On the Fly column: Fishing high water in the Fryingpan

Many concerned local business owners and anglers attended a meeting this past week with the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in regards to the recent increased flow on the Fryingpan River below Ruedi Reservoir. Prior to Aug. 12, flows below the dam were being held at a comfortable 250 cfs (cubic feet per second), an ideal level for anglers fishing the world-renowned tailwater at the absolute peak time of year. Fly fishing anglers from across the globe venture to the Fryingpan River in August and September in hopes of fishing through the epic green drake and pale morning dun mayfly hatches for which the river is ultimately so famous.

Flows on the famous river were recently increased by 50 cfs to 300 cfs in an effort to carry additional water downstream to aid in crucial spawning habitat for four endangered species of fish located well below Rifle on the Colorado River. Irrigators in the Grand Valley are additionally requesting even more water to come out of Ruedi Reservoir, making many tourist and local anglers as well as fly shop and fishing guide services upset over the “high” water levels.

Without wading too deeply into the politics of water in the West, anglers are now being forced to ply the well-known river a bit more slowly in efforts to wade a bit more safely. Many anglers fishing the Fryingpan River feel that flows over 250 cfs make it increasingly difficult to cross and wade the now swiftly moving river.

Crowds have lessened on this typically bustling river, leaving aging anglers to fish the few remaining slices of “soft” water available near the roadside bank. Don’t despair; the fish still have to feed, but a change in tactics is ultimately necessary. Studded wading boots provide additional traction to keep you glued to the bottom the river. These are much akin to what a studded snow tire offers for traction on slick and wet surfaces. Wading staffs are another clutch piece of gear, giving anglers a third appendage to aid in crossing swift currents. If possible, fishing and wading with a partner is always a good idea.

Keep in mind, fish are lazy; they don’t want to expend any more energy than they have to, so fishing the softer and slower sections of river is best. Afternoons and evenings are easily yielding the heaviest hatches and best fishing opportunities. Green drakes, PMDs and BWOs are all hatching in decent numbers. Another perk to higher water flows is an increase in the overall numbers of mysis shrimp prevalent in the river, an important food source for the trout immediately below the dam. Learning how to fish successfully in these flows is both challenging and rewarding; two attributes that have always had a firm grasp on this sport in the first place. Go fish. You might not even need to bring your own rock to stand on this time.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or

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