Colorado fishing trip   Jul. 28 - Aug. 2, 2017

For our 41st trip, we decided to try somewhere new - Colorado.  To keep the driving under 18 hours, I decided to try water on the west slope.  I looked for areas that would do float only trips, as Pop can't really wade or hike any more.  After searching, some calls and some emails, I picked the Gunnison River.  The Gunnison gets its start where the East River and the Taylor River meet in Almont, Colorado.  Almont is a beautiful little town situated about 8000 feet in elevation and surround by mountains.  Lots of tourist come here for the fishing and rafting and I'd guess a good jumping-off place for all the surrounding mountains.

I figured we could float 2 days on the Upper Gunnison (Upper Gunny, as it's called) and then try our hands at the Lower Gunny, out of Hotchkiss, Colorado.  Since Hotchkiss is just about a 2 hour drive from Gunnison, we could finish fishing on Monday and just drive to Hotchkiss and fish Tuesday and Wednesday.  Then we'd split the drive home into two days.

Since the drive to Gunnison is about 12 hours, I didn't want to do it in one stretch, so Pop wouldn't be too tired.  This worked out well, as we got to see Green River, Utah.  Not much to see, but having dinner looking down at the muddy Green River was pleasant. 

The drive from Green River, Utah to Gunnison is about 4 hours, so we had plenty of time.  We didn't really want to go sit in a hotel room for several hours in Gunnison, so just out of Green River, we went to Arches National Park for a couple of hours and then onto Gunnison and trying to track down our guide, Joel, with Gunnison River Guides.

A special thanks to:

Gunnison River Guides and joel our guide

thanks to Gunnison River expeditions and keaton our guide - and an apology for not fishing on wednesday.  Pop's health comes first.

Here's a day to day recap of the trip:

Friday -

Pop showed up at the house about 4:45 am.  We packed up my gear, rearranged some things and hit the road.  We said a quick prayer for safe travels and safety for our families and headed out.  Barstow and Dennys for breakfast and then the boring drive to Vegas.  From Vegas to Mesquite is just as boring, but Mesquite is where it gets much nicer.  The 15 Freeway follows the Virgin River through the northwest corner of Arizona and the Virgin River Canyon.  This is pretty spectacular and I'm in awe every time we drive through.

Once out of the canyon, you're basically in Utah and St. George is right there.  There's more water in the area, so everything is greener.  With all of the red rocks and greenery, the area around St. George is quite picturesque, as well.  Going north on the 15, the elevation goes up and everything gets even greener......and the speed limit is 80 (yahoo!).  Turning east on Hwy. 70, you head into the mountains and Fishlake National Forest.  The drive through the mountains is very pleasant.  On the eastern side, 70 turns mostly north and heads to Aurora, Utah, where it starts going basically east again.  Here, you go through Manti-La Sal National Forest and more mountains.  Where highway 72 goes south and highway 10 comes in from the north, it's basically high desert, but still pretty.

Shortly before arriving in Green River, Utah, we passed highway 24.  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh.....turn right onto highway 24 and it takes you south and then east through Capitol Reef National Park and on into Loa, Utah.  Been there, done that.  Capitol Reef National Park is worth the visit.  It is spectacular to see.  At 5:15 MST, we arrived in Green River and checked into the Comfort Inn.  Looking forward to tomorrow, seeing Arches and going into Colorado.
There were lots of clouds that we didn't think much of.....until it rained on us a bit.  We didn't mind, though, it was 80 or so outside and the rain felt quite good.....

Saturday -

Up and at 'em about 7:30.  We stopped in 'town' for some ice and hit the road.  At Crescent Junction, we turned south onto Hwy 191 and Arches National Park.  We had a very pleasant surprise once we got to the park.  The gate is open, non-manned and no charge to get in before 9 am.  Perfect.  8:15 and we're in.  Several stops, some pictures and a nice drive around the park, then headed back to the main gate and wandered through the information center.  It's very interesting and a good learning experience.  We've all seen the stock Windows 7 background picture of one of the more well-known arches in the park, but did you know that there are more than 2000 arches in the park?  Neither did I.  Yet, another National Park very well worth the time to visit.  We finally left about 10:30 am.  The traffic coming into the park was about a third of a mile long now.....boy, did we time that right or what (accidentally, I might add)?

Leaving the park, the quicker way is to go back the way we came in, on Hwy 191.  We decided to take Hwy 128 to the north and east along the Colorado River canyon.  Here, it's like the Green River, muddy, but the drive through the canyon and seeing some rafters was really nice.  Back onto Hwy 70 - actually here, it's Hwy's 70, 50 and 6.

