Big Bugs Bring Big Fun on the Gunnison

The Gunnison river’s aquatic insect life is off on summer vacation leaving the river’s brown trout and anglers just one splendid option: terrestrials.

Gunnison River brown trout

Foam Hopper and Chernobyl Ant
Few things are as much fun for fly fisherman as “flinging foam” on the surface. Chernobyl Ants (front) and just about any other foam hopper imitations make fish rise on the Gunnison.

The fish and the fishing are looking up on the Gunnison. The river’s aquatic insect life is off on summer vacation leaving the river’s brown trout and anglers just one splendid option: terrestrials. The waist-high grass lining its banks maintains a hopper population that rivals any biblical plague.

The fly guides chinning themselves at the Gunnison Pleasure Park’s bar talk about #8 red Chernobyl Ants being the can’t-miss fly, but in actuality, any foam-hopper imitation, short of tying a flip-flop on your line, will instigate fish.

Throwing large, foam flies make us all feel good about our angling skills. Anglers who have struggled this year due to the record flows can get their mojo back with a trip to the Gunnison in August. Nothing helps repair a fly fisher’s psyche like a 20-plus fish day. With flows dropping to optimum levels and stunning desert-canyon scenery to accompany aggressive trout, floating the Gunnison is a biblical plague every angler should participate in.

Collared Lizard
Collared lizards call this unforgiving country home.

If You Go:

Bring plenty of bug dope, sunscreen and water. You are guests of the mosquitoes and lizards that call this unforgiving country home. Check out the petroglyphs and the chukars along the river banks. The fishing and sights are wonderful, but this country in August isn’t welcoming. Resident clouds of mosquitoes and stifling heat are brutal once you step on the banks of this flowing oasis.

How to Make this Trip Low Maintenance:

Put in at Gunnison Pleasure Park (west of Hotchkiss on Highway 92) and float the 9-mile section of the river to the takeout where the Pleasure Park staff will shuttle you back. Rafts and boats are available for rent from the park. You can stay at the campground in your own tent or rent a primitive cabin. The put-in is also a short distance from the motels and restaurants in Hotchkiss.


Written by Tyler Baskfield 

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