Friday, July 10, 2009

On the River: Gunnison Gorge, Ute Park

June 27, 2009
Foiled again ... sort of. I was all geared up to really hit the Salmonfly hatch this time, patiently watching the flows, checking the reports, all so I could hit the perfect section of the river where the Salmonflies were coming off the strongest. Turns out it never really happened. My theories are that the weather and water flows were just weird enough this year that there were not many great Salmonfly days. I think most of the time the egg-laden females never made the mass exodus to the river, like they are supposed to, but instead meandered back to the river one by one and silently laid their eggs. I'm sure someone hit a decent day or two, but from the reports I read most people ended up foiled like me.

On top of it, I was double foiled on the day that I chose. It turns out that the reservoirs above the Canyon were overflowing and so Friday night they decided to pump the flows from 2800 cfs to 3400 cfs which is the best reason I can think of for fish not rising. Let me back up ... I rolled onto the river to a circus freakshow of bugs, thinking to myself, "this is gonna be awesome". There were massive quantities of Salmonflies, Giant Stones, Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies everywhere, not to mention the clouds of PMD spinners and caddis. Bugs were literally crawling all over my skin and up my shirt. At one point I had to tuck my shirt in to keep them from driving me mad and even then the occasional stonefly would crawl down the neck of my shirt.

However, even near the end of the day when there were 10-15, half dead, twitching stoneflies that had just laid their eggs in each eddy-line I never saw a decent rising fish all day long. It was really quite maddening. The reason I blame it on the flows is from past experience. When the water levels fluctuate, the fish don't necessarily stop feeding, but I do think that they "hunker" down and stop thinking about surface feeding. It may even be that with the increased flows the vast majority of food is getting washed down in the nymph form so fish are gorging on nymphs even if there is a lot of flies on the surface. Above all you have to remember that fish are machines programmed to go for what feeds them the most.

So, I started the day with my "drown stone" and hare's ear combination. Surprisingly, I didn't hook many fish. The water available to fish was very limited with the flows so high and pushing hard. I was mainly relegated to very small seams tight against the bank. My first hook up was a rainbow that screamed downstream and put me into my backing before I lost him. But still, with out much fast success I started thinking and remembered all the PMD's popping off just the week before. I decided to switch up to a Pheasant tail, trailed with the Blacktail PMD and thing LIT UP!

Fish started slamming the Blacktail PMD like it was going out of style. Most of them were in the solid 12" to 14" range, but it seemed like every 5th fish was pushing the 16"+ range. Most of the big guys did a good job of spitting the hook.

Then I rolled up onto the "Super Seam". It was a seam like any other, no discernible difference, but I proceeded to hook and land 3 fish in 5 casts that were 17", 18" and 17", all on the Blacktail PMD!

It was a great time! I ended up landing numerous other small fish, and then finished the day with the rainbow pictured here.

It was a good reminder that you don't ever want to get static in your thinking on the river. I could have fished a dry fly all day long and never hooked any of those monsters, but with a bit of observation and thought it turned out to be a great day.

Tight lines,



  1. Sweeeeet! Those are some nice fish, there. The first pic looks like a nice healthy catch - fight ya' pretty good? Looks like you delivered the lumber once you changed up your rig. Good advice, Jeff, being that I have a habit of getting static myself (more than I care to admit). .

    I also think you're on to something, in regards to the unusual weather we've had this year - it's been one for the books, that's for sure. El Nino is at it again. Didn't see anything resembling a spawn this year, either...must have been short and sweet.

    Just checking some flows - hope to get up early and throw a line myself in the morning....hopefully the canyon is not too fickle of a mistress tomorrow.

    That's one down - two more reports to go, Bro!

  2. Yes, the fight was good on the first fish. He got out into the fast water and I had to chase for quite some distance. I learned my lesson and put the muscle on the next two pretty hard so that they stayed in my back eddy area.

    I be watching for your reports!