Knowing when to measure or release ‘such a mind game’

Knowing that every quarter-inch counts, Brad Oberto of Montrose watches closely as Gene Hart takes an official measurement of Oberto’s trout during Saturday’s Superfly contest on the East River. Anglers often faced the decision of whether to measure a fish or release it, hoping for a larger one.

Leaning against the wooden counter that dominates the pocket-sized shop housing Almont Anglers, guide and shop owner Mark Day commented on how fishing can be baffling.

Not all fishing, mind you — although some anglers are quick to dispute that — but certainly the test of the Gunnison Angling Society’s Superfly, a one-day contest in which anglers are limited to, among other restrictions, pre-selected flies, pre-selected waters and a strict time limit.

“It’s such a mind game,” said Day, who operates his guide service out of the Almont Resort, where the East and Taylor rivers join to form the Gunnison River.

“You can be down to your last fly, only a few minutes left, and you need a big fish to win,” he said, with the finality of someone who has been there and done that. “And you work for that one nice fish, and then…”

“And then someone yells ‘time’ and you’re (done),” said guide Chris Matison, sitting nearby. “You’ll go crazy if you spend too much time thinking about it.”

Superfly rules limit anglers to measuring any five trout during the day, so it’s always a guessing game of which trout your release and which you measure.

Matison, a contractor in Gunnison when he’s not guiding anglers for Day, said it’s particularly difficult when you know you earlier released a decent fish in hopes of catching a bigger one.

“It’s like this sinking feeling, when you know you might have released the winner,” Matison said.

Hearing this, two-time Superfly winner Gene Hart laughed out loud.

“Yeah, you’ll be wishing you had that fish back,” he laughed. “I’ve missed first place by 7 inches when my partner failed to catch that fifth fish.”

Earlier that day, John Bocchino, owner of Riffle and Rise Outfitters in Gunnison, was remembering the 23-inch rainbow he had pulled from the East River during his first hour on the river.

“What a way to start the day,” he told a visitor of the fish that proved to be the day’s largest. “Problem is, now I’m spoiled.”

There are many good reasons to be spoiled by fall fishing in the upper Gunnison Basin.

A wet spring followed by summer and early fall rains kept water in the rivers and with many ranchers now cutting their hay fields, irrigation ditches have been turned off.

All contribute to more water in the streams and better trout habitat, said Day.

“Next year, we’ll have even better water,” Day promised.


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