Thursday, February 18, 2010

On the River: Taylor River C and R, Gunnison, Colorado

Jan. 23, 2010

Winter fishing is some finicky business. You spend a lot of time planning, preparing and gearing up for an event that may get kiboshed by a 4 degree temperature swing. That was not the case, however, on the morning of January 23rd. Everything lined up, and the temperature swing went in our favor.

Michelle and I had been watching the weather and things looked good, so we headed up to the only "ice free" water within 1.5 hours drive and arrived at around 10 AM to find only one other car (a rare feat indeed).

The fishing itself was your standard fare. To tell the truth, I don't think we caught fish on anything but egg patterns. The winter is an odd time. It's all just opinion and theory, but I'm not sure any of the fish on the Taylor C and R stretch ever successfully spawn. In the winter you get the highest concentration of rainbows or browns "going through the motions", but you never seem to see any of them in sync, and I think I've only caught one fish up there that actually spit eggs or sperm. I personally think that the invention of dams, and controlling water flows for recreational use, messes with the fish's biological clock so much, that you don't have any normal spawning activity until much further downstream, where other streams flowing into a river make the flows a little more normal.

I say all that not to justify fishing an egg pattern, per se, but to ... well ... justify fishing an egg pattern. In the winter, it works on that stretch of river. To be honest, it works at just about anytime of the year on the C and R, though the summer makes an egg pattern much more of a wild card with midge and baetis being much more reliable patterns.

Nevertheless, Michelle and I fished, spotted fish, and hooked fish pretty consistently all day long, including a few "destroyer" sized fish. One of the highlights of the day was a rainbow that crushed my fly, screamed upstream 20 feet, tore back downstream and jumped - 2 feet out of the water - right at my wife! It literally almost hit her! It was a solid 26" fish, that continued downstream. I pursued it, running and weaving around rock, until it finally bested me deep under a sharp rock.

The other highlight of the day was hooking a 20" cutthroat. To be honest, I didn't even know there were cutthroat in that stretch of water, but after a 5 minute fight I was holding a sexy looking Colorado Cutt.

We smiled, we laughed, we froze just a little bit, but there were a few moments where your blood pumped so hot you could almost think it was a balmy June afternoon.

Here's to reprieve.


  1. What a day!! Thats the first cutthroat I have ever seen there.. I was there exactly one month before you........75% fish on eggs maybe know when the sun comes out for a peak there?.....that feeling you get,,,the feeling of being able to spot-em... I think those fish get the same feeling about us when a cloud moves by. To the point where If its not sunny I hide and blind fishem........Nice fish Jeff and Michelle

  2. Jeff! Ah geez...while the temps look a little south of comfortable, it sure sounds like you two had a great day on the river.

    That's a hefty brown you landed in the pic you posted above...not bad for a day in January.

    Too bad about the 'destroyer'...but it sure is a rush spiking them and trying to get them to net. forget the aches and pain, and don't feel the cold when that stuff happens. The adrenaline rush is addicting!

    Balmy June...can't wait for that...just got back in and what do you know? It's snowing and cold...just in time for a planned weekend trip to the river.

    Hopefully this June is balmy, and we can get together on that stretch for a little R&R...

  3. Sounds like a great day! You just never know what the winter will do in the canyon. I've seen a few cutthroats in there including one around 24". Don't know about the spawning but I've seen plenty of rainbows on beds in the spring and it looks like they are spawn pretty hard.

  4. Biggerfish: there's a fair amount of sun. The problem is sun, means no clouds, and no clouds in the winter means all the heat goes straight into the atmosphere. I'm starting to think cloudy days are the way to go up there since it's usually warmer.

    But, I'm with you, I do love spotting fish ... makes it much more fun!

    CO Angler: yeah, pretty psyched about that one! There are days up there where everything is lock-jawed, and then there are days that a few good drifts and they come unglued!!!

    We gotta make that Cheeseman trip happen. I'm game for trying in the spring (pre-run off style).

    Zach: Yeah, the spawn is weird, and to be honest, the spring is not my forte. I usually avoid the C and R in the spring because of the crowds. My other thought is, even if they make redds, I've never seen fry up there (maybe an occasional small fish), unless the fry run downstream to not get eaten. It's quite possible that even if they do spawn nothing survives ... with all the fisherman and wading activity and some people not knowing what a redd looks like, people could easily stomp out the eggs before they ever hatch. I've always thought they just go through the motions, but never complete the act because they are mostly stocked fish so they're kinda retarded ...
    but ... I should say, I'm no scientist.