Where to Fly Fish on the Fryingpan River CO

Where to Fly Fish on the Fryingpan River Colorado (Maps, Flies and More)

Gold Medal trout rivers are not always as easy to fish as one might think. I’ve had the honor of fishing a variety of Gold Medal trout rivers across the country and they’re usually overpacked and the fish are extremely picky! While the Fryingpan River can feel overcrowded, it’s an iconic river that consistently produces amazing fish.

I’ve fished it in the winter and late summer and both times I’ve had a great amount of success. It’s a beautiful river in some gorgeous country. Plus, the chance to land a true trophy is real. In order to be a Gold Medal stream, there are 60 pounds of trout per acre and a dozen 14” or larger trout per acre. This rings true in the Fryingpan.

Rocky Fork Day Use Area

Some anglers may scoff at the mention of the Rocky Fork Day Use Area. This area is home to the famous “Toilet Bowl” section of water. There’s a reason this section of water is crowded. The size of fish you find in these waters is incredible. You’ll struggle to find larger fish in all of Colorado. If you want a great spot, you’re going to have to get there early or be willing to fish into the night.

Guide Pro Tip: If you’re dreaming about tossing a fly in the Fryingpan, but the river sounds intimidating. Go to Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt. Get setup with some flies, local intel and a guide. I promise this simple step will cut years off your learning curve. Highly recommended -> Taylor Creek Fly Shop (tell them David at Guide Recommended sent you😎)

Rocky Fork Area of Fryingpan River - incredible fly fishing
Rocky Fork Area of Fryingpan River – incredible fly fishing – image Google Maps – link

This portion of water is filled with Mysis Shrimp. There aren’t many bodies of water that have these for food, and the trout absolutely love them. A representation of these in the water is a great option. Otherwise, light tippet and nymphs are your best options.

These fish are used to seeing flies, so you need to be able to present your flies as accurately as possible. Matching the hatch is important, but presentation may be even more important in the Fryingpan.

Right below the Ruedi Reservoir is where you’re going to find this water!

Right Outside of Basalt

If you’re hoping to escape the crowds, you can find great success fishing outside the town of Basalt. The 14 miles below the Ruedi Reservoir to the town of Basalt are considered to be Gold Medal waters. Most anglers are going to be in the Toilet Bowl and Flats, so that leaves more room for anglers in the lower portions of the river.

Check out the link below for a good spot to park and fish!

Great spot just outside of Basalt to fly fish
Great spot just outside of Basalt to fly fish – image Google Maps – link

The water flows can be fairly significant if water has been released from the dam, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to make a visit. There are pull outs right outside of town that allow you to hike down to the river and do some fishing.

The nice part of these Gold Medal waters is that about 7 miles of them are public. Find a pull off outside of town with no signs, and you’ll likely find a more freestone style section of water. Boulders and small pools are all easily accessible from the banks or even through wading.

Upper Fryingpan

Now, if you want a true chance to escape the crowds, you’re going to want to go above the Ruedi Reservoir. This area isn’t nearly as busy as what you’d find below the reservoir. While these waters aren’t part of the Gold Medal waters, they do fish quite well. Nymphing in pockets and throwing dry flies in the mornings and evenings are going to be your best bet.

Upper Fryingpan River - smaller water but bigger fish
Upper Fryingpan River – smaller water but bigger fish image Google Maps – link

Caddis patterns, Midge flies, PMD’s and Drake patterns are all going to work well above the reservoir. Stick with your 4 or 5-weight and see what you can find. Similar to the water below the reservoir, you’ll find pull-offs that allow you to access the water. Again, pay attention to any of the private water signs!

Why the Fryingpan River is Perfect for Fly Fishing

The Fryingpan is perfect for fly fishing because you’ll have a nice amount of access and you don’t have to work overly hard to get to the river. Basalt is a smaller town, but it has the necessary things you’ll need to stock up for a day of fishing.

Also, the river flows through the White River National Forest so camping options are plentiful for anglers looking to spend some true time outdoors. You have a nice mix of outdoor adventure and civilization. You can combine them or fully embrace one or the other! Day trips or multi-day excursions are all possible on the Fryingpan.

Guide Pro Tip: Brown and rainbow trout are what the Fryingpan are known for, but I’d challenge you to hike up one of the feeder streams and cast to the wild brook trout. Need to learn about brook trout? Read my Complete Guide to Fly Fishing for Brook Trout

What Kind of Fish Can You Catch on the Fryingpan River?