At the Colorado boarder, we drove through McInnis Canyon National Conservation area and then to our right, near Grand Junction is Colorado National Monument.  We stayed on Hwy 50 to the southeast and several nice towns.   At the town of Montrose, the highway turns and goes basically east.  From there, the drive gets even better.  We drove along the dammed up Gunnison River and Blue Mesa Reservoir.  It's pretty big and very picturesque.

We got to Gunnison early under cloudy skies and rain.  Took a drive to Almont and around, then back down to Gunnison for dinner and relaxing before bed.  We were told to eat dinner at Garlic Mikes.  When we got there, it was raining pretty hard.  The food and service was pretty, doggone good. If I'm ever in Gunnison again, I'm eating at Garlic Mike's.

Sunday -

Up early and off to breakfast.  We left the hotel by 8:15 and drove up to the public boat launch area in Almont.  There we met up with Joel, our guide.  We started stringing up our fly rods.  As usual, I bring too much gear (just in case).  Joel commented that I had a fly shop in the car.  I'm glad I brought extras, cause I had a rude surprise.  My 5 wt. Orvis Clearwater rod snapped near the tip.  Orvis will repair or replace it for about $60.  All our rods got strung up and ready to go, so we launched.

The Upper Gunny is shallow and fast and the fishing is very fast-paced.  We started off with dry flies and I hooked up 5 minutes on the water.  Joel switched us to dual nymph rigs and we should catch more fish.  We both had trouble with them and he put us back onto dry fly rigs.  Pop did better right away, he does love his dry fly fishing.  A bit later, Joel put me back on a dual nymph rig and I did OK.

The Upper Gunny flows along the highway (135) and towns.  There were a few stretches where we didn't see any people, but typically there were people around - in boats, rafts, kayaks and on the shore.  Ranches, houses/cabins and we even passed a retirement home (my kind of retirement home!).  We went under several bridges, a few that we had to sit down in the boat and keep our rods down; they were that low.  The fishing was OK, just very fast-paced and not quite what we had expected (or wanted).

Lunch under a bridge and another hour or so of fishing and we were almost in Gunnison and done for the day.  Back to the hotel to relax and clean up and then back to Garlic Mikes again.  Back to the hotel to relax.  Pop read a bunch while I tried to stay awake in front of the TV.

Monday -

Tonight, after fishing, we were going to drive the 2 hours into Hotchkiss; so after breakfast, we packed up the car and checked out of the hotel.  Basically, fishing was a repeat of Sunday.  No complaints, just a bit too fast-paced for what we're used to.  No matter, the fishing was still OK and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We finished fishing around 3 pm, loaded the boat up and Joel drove us back up to Almont.  We paid/tipped him and thanked him for the very enjoyable 2 days and headed to Hotchkiss.  The drive was the same along the reservoir until we got to the bottom end.  We turned north onto Highway 92.  Highway 92 took us over the dam and from the top of the dam, we got a view of the very upper reaches of Gunnison River Gorge.  HOLY COW!  What we could see of the canyon - narrow, deep and very rugged.  We fished the Colorado River above Lee's Ferry, Arizona and below Glen Canyon dam.  It's 800-1000 feet down, but it's wide, slower and the canyon has lots of breaks in it.  The Gunny Gorge looked intimidating!

The highway basically followed the ridge above (way above) the river through the mountains.  It was beautiful up there and glimpses of the canyon and water kept us looking to the left.  The highway finally turned north away from the canyon.  The parts we couldn't see are called Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and further north, Gunnison River Conservation Area.  Even though we couldn't see it and wanted to, our drive was very pleasant, as well.  Through the mountains and past lots of ranches and farmland.  It was really nice and peaceful.

Hotchkiss sits at the Y of highways 92 and 133, a stone's throw from the north fork of the Gunnison River.  At about 5300 feet in elevation, it was warmer than Gunnison and Almont, but still very pleasant.  A quick drive out to Pleasure Park (where we go tomorrow to fish) and then back to Hotchkiss.  We checked in to Hotchkiss Inn and then drove across the street to a little restaurant.  The Hightower Cafe was a 1 woman place.  She was the hostess, waitress and cook.  The food was OK.  I had fried walleye and Pop had fried trout.  Back to the hotel for some TV, reading and sleep.

Tuesday -

Woke up to very pleasant temps, a tad warm, but really nice.  "Breakfast" at the hotel office and then headed to Pleasure Park and Gunnison River Expeditions.  Sandy introduced us to Keaton, our guide and then drove down to the river.  Pleasure Park sits right where the north fork of the Gunny and the main Gunny meet.  We put our gear onto a jet boat and headed upstream to the bottom of the canyon.  Keaton got us all geared up and then rowed us to the exit of the canyon.  He mentioned that there are some parts of the canyon that don't get any direct sunlight - wow.  He also told us about the class 4 and 5 rapids near the bottom of the canyon.  I'd like to float that once, just to see what it was like.

