Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Gunnison River, Colorado
The upper Gunnison is a freestone looking stream although one of the two streams that form
it, the Taylor, is a tailwater. It has several tributary streams including the Ohio Creek, Tomichi
Creek and Antelope Creek. Although you can catch trout on nymphs and midge larvae
imitations before the runoff, it is usually near the end of June before the better fishing starts
on the upper section. The salmonfly hatch, which usually starts from around the middle of
June to the first of July, is the first big event to occur. Much better fishing gets underway in
the month of July and you may be able to start catching trout on the dry fly.
In the middle of August, the Kokanee salmon start their run up the river from the Blue Mesa
Reservoir to spawn. This event last through October. It provides some exciting fishing
because the salmon will usually readily take streamers and even nymphs at times. The
salmon must all be released back into the stream. October is also the spawning time for the
big brown trout that reside in Blue Mesa Reservoir. They move out of the lake and up into
the river to spawn and anglers have the opportunity to catch some large trout.
The lower section of the Gunnison, or the Black Canyon, is a beautiful, wild and almost
untouched wilderness area. It is a tailwater and the flows are controlled by the dam. It has a
lot of large brown trout as well as some rainbows. Water from the upstream boundary of the
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, downstream to the North Fork of the
Gunnison River, is classified as Gold Medal Water. This simply means the state rates this
part of the river among the best of the state's trout waters.
The lower section consist mostly of pocket water with deep pool, riffles and runs. Many
anglers prefer to float this section. You can fish it by hiking down into the canyon and by
camping along the river in one of its designated camp sites. Access to the canyon is
controlled by strict rules established to help maintain the wilderness as it should be. Browns
average around fifteen inches with many are over eighteen inches. The rainbows have
suffered loses from whirling disease but are still present and average an even larger size
than the brown trout. The highlight of the canyon section each year is the Salmonfly hatch
although there are many other aquatic insects that hatch in the canyon.
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