Frying Pan - Spring
The Frying Pan River is a tail-water fishery. The flows are controlled by Ruedi reservoir and are kept fairly constant. The Pan has many variables in the twelve miles stretch from Ruedi to its confluence with the Fork. At this time of year the largest biomass of available food are of the true fly family (midges). The midges vary in size and color but our eye has the tendency to pick out the larger black one (size #18 - #20). In order to assist in visibility, drop a #20 black Biot Emerger behind a #20 parachute Adams. Put a little sink on the Biot Emerger if you like. Alternatively, wet the fly and suck the air out and it will sink quickly. Also use a Black Special Emerger #20 when they are doing the sipping rise. This pattern is really a cripple with its wing stuck in the nymphal case. There are other cripple patterns which are also worth trying. The stuck in shuck midge is a new pattern we carry which is proving successful. Trout being predators will pick the easiest prey.
There is some very good midge fishing on the middle and lower Pan if you know where to look and keep your eyes open, but most fishermen fish more of the attractor type nymphs, such as bead head brown hackle peacocks, bead head prince nymphs, flash back hares ears, Copper Johns, bead head pheasant tails. One little spot I like to fish at this time is where the water slows a little mid-river. So long as it is not too cold, by about mid march, the sun is high enough to sit on the water for a time. The hatch will start towards midday and continue through to mid afternoon. During this time, #20 or #22 special emergers with an RS2 or a black emerger trailing shuck dropper are very productive. When the water begins to boil, and the fish are consistently taking the emerger I find that it is worth relying on only one fly as the dropper tends to foul hook the fish or at least get twisted and tangled enough to steal from good fishing time.
As the days get brighter, the fish will begin to take more notice of the leader. So take care to try and drift your fly in a different line to the leader. Try either a hook cast or fish across stream high sticking and mending to maximize the drift. If the fish are feeding but are being fussy, put on a smaller midge pattern. We carry up to #28 in the shop. Sometimes a #20 is just too big.
If you want to fish on after the hatch, the nymph patterns will continue to work. At this time of year through to the end of April or early May the baetis nymphs are beginning to move about in the water so even if there is no surface activity, there will be plenty of sub-surface action . The sparkle baetis down deep is always recommended at this time of year. Use a #20 pheasant tail or sparkle baetis pattern as a dropper.
The BWO's will begin to appear early to mid-afternoon in late April or early May on the Pan. They will have already been evident on the Fork for the last month. They hatch en masse on gray overcast and wet days. They hatch in waves therefore it pays to stay on the water and wait for the next hatch rather than assuming it is finished. Furthermore, when the rain or hail hits, don't get out of the water. Stay there, you will be surprised how a hatch will come on and the fish will start popping all over the place. It is great fishing. Make sure you have light equipment and mend regularly. Watch your fly carefully, trout will follow it for a distance sometimes before deciding to take it or leave it. The BWO's will hatch in the early afternoon, so an ideal days fishing will be midges in the morning and the BWO's in the afternoon.
At this time of year, it is most important to not underestimate the changeability of the weather. If you anticipate a days fishing and observe that it is bright and sunny in the morning, just wait a few hours. The clouds will come up and it will get cold and rain. So never under dress. If anything over anticipate a change in the weather. One can always remove excess layers. Take a spare pair of polarized sunglasses with yellow or amber lenses for the flat light. Most importantly, get the best and warmest socks you can find. Standing in the water for hours will test the warmest materials. The last thing you want is to be forced from the water during a great hatch because your feet are just too cold.
For those of you who are after the biggest fish - it is still Mysis shrimp for a quarter mile below the dam.
The most valuable advice for fishing the Pan is to use six or seven x (Floro Flex Plus - Rio product)) tippet, and sight your quarry before you cast. Polarized sunglasses are a must. Actually, I like to use 8x tippet, but I don't land as many fish and lose a lot of flies. But the lighter tippet works! I take the view that using 8x is catch and release fishing without getting you hands cold!
It is early spring and time for the rainbows to start to spawn. They are extremely vulnerable so please be careful and steer clear of the redds.
It is runoff time in Colorado. Most of the freestone rivers are high and rolling. We are lucky because we have the Frying Pan River which is a tailwater and it is running at a very nice clear level. The Colorado River, Roaring Fork River and the Crystal River are all freestone rivers. The runoff is good for the rivers in that it cleans the bottom of silt buildup and washes away undesirable trash. It also re-engineers the bottom of the river in places. Typically our freestone rivers peak in mid June. They drop faster than they rise, and they clear very fast.
As the Frying Pan is a tailwater and does not get the benefit of a freestone river run-off we hope that the Bureau of Reclamation kicks up the flow to a level which will have the same effect. This unfortunately is not always the case because the water released is dictated by a range of competed requirements which don't always benefit the fishing. Expect the water released to increase around the first of May. The higher flow will cloud the water a little and put the fish down for a day or so. The fish will move about, the increased flow allowing them to frequent water which previously was just too shallow.
After the run-off it is a great time to start floating again. The Green Drake hatch starts on the Colorado River and then moves up the Roaring Fork. In addition to the drakes, the BWO's are in full swing as are the caddis.
Bead head brassie - red #18, #20;