Note: This report is a part of the FlyCast Lite reporting program and is updated seasonally or in the event of substantial changes that alter fly fishing tactics. FlyCast Lite reports are intended to give anglers a high level overview on seasonal conditions and general fishing tactics.
Fishing on the Gunnison has been great in recent weeks with mild spring weather and comparatively higher flows. Nymphing continues to be the most effective mode of fishing right now, but surface action is picking up and dry fly opportunities are improving. Additionally, the streamer bite is heating up and trout are moving more freely across the water. Expect water clarity to decrease over the next couple of months as pre-runoff is in full swing given snow melt from lower elevations. When nymphing, focus on the slow runs and deep pools ensuring plenty of weight to your rig. However, on warmer days, particularly in the afternoon, don't hesitate to fish the faster moving water and areas with structure. As far as flies go, lead with bigger attractor patterns with a little flash. Pat's Rubber Legs, Barr's Tungstones, caddis larva, Pig Stickers, Rainbow Warriors, Flashback PTs and red Copper Johns are all great options. Otherwise, trail with one or more smaller midge and/or baetis larva/pupa depending on the time of day. Streamers have been very effective during the afternoon with mild temps and off-colored water. If you go this route, hit the banks hard and don't be afraid to make a splash as it will trigger the trout's predatory instincts and turn a few heads. Otherwise, keep an eye out for surface action and actively rising trout. Midges are present in high numbers and the BWO hatch has been great as well.
The Gunnison River (referred to as the Gunny by locals) is a highly renowned trout river located in Southwestern Colorado. Designated as a gold medal and wild trout river, it attracts anglers from all over the state and country. The Gunnison originates in Almont, Colorado at the confluence of the East and Taylor River, which are two incredible rivers as well. At the confluence, the Gunnison flows southwest through the town of Gunnison and spills into Blue Mesa Reservoir. In comparison to other Colorado rivers, the Gunnison is a large river that maintains healthy flows year around. As a result, the river is most accessible by raft or drift boat. While that is the ideal mode of fishing, anglers looking to wade will have several access points that provide decent bank fishing. The Gunnison is famous for its large brown trout population but don’t be surprised if you find yourself hooked into a few healthy rainbows. In addition to trout, Kokanee salmon migrate from Blue Mesa Reservoir every fall and spawn in the Gunnison.
The Gunnison is a large freestone that provides anglers with a variety of fly fishing tactics. During the winter, anglers willing to brave the cold will experience the most success nymphing. As water temperatures rise in the spring, trout will begin feeding above and below the surface on midges, BWOs and caddis. The summer and fall months are where the Gunnison really shines. With a variety of midge, baetis, caddis and stonefly hatches, anglers will be equally successful fishing dry droppers along the banks and drifting nymph rigs through the deep runs and outer seams. Considering the size of the river, throwing streamers from a drift boat is another great way to cover a lot of water, especially during the fall when lake run brown trout move into the river from Blue Mesa Reservoir. Like most freestones, these trout aren’t terribly selective, so don’t overthink your pattern selection. Classic searcher and attractor patterns are consistent and productive options, especially if trout aren’t responding to imitative patterns.
The Gunnison River conveniently parallels two highways, highway 50 and 135, making access relatively easy. To fish the stretch between Almont and Gunnison, exit Highway 50 and follow highway 135 north along the river. Along this highway, you’ll find a number of boat ramps and public access points for wade fisherman. Fishing between Gunnison and Blue Mesa Reservoir is accessible via highway 50. Refer to the map below for the major access points.