OUT: Let your Irish eyes smile on fish in Green, Gunnison rivers

Ned Mayers of Grand Junction with a friend from the Gunnison River. Late-winter fishing can be very productive, as this late-season brown trout illustrates.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day but instead of wearing the green, why not try fishing it?

We’re not referring specifically to Utah’s lovely Green River where it courses through the sun-burnt cliffs of Flaming Gorge, although that is never a bad bet for an early spring getaway.

“It’s really fishing great this time of year,” said guide Curtis Brown from Trout Creek Flies in Dutch John, Utah. “The flows are right at 900 (cubic feet per second), which concentrates the fish and makes really great fishing.”

Do we sense a theme here?

The fishing also is picking up on the Gunnison River, its March flows running jade-green clear through the canyon above the Pleasure Park.

Colorado anglers more accustomed to the 500–600 cfs flows on the Gunnison (it was 618 as of Monday morning) might be wary of a river flowing around 900, but Brown said that’s about normal for a March-run Green.

“It means you can wade across the river at Little Hole,” said Brown about the Green, implying there are miles of far-shore river to be fished, a stretch not always accessible to the wading angler.

It’s still cold in the canyon, Brown said. Water temperatures, now that water releases are steady, are around 38 degrees, which means you won’t see any blue-winged olives quite yet.

“We’re still nymphing and there’s lot of midges,” said Brown, who also guides in Montana when he isn’t putting anglers on fish on the Green. “Streamers are working really well, too.”

Brown, who can be reached at 435-885-3355, said a favorite streamer pattern is the Goldilocks, a Trout Creek special pattern designed by the late Denny Breer, founder of Trout Creek flies and one of the most knowledgeable river guides anywhere.

“Yeah, Denny’s legacy lives on,” Brown said.

Closer to home, the Gunnison River through the canyon is running the color of liquid emeralds, and that 618 cfs flow is producing some decent fishing.

Just go prepared for the typical changeable weather of spring.

Phil Trimm and a few friends spent a recent Sunday on the Gunnison, hiking across the North Fork at the Pleasure Park and taking the trail up to the Smith Fork.

“You really have to be ready for any kind of weather,” said Trimm, who spends his working hours dispensing fishing equipment and well-based advice as the manager of Western Anglers Fly Shop in Grand Junction.

“Last Sunday it rained on us for about three hours,” he said. “In the morning it was cold enough there was ice in the guides, then in about an hour that was gone and we were taking off layers and in another hour we were putting layers back on.”

Trimm said the fishing was better the lower you get on the Gunnison.

“The fishing’s been better down by the confluence because of the warmer water temperatures,” said Trimm, who can be reached at 244-8658. “The North Fork is actually adding to the temperature. It’s probably 4 or 5 degrees warmer than the Gunnison.”

Even small changes in water temperature can spur fish activity, and cold-water trout will seek warmer water where insects are more active.

The spring blue-winged olive hatches haven’t started yet on either the Gunnison or the Green, but that will change as the month progresses and daytime temperatures continue to climb.

“I’ve heard rumors that some of the guides have seen BWOs, but I personally haven’t seen any,” said Trout Creek’s Curtis Brown, who added that the high temperature Monday for Dutch John was 54 degrees.

Trout Creek flies still is offering its winter rates on guide trips, including the popular “best of day” trip, which goes roughly from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., or however long you and the guide can stick it out.

On the Gunnison, you’re still looking at nymphs, egg patterns and the always reliable San Juan worm, Trimm said.

“That’s pretty much a go-to fly for the Gunnison, it’s a great winter fly,” he said. “Things are really going to start picking up as the weather gets more spring-like.”

Which is why the next month or two is the window of opportunity you might be looking for.

Warmer weather and higher water temperatures increase fish activity and make angling quite comfortable, particularly in the sun-warmed canyons out of the spring wind.

But warm weather also means the start of runoff, which puts the North Fork too high to wade safely and changes all that gorgeous green into something resembling your morning latté.

The thought is enough to make Irish eyes quit smiling.


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