Thursday, October 31, 2013

Almont Part 3... The Gunnison River

Day three found us waking at 6:00 am to the sounds and smells of Bryan preparing breakfast burritos. We are talking made to order, fresh out of the pan tortillas filled with all the fix’ins and smothered in salsa. A single burrito was the size of a large plate and one was plenty to keep the edge off for most of the day!

It was another beautiful morning. While the sun evaporated the dew that had gathered on everything,we loaded up. Clear skies, no wind and weather predictions of temperatures in the 70’s held promise for another fantastic day on the water.

We left the cabin and drove southwest through Gunnison  on US 50 to fish a stretch of the lower Gunnison that last year produced some really nice bows and browns. After a short driving, seven of us were ready to get boots wet. One by one, everyone found a spot on the water that looked fishy to them and lines got wet.

The water level was lower than the year prior; however, the day still held promise. The balmy 62 degree water moving, yet allowed great visibility if you had your polarized shades. I remember the days of running right down to the water and getting after it. The things I missed.  

Standing on the bank of the Gunnison, the amount of vegetation in the water was impressive. I saw two 3” stone flies scamper up on shore. The stone fly husk numbers were too many to count. I thought to myself how amazing it would have been to have been on the water the night prior! Throughout the day, the prolific hatches of blue winged olives and caddis revealed a glimpse into the secret of the size of the Gunnison browns and bows.

I fished my 9 foot St Croix 6wt with a 91/2 foot tapered leader. I dropped a #12 gold bead head hares ear chased by a #14 ABU and a #16 black zebra midge to complete the 12 foot set up.

The Gunnison is a wide river, and if you just look at the vast water it is easy to see nothing but water and nothing that looks fishy. Breaking the big water down into small water was very helpful for me. Even though the fish were hung over from their stone fly "all you can eat buffet," some nice browns and rainbows came to hand.

I imagined a small river along the bank I was on, a small river in the middle of the Gunnison, and then a small river on the opposite bank. If I could, I would fish the “small rivers” in that order. Sometimes the depth and flow prevented fishing the middle or far bank. That’s okay, because I know the fish were laughing and communicating to each other, “Let’s see him come over here!”

Any structure produced fish. We found fish tight on all sides of rocks; the head and tails of deep pools; in riffles; and any slack water we could find.

I wish I could tell ya that we did not see any other fly fishers, but I can’t.

We loaded up and head to a section of the river above Blue Mesa Reservoir. 

As we drove across a bridge on CO 149 which, during some seasons, has water a few feet from the base of the bridge I had to laugh at the sign telling anglers “No fishing from the bridge.” It was funny this year because the bridge was easily the length of a football field above the water. Would definitely make catch and release difficult.

The section of the Gunnison we moved to was just as visually pleasing as the section we had fished the first part of the day. 

With the exception of the occasional wind gust, it was clear, and sunny; yet, the clouds on the horizon promised the potential storm that would challenge our conviction to stay on the water. You could smell the moisture in the air.

The amazing water clarity and flow revealed tons of vegetation and masses of insects above and below the surface if one looked. 

The grasshoppers were only out done by the huge caddis hatch which was followed closely by an amazing variety of midges.

The stretch had huge holes, long deep troughs, and runs that were stacked with Volkswagen sized rocks in sections. 

If salmon were in the river, this would be the place to get lucky! Dave is the mad salmon hunter of the group; however, even though the promise of “salmon were in the river” had him excited, the salmon would have to wait to be caught on another trip.

I fished the same three fly rig and made sure that I was constantly adjusting the depth of my flies. 

JT has made a number of comments, non flattering, about the number of times I adjust the depth of my flies during a day of fishing. 

I strongly believe that if an area looks fishy and no fish are interested in playing, I just have not found the correct depth.

I worked the bubble lines in the deep runs and any current that was broke by any structure.

I enjoyed landing some nice rainbows and browns. 

The fellas were also successful in landing browns and rainbows. It truly is as much fun watch my friends catch and land fish as it is to land my own.

The clouds came in and the rain fell. Thunder sounded in the distance and it got the immediate attention of JT and Mike. 

We had fished all day and it was time to head to Mario’s Pizza for the traditional pizza and beer dinner that we have all grown so found of. 

If you are in Gunnison, you have to stop into the small, cramped pizzeria and enjoy their large portions, great beer, and great staff. 

