Monday, September 28, 2009

On the River: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

September 7th and 12th, 2009

Yes, in fact, I did head down to the Black Canyon the day after I got back from Wyoming! My apologies that I am just now getting to blogging, schedules get crazy sometimes ... and technically, fishing is more important than blogging.

Ben had never been to the Black since he's become a true fly-fisherman, so after a few of my blogs and much salivating, he decided it was time to carve out some time for the 5 hour drive it would take to get from C. Springs to the Black.

We headed down on Labor Day and much to our surprise it was a ghost town! We were the only people on the north side of the river that day (East Portal, of course, any other location requires a very early start and some serious pain), and there really weren't many people on the south side either. So, we began the day like so many other days and tied on scuds and baetis.

Actually, the fishing was considerably slowed down from 2 weekends ago. Sure, there were still plenty of fish to be spotted and they were feeding just fine, but the flows and their feeding patterns had officially transitioned to "Fall season spookiness". Personally, I am a fan because it makes it more rewarding when you do finally get that finicky salmonoid to take your fly, but I think Ben was hoping for a little more of that "Summer season, fish slamming your fly" action.

All in all, we did great. The morning was filled with more small fish, and Ben even got into a nice pool of risers, by the afternoon we had started spotting some of the old regulars feeding high in the water column behind Volkswagen sized boulders.

It was a beautiful day spent enjoying the weather, then I decided to facebook about it, elicited a response from some old friends from back east, Greg and Scott. Turns out they commented on my day and said "hey, we're going to be in Durango next week!" Naturally, I replied back that if they were up for the drive, I'd be psyched to meet them at the Black and paddle them across the river in my sketchy raft.

So, the date was set for another day on the Black.

We met that Saturday morning and before long I found myself in the familiar surroundings of shear black walls, rocky walking, poison ivy and some large, gorgeous fish! Surprisingly, I'd say the fish were even a little more spooky than just 5 days ago, but when you are in that environment and seeing those fish, sometimes it doesn't matter too much if you aren't catching them.

Greg hooked a monster early in the morning that we got a few looks at, but that fish was determined to keep his head down and keep running rapids, so we never got to behold him. Scott found a great pocket of fish by wading out a little deep and making some crazy reaches over a raging riffle to the slow water on the backside and Michelle and I just kept making our way up the river picking off good spots when we saw them.

We had to play slot jockey with another group of 4 that joined us on the north shore, so that made the day a little tough, but just after noon, we all got set up in a slow pool that had a lot of fish just sitting over gravel, taking flies quite readily. It really turned out to be a fun time! It had been a while since I had really done some "true" sight nymphing where you forget the indicator and just watch for the fish to take the fly. Most of the big fish were skittish enough to bolt when your cast was within 6 feet of them, but there were plenty of 10" to 14" browns to be had.

If I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times more ... If you've never been to the Black Canyon you need to go.

And feel free to drop me a line. I'm always game to skip out of work if I can make it.

Tight lines,


  1. Ah Jeff - that looked like it was a grand time - good weather and no crowds makes for the perfect day.

    Oh, and catching some nice fish doesn't hurt, either!

    Yeah, really being able to sight fish is a grand time - with targets parked over gravel runs in clear water and open seams - it doesn't get much better than that.

    It probably goes without saying that your buddies had a memorable time - what a way to spend some time off: in Colorado fishing some awesome water.

    And you're right: I've never fished the Black and I NEED to!

  2. Looks like we all need too!! Great story. I live in Vegas and have been checking out the NV wild west for Fly fishing and there is quit alot to my surprise. Awesome!!

  3. Yeah, to say the place is magical would be an understatement. I've probably said this before, but over the last two years the BC has become one of my top three fly fishing destinations.

    Two things I want to do really bad:
    1. Fish the BC in late fall, just before they shut the East Portal road. I can only imagine what the sight nymphing would be like with the flows down at 250 cfs and that river is wadeable!!!
    2. Jay and I want to get those one man cat-rafts that you can fit in a backpack and float the whole thing. It would be pretty hairy and life threatening, but it must be done some day.