish - I had the adrenaline pumping for quite a while afterwards. I headed down to show Chad the picture and hang out down there.
I saw some smaller fish taking dries off the top just below the waterfall at the gauging station. I hooked a few, but only landed one - a nice 13 inch brown - I was surprised as I thought they were all dinks. Chad was hooking larger fish on streamers just above the waterfall. Jason showed up at 8:30 and we decided to try some night fishing. Not much to tell here, we were ready to leave.
Next morning we were up at 8 am and on the river soon after. We started out below the dam on the stretches just above the bridge. There weren't as many people as I thought there. The area had tons of fish feeding on the surface and subsurface on emergers (I guess). I only hooked one, and we decided to move on - down to before the 12 mile marker where we worked our way up stream almost a mile. What a great stretch. We spent 7 hours fishing this stretch - the stretch was hopping - all the fish were hitting green nymphs (size 16 ish). I hooked at least 75 fish and landed about 50 of them - only a few of larger than 13 inches. One in particular was a beautiful brown that was in some fatser water that shook its head furiously. I was so nice to just be out on the water relaxing. The water felt cool and even refreshing the one time I did fall in!
We headed back into Basalt for dinner - this time finding a nice bar to sit on the porch next to the river and have dinner and a couple of beers. We headed back to the river around 7:30 - stopping at the 4 mile mark to try our hand. There were tons of fish, but even more mosquitos. Chad and I got eaten alive, Jason managed to not get eaten. We moved back up to the dam section and started fishing again. It got dark quick and we were off the river by 9:30 or so.
The next morning we were on the river at 8 am or so, fishing the 12 mile marker and down on the stretch we had some good luck on the previous day. The fish were still hungry - we all hooked several fish - Chad hooked some pigs for that stretch. At about 11 am we made our way home. The ride home was uneventful. The Eagle and Colorado were blown out beyond fishable. The Blue seemed crazy high (900+ cfs after looking it up), so basically everything was blown out for the entire week. I think we made a good decision by heading out of town to the Pan. Another great trip.