Friday, July 5, 2013

Fly Fishing the Gunnison Stonefly Hatch

After getting back from A-Basin, I geared up for another adventure--this time a trip to the Gunnison Gorge and the lower portion of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  The Gunnison River is famous for intense hatches of giant stoneflies.  The trout go crazy eating these bugs, and I timed my trip to hit the hatch at its peak.

The drive from Montrose to Gunnison Gorge

Chukar Road--it got much rougher than this as you got closer to the trailhead.

Chukar Trail dropping into the Gorge

Gunnison Gorge from the end of the Chukar Trail.  This is the launch point for all the commercial float trips through the Gorge--definitely on my bucket list.

I got to the river around noon, and there were giant stoneflies, like this one, all over the bushes and trees in the Gorge.  Generally the fish only feed on these monster bugs early in the morning and late in the evening, but there were still some fish rising when I started upstream.

I worked my way a couple miles upstream (a little past this point) before getting cliffed out in the lower part of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

A big stonefly crawls along my fly rod.

Another stonefly wanders around my net.  These guys are clumsy when they start flying around; several smacked into my head, which felt like getting hit by a snowball.

After my first afternoon and evening on the river, I hiked back up the trail and slept in the truck.  I was up before 6 a.m. to make sure I was down the trail and upstream to the best stretch of water by 7 a.m.  Over the course of the day, I landed 14 fish, with all except one being hefty browns in the 15-17 inch range.  Most of those fish were taking being stonefly patterns off the surface.  I did land one big rainbow on a stonefly nymph, but I didn't land any monsters.

A dedicated group of anglers walked their rafts upstream through some rapids to be able to reach deep holes along the cliff walls that fishermen wading the river (e.g., me) couldn't reach.

I shot some video of a couple of spots on the river and a couple of fish, including my 19-inch rainbow.  You can see in some of the shots along the river white spots flying around that look like small birds--those are the stoneflies.  This stretch of the Gunnison Gorge and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison was right up there with the prettiest places I have ever fished.  This is another HD video, so make sure you choose that option on YouTube and give it enough time to load.


  1. Pretty impressive Ellis. That's similar to the fishing I do in Lake Lewisville.

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