A tributary of the mighty Colorado River, the Gunnison River is the fifth largest river in the state of Colorado. The Gunnison materializes at the confluence of the East and Taylor Rivers, just upstream from the town of Gunnison. The fly fishing on that upper stretch of the river can be fantastic, with unique opportunities such as a substantial (and somewhat mystifying) late-summer run of land-locked Salmon. The really fantastic fly fishing however, is lower down , below Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Gunnison Gorge.
This stretch has long been known to locals as the best fly fishing in the State, and possibly some of the best in North America. That claim is especially relevent during the Salmonfly hatch. The Salmonfly (Pteronarcys californica), is a giant stonelfy that hatches by the billions in the early summer. The river, especially during "THE hatch", is increasingly popular. However, this part of the Gunnison is managed by the BLM, and they have done a good job at regulating its use. Commercial trips are limited to only 2 launches per day, and private launches are limited because the put-in is sooo remote.
Salmonflies during the height of the hatch
Guide/Chef Doug in the foreground, Jared fishing in the Background
Due to the crazy amount of snow this winter, this spring has been a tricky one for fly fishing on Colorado's Western Slope. Lucky for me, (and the real reason for this post) I just got back from a dream-trip that materialized at the last-minute. The stars just happened to align. The Gunnison was running very high during the week that is usually reserved for the Salmonfly, so everything was pushed back. When the water finally came down, the local outfitter that we use for the Gunnison trip just happened to have a cancellation, and they put together a "Local's Trip". Karl Page, the head fly fishing guide here at Aspen Outfitting Company, and I were invited to attend. At one point, there were going to be 8 fishermen, but due to the last-minute scheduling, it turned out only 4 could make it. Below are a few pics of some pretty memorable fish...
Some Big Flies for the Salmonfly Hatch
You won't be using these Flys anywhere but the "Gunny"
The Author with a 'nice' brown caught on a Dry...
Karl Page (Left) and Jimmy Hancock (Right) with a chubby 19" Gunnison Bow
Your intrepid reporter with a Big-Boy Brown. NOTE: This was a two-hander!