December 23, 2016
By Jonathan Wright
A new guidebook to one of the most unique trout fisheries in the country has just been published, and it should kick start some road trips for motivated anglers. Fly Fishing the Gunnison Country outlines the resources and strategies of fishing Colorado's Gunnison basin, a drainage that encompasses a major tailwater, high altitude freestone streams and lakes, and adventure angling in one of america's newest national parks, Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
I personally have a deep affection for the region, having spent many days on trips based out of Denver chasing the giant trout that live in the quality water of the Taylor River below Taylor Reservoir. Some of the largest rainbows I've ever seen -- and this includes hatchery brood stock -- live in completely exposed roadside conditions, and are probably the most selective fish I've ever thrown to. Midseason, the fish are almost impossible to move, but in the early and late part of the year, monstrous trout can be taken on tiny midge larvae and mysis shrimp patterns. A Colorado state record rainbow of over 21 pounds was taken here, unusual for a stream dwelling fish to hold that distinction. There are enormous browns in the river here as well, upsized specimens from wild stock that have been in the region for over a century. Local guide services that specifically target these monster trout are available.
If a different kind of challenge is to your tastes, then venturing downvalley to where the Gunnison River itself has cut it's course into a canyon as deep as Yosemite might be right up your alley. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was only designated in 1999, but has a long-standing history as one of the premier fisheries in the country. While the uppermost sections of the park are accessible by car down one of the steepest paved roads imaginable, the remainder of access points within the park are more like mountaineering excursions, with some trails having fixed chains for handrails down steep gullies. Anglers who can hack it are rewarded with shots at strong wild fish of over 20" who live in some of the heaviest runs that can hold a trout, growing strong and fat on a steady diet of the large stoneflies that predominate the river's etymology. Down river, the Gunnison exits the canyon into the Gunnison Gorge, a more easily accessible pack trip that is routinely worked by expert outfitters offering float trips with upriver jet boat service.
Local author Doug Dillingham has spent the last ten years researching, writing, compiling and conspiring to bring the most comprehensive guide to the area together into one volume. Four major rivers, including the Gunnison, Lake Fork of the Gunnison, Taylor, and East Rivers are covered in painstaking detail, including access points, hatches, seasonal strategies and flies, data on fish species present, and advice from area fly fishing guides. Many of the areas premiere smaller trout streams, including Tomichi, Quartz, Cochetopa, Big Blue, Henson, Cebolla, Spring, Anthracite, and Ruby Anthracite Creeks are discussed at length as well. In addition, a number of the Gunnison Country's foremost high alpine lakes, including Upper & Lower Lamphier, Mill, Crystal, and Henry Lakes, are dissected in individual chapters.
Fly Fishing the Gunnison Country fills a glaring hole in local fishing information that will provide anglers the resources they need to explore this great part of the country. Available online and through better regional retailers.