Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the River: Spring Creek, Gunnison, CO

Well, it wouldn't be fair if I only blogged every time the fishing was good ...

You'll notice there are no pictures with this blog and it's really short. The fishing was pretty bad. We headed out for a few hours and thought getting up to higher elevations we could find some clear or slightly off color water. It worked, but spring creek was raging pretty good and to be honest with you I tried a lot of different things and just didn't hook up with much (which is funny because Spring creek is holds mostly small fish that are easy to catch). I was really hoping to show up to a decent Mother's Day Caddis hatch, but that didn't happen either.

All in all I started picking up some smaller fish with a bead headed pheasant tail. None worth getting my camera out for. I even got schooled by a couple of 12" fish in one pool. I threw about 3 different patterns at them and got some great drifts, but alas, it was to no avail.

I'll never complain about being out in the fresh air though, enjoying life!

Tighter lines ... next time.
-Jeff

Friday, May 8, 2009

On the River: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

May 4th, 2009 ... my first day of the season in the Black Canyon. They just opened up the East Portal last week sometime and I have been chomping at the bit to get down there!

When I showed up the water was very off color, not brown at all, but a very murky green. I figured green is better than brown and that should allow for the fish (and me) to have some visibility, but more importantly than the water color was the fact that as I approached the river it was "hairy" with midges. The biologist in me was going crazy thinking of all the day was going to hold for me. I had showed up just as the midges were starting to roll off, with most of them still trailing a shuck. I promptly tied on a hare's ear and a size #22 olive midge below and it wasn't long before I hooked into my first fish of the year. Unfortunately, this was not to be the pattern for the rest of the day.
 
video
I spent most of the day trying to find fish. With the water as murky as it was, this was a pretty difficult task. One thing I will say about the Black Canyon is there are so many places for trout to hang that being able to spot them is very helpful. So, I was left to fish the spots that I typically did and hope that the usual suspect were hanging out there, but this proved a bit more tricky since the water levels were up too, changing most of the spots I knew.

As far as a bug day it was epic! By mid-day there were still midges rolling off and now there was also a steady armada of BWO's. I could look in just about any back eddy and find saucer sized piles of midges and BWO's all tangled up looking like a living foam! I fear, for me, that either the fish had gorged themselves the day before, or more likely, the water was just too off color for them to be looking up as much as they should have been. I was lucky to see 3 risers all day. By afternoon there were even a fair amount of Mother's Day caddis around.

My only glorious moment was when I rolled up on a very deep back eddy where there were these "dinner plates" of insect mats, and in the span of about 5 minutes I saw 15 risers (all of which were larger than 18"). When I say risers it's not quite accurate. Really, I've never seen anything like it. The fish were skimming the surface of the water taking on about 100 flies at once. By the time I tied on a dry, I think most of the fish were full and they stopped coming to the surface. Really ... I don't think it would have mattered, they weren't looking for a dry fly, they were looking for a mat of dry flies and I'm not sure of anyone in the world that has a pattern to match a clump of 200 midges, BWO's and caddis.

The final tally was 3 fish, all of which were Black Canyon classics and worth the whole day, but I'm going to have to watch the flows before I head back down to the Canyon again.

Oh yeah, you know how they have a lot of signs out west that say "watch for falling rock"? Well I was doing that and wouldn't you know ... I actually got to see this Jeep sized monster roll 800' down a cliff to land in the road 40 feet in front of me (click on the photo to see it larger). It was really cool, especially since I didn't lose my life.

Tight lines,
-Jeff

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River: An Introduction

This is a short story of my love affair with the Black Canyon ... I've lived here in Gunnison for about 13 years now and the Black is only a short hour and twenty minute drive to East Portal. I've done some hiking into the interior sections (very painful, not recommended, but worth every second of it!), but for the most part driving to East Portal, crossing the river in a small raft and hiking downstream is simply AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL AND EPIC.

There's always been something I've loved about the Black, but it wasn't until about three years ago that I started going through my photos and realized that the vast majority of large, beautiful fish that I have photos of are all from the Black Canyon. It really is a magical place.

