If you like to fly fish in the Centennial State, you know what a difference river flows make in your fishing experience. During years with abundant snowpack, runoff can last longer than normal and create a shortened spring fishing season. During dry years, floating typically ends early leaving anglers wanting more. It’s the average snowpack years that really offer the best opportunity for fly fishers in Colorado. 2020 is shaping up to be an excellent average snowpack year, and that has me excited for the fishing season ahead.
Spring Runoff Fishing
Springtime fishing in an average year equates to a good window of pre-runoff fishing, followed by excellent post-runoff fishing in mid-June. In the Gunnison River basin, our pre-runoff window is typically from April 1st – May 15th, depending on weather. Wade fishing and float fishing are both possible before runoff, with trout residing in the slower winter runs. Nymphing and streamers can be hot during this time, with fish eager to pack on some protein after a long winter. After runoff is when the float fishing can really get red hot. Fish will be spread out into all of the pockets and softer water, avoiding the swift currents of freshly melted snow. If timed right, post-runoff fishing in average snowpack years can be some of the most productive and exhilarating float fishing of the year. A lot of food is in the water column and fish will be taking advantage at this time.
Productive Summer Fishing
With average summer flows come opportunities for both wade fisherman and float aficionados alike. July in the Gunnison basin offers the most anticipated hatches of the season including Green Drakes, PMD’s, and Yellow Sallies. Dries and droppers are common, whether floating the Gunny or wading the area’s numerous streams. For those who enjoy hiking to alpine lakes in pursuit of cutthroat and brookies, July is a perfect time during average snowpack years, as the trails are typically dry and free of snow, ensuring a safer and more comfortable hike. As we progress into August, afternoon showers become commonplace, cooling the water temps and keeping trout happy.
Autumn Fishing is the Best!
Autumn has to be my favorite season on an average snowpack year. With flows on the Gunnison averaging 350-500 CFS in September, floating and wading can both be very productive. Trout become eager to feed before the cold months arrive. Kokanee salmon make their way upstream from Blue Mesa Reservoir. Combine the great fishing with a spectacular backdrop of golden leaves, and you are sure to appreciate this season. The high country will also continue to provide great fishing on these average years. Brooks and browns become vibrantly colored to match the turning aspen leaves. Be sure to bring your camera with you during autumn in the Gunnison basin!
Looking ahead to the coming fishing season, I’m delighted knowing that we are in for a year of cooperative flows and great fishing. If you’re like me, and enjoy fishing a variety of water types throughout the season, then I welcome you to come experience an awesome average snowpack year with me. Tight lines and I hope to see you on the water!
Patrick Blackdale is the Assistant Outfitting Manager, and a fly fishing guide at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colorado. Willowfly Anglers is the guide service at Three Rivers Resort.
He guides on all of the local rivers including the Gunnison, Taylor, and East Rivers. Three Rivers Resort is the perfect base camp for a variety of fishing adventures. The resort offers cabins, lodge rooms, and vacation homes. Visit our fly shop and Orvis Endorsed guide service with premium leases for private fishing on local ranch lands. Contact at 970-641-1303 or www.3riversresort.com.