On going east to fish Western Slope water

Small creeks can provide great sport for larger trout, such as this brown trout caught earlier this month from a small tributary of the White River.

Going east to fish Western Slope water can be ironic at best, as several Daily Sentinel readers brought to my attention this week.

Wednesday’s story about fishing Boulder Creek within the limits of the city of Boulder brought several emails, including one from reader Kurt Neuswanger of Grand Junction who rightly noted South Boulder Creek, a tributary of the main creek I was fishing, benefits from flows diverted through the Moffat Tunnel, which drains part of the Fraser River headwaters.

“I just found that a little ironic” that the author went that far to fish the Colorado River headwaters, Neuswanger said.

Fishing Boulder Creek wasn’t the initial reason for the trip, but Neuswanger brings up a good point.

The water Front Range residents enjoy, often without thinking of the origin of that water, in large part originates west of the Continental Divide.

That’s particularly true this drought-bedeviled summer, with snowpacks across the entire state near zero and most of the Continental Divide looking bare as mid-August, not mid-June.

That the area we fished was blanketed by air made hazy by the High Park fire near Fort Collins, which was estimated at 46,600 acres at this writing Thursday, makes the situation even more ironic. Much of the water being used to fight that fire is coming from Gross Reservoir, which also is part of the Moffat Tunnel storage system.

Another astute reader, Matthew Diers, principal of Palisade High School, wrote to say he grew up fishing Eldorado Canyon (South Boulder Creek) but he “transplanted from Boulder early in 1981 and never went back.”

Diers and longtime friend Jack Leslie also cleared up my hazy geography about the Boulder Creek drainage, which includes North, Middle and South Boulder creeks.

Another reader, this one wishing to remain anonymous, this week sent photos of trout he caught recently from a small creek in western Colorado but without commenting on the water conditions he found.

Many small creeks might offer early fishing this year but will be much smaller and drier come July and August, the time when most of us head into the high country to avoid the heat.

It’s been noted here recently that streams in the Gunnison Basin that normally run high well into June are near-empty and a great portion of their present flows are due largely to irrigation return water having finally reached the streams.

That the Gunnison River will be on everyone’s mind this summer is growing more obvious every week.

Already it’s been announced there isn’t enough water for the peak flow releases meant to mimic historic flows and restore habitat through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Wednesday the Bureau of Reclamation announced releases from Crystal Dam were bumped up 100 cubic feet per second, to around 1,700 cfs, in response to high temperatures, increased demands from irrigators and to meet obligations for a 900 cfs reading at the Whitewater gauge.

Flows through the Black Canyon and the Gunnison Gorge were to reach around 700 cfs, and the bureau voiced concern about anglers being caught unaware by higher flows.

“We wanted to give fishermen and other canyon recreationists ample warning so as not to strand or surprise someone as flows reach ‘un-wadeable’ levels,” said Dan Crabtree, lead hydrologist for the bureau’s Grand Junction office.

In year’s such as this, Crabtree’s office maintains near-constant contact with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, which provides river, flood and water supply forecasts for all or part of the seven states in the Colorado River basin.

His office said river flows are projected to taper off more slowly as the runoff period finally ends and base flows reach their summer levels.


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