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


  1. lol, well written. Hot fish, Michelle.

  2. That place is my home...I dont over look that spot sometimes I stay there all day... did you guys end up crossing and heading up further?

  3. Ah, sounds like a great day, Jeff. That last pic - that's a nice, hefty looking fish. Good thing your netting skills were up to par, my friend! hearing that! It warms my heart!

  4. Thanks Ben, Hot wife too! Somehow she always seems to get fish that look like they're smiling. It's kinda funny.

    Biggerfish: Nice! good to hear. That spot is so epic! It reminds me of spring creek fishing back east. The fish are all lazy, sitting in slow, slightly broken water, just feeding on tiny midges and baetis. Yeah, Michelle's fish came from the head of that run, but on the South (?) side of the river. We picked up some nice fish in that fast, knee-deep water too! We should get out on that stretch sometime soon so you can show me the ropes. I never get very far, I always end up spending my day in that first mile of the river.

    CO Angler: Yeah, you need to win the lottery and move off the front range. A man with a fishing heart like yours needs to be closer to water like this!

  5. Jeff, I would love to walk the gunny with you sometime.. I've been up there onece a week lately, It's the best water in this part of the state right now, fish have been taking drys up there already.

    I dont go way the hell up there unless I leave home at dark thirty and ride a dirtbike in on the other side, I also took the jet boad and a toon once. there are some fine holes up there but you sure have to walk past alot of hungry fish. I usually cross the north fork and walk up that side then cross back accross the gunny willow tree to willow tree. this seems to be the road less traveled, even by then, you pass 500 fish, I am probably done with "pleasure" for the year but floating from there once a week and hitting the portal real real, hard this year,,,

    we should take Ron there, let him poop his pants when a 27 inch rainbow runs him into the backing. Take a picture and make him say,, "Cheese mon"

  6. I agree, Ron would "poop his pants". I've been telling him to get up to the portal for a year now.

    Yeah, I'm with you on the "passing 500 fish" thing. That's why I never get very far, but I've gotta assume it's like the portal and the further you go the less pressure and better it gets.

    Have you ever floated through the whole portal? My brother and I have been thinking of doing a 5 day float with some sort of easily portable raft (like 1 man cats, or maybe a 2 man inflatable kayak). I'm sure it would be a rough go, but well worth it!

  7. It would be way worth it! Rough go..? ya it would... the only floating I have done there is,, using a life jacket and swimming across the river holding my rod, even an inner tube a time or two. ever walked "chucker"?

  8. Yeah, I have a one man cheap raft from walmart. I sit Michelle in the front, then I hang off the back and swim for dear life! It's a pretty funny scene. I get a lot of looks ... but then I get more looks when I'm on the other side puttin' the muscle on the less pressured fish!

    I've done chucker a few times, I want to get down there soon, before the flows come up too high. I took a 23" brown on the salmon fly hatch once just beyond the cliff at that sandbar camping spot. Epic!

  9. Right on!! have you ever taken the raft to chucker and head up stream to the land of enchantment, where no man has gone before!? you can use the back pull of the eddies to pull you upstream, so you can get past the walls of death. that's where That, fish lives. maybe you and I, can meet up at the trail head sometime.. It's not the front range or anything but it will have to do right?

  10. I'm holding you two to that - and while soiled waders are not something I would particularly care for, given the circumstances, I think I could handle it this time around.

    Having a fish take me to my backing is always a rush - the last time that happened was with a nice cut-bow that didn't relish the idea of being in a net. Or having a hook in his mouth, for that matter.

    Perhaps June-ish?

  11. Ron, you wont need waders my brother,, they're not needed in the 100 degree canyon with 43 degree water, so leave those behind!...oh! but check that nail knot from backing to flyline.. that you will need... this isnt a ploy to get mr. Karinski exited,,, this is what lyes on the other side of those Rockies... let me add, that its NOT! legal to guide at the portal.. AT ALL!

  12. Biggerfish: Funny story there too ... Michelle and I decided we didn't want to deal with lugging the wal-mart raft at Chucker, so we bought a $2 inflatable pool that would fit in the back of my vest. We attempted to do the "upstream eddie to get you past the walls of death" thing and almost DIED!

    Note: kiddie pool does not have enough buoyancy to support 2 people.

    Yeah, my favorite parts about the Black is that it's super rugged and you can't guide it!!!! Makes it epic!

    Ron: We should definitely all meet up for that trip! June can be tricky. You may hit the Salmonfly hatch, but you may also be blown out by milk chocolate 2800 CFS. It's a worth risk, but if you want the safe bet, better to hold off until late July through Oct.

  13. Alright - I'm going to look at possibly the late August-September time frame. Let's make this happen. And Jeff? The plans won't involve the kiddie pool, will it? : )

    BUT...I'm also going to be back out on the Taylor late May / early June...just as soon as Cottonwood is open. And in July, of course, since I'll be out there camping around Tin Cup anyway.

  14. Hey Ron,
    No, I'll leave the kiddie pool at home. Though I am always looking for a way to cross rivers in the smallest possible inflatable (something that would fit in the back of my vest would be sweet!). I saw this heavy duty blow up snow sled called the Air Board ... Could be fun!

    Let me know when you're coming to the Taylor and I'll try and meet you. Stopped up that way last weekend and there were 20 CARS!!!! I just kept right on driving!

    I think it's always pretty slammed in the spring though, because fish are big and gorging on the high flows kicking out bugs, so it is the best time for hooking a true monster.

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