The pizza and calzones are delivered piping hot and chased down with ice cold micro brews or any other beverage that the day requires.

We closed the place down at 9:00pm and headed back to the cabin hoping the four legged hairy critters stayed off of the road as we made it back to Almont and  discussed the next day’s fishing…The Taylor River.

Tips of the Trip…
Radios: Make sure they are secured otherwise your radio becomes a gift for the next fly fisher that happens upon it. A neck lanyard is priceless, just make sure is breaks away in case of emergency.

Work the bubbles in deep water: Deep runs with minimal or no visible structure work the bubbles. Try to get you nymphs to travel the speed of the bubbles and every once in a while give them some action.

Remember to break the big river into smaller rivers: Fish the closest "small river", then the middle, and finally the far banks. I am sure it would shock us to know how many fish we really scare off by our impatience and desire to wade out to the fishy water instead of fishing out to it.

Catch and release: Remember to land the fish you catch quickly, minimally handle them, revive them and get them back into the water.

Come back for Part 4…The Taylor River

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Simms Wading Staff

 I had the misfortune of watching my wading staff float down the Taylor River because I carried it untethered and needless to say it did not stay put.

Fortunately, I was fishing with my gear expert, Mike over at Big Dry Fly, who let me field test a Simms folding wading staff that he had brought along on the trip. After using his, Santa was nice enough to bring me one for Christmas last year.

My intent for sharing my experience with the Simms Wading Staff is twofold – one to share with you an amazing tool any fly fisher should have by their side even if they never intend to use it. Secondly, to give a heartfelt shout out to the amazing customer service I received from Aaron, at St. Peter’s Fly Shop and the responsiveness of Simms!

The Simms wading staff is well worth its weight in gold. The engineering that went into the staff obviously was the result of field use and input from end users.

The staff itself was amazing! It is an aluminum sectional staff that has a cable running through the center of the sections that allow for easy use and folding. It quickly extends and locks in place with a locking collar and comes in two lengths – 52 or 56”. The staff was lightweight, easy to use and easy to put away. It is very sturdy and had no problems keeping my 210 pound self upright in the crazy pocket water I sometimes find myself in. Regardless of the air or water temperature, the molded rudder grip was comfortable and did not slip.

The staff is attached to a neoprene holster with a retractable wire system that allows for easy use; however, retracts quickly. The staff can quickly be released from the retractor with a quick release clip. I have found that neither the retractor nor the clip have hindered its use or storage. The retractor is attached to the neoprene holster so you do not have to worry about losing any part of the system.

The neoprene holster is a tight fitting pouch that eliminates excess material that might get in the way. The holster rides very comfortably, regardless of where you intend to carry the staff. I carry mine on my waist attached to a neoprene wading belt Simms makes. The holster is self-draining and has a belt loop that can be easily worn on your wading belt, attached to your vest, or attached to a sling pack without purchasing the wading belt. The holster and the belt are sold separately. The entire rig; staff, holster, and belt; packed away very easily in my gear bag.  Definitely a keeper! Check out the wading staff at

I have only had one problem with the staff. This year in Gunnison, after getting off the water on day three, I noticed that the webbing that held the retractable wire system to the neoprene holster had unraveled. The webbing literally unraveled.  I was still able to use the staff and the holster for the remainder of the trip. I was able to tuck the retractable wire system under my wading belt without fear of the staff going for a swim.

After getting home to the fun fort, I apprehensively thought about the process of getting the holster repaired or replaced.  
I stopped by St. Peter’s Fly Shop’s south location in Fort Collins and chatted with Aaron.  Of course in his laid back, ready to hit the water demeanor, he simply said no problem! If you have ever met him you know what I mean. 

In a matter of minutes he had it tagged and ready to be sent back to Simms.  If you are ever in Fort Collins, stop in and checkout St. Pete’s at either their north or south locations. Whether it is just to stop in and chat, book a trip, get some advice/recommendations, or purchase quality gear; their staff rocks!  Both locations are full service fly shops that are worth stopping in just to check out their locations!

Hats off to Simms! Without a question they replaced the holster and shipped it back to St. Pete’s in 10 days! They did not require one piece of documentation. It sufficed that their name was on the product! I have no doubt that the webbing just failed and stuff happens. No big deal. What was a big deal was the confidence in their products and customer service they instilled in me!