Saturday, January 30, 2010

Demystifying Mysis Shrimp







The Frying Pan River is world renowned for producing some of the largest rainbow trout to be found on this planet. Plus, you don’t have to travel the globe for the opportunity to fish to these behemoths that can easily push the 5 pound, 10 pound, 15 pound and even 20 pound mark. Fish of these sizes are what most anglers’ dream of. It’s no secret that the bulk of these large fish are caught during certain times of year or when river flows are substantially raised or lowered. Some of these factors can be predicted and some cannot. Tying into these unproportioned fish will require skill as well as a little bit of luck.

The Mysis Shrimp Factor

Why do fish in the Frying Pan grow to such large sizes when compared to other quality fisheries? The answer is very simple. Mysis Shrimp, aka mysis relicta. These freshwater crustaceans (shrimp) single handedly are the reason for our fish’s quick growth rates and large sizes. Mysis Shrimp were originally transplanted into Ruedi Reservoir in hopes of making for a good forage base for the reservoirs kokanee salmon. These shrimp never ended up benefiting the intended species and its respective fishery, but instead had a unique affect on the tailwaters of the Frying Pan. Mysis Shrimp prefer the deep depths of the reservoir and this keeps them out of reach from many potential predators. Although living at these depths helps them from being eaten within the reservoir, it does not prevent them from being sucked out into the river below where trout happily do.

Mysis Shrimp are transparent in color when living, and turn opaque-white when dead or dying. Due to this color variance we fish two different styles and colors of flies. When fish are focused on mysis shrimp we typically will tie on a double nymph rig consisting of two mysis shrimp patterns. One fly imitates a dead/white mysis, and one fly imitates a living/transparent mysis. Our two favorite mysis shrimp patterns are Tim Heng’s Mysis Shrimp which is opaque-white in color and Will Sands’ Epoxy Mysis Shrimp which is transparent-clear in color. We will fish these in tandem together until we find out which type of mysis (living or dead) that the fish are focused on, and then switch to tandem setups of the fly that the fish are specifically looking for. These flies typically will range in size from #16’s down to #20’s.

These protein packed morsels are available to the trout on any given day. They do seem to be most effective however, when river flows are high or have just been raised. The more water coming out of the dam equates to higher numbers of mysis shrimp spilling through and into the river. The higher the flows, the further downstream the mysis drift and the more effective these patterns become. Higher flows on the Frying Pan can typically be found in May and June (200 cfs on up). At certain times, flows on the Frying Pan are raised without notice. If the water is noticeably rising count on finding plenty of mysis shrimp and hungry trout available on the upper stretches of the Frying Pan. The fish follow the mysis just like guides would follow a free beer sign. Mysis Shrimp have neutral buoyancy which means you can effectively fish these critters from the top to the bottom of the water column. The key is to watch an individual fish’s feeding rhythm and at what level in the water column that specific fish is feeding at and then present your flies at that level.

Prespawn: The best time to Hog Hunt on the River

The prespawn period is bar-none the best time of year to find large rainbows scattered on the upper Frying Pan. At this time of year, when the fish are staging near their spawning grounds will provide anglers with sight fishing opportunities to these big fish in shallow water. This prespawn period is usually from mid February to early April. In addition to mysis shrimp we also will fish with midges and baetis (bwo) patterns at this time of year. The best area to sight fish to these fish are in the Flats. The Flats is the area directly below the first plunge pool below the dam (aka Toilet Bowl) prior to the first bend in the river appropriately named the Bend Pool. It is about ¼ of a mile long and has good river bottom substrate (pea sized gravel) that the fish find most suitable to do their annual spawning rituals. The key to fishing the Flats is being able to read the river bottom and to look for any slight deviation or hole that is deeper than the surrounding areas. Often times these divots might only be six inches to a foot deeper than the water surrounding them. Much of the Flats is only knee deep with very little structure and variations in the water. Sight fishing to these fish require a keen eye and good polarized sunglasses. If you do not have polarized glasses you are literally fishing blind. Other good areas to fish at this time of year include the Gauging Station, Two Rocks, Boulders, Bridge Pool, and C&R #1 (you can find these areas on the newly updated Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Access Map which sells for $9.95 and is available at Taylor Creek’s two store locations). Mid April through May are the peak spawning periods on the Frying Pan River. Large female rainbows can be seen on their spawning beds often paired with one or several smaller male rainbows. At this time of year we do NOT fish to these trout in order to let them spawn undisturbed to better improve the gene pool and population of fish in the river. Plenty of post spawn or non spawning fish can be found throughout the river anyway at these times. Spawning fish are immensely fun to watch doing their annual dance and can make for some fun viewing when eating lunch or passing time by.

Going Bowling

Easily, the bulk of the large fish hooked in the Frying Pan every year come out of the Toilet Bowl. The Toilet Bowl is the first pool below the dam where the discharge comes out of the reservoir. The Toilet Bowl is a true phenomenon among Mysis tailwaters. On other mysis tailwaters the discharge below the dam is off limits to fishing, hiding many of the large fish from anglers. Not the case on the Frying Pan! So let’s talk technique here.
For fish that are holding in the depths of the Toilet Bowl which is an estimated 20 feet deep or so we employ some unconventional setups. I want to get my fly to the fish’s level as soon as possible. Throw away your conventional leaders and pull out your tippet material. A 10’ foot piece of tippet in size 0X (16lb) will be attached directly to our butt section. This smaller diameter “leader” penetrates and sinks in the water quickly, in addition to providing a miniscule amount of drag or resistance in the water. To finish our leader we will then add 2’ feet of 2X tippet, followed by an additional 2’ feet of 4x tippet to round out the overall leader length. Split shot is added above the knot junction of the 2X and 4X tippets. Our first fly (Tims Mysis Shrimp) will be attached to the end of the 4x tippet. We will then add an additional 18” inches of 4X or 5X tippet to the bend of the first fly and then complete our setup by attaching another different mysis pattern (Will’s Epoxy Mysis) to the end of our remaining piece of tippet. We recommend using fluorocarbon tippets when constructing this leader for its ability to sink faster than that of the equivalent monofilament, having a higher pound test strength, and for it being more abrasion resistant.

No strike indicator is employed in fishing this setup. Instead we are tight-line fishing. We’re basically making our cast, letting our flies sink, and keeping the line taunt as it dead drifts in the water. You will feel the strike when tight-line fishing. More often than not the fish hook themselves when fishing in this manner. This technique single handedly accounts for most of the large fish hooked in the Bowl.

Excerpted from a 2006 article by Kirk Webb published in our annual newsletter, The Fly On The Wall. We strongly encourage you to sign up for our newsletter: http://taylorcreek.com/newsletter3.htm













Prespawn: The best time to Hog Hunt on the River

The prespawn period is bar-none the best time of year to find large rainbows scattered on the upper Frying Pan. At this time of year, when the fish are staging near their spawning grounds will provide anglers with sight fishing opportunities to these big fish in shallow water. This prespawn period is usually from mid February to early April. In addition to mysis shrimp we also will fish with midges and baetis (bwo) patterns at this time of year. The best area to sight fish to these fish are in the Flats. The Flats is the area directly below the first plunge pool below the dam (aka Toilet Bowl) prior to the first bend in the river appropriately named the Bend Pool. It is about ¼ of a mile long and has good river bottom substrate (pea sized gravel) that the fish find most suitable to do their annual spawning rituals. The key to fishing the Flats is being able to read the river bottom and to look for any slight deviation or hole that is deeper than the surrounding areas. Often times these divots might only be six inches to a foot deeper than the water surrounding them. Much of the Flats is only knee deep with very little structure and variations in the water. Sight fishing to these fish require a keen eye and good polarized sunglasses. If you do not have polarized glasses you are literally fishing blind. Other good areas to fish at this time of year include the Gauging Station, Two Rocks, Boulders, Bridge Pool, and C&R #1 (you can find these areas on the newly updated Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Access Map which sells for $9.95 and is available at Taylor Creek’s two store locations). Mid April through May are the peak spawning periods on the Frying Pan River. Large female rainbows can be seen on their spawning beds often paired with one or several smaller male rainbows. At this time of year we do NOT fish to these trout in order to let them spawn undisturbed to better improve the gene pool and population of fish in the river. Plenty of post spawn or non spawning fish can be found throughout the river anyway at these times. Spawning fish are immensely fun to watch doing their annual dance and can make for some fun viewing when eating lunch or passing time by.






Going Bowling

Easily, the bulk of the large fish hooked in the Frying Pan every year come out of the Toilet Bowl. The Toilet Bowl is the first pool below the dam where the discharge comes out of the reservoir. The Toilet Bowl is a true phenomenon among Mysis tailwaters. On other mysis tailwaters the discharge below the dam is off limits to fishing, hiding many of the large fish from anglers. Not the case on the Frying Pan! So let’s talk technique here.
For fish that are holding in the depths of the Toilet Bowl which is an estimated 20 feet deep or so we employ some unconventional setups. I want to get my fly to the fish’s level as soon as possible. Throw away your conventional leaders and pull out your tippet material. A 10’ foot piece of tippet in size 0X (16lb) will be attached directly to our butt section. This smaller diameter “leader” penetrates and sinks in the water quickly, in addition to providing a miniscule amount of drag or resistance in the water. To finish our leader we will then add 2’ feet of 2X tippet, followed by an additional 2’ feet of 4x tippet to round out the overall leader length. Split shot is added above the knot junction of the 2X and 4X tippets. Our first fly (Tims Mysis Shrimp) will be attached to the end of the 4x tippet. We will then add an additional 18” inches of 4X or 5X tippet to the bend of the first fly and then complete our setup by attaching another different mysis pattern (Will’s Epoxy Mysis) to the end of our remaining piece of tippet. We recommend using fluorocarbon tippets when constructing this leader for its ability to sink faster than that of the equivalent monofilament, having a higher pound test strength, and for it being more abrasion resistant.

No strike indicator is employed in fishing this setup. Instead we are tight-line fishing. We’re basically making our cast, letting our flies sink, and keeping the line taunt as it dead drifts in the water. You will feel the strike when tight-line fishing. More often than not the fish hook themselves when fishing in this manner. This technique single handedly accounts for most of the large fish hooked in the Bowl.