Planning ahead for the longest day of the year could benefit many anglers

An orange stonefly lands on the banks of the Gunnison River in the Gunnison Gorge while a raft floats by. The stonefly is soaking in the sun much like many anglers will be on the June 21 summer solstice, which gives anyone fishing along the lakes and rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope more daylight to work with.

Once a year a great day dawns. Once a year there is a fishing day for which there is no excused absence. Then it’s gone for 364 more days.

Consider your lifetime. When something is in great supply and available readily, we tend to value it less — we can seemingly always get more. Narrow that to a once-a-year event. Assume some number of years you might live, then discount for the childhood years and the senior years when you might not be able to take advantage of the outdoors. Then subtract for the years that have already passed. How many of those once-a-year days remain for you?

So with that, I figure I might have 15 left. Not that I expect to only live 15 more years, but age and physical ability will likely leave me with 15 as a reasonable number of times that I can participate in this once a year event — a glorious fishing day. Now that one day seems very important.

June 21. The summer solstice. The longest day of the year.

It’s a day when fishermen can maximize time on the water. Start early and end late. Leave the house before daybreak, drive to a favorite water or trail, spend the day fishing, watch the sun set, fish until you can’t see any longer to tie a knot. Then, and only then, pack up and head for home. Plan on getting home well after dark.

With such a long day, I like to choose a fishing destination that I might not go to otherwise, somewhere that I’m always thinking: “Wow, if I could just have a little more time.”

Maybe the extra time is needed for a few more miles on the highway to get to that location on the other side of some mountain pass. You can drive right to that lake or river any day, but now you’ve got the time to get there and fish for hours. Or maybe your secret spot isn’t all that many miles away, but the road getting there isn’t exactly the interstate. The extra daylight gets you into the backcountry where you know few ever go.

For some fishermen, it’s not the drive, but the hike. In western Colorado, we have an endless choice of high country water that gets little fishing pressure. An extra-long day gets you back a little deeper on foot than you’ve ever been before.

Boaters may not go any further than they usually do, returning to their favorite lake. But before, it seemed you had just launched the boat, barely started fishing, and the day was getting away. Now you can circle over that favorite underwater structure a few more times or anchor in that special cove a few hours longer.

Where to go? Well, that’s up to you. With the higher snowpack this year, some of those destinations may still be inaccessible. But here are few places you might find me.

The Taylor River basin has it all. Big or small water, moving or flat. The Taylor River above Almont has miles of public access and may be the only clear water around because of the tailwater. Drift your tiny fly for hours over that 10 pounder fining in the Avalanche Hole. The reservoir has lakers bigger than most of the fish I catch. Headwater creeks by the mile with trout that will fit in your hand but an abundance of them.

The trails of the Gunnison Gorge should all be time and sweat well spent. Flows will be down from the peak but maybe not yet clear. The salmonfly, or orange stonefly hatch, should be in full bloom.

Driving to high country flat water is a great choice during the spring runoff. Head your wheeled buggy to Grand Mesa, which might prove difficult based on terrain. Some favorites are driving to the Cottonwoods or hiking to Forrest and Leon Peak.

The upper Colorado could be outstanding. Water levels will be high, but if it’s hot and very muddy, this is a great float. Same goes for the Green below Flaming Gorge. It’s probably too early for the Flattops, but make a few phone calls — you could have it to yourself.

Here’s to hoping the sun of summer and a long drink of daylight bring you more hook-ups than you can count.

How will you use the time?


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