Summer turns to fall, hiking to hunting, but the fishing is still good

Summer turns to fall, hiking to hunting, but the fishing is still good

Dave Julfeth of Evergreen cools his heels while fishing the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Julfeth said fishing had been a bit slow but was looking forward to the cooler days of October to revive the action. The Lake Fork runs into Blue Mesa Reservoir and offers anglers the opportunity to catch fall-run kokanee salmon.

One of my co-workers at The Daily Sentinel spends fall weekends canning and last weekend was spent pickling garlic.

That’s OK, especially for mid-winter snacking, but Phil Trimm at Western Anglers Fly Shop had a better idea.

“I was fishing the Gunnison and doing quite well,” said Trimm (244-8658). “I was fishing big dries because there’s still lots of grasshoppers around. I used a big foam ‘hopper pattern trailed with a caddis dry.”

The transition period of late summer into fall (new snow on the peaks above Kebler Pass reminds me it’s already early winter in the high country), offers many options for the outdoors person eager to get out before hunting season begins.

The first major big-game season starts Saturday with the short elk-only season through Oct. 20.

A lot of people quit going out during hunting season, which is unfortunate because October offers some of the year’s best weather for hiking and fishing.

The aspen, cottonwood and maple leaves still are showing their neon-bright colors and, in the streams, most trout are starting to feed in earnest preparing for the dark season.

Brown and brook trout are in pre-spawn and while a brookie might ignore your offering, it seems brown trout get even more aggressive during the early part of the spawn.

This is the time when you might catch your biggest fish of the year, the only problem being there might not be another angler around to witness it.

It’s probably true you’re at more risk while driving to the trail head than you are while hiking along the trail.

If it makes you feel safer, wearing some sort of garment implying invulnerability certainly won’t hurt.

A bit of fluorescent orange — the state requires hunters to wear at least 500 square inches of fluorescent orange including a cap — or any bright color such as pink, fluorescent green and bright yellow is enough to distinguish you from the background at distance.

Trimm raised a valid point when it comes to dressing for late-season angling.

“You know, fish see so well, and with most rivers at their seasonal lows, you can’t afford to stand out more than usual,” he said, noting he sticks with muted colors year-round.

However, knowing that hunting season is taking place, he makes a few adjustments to his fishing schedule.

He and a friend frequently fish lakes on the Collbran and Cedaredge sides of Grand Mesa and Trimm said he fishes lakes close to the road when October rolls around.

“When the main hunting seasons start I avoid going on Grand Mesa,” he said. “But you still have a lot of other places that are fishing well.”

A few weeks ago, I was talking with Dave Julfeth of Evergreen, whom I met while he was fishing the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

Julfeth said fishing was slow that day and he was looking forward to the cooler days of October when fish start moving upstream out of Blue Mesa Reservoir.

“I really love fishing this river in the fall and have had some of my best days then,” said Julfeth, who at 72 years old has enjoyed many best days.

There wasn’t much action in the way of hatches that particular day on the Lake Fork, maybe due to the recent deluge that flooded the river and brought debris slides from nearby cliffs.

However, along most rivers you’ll find bugs on the water and, if you’ve checked your windshield recently, in the air at least up to that first major frost.

There are caddis and Baetis coming off the Gunnison, Blue-winged Olives, Pale Morning Duns and Drakes on the Fryingpan and midges and ‘hoppers everywhere.

Typical for the cool mornings this time of year, the hatches are slow coming off early in the day with the most activity occurring from roughly noon to 4 p.m.

Anglers preferring flat-water fishing can toss small streamers, and Trimm recommended carrying such patterns as Woolly Buggers (sizes 10 and 12) and Slumpbusters, which are tied to resemble a small baitfish, in sizes 8 and 10.

“A friend had some pretty good luck catching cutthroats in Big Creek and Big Meadows reservoirs with those,” Trimm said.

Kokanee salmon are running up the Gunnison but it’s all catch-and-release, flies and lures only until Nov. 1. The Lake Fork is open to catch-and-keep salmon fishing now.

Bright-colored fly patterns work best, including egg patterns, red San Juan worms, purple egg-sucking leeches and a local’s favorite, a swept-wing Gunnison River Coachman.

Once Nov. 1 rolls around, the Division of Wildlife allows snagging for salmon on the mainstem Gunnison.

We’ll leave you to argue amongst yourselves about the merits of snagging, especially since it’s easy enough to catch salmon with flies.

But no matter your preferred method, there’s nothing like a little pickled garlic to accompany that filet of fresh salmon.


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