I spent the last week of August 2008 fishing around Montrose, Colorado. The region is still feeling the affects of the long, wet winter previous: the two main rivers crossing the town, the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre are running high, the latter is practically unfishable in town. Which is sad because THERE ARE HOPPERS EVERYWHERE and one could be throwing giant foam bugs behind the Mexican café downtown! But that didn't stop yours truly: four of the five mornings I got up early, grabbed my hat and slipped out the door before the kids were up.
Because of the high water, most of the "spots" on the Gunnison that had produced for me last year were not fishable this year. I fished the East Portal of the Black Canyon three times this trip and each time I hooked the same big 20" rainbow in the same spot, only to lose him before he could get into the net. Most of the Gunnison fish taken this trip were actually taken on a dry fly: a rubber-legged caddis to be exact. Fun fishing.
For a change of pace, and to get away from the 95 degree heat of the valley, I drove up to the Silver Jack reservoir near the headwaters of the famous Cimarron Creek. I fished the creek below the reservoir for a couple of hours but I must admit I’m not a very good pocket water fisherman. The scenery and the cool mountain air was better than the fishing. The size of the fish in the creek is pleasantly surprising – I was able to see some of them as they rose and inspected my hopper and humpy. I had plans to fish the beautiful reservoir itself but an afternoon thunderstorm came through and drenched the valley; the open range cows were bellowing about it as I drove back to Montrose.
The highlight of the trip was a whole day fishing the amazing Grand Mesa. This region of 300 lakes resides at the 10,000-foot mesa east of Grand Junction. This is the start of the off-season so most of the lakes that I drove by had ZERO anglers on them. They all beckoned to me to come fish them! Beautiful mountain lakes ringed by meadows, aspens and evergreens. 100 of the 300 have fish and most of those are heavily stocked.
Mesa Lake is a popular lake near a small resort. It has nice facilities and drive-to access. The water in this gorgeous little lake is bright turquoise and there are all manner of aquatic plants. It was astonishing how many trout one could see in the water. In some places they were so thick you could count a half dozen rainbows swirling around in a depression. And you may not believe this but for two hours I got a hit on 95% of my casts. At one point I counted 20 successive casts with either a hit or a fish on or a fish landed. It would have been more but I lost my fly in a fish and didn’t bother to put a new one on. In 90 minutes, I caught 16 fish and lost 20 more and kept four (the limit in the Mesa) for my mother.
Nearby, but less accessible, is Griffith Lake which requires a short hike through a forest and a meadow. The meadow was full of heifers and calfs. They mooed at me and turned to watch me trudging by in my waders, wearing a float tube on my shoulders. I chose Griffith Lake because I wanted some solitude and the fish are supposed to be bigger there. The lake was warm and very, very dirty. Visibility was perhaps three inches. I simply had to fish it though, having spent an hour trying to find it and then another 30 minutes hiking to it. There appeared to be one deep part of the lake and that's where I hooked one holdover rainbow. He was the biggest fish of the day at around thirteen inches. One of the cows chased me a little bit as I was walking back to the car.
I also fished Sunset and Island lakes for a time (and caught a few more fish) and took a short driving tour of the mesa. I wished I had more time to explore the mesa. Sometime I'll spend a week up there.
People in Montrose are so lucky to have all this great fishing so close by. I feel like I barely scratched the surface while I was there.