When searching for a Gold Medal fly fishing destination with year round access and plenty of hatches, the Frying Pan River, located east of Basalt, Colorado in the White River National Forest, is a perfect choice.
Here you’ll find wild trout -- Browns, Rainbows, Cutthroats and Brookies -- amidst serious anglers determined to catch them.
Nicknamed the Pan, the Gold Medal section of the river flows west for 14 miles from below the Ruedi Reservoir dam to the Roaring Fork at Basalt. Along the banks of the scenic canyon through which the river flows are beautiful tall evergreen pines and red sandstone formations.
Dry Fly Action on the Frying Pan River in Colorado
There is ample access to the fine fly fishing to be found at the Pan. The river runs through land owned by the state or that is part of the White River National Forest.
The 14-mile Gold Medal stretch that runs from the dam to the town of Basalt includes 8-9 miles of public access. Public access points are shown on the map below. Click the map icons to get driving directions.
Click the map icons to get directions to fishing spots, boat ramps and real-time USGS stream flow data
In summer, from the end of June to September, the Green Drake mayfly is prolific, and so are the crowds. Look to dry fly fish from afternoon to evening. Autumn months bring beautiful mountain vistas of fall colors and big fish, too -- it’s the favorite season of local guides.
During winter some of the best fly fishing and the largest fish catches occur. Crowds are smaller but midge hatches are big every day. Spring is the scene of new hatches of Caddis and Blue Wing Olive flies and the trout tend to feed out in the open.
Look to Green Drake flies through the summer months and Blue Winged Olives in the spring and fall. During winter it’s Midge fishing time, and in the tailwater, Mysis shrimp, if you’re in the first mile of the spillway.
For fishing all but the upper headwaters, a 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and nymphs on the Frying. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Don’t forget the waders.
If your budget includes funds for employing a professional guide service or you’re in need of some expert tips in the fine art of casting a fly, there are ample services along these lines, though you should thoroughly research them and be sure to book early. If you arrive and discover the equipment you brought with you is lacking in any way, there are local fly shops available with the latest and greatest equipment for you to purchase.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Frying Pan River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
In addition to your fishing gear you’re going to need a fishing license, either as a Colorado resident or as a non-resident. This can be purchased online either as a one-day, five-day or annual license.
It’s also a good idea to review the Colorado Fishing brochure from Colorado Parks & Wildlife to make sure you’re current on regulations covering limits and size requirements. Due to the high elevation, bring suitable clothing to keep you warm regardless of the season in which you choose to visit.
If you’re flying into Colorado, the closest airport is the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in Aspen, some 17 miles southeast of Basalt. From either Glenwood Springs or Aspen take Highway 82 to Basalt, then Road 105 to the Ruedi Reservoir.
During summer you can get to the river from the east beginning at Hagerman Pass. You’ll take Road 105, starting in Leadville, and pass through Turquoise Lake on your way to Ruedi Reservoir, but be advised this is not an easy drive. If traveling by air be sure and book your flight early.
You’ll find affordable accommodations in Basalt, a town standing at an elevation of 6,600 feet and with a population of around 4,000 residents. Whether you’re looking for lodging with multiple bedrooms or mountain style single rooms, there’s plenty of hotels and cabins available, some even located right along the banks of the river.
Restaurants are locally owned and offer varied fare at a good price. Though the economy is centered around fly fishing, the town is also a hub for mountain biking through the Roaring Fork valley, and for its extensive network of cross country and downhill skiing trails branching out for 15 miles up and down the valley.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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