Last Update:September 28, 2023
The Lower Gunnison River is an angler's paradise renowned for its world-class Gold Medal trout waters, expansive access, prolific hatches, and long fishing season. While it is still the continuation of the Gunnison River that comes out of the town of Gunnison, its landscape, availability, weather, and hatches are vastly different from that of the upper Gunnison River Basin near Almont, or Crested Butte, which sits at much higher elevations. The best access to public waters on the Lower Gunnison River includes Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with its East Portal Road (subject to seasonal closures), and Pleasure Park take-out at the confluence of the Gunnison River and the North Fork of the Gunnison. Float fishing in shallow drafting drift boats or fishing rafts throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall is the best way to cover river miles. However, excellent walk-wade opportunities are available year-round on lower elevation portions.
The Gunnison has shown incredible clarity for much of this season. Clear water allows for better visibility and increases the chances of success. Be ready to sneak up on spooky fish. Caddis and BWOs have started to show in good numbers, and dry fly fishing continues to be productive throughout the day. You will also see some intermittent hopper activity close to the bank, so double dries that allow for easier visibility of small mayflies is the go-to rig. Nymphing has also been solid, opt for caddis pupa and smaller mayflies over larger stonefly nymphs and early summer bugs. Actively search for fish in aerated water as air temps remain high, whether that be shelves or other structure. It's worth noting that the fish are actively feeding near the edges and shelves, as they typically do. These areas offer cover and food sources for the fish, making them prime spots for angling. By targeting these locations, you will increase your chances of hooking into some fish. The Lower Gorge is accessible by crossing the North Fork at Pleasure Park, or river right is accessed from South River Road. Walk wading this area also offers great fishing opportunities and more river access than areas like East Portal Road.
Recommended Fly Patterns
Foam Caddis #16, Missing Link Caddis #16, Kryptonite Caddis #16, Trina’s Carnage Hopper #14, Juju Beatis #16-18, Two Bit Hooker #16, Copper John #18, Pheasant Tail #18
FLIES FOR THE LOWER GUNNISON RIVER
RIGS Fly Shop & Guide Service Lower GUNNISON River Hatch Chart ©
THE LOWER GUNNISON RIVER
From the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park’s East Portal to beyond Pleasure Park and the confluence of the Gunnison River and North Fork, there are well over 20 plus miles of fishable river on the Lower Gunnison. Still, the majority of access is often remote, challenging, and best accessed by experienced rafters or active hikers and walk-wade anglers ready for rugged trails. Make sure to visit the Bureau of Land Management agency websites for current trail conditions or read their extensive informational map.
*Note: as spring air temperatures begin to rise, our area rain showers intensify the potential for flash flooding, be sure to stay up to date on River Gauge Data, including gauges on the North Fork of the Gunnison River, as water turbidity may affect the quality of your fishing. Dangerously slick dirt access roads can also be problematic with rains or early/late season snow melts, so pay attention to the forecast.
Fly Fishing Gear & Equipment for Lower Gunnison River:
- 5 weight to 6 weight, 9’ to 10’6” fast action Fly Rods with weight forward floating fly lines are perfect for most casting situation on the Lower Gunnison River. A larger river, with plenty of open casting lanes for long dry fly drifts and deep nymphing, is a perfect scenario to propel faster action fly rods.
- 5x to 2x leader & tippets will cover all situations on the Lower Gunnison River. Consider having both longer leaders lengths for presenting smaller dry flies, while shorter and heaver line and leaders are best for larger dry dropper rigs with better accuracy (especially from a boat) as well as quick streamer shots to the banks.
- Core dry flies for match the hatch, large attractor dry flies, attractor jig nymphs for weight and plenty of stone flies and terrestrials are essential on the Lower Gunny. Visit the Fly Shop to experience our curated selection of guide approved quality fly patterns, ideal for specific hatches and time of year you are visiting.
- Large to medium size poly yarn or bobber style indicators and a variety of split shot for deep pool and long drifts, plus dry fly flotant and dry shake for combating turbid waters slimy eats. *Don’t forget your net for proper catch and release fish handling.
- Don’t forget backcountry essentials like a full coverage synthetic and quick drying SPF Sun Apparel (+ sun gloves and sun gaiters) in this hot high desert environment, a quality rain jacket, day pack, bug spray and plenty of packable food and water for a full day of exploration.
Slight Chance Rain Showers
Low: 41° F / High: 69° F
Chance Rain Showers
Low: 33° F / High: 66° F
Low: 32° F / High: 52° F
Slight Chance Thunderstorms
Low: 31° F / High: 54° F
Low: 34° F / High: 60° F