frying-pan-river-winter-fly-fishing near vail valleyColorado’s Frying Pan River is listed as one of the 18 Best Trout Streams in the Western States, and it is time I got it off my fly fishing bucket list of fishing spots. Legend has it that the river is named after a frying pan that was placed in a tree to mark the location of the death of a pioneering comrade. Staff at the Minturn Anglers fly shop in Vail tell me that I am making a good choice, as the “Pan” has Gold Medal status and good access.

The river starts east of Aspen, flowing east to Ruedi Reservoir and then travels 14 miles to converge with the Roaring Fork at Basalt. This stretch is gorgeous river, with the river carving its way through red sandstone and punctuated with evergreen firs and pine. I am told to be prepared for big trout in this tailwater below the reservoir. Because of this reputation, the area is popular.

However, there is always a free spot. About 8.5 miles of this 14 mile stretch offer public access, so I won’t have to walk too far to find a perfect fishing location. Following Road 105 from Leadville to Turquoise Lake will lead me to signs for Rudi Reservoir. There are a number of easy access points, in the town of Basalt itself, about 2 miles downstream from the Ruedi Dam, as well as at Strawberry Rock.

Although the dominant fish in the Frying Pan River is brown trout, I’ve been told that I can also expect cutthroats, rainbow and even some brookie. The rules are catch and release from the dam to the Roaring Fork junction for all fish except browns. The limit is two, with maximum size 14”. All browns over 14” must be returned immediately. Only artificial flies and lures are allowed to be used.

The hatches are great, and dry fly fishing is spectacular. Minturn Anglers staff advised that nymphs are quite effective, so I stocked up on some popular nymph patterns. While in the Minturn fly shop, I was also tempted into picking up a few shrimp patterns, scuds, and brassies.

I am looking forward to my initiation to fly fishing the Frying Pan River which is just some long minutes from Vail Valley. I fully expect large trout, clear cold waters in beautiful scenery and quality hatches to provide me with an unforgettable experience.

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