The water is often greenish, but clear enough to see 6 feet deep. It has so many types of varied water. In a given day, you can find nymphing fish sitting on 2' deep gravel shoals (a sight nymphers dream!), 22" rainbows sitting in pocket water behind a bus-sized boulder, risers, sippers, regular nymphers holding in a classic riffle/run, and monsters willing to chase a streamer.

Oh, and did I mention that the rarity in the Black Canyon is a fish under 14"?

The pressure is also one of the great things about this river. The East Portal section sees a fair amount of fisherman, but if you cross the river you cut the number of fishermen by about 70%. The river is only crossable by raft, unless the CFS are below 600 and even then, it's never an easy one to cross, you have to do it at the right spots. If you stay on the south side of the river (the parking lot and campground side) you only have about 400 yards of fishable water, so you can see why there is not much pressure. That means on average, there is maybe 1 mile of this 8+ mile canyon that is easily accessible ... That leaves a lot of fish that eat all the time and never see a single fisherman. If I were a betting man, I'd say the true "inner canyon" sees about 40 fisherman all summer long.

As for the fish, they are all Browns and Rainbows (or at least I've never caught anything else) and you can expect the average fish to be 14" on up to 19". Jay and I, in our trip last fall, spotted a couple of Rainbows sitting behind a boulder in a near impossible to fish spot that would definitely have pushed the 24" range. I have no doubt that there are some 15 lb. fish in there, though you may never see them. The color is another amazing thing. Every single fish you hook in the Black is guaranteed to be beautiful. Deep, stark colors, contrasted with bright pinks, buttery yellow undersides, big black spots ... these are all good phrases to describe the fish.

I think I have captured the essence of the Black Canyon for now. I hope to do a true river report someday to describe the hatches and techniques for fishing the Black, but for now my advice to you is to fish the Black Canyon sometime in your life. If you check out the "fly fishing pictures from around the US" link on the upper right side of my blog you'll find that a lot of the fish in that album are from the Black.

Good drifts,
-Jeff

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On the River: Uncompahgre River, Montrose, Colorado

... again.

If you've been following my posts, you'll no doubt have noticed a tone of disgruntlement at spring weather. I set out on Saturday, April 25th to fish the "Pleasure Park" stretch of the Gunnison River thinking I could get above the North Fork and be in relatively clear water. Unfortunately, the North Fork impeded my progress ... for some reason crossing an 80 foot wide, milk chocolate, raging, 3000 CFS river in my tiny, one man, walmart raft did not sound enjoyable, much less livable.

So, I found myself once again at the Uncompahgre River, just south of Montrose, CO. It wasn't with any reluctancy though, I had a good time when I last visited this stretch of the river and was pretty excited to hike down a little further and fish a lot more water.

It fished very similar to my last visit. The water was up, and moving pretty fast, with a good "greenish" tint to it. The fish seemed about the same, holding in the slow and deep pools. In fact, I don't think I caught a single fish in any other type of water. I was fishing the hare's ear/baetis combo like before and kept a weather eye out for Mother's day caddis (and the fish were too as I'll explain later).

Picked up a lot of good fish and got about as close to a Colorado Slam as you can get. I'm guessing that there are no brookies in this stretch of the river, but by the end of the day I had landed a Brown, Rainbow, Snake River Cutt, Colorado Cutthroat, plus a small Cutbow as well. My pride and joy was a nice 17" brown that came at my fly as it was drifting toward me. I got to see him turn downstream and inhale my fly about 2' in front of me. I think we were both thinking same thing ... "oh, crap".

Near the end of the day I was disappointed that the Mother's Day caddis never happened since I had just tied a fresh dozen of Allen Brothers Cut-wing Caddis. So ... I decided to tie one on anyway, just to test out how well they floated. To my surprise, though there wasn't much of a presence in the air or the bushes, the fish were still looking up. I ended up landing about 3 fish on dries all said and done.

It was a good day ... what more can you say.
Tight lines,

-Jeff