Latest Update from the CPW: http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/News-Release-Details.aspx?NewsID=6378
Originally published November 2017.
Ladies and Gentlemen this Toilet Bowl is closed. While this might not be the headliner most people would focus upon, this is different. This place is know worldwide for the massive fish that inhabit the depths of its reaches. Located at the tailwater for Ruedi Reservoir, the Toilet Bowl sits the beginning of the World class trout fishery known as the Fryingpan River. Gold medal waters in Colorado are a special treat. The Fryingpan River is a favorite on most anglers’ lists with the Toilet Bowl as the crowning jewel.
From the base of the dam bubbles forth a frothy mix of cold water, Mysis shrimp and huge trout. Anglers plop their heavyweight flies into the strong current with the hopes of hooking and landing a fish of a lifetime. Is all of this going to change and be gone forever?
Firsthand reports have surfaced of Sheriff Deputies enforcing the trespass laws at the base of the dam. The Toilet bowl is right in the middle of White River National Forest. But the privately owned dam facility has chosen to have the public locked out of one of the most famous fishy spots in the United States. A place where anglers have gathered for decades and found itself on the top of bucket lists across the country.
Part of the Legacy
Interwoven into the psyche of anglers, this area has been the catalyst for iconic fly patterns developed to deal with the highly educated trout. Will Sands created a fly pattern spawned from the high protein, Mysis shrimp, that are regularly flushed through the dam into the tailwaters. Charlie Craven another Colorado based fly tyer has a Mysis pattern too that addresses the same issues. Roy Palm is known for the midge pattern he designed for the Fryingpan trout as well. Not just hallowed waters anglers revere but the practice field for fly design and development.
It seems a series of events have spurned the recent enforcement. Reports of a Recreational Vehicle exploding at the base of the dam this past summer have raised concerns that the dam is a target for homeland security. Knowledgeable anglers with their thumb on the pulse of social media will undoubtedly recall videos neglect of the area. Content like scuba divers and Stand Up Paddleboarders floating around the toilet bowl without remorse for their effects. Some of the concern is certainly warranted. Without the first hand working knowledge of a hydroelectric dam, poking around the depths at its base in scuba gear has to unnerve certain individuals.
Having the audacity to float a SUP serves to only infuriate wading anglers who have for years conducted themselves with poise in this crowded venue. Only a few times since 1992 have I witnessed guides with little to no tact when it comes to crowded fishing conditions. Most of the time anglers located at the Toilet Bowl are jovial and friendly to share the spot with whomever asks.
What We Know
Recent phone calls to both Pitkin County and Eagle County Sheriff offices have lead to conflicting enforcement protocols. According to the Eagle County Sheriff’s office there is to be no trespassing within 100 feet of the base of the dam. This is a “designation that has been in place for sometime”. Eagle County sheriffs are patrolling the area twice daily, when possible. Firsthand accounts of Deputies warning anglers and recording personal information have been reported. Local fly shops have confirmed these reports.
Whether it is the affects of questionable practices or the dangers this site poses as a target for Homeland Security to defend – one thing for certain is that the closing of this Toilet Bowl will be noticed. Anglers will miss what has been the chance to catch the “fish of a lifetime”. Witnessing these monsters swimming within sight of your wading boots and willing to eat a well-presented fly. Only time will tell if the enforcement will wane or if closure will force more congestion into the downstream river stretches.