Dry Fly Heaven in 15 degrees

Here in the Roaring Fork Valley there is never a bad day to go fly fishing and with the Frying Pan River in our back yard, theres never a bad day to get a dry fly fix on the upper Frying Pan River.  even when its 15 degrees outside and a white out, the fish always seem to be rising at the Rocky Point Day Use Area on the Frying Pan River. 


As a Bamboo fly rod fanatic, I always end up on The Pan in the winter to toss dries with one of my sacred cain rods. Today was no different, I grabbed my 1963 Orvis superfine bamboo 6 foot one piece 5 weight. One piece rods are a addiction hard to break the continuous action is a pure joy only experienced on a one piece rod. If you have never casted a one piece rod, stop by our shop in downtown Glenwood Springs and try one for yourself. They take a little getting used to and they are harder to transport but the action is in my option is the best. 


As I drive up to Basalt, I grab lunch to go at a local favorite in downtown Basalt called BLT’s. They have the best breakfast burritos and of course BLT Sandwiches. A savory sandwich really hits the spot after fishing in the freezing cold, the taste seems even better after a successful day of dry fly action on the Pan. 


On the way up to the Rocky Point Day Use Area keep your camera ready there is always a chance to see big horned sheep, elk, bald eagles and as always the red rock scenic views never disappoint on The Frying Pan Road. After some fresh snow, the red rock views from the road can be very dramatic in a good way. 


After taking some pictures of a bald eagle perched on a cottonwood overlooking one of my favorite holes near mile marker 4, I hopped back in the truck and made my way to what the locals call The Toilet Bowl.The Toilet Bowl is the hole where the water comes out of the dam and holds Big fish in the 10-20 lbs range! A nice spot to nymph or streamer fish while waiting for the midge hatches to start popping off the surface . I was lucky enough to land a fat brown while tight line nymphing with my new 10’6 inch 3 wt Orvis H3, he took a frying pan special size 22 chocolate thunder. I was able to land two more nice sized rainbows on a size 18 mysis shrimp at the Bowl.

 I walked down to the first bend around 11 AM thats when I started seeing some tails rising out of the water.I switched out rods and grabbed my bamboo rod, tied on my midge cluster dry fly and a midge emerger trailing about a foot and a half behind my dry .Thinking my emerger is going to be the ticket,  my first cast is a surprise dry fly success, as a hungry brown sipped my cluster pattern about a second after it landed on the water. As soon as the tug started, I knew this wasn't a typical little feisty 12 incher that seem to feast on the surface all year on the Frying Pan. This was a big fish, a dinosaur! I started chasing him down the river making sure to keep my line tight to the fish. After a few minutes of a fierce battle, he leaped out of the water and stunned himself on the surface of the water. When I get him in the net, I made sure to keep him in the water as the browns are still spawning up here.  While I popped the barbless hook out of the corner of his mouth, he started swimming in my net as he measured out, he’s a Pig of a fish, a big male, a dry fly trophy on 6 x rio power flex tippet. After the release, I rushed back to the truck to warm up and take a few bites out of my BLT. I couldn’t help but have a shit eating grin while I was chomping down on my sandwich. Its 15 degrees outside and I just landed a trophy brown on a dry fly in the middle of January. 


After warming in the truck I was able to feel my finger tips and I headed down to the next hole I saw with rising fish. through out the day I landed 7 more on the dry and 5 more on the emerger all in the 10 to 16 inch range, I called it a day at mile marker 12.


On my ride back into basalt,  I stopped by Cap K Ranch to take some pictures of elk grazing in the distance, with the sunset light beaming off the red rocks it’s easy to feel grateful to live in paradise, here in the roaring fork valley. Obviously this is what makes me a addict to the pan in the winter months, its one of the only places in the world that you can catch fish on the dry in 15 degrees and not just little guys, trophy fish on the dry in January! Today I was lucky enough to land the big ones. 


Stop by the shop in Downtown Glenwood Springs for the latest advice on whats working on our waters, book a guided wade or float trip with one of us. You can have your own great winter day on the pan too! Give Hookers a call 970-945-9611


Tight Lines.

Casey FitzGerald

wade guide and fly shop guide at Hookers Fly Shop.

dry fly butter

dry fly butter

22” on size 22 time to play the lottery !

22” on size 22 time to play the lottery !

more dry fly butter

more dry fly butter