Take it from a pro

Spring fly-fishing can be tough

The North Fork of the Gunnison flows brown and cold into the clear waters of the Gunnision River where they meet at the Gunnison Forks. Flows on the Gunnison Sunday had dropped to around 280 cubic feet per second before rising Monday to slightly above 300 cfs.

By Sunday afternoon, the weekend storm had blown through the Pleasure Park, leaving sunny skies, a crisp wind and higher flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

After a day of rain and accompanying snowmelt, the streamflow gauge on the North Fork near Leroux Creek was reading around 240 cubic feet per second, not too high for wading anglers to reach the mainstem Gunnison above the Pleasure Park.

This gauge is just above the confluence of the North Fork and the Gunnison and it’s the gauge many anglers watch since it tells them if the North Fork is low enough to wade or if they have to take the long way around through Peach Valley and over the top by way of H75 Road.

Sunday the North Fork was streaming a ribbon of latte-colored water into the blue-green Gunnison. The smaller river still is low enough it gurgles when crossing the gravel bar at the confluence but this week’s rain may change that.

Flow on the Gunnison below the East Portal dropped to around 280 cfs this weekend before slowly rising above 300 cfs after more water was diverted last week into the Gunnison Tunnel for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.

Flows through the tunnel were raised to around 600 cfs to meet increased irrigation demands, said Erik Knight of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office.

That made the already wadeable Gunnison even more so.

As fishing guide Gale Doudy notes in the accompanying article, spring is a puzzling time for anglers encountering low, clear flows and a lack of noticeable hatches.

“You see that guy up there? He’s standing where he shouldn’t be, since that’s a spawning area, but even so, he shouldn’t just wade out into the river,” said Doudy, pointing at an angler about 200 yards upstream.

Spring fishing can be tough, said Doudy, a guide for Gunnison River Expeditions and whose house is on a hill overlooking the Gunnison.

“The water is shallow, the fish are incredibly spooky and there aren’t any hatches to give us clues on what the fish might be eating,” he allowed. “Streamers can work well this time of year but this is a nymphing river, and the better nympher you are, the more fish you’ll catch.”

When asked how long he has been fishing the Gunnison, Doudy took a minute to count the years.

“Well, I guess it’s about 50 years,” he said laughing. “It’s gone fast.”

Doudy is one of the better fly tiers in the area and this day found him searching the bushes near the confluence for signs of the black caddis hatch, a precursor of the summer dry fly season.

“It’s not long now,” Doudy said. “A few more days like this and the river will come alive.”

He said fly tiers and others interested in the Gunnison hatches should check http://www.gunnisoninsects.org.


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