9-3-06 - A long drive comes full circle
Waters Fished: Lake Fork Gunnison River, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Gunnison River, Taylor River, Roaring Judy Ponds
Fish Caught: at least a few
Outing Date: 9-3-06
Air Temp: 70's
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: All were clear
Fish Species: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Kokanee Salmon
Pattern Fished: Various Beadhead Nymphs, sometimes underneath Hoppers
Pattern Color: As usual, larger Tuckers and Pheasant Tails stole the show for Renee and myself.
Randy really wanted to go after a new variety of Cutthroat in the Rio Grande. After describing the river to me, I was sold. It sounded like it would be a 60 to 90 minute drive.
We piled into the car and headed south. Along the way Randy kinda called the audible and we detoured to check out another river in the area, the Lake Fork (of the) Gunnison River, or Lake Fork for short. My understanding is that MJ had fished here a few years back and felt it was a high quality stream.
Smaller than the Gunnison, I admit I was a bit intrigued. Access here was perhaps "sketchy"...although there was a public parking lot and signage, down by the river it was all fenced in save for a pass through. Other anglers were fishing downstream, so between that and the pass through and the parking lot, Randy felt we wouldn't be trespassing by fishing here.
As usual, Randy bolted for the river while Renee and I took a bit more time gearing up. By the time we got down to the water, Randy had already landed and released a brown trout.
The water looked easy enough to read, but perhaps the fish were more spread out. Renee and I moved upstream while Randy crossed to fish from the less obvious (and less pressured) far side of the river. As I made my way upstream, I hooked up with and lost something that showed a bright red stripe (probably a rainbow). A few casts later I was hooked up again and landed a colorful Brown.
So this wasn't exactly "knock-em-dead" fishin'...we definitely worked hard for the fish. Towards the time we decided perhaps we should move on to the Rio Grande, Renee managed to pop a larger brown from behind a rock.
We got back on the road heading south and soon found the Lake Fork running alongside the road for most of the way. Some stretchs ran through huge canyons, others were right up against the road. It definitely was a PRETTY river.
We drove all the way to Lake City...and then realized that the Rio Grande was still 52 miles away and we were averaging maybe 40 MPH through the windy mountain roads. Randy, perhaps frustrated with how long we'd been in the car, and realizing we had at least 1.5 more hours just to get to the Rio Grande, made the call that we should just head back!
So we found our way back towards Gunnison, taking a bit of time to check the Upper Gunnison where it drains into (and becomes) Blue Mesa Reservior. There was actually a boat as well as a fly angler fishing right where the river becomes level, the start of the reservior. The water immediatley upstream was pretty much a long straight and relatively featureless riffle. We decided to move upstream
We stopped at another access that maybe consisted of 50 yards of public water. 2 more accesses were literally FULL of cars. Basically, rather than finding solitude in the downstream stretches, we made it almost all the way back to Almont!
Ultimately we did find a really nice stretch of river on the Gunnison consisting of a raised side channel divided by an island, with a spillover towards the upstream end that plunged into a huge and very deep pool. The side channel seemed calm whereas the main channel looked simply perfect.
Randy moved downstream and spent most of the afternoon chasing risers. Renee and I focused our efforts on the deep plunge, hoping for salmon. Instead, I was rewarded with a nice Brown that crushed the Tucker Nymph. Renee pulled out a dinker that we didn't get a picture of. After that, things got PRETTY darn quiet.
It was probably another hour before Renee again hooked up. The heavy currents made fighting a larger fish difficult. When we finally got it to net, I was surprised. Looking at the pictures I'm now pretty certain that her large brown was the very same fish I had released and hour prior. Once again, chalk up another fine example of how well Catch and Release works.
On the flipside, I had to wonder if maybe this very fishy area was simply going to be unproductive (considering that Renee and I caught the same fish and pretty much nothing else). We were all pretty hungry, so after chowing down, we decided we might as well try another spot.
So we headed back upstream on the Taylor River. Randy had made a remark from the backseat yesterday...a certina rock had piqued his curiosity enough for me to mark it on the GPS. Randy hit his rock and Renee and I set up on a rock downstream.
Apparently Kokanee do come up into the Taylor River, but from my vantage point it was clear that the only fish below me were TROUT. We both battled hard making cast after cast, drift after drift, only to come up empty handed. The fish were curios but not hungry enough to feed on our flies. Perhaps we were drifting the wrong thing?
Well, I started fanning out my casts to other pockets and eddies and finally hooked up, again on the #10 Tucker Nymph (which, for the record, landed all my other fish today AND was always sharing the line with another disparate fly). It was quite the battle, Renee actually landed it from below while I was perched on a ginormous rock above. At the time we thought it was HUGE, but looking at it now, it probably was comparable to a trout on the "larger but average" size range in Iowa.
After all this trecking around, we had yet to get into any Salmon today. We ended up making a mad dash back to the ponds with only 45 minutes or so to fish.
Randy quickly landed a Kokanee, and in short order I managed one as well. Renee mostly took pictures this evening, pretty exhausted from some of the distance casting I had her try on the Taylor.
As dusk crept up, we started to pack it up. I couldn't resist asking Randy to give the trout a shot because the pond's surface looked like it was RAINING - but they were ALL rises. Randy rigged with a Griffith's Gnat in those last moments of "legal fishin' time" and cast into the pool. In less than 20 seconds he had a fish on that simply crushed his fly and bolted for the sky. Chalk up yet another of many trout for Randy :) I even captured the leaping trout with my camera, but the fading light meant that my pictures turned out as a big blur!
Yet another day in Colorado had drawn to a close. We drove up into Crested Butte for dinner, and later that evening I spent a couple hours packing our gear. Tomorrow we had to leave by 9:30 AM if we had any chance of making our 5:00 flight out of Denver!