The guide asked a simple question. Do you see the fish?
The guide, Brandon Soucie, is one of the best competitive fly fishermen in the country (yes, there is such a thing as competitive fly fishing). His client (me) rarely fishes crystal-clear waters with tiny flies for really big trout. Even in the clear water of the Frying Pan River, on a stretch of the river known as The Flats, my inexperienced eyes could only see rocks and moss along the bottom. Eventually, the red stripe of the 14 inch rainbow became visible to me and Brandon showed me how its done on the Pan. One cast with a tandem mysis shrimp rig and he hooked the trout. Oh, if only fly fishing was so simple for us mere mortals.
Brandon, who guides out of the Taylor Creek Fly Shops, spent the morning pointing out sizable brown trout and rainbows to me and I slowly learned how to spot the red tails of the browns (a distinguishing characteristic of the browns in this section of the Frying Pan) and the red stripes of the rainbows. He taught me the moss toss, which is technique to remove annoying moss from your flies. And he helped improve my clumsy casting. Most importantly he kept a close eye on the fish as I concentrated on controlling the drift -- when he told me to set the hook I did so. In the first two hours we caught more than 10 pounds worth of fish, including two bruising rainbows that were easily the largest fish I've ever caught on size 20 flies. The Frying Pan rainbows gorge themselves on mysis shrimp and literally get so fat that they are too overweight to put up much of a fight after getting hooked. Of course, it doesn't hurt when the guide is willing to move quickly downstream to net the fish.
After a few hours of nymphing we headed downstream to the M1 hole. The M stands for moron; as in "even a moron can catch a fish in this hole." The M1 hole offers a unique fishing experience. Half of the hole is on restricted property -- owned by the principal of a large outdoor retail chain that no angler should frequent (support your local fly shops!). No trespass signs remind of us his wealth.
A fly cast in the upper (public) half of the pool can be drifted (very carefully) into the lower (private) half of the pool where the wealthy retailer's stocked trout gorge themselves on blue winged olives. I was able to use this long downstream drift technique to hook several chunky browns and one rainbow that topped 20 inches. Of course, the biggest one broke off. So it goes.
Brandon and I finished the day fishing on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, Colorado. The Frying Pan flows into the Roaring Fork, which this time of year is filled with water from the melting snows from the surrounding mountains. The high water meant that the fish had to hold tight to the bank in spots were the current was slowed by obstructions or bends in the river. We ditched the small flies that worked on the Frying Pan for large nymphs and a set-up that basically looks like a worm tied to the tippet.
The trout were eager to feed on both the worm and the nymph and we caught several browns and rainbows. At one point we fished in front of the public library. I cannot imagine a public library with a better view than the Basalt Public Library. I'd go to the library a lot if I lived here. At least I'd park near the library a lot and walk down to the river to hook into some feisty trout.
The fishing was outstanding; the guide was better and the scenery was the best. I'm fortunate to have two more days here in the Roaring Fork Valley. Thanks to Brandon and the gang at Taylor Creek for providing me with such a wonderful day of fly fishing.