Gunnison Gorge and the Black Canyon in search of salmon flies (and fish!)

In a few weeks the spring runoff will be nearing its end. Water temperatures will begin to rise and become more clear. Around this time a certain insect begins its journey to adulthood and finally death. If you are lucky enough to time a fishing trip during this event you can have one of the most entertaining times of your fishing career! A group of my friends and I were lucky enough to do this a few years ago and are hoping to repeat this again in 2014! I wouldn’t call the previous three years busts, but they were either ill timed, in the wrong location or foiled by extremely high and late run off, about 9000 cfs when good fishing resides in the 500 – 2000 range. Its not like we didn’t have a great time tanning, catching fish, yelling at our dogs and watching your tipsy friend run down the river chasing his cooking pan he accidentally threw into the river. It’s just if you enjoy fishing, as much as I do,  you can’t sleep at night because of the dreams of large trout aggressively taking your giant stone fly imitation off of the top of the water, honestly it doesn’t even have to be “large” trout. It also doesn’t help that you know how freaked out your buddy from the east coast would be having salmon flies crawling all over him and how much entertainment that would have been, better luck next time.

There are two main areas that I have been lucky enough to fish and backpack in along the Gunnison river; the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon. The first location I went to was the Gunnison Gorge. In our first trip, not knowing any better, we timed the salmon fly hatch perfectly. For me and my two buddies we had never really experienced a true “hatch.’ Being from New Mexico most of the fishing areas are small streams that don’t really have any famed hatches. Sure, the Rio Grande has its caddis hatch, but the Rio San Antonio doesn’t really have a blanket hatch so growing up you are really just fishing generic flies not trying to imitate a specific hatch, but matching a specific size. Well needless to say, we were very amazed at the amount of bugs there were and each morning there were more and more. Our hands were shaking we were so excited to cast the large attractor patterns, but the fish wouldn’t even take a look at them! We sat at camp the first evening of our trip and made some dinner. We were all a little bummed that the fishing wasn’t better, but laughed and ate some food. We set back out to do some more fishing and noticed there were a large number of caddis flies on the water. Once the sun started to set the fishing got a lot better and we were able to catch some larger fish. It got so good I was stuck running between my two friends trying to net their fish. After this trip I bought some extra nets to bring for these types of situations.

A view up the river in the Gunnison Gorge

Matt with a nice rainbow in the late evening

Matt with a nice rainbow in the late evening

Emil with a rainbow on the Gunnison River

Black Canyon

On a trip a few years later we decided to get a little more committed to the backpacking and hiking experience and took a gander down into the black canyon. This was a much more involved hike. The hike can be described pretty well in two words, LOOSE & STEEP! After taking a few spills and one close call we made it to the bottom and were amazed at how tall, or deep, the canyon was. The water was clear and fast, but there were no salmon flies in sight. After a quick knee-deep dip into the water we realized it was still a little early for the salmon flies, but we setup camp and got to fishing anyways. The Black Canyon is one of the most unique areas I have ever fished and I would love to get back into it and do some more exploring before I am too beat up to make it to the bottom.


A view up the river in the Black Caynon

Emil with a rainbow in the Black Canyon

Emil with a rainbow in the Black Canyon

Black Canyon Rainbow

Black Canyon Rainbow

Justin with a brown in the Black Canyon

Justin with a brown in the Black Canyon

Keep your eyes peeled for a post in late June for pics and stories of our 2014 edition!

4 responses to “Gunnison Gorge and the Black Canyon in search of salmon flies (and fish!)

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