Friday, April 23, 2010

On the River: East River, Gunnison, Colorado

April 2 and 11, 2010

It's that season again (and almost past since I'm blogging a little late and water is already running chocolate around these parts)! Time for the pre-runoff fishing where the winter chill has gone but the spring runoff hasn't hit yet. These are the times when it's pretty easy to find fish midging lazily all day long, and if you get enough warm days in a row, the rivers start to get off color, which is a deadly time to try and fool a fish with a fly (that is if you're into catching large numbers of fish).

The main reason it is so deadly is because the water just starting to come up gives you some pretty huge advantages as a fisherman.
  1. Flows starting to rise means food being washed down stream. Those little clingers make one mistake and, like a Hollywood action star losing his grip on that helicopter landing gear, they fall off the rocks and become someone's lunch.
  2. Slightly off-color water means fish that are feeding heavily while being a lot harder to spook.
  3. Fishing pressure is at an all time low since fish had a three month break from all but the craziest of fisherman.
So, Michelle and I headed during one of our favorite seasons (yes, if you're think "all of the seasons are this guys favorite", you are correct), for a couple of afternoons on the East River. I love fishing the East River because it's a classic freestone with various types of water. When the fish are still in winter holding lies, we focus mostly on deep, slow pools and riffles that are of uniform depth, but still pretty slow moving (i.e. 2' deep riffles).

The 2nd of April was still pretty cold so we were able to capitalize on super slow, clear water which meant risers were tucked up into the head of pools waiting for midges to cross their path. We really only took one fish on the surface (had a couple others on), but the fish were much more aggressive for our "micro-nymphing" technique, as they were feeding pretty high up in the water column.
The East River is a "Wild Fishery" meaning they don't stock it. All the browns are wild, but the hatchery nearby means a fair amount of "not so beautiful" rainbows make it to the river. Then again, I've caught some really good looking ones if they decide to stay in the river for a few years.

The 11th of April was a different story ... the water was much higher, and starting to get into that greenish color. We fished for about 30 minutes with a two fly rig, and after hooking 8 fish all on the point fly (tungsten hare's ear) we opted to get rid of the trailing fly since it was virtually useless. Why mess with a complex rig when you can go simple?

A sun beating down on our backs and Michelle landing about as many fish as she can handle is all a man can ask for in this world. It is also the reason we like this pre-runoff season so much ... if you hit the right conditions, the fishing can just be silly! The best part is, you can really run across some bruisers too since all the fish are usually bulking up during the spring runoff.

Tight lines,


  1. Gotta love the East. Nice work Jeff.

  2. right on man!!! hey did you know its open now?...the protal...

  3. Yeah, the east definitely has a special place in my heart. If only there was more than 1 mile of public water ...
    I used to guide for Mike Wilson and I would love taking clients up on the Spann Ranch private stretch. Granted it was stocked, but that was some epic fishing!

    I heard it was opening soon, if the weather isn't crap, Michelle and I may try and go tomorrow! Looks like the flows are still super low, which is always fun!