Take advantage of fishing low flows on Gunnison

Whether you have two feet or four, the easiest and quickest path to the lower reaches of the Gunnison River above the Pleasure Park is walk across the North Fork just above its confluence with the Gunnison.

Terry Stevens of San Antonio, Texas tries his luck with spinning gear during a day fishing the Gunnison River near the Pleaure Park. The effects of low water are evident – in normal flows the rocks on which Stevens is standing are covered by water.

AUSTIN — Terry Stevens was perched on a large rock a few steps from the Gunnison River, peering down at the knot of fishing line tangled in his fingers.

“I tried flies for a while but didn’t have any luck, so I figured I’d try some lures,” Stevens told a passing visitor who stopped to inquire about the fishing. “But now I seem to have missed a guide, so I have to do this all over.”

The fishing trip to the Gunnison River was part of a semisweet homecoming for Stevens, who said he was born in Montrose but has lived in San Antonio, Texas, “for years” after retiring from the Air Force there.

“My wife Margaret is visiting her father in a nursing home at Montrose, so I decided to get away for a little fishing,” said Stevens, dressed in a dark-blue shirt, green shorts and white sports shoes, perfect attire for the hot day and low water where the North Fork and Gunnison rivers come together at the Gunnison River Pleasure Park. “I walked about a half-mile up river but didn’t catch anything. How far away did you say the confluence is?”

Most people are accustomed to taking a four-day holiday weekend, but this year’s Fourth of July, falling on a Wednesday, wasn’t close enough to either weekend to make a long holiday plausible to most employers.

That meant those anglers who could escape for a day on either side of the Fourth often found their favorite river more-deserted than expected.

A few anglers were moving along the Gunnison by midday Thursday, but there were long stretches of empty water in between.

“I saw a couple guys up there,” said Stevens, nodding his head in the direction of where the North Fork comes in. “But that’s the only people I saw.”

He pulled on the line and handed one end to his visitor.

“You hold this and give me some tension while I rewind the spool,” he directed with the sureness of someone accustomed to giving orders and having them obeyed. “I’ll give this a try for a while in some of the deeper pools.”

Water flows in the Gunnison have been dropping steadily during the early part of July, and Friday the Bureau of Reclamation announced even more reductions in flows after the Gunnison Basin finally received its first measurable precipitation in several months.

“In order to take advantage of (monsoonal conditions) and conserve storage in the Aspinall Unit, Reclamation will be decreasing releases from Crystal Reservoir by 100 cfs this afternoon,” bureau lead hydrologist Dan Crabtree wrote in an email Friday.

That drop brought flows below the Gunnison Tunnel (East Portal) to 483 cubic feet per second Sunday, less than 40 percent of the long-term median flows for the date.

The lower flows won’t last long, Crabtree said, with releases from Crystal expected to increase as the monsoonal flows vacate Colorado and dry weather returns.

The North Fork remains easy to cross near the boat ramp, and it’s possible to wade the Gunnison at several places upstream of the confluence.

Anglers on the Gunnison are reporting success using terrestrials (ants, beetles and grasshoppers) and Pale morning duns, smaller mayflies which in spite of their name may hatch all day long and into the evening.


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