Located northwest of central Colorado, The Fryingpan River is well known as a tremendous tail-water fishery. The river is fished mostly below Ruedi Reservoir Dam which, constructed in 1968, has made the fishery in to what it is today. The Fryingpan is a cold and clear river with abundant hatches, approximately 14 miles of controlled flow, huge trout and very consistent fishing. Much of the river is protected with catch-and-release fishing, which has also helped to maintain the fishery. Be sure to check the special regulations before venturing out.
Born near the continental divide just northwest of towering Mount Elbert, which stands at 14,433 feet, The Fryingpan flows northwest towards the town of Meredith. Although the best fishing is found mainly below Ruedi Reservoir this area can be accessed and fished from Route 4 and Fryingpan Road. The river above Ruedi Reservoir is made up mostly of pocket water with a few runs and pools along the way. From Meredith the Fryingpan flows nearly due west through Ruedi Reservoir and eventually to the town of Basalt where it meets the Roaring Fork.
Below Ruedi Reservoir the tail-water fishery is born. This tail-water section averages from 40-80 wide for most of its length. Some areas many tighten up while other areas widen. Flowing from the dam at extreme depths, the Fryingpan River's water is super cold (in the 40's – low 50's) for most of its journey to Basalt. This cold flow protects the trout from warm summer temperatures and also provides the river with consistent hatches of mayflies, caddis and some stoneflies. Trout, especially rainbows, have been caught in the river over 10 pounds. These phenomenal weights are achieved mainly from feeding on mysis shrimp and also from the river's other hatches and available food. The mysis shrimp were originally placed in Ruedi Reservoir to benefit the trout in that fishery. Since, the shrimp have been flowing into the river from the dam providing the trout with a "healthy" diet.
The first few miles of the Fryingpan below Ruedi Dam are easily accessed therefore this section is usually crowded and heavily pressured. Remember, the river offers productive fishing throughout the 14 miles of tail-water so don't be afraid to venture from the dam and explore. Hatches will also vary as you move downstream from the dam. Close to the dam the primary flies used are mysis shrimp imitations. The farther downstream from the dam you venture the more emphasis you will find on mayflies, caddis and stoneflies. The water temperature will moderate a few degrees as you move downstream which in turn provides more consistent hatches. Swift moving pockets, pools and runs are found in the first few miles of river just below the dam.
The middle mileage of the tail-water is composed of slower moving pools, runs and riffles. This is a great area to fish the famous Green Drake hatch that appears each year on this river. Green Drakes are found in the greatest numbers near areas with silt and slow moving water and this area fits that description best. You will also find excellent hatches of other mayflies, caddis and stoneflies throughout this area and the rest of the Fryingpan River.
The last few miles of river before the Fryingpan enters the Roaring Fork consists mainly of pocket water and some riffles and pools. This section of river has steep banks and is considered to be one of the more secluded areas on the river. The fishing here can be great and a lot less anglers will be found.
The green drake hatch on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan is a historic event. Anglers migrate to these rivers from all over to try their luck on some of the huge trout that come to the surface for this large mayfly. The hatch migrates upstream with time like it does on many other rivers. However, the migration of this mayfly on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan is more noticeable and usually lasts longer. The "key" is to follow the hatch upstream as time wears on. The hatch usually begins on the Roaring Fork in late June or early July and migrates up the Fryingpan until it has reached the dam sometime between late August and mid September. Other significant hatches on the Fryingpan are blue-wing olives, pale morning duns, tricos, caddis and golden stones. Midges and terrestrials are also very important.
Although the hatches are great and the dry fly fishing can be outstanding, nymphs take the majority of fish on the Fryingpan. Mysis shrimp patterns, scuds, hares ears, zug bugs, brassies, etc. catch a large share of fish. Most of the time light tippets are necessary to fool fish and spotting the trout before you cast is a frequently practiced technique.
Planning a trip? The Fryingpan would be an excellent choice for the novice and skilled angler alike. Its consistent flows help make it a dependable trip (there are always exceptions) then some others may be. Large trout, quality hatches, clear cold waters and beautiful scenery make for a wonderful experience.
Edotors Note: Cover photo taken by Steve Bechard. To purchase any of the flies mentioned in the above article, visit FFC's fly purchase pages
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