Get to know western Colorado’s rivers via fly-fishing float trip
Sitting in a dory on a river full of fish, watching the scenery and waving a stick, to paraphrase angling author John Gierach.
Life is good, you know?
The Grand Valley may not have a great trout river to call its own, but it’s close enough (meaning a half-day’s drive or less) to several great trout rivers that proximity becomes possession.
The Gunnison, the Green, the Roaring Fork, the upper and middle Colorado, San Juan, Yampa, White — you get the idea.
One thing about fly fishing: it happens in some of the most-beautiful places on earth.
“I like to use the Gunnison and the Green as prime examples of places that if you’re an angler, you have to see these beautiful places at least once in your life,” said Phil Trimm of Western Anglers Fly Shop (244-8658) in Grand Junction. “Sometimes we get so busy fishing we forget to take a minute or two to look up and remember the reasons for why we’re out there and doing what we’re doing.”
Floating a river is a way to see and experience water you might never see again, said Will Sands at Taylor Creek Fly Shop (http://www.taylorcreek.com, 970-927-4374) in Basalt.
“It’s a real treat to see a river in a way you wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said. “Somebody rowing you down the river and floating through a lot of water that is privately owned, water you wouldn’t see if your weren’t on a float trip.
“And since you’re on the move, you’re always presenting your fly to different fish.”
Getting started is as easy as picking up the phone or dialing up a website.
Ask some of your more-experienced angling friends about their favorite places and favorite guides, or simply call the local fly shop on the river of your choice.
As Trimm notes, unless you know someone, the guide you get is simply luck of the draw.
“If you’re just starting out, you may get one of the less-experienced guides,” he said. “It’s not that they’re a bad guide but they simply don’t have the years of experience the older guides might have.”
Sands agreed, saying even the newer guides have years of experience fishing the local water.
“Some of it’s the luck of the draw but if you’re booking a trip through a reputable outfitter, the guides are going to be great,” Sands said. “The older guide may have a few more tricks he’s picked up over the years but the old guys don’t catch anymore fish than the young guys.”
As you gain experience, you’ll learn what you want in a guide. Plus, after a trip or two on the same river, you’ll get to know the guides.
“Once you get to know the guide, you can start requesting the ones you like,” Trimm said. “If you’re going to spend a day in small boat with another person, it’s good to know you get along with him.”
Or her, since it’s more and more common to see a woman guiding fishing trips, a sight you probably would not have seen 20 years ago.
And forget the image of a solitary angler being pushed down river by a taciturn guide. Float fishing easily lends itself to becoming a group activity, Sands said.
“We see a lot of first-time groups of maybe six guys on a bachelor party or 10 women having a bachelorette party,” Sands said. “We keep the boats close together, have a huge barbecue at lunch, it’s a very social day.”
He also caters to family groups where three or four boats are hired for the group experience.
“We love first-time anglers, they’re like a blank canvas for us,” Sands said. “They are moldable, don’t have any bad habits and don’t keep saying, ‘I know what I’m doing.’”
One thing: No matter where you go, make sure the shop and the guide are licensed. All fly shops should be happy to display their permit for guiding in public lands.
This year’s low snowpack means the runoff will be short, allowing an earlier start to the best fishing of the year.
“Aggressive fish and low water offer a perfect time for the beginner to float,” Sands said. “I guess the first week of June is going to be crazy good and then the third and fourth weeks, it will be game on.”
The going rate for a full-day float trip is round $500 for two anglers, including lunch. Guides are individual contractors, so a tip (20 percent) at the end of the day always is appreciated.