The Fryingpan River is perhaps best known for their brown trout population. Brown trout are extremely plentiful and you’ll find that these fish are some of the largest throughout the river! The Gold Medal section of this river below the Ruedi Reservoir is a tailwater and the fish populations are naturally reproducing. The water stays cold enough year round that it won’t get over 65 degrees.

A little brown trout from the Fryingpan River
A little brown trout from the Fryingpan River

The rainbow trout population in the Fryingpan is also extremely healthy. The Toilet Bowl section is home to some monster rainbows! They’ll eat the Mysis shrimp all day long.

There’s even a small population of brook trout throughout the Frying Pan. You’re going to want to find the coldest portion of the water to find these fish. Anything over 60 degrees is going to make it hard for them to survive. Thankfully, a decent amount of the water stays right around that temp and lower throughout the year.

The most desired fish in the Fryingpan is the cutthroat trout. These are beautiful fish that continually reproduce throughout the river.

Favorite Flies for the Fryingpan River

Favorite Flies for the Fryingpan
Favorite Flies for the Fryingpan
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph- size 18, The Pheasant Tail is a must have on the Fryingpan. These flies are great to use in a nymph rig. Since the BWO’s hatch several times throughout the year, you’ll find that they aren’t only productive in the spring.
  • Mayers Mysis Shrimp- Size 16, You can’t fish the Fryingpan without using a Mysis shrimp pattern. The Fryingpan is rare in the sense that it has any of these! Many rivers in the country do not.
  • Elk Hair Caddis- Size 20, For a dry fly pattern, you’ll find that there are few more productive than the Elk Hair Caddis. When those hatches occur in the mornings and evenings, this is a great fly to start fishing with.
Ventures Fly Company 40 pcs Assortment
Ventures Fly Company 40 pcs Assortment

Need to Get Some Flies? Start Out Right with this Assortment

Ventures Fly Company has an awesome assortment of flies that will become the foundation to a great fly box collection. I’ve fished these flies and they work. (Check out this YouTube Video – HERE) At just a little bit over $1 per fly and you get a FREE Fly box. Highly recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hatch Chart for the Fryingpan River

Fly NameSizeStart DateEnd Date
 Blue Winged Olive 20 April 1-15 & August 15 October 31
 Caddis 14 July 1September 31
 PMD16July 1August 15
 Golden Stones 10July 1 August 15
 Green Drake 10 July 1 August 15
 Red Quill 12 August 1August 15
 Terrestrials 8 August 1September 31
 Trico22August 15September 31
 Midge18January 1December 31

Fly Rod and Reel Setup for the Fryingpan River

A 9’ 5-weight fly rod with a matching reel and floating line should be your rod setup of choice. You won’t need to get overly deep with your flies, and a longer leader with floating line is plenty for you. If you want a more versatile option, use a moderate-fast action. However, many anglers prefer a fast action due to the power it provides!

Orvis Clearwater 5 wt 9 foot Combo
Orvis Clearwater 5 wt-9 foot Combo

The Perfect Fly Rod Combo for the Fryingpan River

Orvis originated in the fly fishing business. The Orvis Clearwater Combo is perfectly balanced and comes with everything except flies. It’s so easy to cobble together an outfit that just doesn’t cast right. No worries with that using the Clearwater Fly Rod Combo.

Guides and Fly Shops

  • Taylor Creek Fly Shop– Located in Basalt, the Taylor Creek fly shop has all of the equipment and information you need to land fish on the Fryingpan. They also have a full guide service. I can’t say enough good stuff about Taylor Creek, great folks who kown the Fryingpan.
  • Frying Pan Anglers– Fryingpan Anglers is another fly shop in Basalt. Given their name, you’re going to find that they are a wonderful place to visit for any information needed. You can even hire one of their guides if you would like.

Last Cast

The Fryingpan is always going to get mixed reviews amongst anglers. Yes, it’s popular, but it’s a staple in the world of fly fishing. It’s a great representation of what a successful tailwater looks like. If you’re ever near the Aspen or Carbondale area, give it a try!

More Colorado Hot Spots to Toss a Fly


Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels

Sources

  • A BIG thanks to Taylor Creek Fly Shop with the picture use. Taylor Creek Fly Shop
  • Umpqua supplies the best flies in the U.S.A. Thanks for picture use – UMPQUA
  • Google Maps is awesome. Image credit Google Maps
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