Fly Fishing Mysis Shrimp Tailwaters | Taylor River, Frying Pan, Blue River
Mysis shrimp are found in the Great Lakes where fish thrive on these high calorie treats. In the early 80’s, Mysis Shrimp were introduced into several Colorado reservoirs in an effort to provide a food source in deep sterile lakes that lack thevegetation aquatic insects need to flourish.
Long story short, Mysis Shrimp did not survive in most of Colorado’s reservoirs. In the reservoirs they did survive, reservoir fish and mysis shrimp were never at the same depths where the shrimp became a viable food source. However, in three reservoirs with similar depths and water outflow pipes a phenomena occurred that would soon create 3 of the most famous tailwaters in the country.
“When the Mutants Showed Up, So Did The People”
Author John Gierach described it best in one of his books (forget which one) where he tells the story of years of dry fly fishing to natural 16″ trout on the Frying Pan River below Reudi Reservoir. In those days, he would almost always count on having the river to himself. Then suddenly, these white plumes of trout steroid snot began poring out of the spillway. Soon after, the river was crawling with mutant 15 pound trout and people. The same occurred on the Taylor River Below Taylor Park Reservoir and to the Blue River below Lake Dillon.
Mysis Shrimp are extremely high in calories and allow trout in the rivers below these three dams to get very, large very fast in rivers that were once too cold and too small to hold the numbers and size of fish that are currently available. Though mysis fed fish tare not entirely natural, nobody has raised to many complaints about giant rainbows with bright red stripes on their side.
A Mysis Shrimp Tailwater Tradition to Pass on to Your Fishing Buddies
I can say with one 100% certainty that Mysis Shrimp are the worst tasting thing on this planet! Ok, just making sure you were still following along! I wish I could say I was joking but I’m not. Alright, so here’s the story and a good joke to play on buddies you take to the Frying Pan for the first Time.
The first time I fished the Frying Pan with Brandon Soucie I was knew to guiding and didn’t know him that well. Brandon grew up in Basalt and began working at Taylor Creek Fly shop when he was 14 and knows the Frying Pan better than anyone in the world. He told me that every guide who comes to the Frying Pan River has to eat a Mysis Shrimp. Not really wanting to look any worse after he just schooled me up and down the flats I didn’t question it. Instantly, he about died laughing as I dry heaved and gagged all over the flats.
Best Mysis Shrimp Patterns
Now that you’ve had your laugh for the day, let’s talk about Mysis Shrimp patterns. As you can imagine, there are more patterns to imitate this nasty little piece of snot than could ever be counted. Over the years, my most consistent producing shrimp pattern is a variation of the Charlie Craven fly that uses egg yarn. As soon as the egg yarn hits the water, it turns the exact milky white as the real thing. Other more elaborate patterns attempt to imitate the “alive” Mysis. When mysis are still living they are clear but one they die they turn white “the dead.” I have always done better with the dead, because I think more often than not what is left after getting shot out of a spillway are dead pieces of Mysis Shrimp.
When to Fish Mysis Shrimp
Sometimes there are heavy outflows of shrimp while at other times there are none. As a rule of thumb, assume that water being released means more shrimp getting pushed through the dam. In the winter months of low flows, not many shrimp are coming through and a lot of times I don’t fish one. Sure, the small fish are always going to chase a Mysis down, but the big fish on these pressured tailwaters know that trick. The closer you are to the dam, the more important shrimp become. At typical winter flows, I would venture to say that the quality fish more than 1/4″ of a mile below the dam will not associate a mysis shrimp pattern as food. In high spring releases where plumes of shrimp are pushing through the dam mysis will obviously be effective farther down stream. The point of this is for you to understand that while these shrimp are responsible for the freakish size of fish, it is not the only food source in the river.
The Taylor river, of the three mysis tailwaters historically produces the largest fish. I think this is party due to the fact that Taylor Park Reservoir has the most shrimp, but is also not overrun with an over population of fish like the Frying Pan.