Once the river exits the canyon, it slows down and gets fairly wide.  It's not too deep, at all, but for as shallow as it was, it sure has some decent browns.  There were a few canyon walls, but both sides of most of the river down here was greenery with slower water and undercut banks - a trout's paradise.  We started out using a 2 fly rig - a dry fly with a nymph dropper.  All the trout were only hitting the big dry flies, so Keaton took off the nymph droppers.  The day was spent slowly floating and dry fly fishing - Pop was in heaven (so was I).  There was some longer casts, but most of it was 40-50 foot casts.  The biggest problem was getting the fly close enough to the bank.  Once we got the hang of that, then we didn't want to mend the line behind the fly - there's the problem.  You get the perfect cast, but the mend would ruin it - what to do?  We managed and had a really nice day.  It was hotter and I ended up getting a bit burnt, but no biggie.

At one point, we'd stopped to pee and Keaton had me get out of the boat and we walked upstream, fishing as we went.  A few nice trout later, we went back to the boat and headed back downstream.  Pop didn't mind and watched me fish; a bit jealous that he can't hike around well enough to do that any more.

We stopped for lunch at a campsite many of the guides had made about a mile upstream from the put-in.  High desert with scrubby cedars for shade, the campsite was cool and shady and perfect for a lunch break.  Pop relaxed quite a bit.  After eating, Keaton and I walked upstream a bit and fished.

Pop was in the boat when we got there and he was ready to fish.  Not too long after that, I noticed he was having some trouble casting correctly and he was getting very frustrated.  He was very tired and ready to be done for the day.  We headed in, landed the boat, packed the car and headed back to town.  Keaton told us the place to eat was the BBQ restaurant - Zack's Barbecue.  We had to find it and were about to give up when we saw a sign that pointed it out.  It was packed.  Obviously a locals place, the food was quite good and for both of us to eat dinner, it was about $35 with the tip.  Can't beat that!
Back to the hotel to relax and get some much needed sleep.

Wednesday -

About 2 am Wednesday I heard Pop sneeze and cough a bit.  Hmmm, not good.  The later it got, the more he was sneezing and coughing.  We got up about 5:30 am.  I watched him sneezing and coughing and the worst part was he was stumbling a bit around the room.  Really not good.  He said he was just very weak.  Had he just had a cold, we'd have fished, but with him being so weak; I made an executive decision and we called it a trip.

He was sad that we were missing a day of fishing (we'd already paid for), as well as the hotel rooms we'd already paid for, but agreed it was probably best to do the 12 hour drive home.  With him being so weak, there wasn't a chance I was going to let him drive, so I drove the entire way home.  Instead of stopping, going in and sitting down for a nice lunch, eat and drive so we could get home at a reasonable time.  I feel bad about this because it's probably a lot of my fault.  I couldn't prevent the cold he caught, but his tiredness - I probably could have prevented.  Two days of fishing the Upper Gunny, then we should have had a day off instead of driving and then fishing the next day.  Oh well.
He coughed, sneezed and blew his nose all morning long.  It let up in the afternoon and he started to get his strength back somewhat. 

As we left Barstow, we know we've got less than two hours left to drive.....or so we thought.  Barstow to Victorville is a 30 minute drive.  Just over halfway to Victorville, the traffic (there was a lot) came to a stop.  Construction had the freeway down to 2 lanes and then to 1 lane.  2.5 hours later, Pop had to pee really badly.  We got off the freeway at Stoddard Wells Road next to a white Ford F250 truck.  The few gas stations had lines of people waiting to go, so we found a deserted hotel and he went inside the dumpster aread.  We sat in line to get back onto the freeway about 8 minutes later.  We got onto the freeway next to the same white Ford F250 truck.  In 8 minutes, he'd only travelled 300-400 yards - wow.  Another 20 minutes and the freeway opened up and we were off full-speed.  3 hours to go maybe 10 miles.

To save Pop from dropping me off and then driving home by himself, literally sick and tired, we just went straight to his house.  I had Susan come over and pick me up from there.  We should have been home about 5:30 and it was about 8:30 when we actually arrived.  Because I drove the entire trip, there were very few pics taken......and we've seen them all already.

All-in-all, the trip was excellent.  We saw lots of new country, hit a new National Park (Arches), fished 2 new areas, caught fish, but the best part is that we got to spend 6 days of good, quality time together.

It doesn't get any better than that!

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