Thursday, March 11, 2010

On The River: Gunnison Gorge, Delta, CO

March 6, 2010

I know I start every blog with a nostalgic - longing for fishing - but what can I say, about an hour after I'm off the river, I am typically longing to be back on the water. And in the winter, when spectacular fishing days are sporadic at best, you better believe I'm nostalgic for warmth on my skin and a sipping trout just in front of me.

And so, Michelle and I found ourselves at 10:30 AM, on Saturday, faced with that very situation. The weather had looked good the night before, so we made the trek to Delta and parked at the well known "Pleasure Park" area. In an odd twist of fate, we drove through cloud cover and some pretty stiff winds, but then stepped out of the car and within minutes the clouds were breaking and the wind stopped ... not typical Colorado weather.

After a short jaunt upstream to one of my favorite spots that is constantly overlooked by other anglers, we were starring at 6 to 8 fish rising steadily to midges, the smallest seemed to be about 13" and the largest ... looked pretty big.

If I may interject a quick side note, observe the water you are walking past and remember that winter fish tend to stay in much shallower and slower water than they do in the summer. I couldn't believe how many guys were fishing deep runs and riffles that were summer lies. Typically, winter fish are looking for shallow to moderate depth water, with just enough movement to be slightly broken. This type of water allows the fish to feed heavily, on everything that passes by, without having to expend much energy. Winter is FANTASTIC for sight nymphing and gentle sippers. If you keep your eyes peeled in these areas, it is common to see snouts, barely breaking the surface, that most other anglers walk by.

We fished a few different patterns and found the fish weren't too picky on the pattern as much as the drift. I started with 8x (mostly just for fun) and landed a 14" brown on a poly-wing baetis. Then Michelle was up and lipped 3 different fish, but wasn't able to hook up (I attribute the missed fish to giddiness). After a while more of casting and changing up patterns a bit, most of the pod was put-down and the rises were sporadic enough that we switched to a micro nymph rig.

That's when the scud took over! We tried a few patterns to no avail, so I switched to a scud, single split-shot, and a micro indicator (a classic micro nymphing rig). My first cast was over a feeding fish and he took it like it was his job. We fished that rig the rest of the day and never took another fish on any fly besides the Gammarus Scud (later, we fished some deeper runs and switched to a Pheasant Tail trailed by a Gammarus Scud, but still all the fish were on the scud).

I switched my 8x out for 6x after two, totally botched, hooksets on 18" fish (even I was a little too giddy that day), and Michelle and I smiled at each other frequently as we worked our way upstream landing 14 to 18 inch fish all day!

At the end of the day, we wrapped things up in one last "nice-looking" riffle. As Michelle wielded the rod with the deftness of a seasoned angler, a well placed cast led to a nice drift, which was followed by a strike and a hook-set. The first time the fish flashed I noticed it's brilliant rainbow coloring, and thought it had some good size to it. The second time the fish flashed I knew Michelle was about to go berserk. She doesn't always perform well under pressure, and the second she knows she has a big fish, she kind of flips out and assumes she's going to lose it.

Not this time ... Michelle kept her cool and after a few powerful runs, and threats that I'd be sleeping on the couch if I botched the net job, she was about as ecstatic as 103 lbs. can possibly be. She even topped it off with a great hold for a photo (small hands don't grip large fish so well) and that is how we ended the day.

Get out there and make it happen!
-Jeff Allen