The Gunnison River begins at Almont, Colorado, where the Taylor and East River merge to form its headwaters. The river grows in size as it flows down through the Gunnison Valley and into Blue Mesa Reservoir. This is the first of several dams as the Gunnison continues its flow through the Black Canyon and eventually into the Colorado River. The Black Canyon section is famous for it's gigantic salmon fly hatch.
The East River is a freestone river which drains out of Emerald Lake, which is located at 10,500 feet in the Rockies near Crested Butte. So the upper Gunnison is impacted by both snow-melt and the controlled releases from Taylor Reservoir. The Gunnison is best fished from a boat in the early season during high water. Keep in mind that this river should be navigated by experienced boaters only, due to it's large boulders and narrow, fast flowing chutes. There are also plenty of public access points for wading the river during the summer and fall.
The Gunnison River contains a very high density of trout, including browns, rainbows, and cutthroat. There are long riffles and runs, with a lot of deep pools which hold large trout. There are good hatches of stoneflies, caddis, and mayflies throughout the entire year. The peak season is from mid June to mid September, and fall fishing can be spectacular on the Gunnison. The fall kokanee salmon run brings loads of hard-fighting sockeye salmon up the Gunnison River from Blue Mesa as they run all the way to the Roaring Judy fish hatchery on the East River. There is a catch-and-release season for kokanee from August 1 to October 31. Big trout will follow the salmon up to feed on their eggs. A 9-foot 5-weight fly rod is a good all purpose choice for the Gunnison River. A 6-weight rod can also be used during the salmon run.
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