Learning from the locals
Gunnison River fishing addicts will share their expertise at Western Anglers
Top Ten this, Top Ten that … it seems like we are always making lists of the best of the best.
Commonly reviewed are the best retirement communities, the best ski resorts, the best restaurants. Well, fishing is no different.
Many notable streams grace our American landscape, from the historic eastern streams to the vast and tumbling rivers of the west. Western Colorado has some of the finest trout fishing to be had anywhere.
Commonly included on the Top-Ten list of trout streams in the United States is our own backyard Gunnison River. The Gunnison begins at Almont, north of the town of Gunnison at the joining of the East and Taylor Rivers, flowing and gathering as it makes it way south and west through Blue Mesa Reservoir and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Near Montrose, it takes a northerly turn toward Grand Junction, where it blends into the Colorado River.
A lot of ground to cover. A lot of trout to be pursued. So how do you chase them?
Two rod-bending addicts have a few answers they plan on sharing. Gale Doudy and Randy Fender have made so many casts on the Gunnison River over decades that they may need shoulder surgery. They’ve learned a few tricks that they will share on Saturday in Grand Junction at a show-and-tell in downtown Grand Junction.
Every winter, Western Anglers, the local fishing experts, host anglers on Saturday mornings for fly tying and informational programs on fishing in our local area. In addition to Gale and Randy next Saturday, the shop will host tyers Eric Way on Feb. 25, Tim Jacobs on March 4, and Matt McCannel on March 11.
Each expert brings a different fishing technique, river, and pattern into perspective, sharing where to and how to.
Ned Mayers, owner of Western Anglers, is excited for the upcoming fishing season.
“With the above-average snowpack, good water levels should carry over from spring to summer, and these tyers will be presenting patterns and techniques to cover our local waters,” he said.
Gale and Randy are particularly adept at using small flies for big fish on the Gunnison. Having fished the Gunnison myself from top to bottom for decades, there are those days when everything works as well as those days when nothing works. Those nothing works days are when the experts are good at turning nothing into something.
The fish are there — the Gunnison is one of a few rivers across the state that is ranked as a Gold Medal river by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Fish catching has nothing to do with that ranking. The catching part is up to you. That abnormal ranking is earned based on numbers and size of fish compared to other normal rivers. In other words, if you aren’t catching fish on any given day, it’s because of something other than the lack of fish.
“Particularly in the East Portal area of the Gunnison,” Gale said, “where some of the water is deep and slow, sighting fish is the key to success. For many reasons, a fish may not take your fly on the first few casts, maybe it simply didn’t see it. But if you will slow down, pick out one fish, and cast multiple times until all is just right, then over the course of a day you can have multiple hookups to bigger than average fish.”
Another tip from Gale has to do with fly size.
Although many fish are caught on larger flies such as big nymphs and steamers, small works very well, and may be the only size fish are taking.
“Especially when a surface hatch is absent, fish will feed on midges and small mayflies,” Gale continued. “Midges, though small, in high numbers comprise a significant portion of a trout’s daily diet. Large, sleepy trout feed consistently on small midges and mayfly emergers.”
At the Western Anglers presentation, Gale and Randy will show how to tie and to fish those small patterns. They will also talk about fishing not only on the Gunnison at the East Portal, but tour the lower Gunnison in the area of the Forks as well as the Uncompahgre River at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk below Ridgway Reservoir.
This section of the Uncompahgre is a tailwater fishery that has been described as “Disneyland” of rivers. Somewhat like a theme park, the river below the dam experienced a major river restoration years ago thanks to Trout Unlimited and Colorado Parks. What was a river mostly devoid of trout habitat and clean water was transformed by the impounding of the river. Now clear water and significant artificially placed natural structures such as large rocks and partially buried tree stumps provide a trout haven.
Such a haven not only attracts trout, but fishermen after them. Although the public water section is short at just over a mile, it can be packed with trout — some of them very large due to the benefit of catch and release regulations.
Although it is a stretch to call fish smart, some of the biggest are also the brightest.
Randy has it figured out.
He will tell all at Western Anglers from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday.