My fishing the Gunnison River had a special feel to it vs. the other places I fished during my trip. It had been 44 years since I had lasted visited with my father. I was 12 years old and we fished a section of the river in Black Canyon.
My dad passed away three years ago but remains the best trout fisherman I ever witnessed. He could read the water like it was a road map and had an amazing feel for trout fishing. Although he didn’t fly fish his approach was remarkably similar to many of the techniques I use today. He was more importantly a great man, a terrific father and my best friend.
Despite the passage of time that wonderful day on the Gunnison has always remained in my memory. So when I started making plans for Colorado the Gunnison was my top destination.
After a few days of fishing elsewhere it was time to give it a shot. I badly wanted to catch a nice trout to honor my dad. I had stopped into the Gunnison River Fly Shop on my first day in town and a helpful associate told me there was good fishing and access at a place called the Neversink. The full name is the Neversink Curecati National Recreation Area.
On the day I was to attempt the Gunnison I woke up nervous. Failure to catch fish would feel like I’d let dad down. Pulling into the Neversink parking lot at least there weren’t a lot of anglers out. Only one car was there with a father and son who were just heading out.
I slipped on my waders and started walking upstream since the father and son had gone down stream. A path allowed me access to the water actually a channel of the Gunnison. The water looked promising so I decided to give it a shot. After a couple of casts I had my first take. A small trout hit the fly just as it was straightening out below me. After that things slowed down. I worked my way downstream to a spot where the channel made a left hand turn as it ran into a rock wall forming a deep pool.
There was no way this water wouldn’t be holding trout. Despite trying a variety of dry flies, streamers etc. I couldn’t entice a strike. As I worked to the end of the pool I cast a black Wooly Bugger up against the rock wall. The current was quickest right beside the rock and gave my streamer the perfect float down towards the end of the pool. About ¾ of the way through its float I felt a sharp take.
The trout immediately took me out to my reel and the fight was on. He ran downstream from the pool into some faster water. I was powerless to stop him with my 3wt and began following him as best I could. The next section had some fallen branches and logs, if the trout reached that part of the river he would be gone. I had no choice but to strain my rod and tippet as much as I dared to try and turn the fish. When he finally turned it wasn’t over as he ran back up stream, then down again.
Even as I got him in towards the shore he continued to thrash the water. I kept saying to myself “don’t lose him, don’t lose him”. This was the trout I had dreamed about this was the one for dad. As he slipped into the net a smile grew on my face that ran from ear to ear. A quick photo careful release and it was time to just soak up the moment.
Dad this one was for you.