Lake City Fishing Report

lake fork of the gunnison river fishing catch and release flies onlyOK. Life must go on I suppose, as lonely as it is without Jerry

But enough about my hay stories. By now, I’m sure you’re as tired of the hayin’ as I was when we finished. How ’bout some fishing?

This isn’t exactly timely anymore, but consider it my summer fishing report for Lake City, Colorado – from the Vickers Ranch fish ponds, to their upper ranch mountain lakes, to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

A fun time was had. No gear was broken. And a few fish were caught. But not too many.

The biggest fish I caught during our stay on the ranch was also the first. Being my first fish of summer, ritual dictates that I had to set it free. But it really was big! Really. The fat trout I landed at Steer Pen lake might very well have been one of the legendary Cutbow variety I had been hearing about – a cross between a cutthroat and rainbow known for growing to monstrous size.

Well, mine was no monster, but easily at a couple pounds it was fun nonetheless. It hit on a silver and black attractor fly I tied, which I threw way out on a bubble after having little luck near the shore. Which brings me to the topic of waders … When fishing the upper lakes at Vickers Ranch, leave your waders at the cabin. Otherwise, you may quickly find out just how far one can sink into the muck just off shore

4WD Jeep to Joe Bob Lake for upper Vickers Ranch fishingThe rest of the summer was all about quantity, not size. I had the most fun fly fishing the hidden pond above Vickers Lake. Just walk around the lake and upstream a hundred yards. You’ll find a shallow reedy pond teeming with hungry Brook trout. These feisty little native feeders actually know what a fly looks like, hit quick, and put up a good fight for their size. Unlike the many planted lunkers I saw others pulling out of the lower ponds on Powerbait.

Save your waders for the river. But plan your trip accordingly because timing is obviously imperative if you actually want to catch fish. When that time might be is hard to tell. When we arrived at Vickers Ranch, the water in the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River was way high from a wet winter and late snow melt. By the time we left, it was low and warming quickly each day.

no fish in lake fork of the gunnison riverIt was late June when I first tried my luck in the river which runs right through the Vickers property. Having not seen a single fish pulled out near the cabins, I hiked through the lower horse pasture to where the canyon begins. This stretch of river is catch and release with flies only, which is fine by me. I reeled in two small cutthroats on a streamer by fishing a deep bank after wading out to the center.

I thought for sure this would mean lots more much bigger fish later in the summer. Not. Multiple trips back to that spot resulted in an empty kreel. And not because I released my catch.

Noticing an awkward lay of my line, and admitting that I never really fully understood the intricacies of fly rod, line and leader weights, I ventured to the Sportsman for some leaders and advice. I got plenty of the latter, and am more than open to a second (or third) opinion.

I have an 8 1/2′ #8 Fenwick I inherited from my father. This fly rod has suited me well. But as my cast improved, I began to notice that it really didn’t. Apparently I was using leaders that were far to light for this rod. And according to one young Lake City guide, it is really only suited for larger bonefish. I would “never catch a trout with that thing,” I was told with a laugh. Well I have. Plenty, but that’s not the point.

With no leaders of suitable weight to match my line, this guide set me up with a small spool of 14 lb. test monofilament. He suggested using that – with no tippet – instead of a leader. He also suggested I buy a new #6 rod if I wanted to go trout fishing. that wasn’t about to happen that day. My cast did lay out a bit better, but I did apparently continue to “scare fish all day” like he said I would when trying dry flies.

lake fork of the gunnison river fishing lake city, coAfter hearing about some huge brown trout one of the Vickers’ neighbors caught north of town, I ventured downstream. Rene plucked her guitar while Jerry sat and watched me wade down the river and out of site.

I worked dry flies down and casted various streamers on my way back up, only to get one good strike right where I started. I was ready to quit and wasn’t paying attention, until the excitement of actually seeing it strike made me jerk to quick and lose it.

No more fish were had, and I never caught another large enough to bring home for the grill after that first one I let go. And I have no pictures to show because I can’t bring myself to keep Brook trout. They are just too pretty to eat.

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