Fly Fishing the Gunnison Country
Despite the herculean snow storms the Gunnison Basin experienced in January, temperatures have warmed and the snow has relented for the most part, bringing spring fishing conditions a full month early. Many of the deeper holes, where trout congregate this time of year, on the Gunnison, Taylor, and East Rivers are ice-free and fishing well, including the Gunnison’s Guardrail Hole and the Taylor’s One-Mile Hole and Rock Climbing Wall Hole! Trout, like the 20 inch Taylor River ‘bow pictured above, which was caught on a #18 Barr’s BH BWO Emerger, are looking to feed. However, it will still be another couple of weeks until the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River has enough quality open water to warrant an excursion to the fly fishing mecca of Lake City.
Concentrate on deep water or slow, choppy riffles near deep water and nymph with a dual-fly rig composed of a Zebra Midge, Miller’s D-Midge, Craven’s JujuBaetis, or Barr’s Beadhead BWO Emerger in sizes 18-24. I like to employ a red midge larva this time of year and often pair it with a blue or purple JujuBaetis. For the next month-and-a-half, midges will hatch on warmer days and trout will begin to take midges readily off the surface. There is no finer midge dry in existence than Roy Palm’s Special Midge Emerger. This fly was designed for the pigs on the Flying Pan River near Basalt, but it works its magic just as well on Gunnison Country fly water. If this river report motivates you to do nothing else, let it be to obtain and familiarize yourself with this indispensible dry fly.
Once March arrives, my favorite nymphing rig for Gunnison Valley fly waters is a #8 brown and yellow Pat’s Rubberlegs Stonefly Nymph with a Barr’s BH BWO Emerger dropper suspended about 14 inches below. On inclement days you might find a few fish rising to olives, and oftentimes a #18 Parachute Adams is all you need to dupe trout. If stubborn salmonids require a more sophisticated pattern, I use Mathews’ BWO Sparkle Dun or Furimsky’s B.D.E. BWO. If you are not familiar with Ben Furimsky’s line of flies, they are killer for Gunnison Basin fly waters. Furimsky is a longtime Crested Butte-based guide and fly tier, and both his Foam BWO and B.D.E. BWO, which were designed with Gunnison Valley waters in mind, are tremendously effective blue-winged olive patterns. He also has equally effective PMD, Green Drake, and Brown Drake patterns as well. His green drake patterns are particularly effective.
Runoff is likely to be long and fierce this year, so get out and enjoy Colorado’s marquee trout fishery, the Gunnison Valley, before high water comes and poops on the piscatorial party.