9-1-06 - In search of Colorado Kokanee
Waters Fished: Taylor River, Gunnison River
Fish Caught: a few
Outing Date: 9-1-06
Air Temp: 60's
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: Up
Water Color: Clear
Fish Species: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Kokanee Salmon
Pattern Fished: Various Beadhead Nymphs and Hoppers
Pattern Color: no distinct fly preferences today!
So this is a trip I've been waiting to make for a while now. I've gone looking for Kokanee in "local" WI waters in the past (didn't actually MENTION those days I was looking, but if you're smart you can figure out that a) there are Kokanee in the state of WI and b) I DID go at the right time to the right places and came up completely empty handed)
Randy wanted to head west in the later summer / early autumn. Renee just likes mountains. Kokanee are found in some of the reservoirs out west. Looks like we had a winning idea.
Somehow we ended up chosing the Gunnison River area of Colorado, basically Crested Butte on down past Gunnison, as the area we'd try to hit. Jim K. may have played a role in this, as he'd fished the area in 2005 (I think) and simply raved about it. He pointed me to Three Rivers Resort right around the same time Renee found them. Things just seemed to be coming together.
The trip to Colorado was hardly "fun". Pardon the following RANT! We made it to Midway 2 hours before our plane was due to take off. We arrived at Frontier Airline's ticket counter where ONE man was on duty. For 45 minutes, the 20-30 person line in front of us DID NOT MOVE; another 100 or so folks simply added onto the line behind us. WE WERE BEYOND LIVID.
Finally a 2nd Customer Service Rep. showed up and suddenly the line started moving. We got through check-in after a ONE HOUR WAIT, and then had to go through checked-bag security and then passenger security. We grabbed some food, gobbled it up and got on the plane in the nick of time. We were all set for the "in flight" movie only to learn that it cost $5 to access "Direct TV" and $8 to watch a movie. I passed and tried to sleep my way through the flight!
Arriving in Denver I got off the plane and shortly thereafter made the now infamous comment, "It smells like the 80's". I would later come to find that radio in Colorado pretty much plays 2 types of music - country, and 80's.
Now it's time to do some more "bashing" of another company that completely let us down - Advantage Car Rental based out of Texas. Let me sum it up - we were quoted $260 for our rental but walked out the door spending $400. We were beyond ripped off, not to mention that the Ford Taurus they gave us was in need of SERVICE - it either had tire, brake, or alignment problems. When you show up around 11:00 PM in a city you don't know without any transportation, they literally have you by the balls. Renee complained to Expedia who booked the rental - let me cuss out Expedia right now by simply saying they didn't even READ Renee's emailed complaints following our trip - when they sent a list of Rental Company contacts Advantage wasn't even IN THAT LIST! Followup contacts to Expedia.com weren't any better either.
So, let me finish up ALL the nastyness by saying the following. For 3 of us to travel to Colorado we spent $250 each on airfair, $130 each on the car rental, plus Renee and I boarded Alice. Wait a minute, I have yet ANOTHER complaint to lodge. The Pets Hotel at Petsmart in Evanston. DO YOUR DOG A FAVOR AND NEVER BOARD THEM HERE. Another $160 paid for Alice to get KENNEL COUGH or some sort of respiratory infection EVEN THOUGH SHE HAS THE SHOTS that are supposed to prevent this very sort of thing. So we're ALSO in the hole another $80 in VET bills. A LONG LONG TIME AGO I used to work in the pet industry and believe it or not, I got stuck with the job of selling dogs are part of my duties (not something I ever WANTED) to do. I also got stuck with the job of CARING for the puppies. Bleach, 2X per day, let me say that was a LOW point. ON THE FLIPSIDE though, despite the "cramped" conditions similar to any kennel type situation, we never developed KENNEL cough or respiratory disease in our PUPPIES. If I can follow the "rules" and keep very young puppies from getting sick, the Pet Hotel in EVANSTON definitely totally BLEW IT in my book.
So let's just sum this all up and say just Renee and I were doing the trip. $400 car rental, $500 in flights, and $240 for the "priviledge" of missing our dog AND getting her sick the whole time we were in Colorado. Here's the hitch, we still had to drive from Denver to Almont- add another $60 in gass to bring the grand total to $1200. We left Chicago at 3:00 PM and arrived in Gunnison around 3:00 AM (4:00 AM Chicago Time). 13 hours of traveling.
On the flipside; the drive to Almont is 1,200 miles and Mapquests out at roughly a 19 hour trip. For an extra 6 hours of travel time we would have spent only $120 in gas to get there (and another $120 back + 6 hours travel time). We'd have my own car full of gear (not just what we could pack) and more importantly, ALICE TOO. Basically, Renee and I learned a REAL big important lesson - it's a TON cheaper and relatively hassel free to undertake the classic American ROAD TRIP.