Taylor river trout are notorious for being hard to catch and giving people the fits more than any other river. Personally, I don’t think Taylor are are any more “wised up” than on any other tailwater. What I do feel is that the layout of the Taylor makes it the most difficult place I’ve ever fished to get a good drift. Getting a fly to fall into a short tight seam against a jagged rock with a gob of weight, light tippet and a good drift isn’t easy. Instead trying to slam the flies down and into these spots, my best technique has been to cast well upstream of where a fish is hold and let the flies slowly ‘milk their way’ to the bottom. Another trick is to walk your flies down to where the fish is holding.
When I decide to fish the Taylor, there are two types of flows I look for. The first is really high water over 500CFS. That is enogh to push most of the fish out of the middle and towards slack water. High water also allows you to use heavier tippet. The other flow I like is the really low winter flows. At low flows, fish tend to move out of the deep crevices and weird currents against boulders into smoother water. For the the fish that do hang around the smaller rocks, the lower flows make it a bit easier to get a natural drift to the fish. It’s not a coincidence that you see so many people holding the really big fish on the Taylor when there is snow on the ground.
Gearing Up for Fly Fishing on the Taylor River
Rod: The Scott G2 8’8″ 5wt G2 was made specifically by Scott as a tailwater tool for the Taylor River to land big fish on light tippet. The rod was designed to be soft enough to cushion light tippet but still have enough backbone to turn a 15 or larger pound fish when the moment presents itself.
Tippet: 3x-6x tippet. I will use 5x until it becomes so obvious I need to drop to 6x. If I’m going to try and land a 15 pound fish in a river filled with razor sharp rocks, I want to give myself a fighting chance.
Flies: Certainly have some Craven Mysis Shrimp with you, but don’t live or die with it unless flows are over 500 CFS. Generally through the winter I will lead with a small egg or #16-18 red annalid and trail it with any sparsely dressed #20-24 midge or beatis pattern. Top producers for me have been micro tubing midges and no beed no flash pheasant tails in size #22.
Frying Pan River
Winter Fishing on the Frying Pan is consistently steady during the winter months with eggs, mysis shrimp and midge patterns. Though there will always be a few folks on the river, the winter sees the fewest people.Winter Food Sources Present that you can expect to see includes Midges Sz.20-24, Mysis Shrimp Sz.16-22, 6mm size eggs in standard Troutbead colors.
The sweet spot for the best winter fly fishing will take place during the warmer parts of the day when bug acivity and movement is the greatest. This timeframe conicides with the majority of the hatches. Midges are available in good numbers early in the day along with lighter hatches of BWOs during afternoons. In the winter it is important to keep you flies small and simple. Excessive flash and overly dressed flies will pick up plenty of the smaller rainbows, but bigger fish want a small offering. When you fish the Frying Pan, ditch the gold beadhead flies or color them black. As a friend once told me, gold and brass beads are for tourists. Throughout the year, I have always found Frying Pan fish to be all about a simple no flash #22 Pheasant Tail, BTS Baetis, Sparklewing RS2’s and Biot Emergers in sizes 20-22 are best. On the dry fly side of things, Sparkledun BWOs, Flag Dun BWOs, Fryingpan Emergers and Bills Midge Emergers are all fishing well. Fish your nymphs on 6X and your dries on 7X to be the most successful. Keep in mind, the Pan is a presentation fishery more so than a “match the hatch” type fishery.
If you’re looking for a guided trip on the Frying Pan River, Call Taylor Creek Fly Shop at (970) 927-4374 and request Brandon Soucie
Dries: Sparkledun BWO 20-22, Para. Emerger BWO 20-22, Bill’s Midge Emerger 20-22, Hatching Midge 20-22.
Nymphs: PT’s 20-24, Sparklewing RS2’s 20-22, Black RS2’s 20-22, Biot Midge Emerger 20-22, BTS Baetis 20-22, Pandemic BWO 20-22, Motown Mysis 16-18, Epoxy Mysis Shrimp 18-20, Tung Hoover Beatis 20-22, Bling Midge 20-22, Top Secret Midge 20-22, Bead Wing Midge 20-22.
Blue River Below Siverthorne
The Blue is the third Mysis Shrimp tailwater in Colorado. While shrimp still do find their way from the reservoir to the river below, the overall numbers of shrimp appears to have declined over the years. Even so, there are still shrimp and that will always leave a chance at a real freak on the Blue through Silverthorne.
Find out more about fly fishing the Blue River in Silverthorne, CO