A feeling of fall is in the Gunnison Country air, with monsoonal moisture and cooler nighttime temperatures bringing excellent trout angling to the Gunnison Valley.  While the “major” rivers in the basin are still a bit crowded, once school reconvenes in the Southern states mid-August, the throngs of trout-seeking tourists will diminish considerably while the fly fishing will remain strong through September and into October.  Incidentally, since Colorado’s population is slated to double by 2030 (yeah…no kidding), overcrowding on Gunnison Country rivers, streams, and even some high lakes will be an issue for the foreseeable future.

     The major rivers in the area are all fishing well, with the Taylor River and a float down the upper Gunny being the best bets at the moment.  Big grasshopper and stonefly dry flies are crushing fish on the Gunny, with small nymphs such as a BH Flashback Pheasant Tail, BH Prince Nymph, Barr’s BH BWO & PMD Emerger, and Two-Bit Hooker drilling fish beneath the surface.  A favorite dry fly tactic of mine this time of year is to cast across or up and across stream and skate a #14 Royal Stimulator over feeding trout.  If you can keep your fly controlled, floating, and semi-slow you can pick-off trout that are either engrossed by the skating motion or the flash of red on the Royal Stimi.  The Lake Fork is worthy of an excursion if you are willing to get to the water early and capture a slice of virgin water.  Once the Lake Fork has been sufficiently flogged, look to hard-to-access and lesser-known areas for good fishing, otherwise plan on struggling to hook many fish.  A simple Parachute Adams or Royal Stimulator is sufficient to catch willing risers, while Pat’s Rubberlegs and a BH Flashback Pheasant Tail will pay off sub-surface on the Lake Fork.

     The largest kokanee salmon run in North America is underway, as salmon are entering the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa.  Kokanee also make a much smaller run up the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and can be caught mostly below Red Bridge Campground, where they were stocked by CPW 3.5 years prior.  Recent sonar surveys of Blue Mesa have suggested that this year’s run should be more robust than the paltry salmon runs seen over the last few years, which biologists attribute to more water in Blue Mesa and thus more space for koks.  Whatever the reason, this is great news for anglers who love to feel the powerful tug of a lip-hooked salmon in flowing waters.  Try a Skykomish Sunrise, Green Skunk Butt, or Egg Sucking Leech for targeting salmon specifically, while a BH Western Coachman, oversized red Copper John, San Juan Worm, or tangerine trout bead to target both salmon and the large browns and ‘bows that follow pods of salmon upstream.