So we got shafted at the Super 8 in Gunnison too...I didn't think "economy" motels cost THAT MUCH! Come morning, we were actually now on 9-1-06 and the fishing trip finally began. We checked in at the 3 Rivers Resort, got our licenses and some advice at Willowfly (the fly shop) where we also learned that we were very early for the Kokanee run this year. Renee made lunch and finally, without any further delay, we decided it was time to fish!
Randy was the first in while I rigged up Renee and her new rod (#67)...Renee got in with her hip boots and came back soaked before I had even finished rigging my rod up. The water was both a bit deeper and swifter than it "looked" from shore!
We fished the Taylor River behind the cabin until probably 2:00 PM in the afternoon when other anglers started checking in and showing up. The water was pretty good, giving all of us fish. I personally had two larger trout, probably in the 18" range, NOSE my hopper but ultimately refuse to take it.
Of course, this was a Kokanee trip, not just a trout trip, so we moved downstream just a bit to the confluence of the Taylor and East Rivers which forms the start of the Gunnison River. This spot was deserted when we arrived, but now a few anglers were plying the water. While we hooked nothing and felt that we were crowding folks in, we DID see one angler who managed to pull 2 brownish/pinkish salmon from the heavy flows in front of us. The salmon ARE HERE....YES.
Being the intrepid explorers we are, we hopped back into the car and found an access spot not too far downstream that was vacant. We hopped in. The main advice when searching for Kokanee in the Gunnison River System is to fish deep pools. Unfortunately, the section of river we had come to was pretty much a long, straight, shallow riffle that was probably 1/4 to 1/3 a mile in length! Renee and I rerigged for Trout - by the time we were finished Randy was already far upstream.
Renee and I both gave it a good effort, working the current seams, pockets behind bolders, any likely fish holding structure. The Caddis + dropper rig looked promising for this stretch of water, but in the hour or two we fished here Renee and I never hooked up with anything. I wrenched my ankle which pretty much sealed the deal..I was ticked off at the situation. No salmon, no trout, and a throbbing ankle. Time to just sit down and take a rest.
Meanwhile Randy had completely the opposite luck upstream where he found a caddis hatch coming off....we NEVER saw ANY kind of hatch where we were. Randy added several fish on during this jaunt which did NOTHING to lighten my mood! Did I mention I did the drive from Denver to Gunnison at night with a car that sounded like it was going to explode or at least blow out a couple tires and was going on maybe 4 hours of sleep?
OK, by the time Randy came back down I had settled down and rested a bit. We knew of a purportedly good place upstream on the Taylor River. Basically, the tailwater section immediately below the Taylor Reservior. It was described as having many extremely large trout that grow fat on mysis shrimp coming out of the reservior. It was also described as being typically very crowded, "shoulder to shoulder". It kinda sounded like some of the Ozark Tailwaters. I was game.
Well it WAS pretty. And we did see a couple large trout milling about immediately below the dam in "off limits" territory. The water was relatively crowded, although nothing even remotely close to "shoulder to shoulder"...look back several years to some pictures of the Root River in WI...there's a couple that should give you an idea of what "shoulder to shoulder" REALLY means.
In the short stretch of publicly accessible water, we did see some fish rising. I ALSO DID see one rather large rainbow trout that looked more like a steelhead. Despite ultrafine tippets and the proper dry + nymph rigs, Randy had one strike and Renee and I came up with 0. Let me finish this out by saying that it was HARDLY anything like my experiences on some of the Ozark Tailwaters. "Nothing terribly special".
It was getting towards evening so we decided to try one last spot. Randy had eyed a nice stretch of rapid boulder & plunge type water that he wanted to check out. Renee had worn her arm out so she just grabbed the camera. I too was pretty tired but wasn't going to let my first day in Colorado go down as a "1 fish day" without kicking and screaming all the way.
Randy had already landed a fish by the time I got out and looked around. I called one spot as "my rock"...Randy was cool with it and went upstream. A hatch was coming off but in such heavy water there weren't any readily noticeable risers.
I perched on my rock and started swinging Tucker Nymphs, letting them flow around in the heavy currents and eddies. In the swirl immediately below where I stood I got to see a larger brown and a couple rainbows repeatedly investigate my flies.
Only once I changed up and started probing water that was not so close did things turn on. Casting all the way across stream I found a pocket that perhaps rarely gets fished...the flies would only stay in the strike zone one or two seconds but it was enough...in short order I landed 3 rainbows and one TEENY TINY brown, ALL on the #10 Tucker Nymph.
I know Randy will disagree and perhaps eveng cringe when I write this, but hey, at this point my opinion of the trout we encountered in the Taylor River was that they weren't anything all that better that what you might encounter in Iowa, and Iowa's trout are a heck of a lot closer to home that Colorado!