Uncompahgre River Pa-Co-Chu-Puk Tailwater Fishery

Warmer temperatures have come to Colorado and with it so has runoff.  All but a few of these great state’s rivers are fishable and many won’t be for some time.  There is one great tailwater fishery in the state that has not been affected by muddying waters, the Uncompahgre River at Pa Co Chu Puk in southwestern Colorado.  This stretch of river lies below Ridgway State Park Reservoir at “Pa-Co-Chu-Puk”; locals call this tailwater Paco for short.  Fifteen years ago, the CDOW and Gunnison Gorge Anglers, the local Trout Unlimited chapter, raised money to improve habitat in this mile and a half long tailwater section of the Uncompahgre River.  It has taken many years for the fish at Paco to take hold but we can now say that Paco is becoming one of Colorado’s premier tailwater fisheries.

Like any tailwater fishery in Colorado, PaCo can be a very technical place to fish; with that being said, you can still tie on any attractor and catch a few fish. It is a great place for a match the hatch angler or the beginner.  Paco sees great hatches of midges, beatis, caddis and one of the best green drake hatches that not many people know about.  Three to five hundred CFS are normal spring flows at PaCo.  What this means for the angler looking to hook up with one of the river’s 20-plus inch fish is getting the weight and length of your leader just right for the depth of water you are fishing.  These fish will not move but a few inches to eat a size 20 Midge or Beatis pattern.  Adding a San Juan Worm or Crane Fly Larve to your rig works great in conjunction with your Beatis or Midge larve and pupa patterns during the higher water times.  During the spring months, with higher flows, dead drifting streamers is another great tactic to have consistent action as is striping big streamers tight to the banks.

The best advice we can give everyone who fishes Paco is to be patent and stealthy…or go out with an expert.
The best rod choice for Paco is a five or six-weight rod between nine and ten feet long.  We prefer a 590-4 or a 690-4 depending on what size fish you are targeting. Your leader and tippet size is very important for fishing the Uncompahgre River.  Since you are predominantly nymphing, fluorocarbon tippet and leaders are the way to go and should range in size from 6x to 4x.  Because this section always has clear water, fluoro definitely helps.