river running and fly fishing in Colorado

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Prior to shooting a youth event in central Missouri last weekend, I flew to Colorado to catch up with old friends while fishing and running a few rivers. After hanging around Buena Vista for the day and making a run (through some beautiful evening light) on the Narrows section of the Arkansas River, John was able to peel away from his wife so that we could head out to the Gunnison area for about a week.

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Day one found us hiking into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison down a dramatic, one-mile (Tomichi) trail in the rain that led us to a beautiful, less-visited section of the river. We were the first of the year on that trail. After nabbing a brown and a rainbow trout for dinner on our fly rods, we returned to a tent-full of water caused by a diverted stream. John found a rock overhang that we could both fit under so we rigged the tent fly to keep us dry and lay down for a surprisingly comfortable night of (almost) spooning as the water beyond our feet rose a couple inches.

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(The water pooling where our tent had been).

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(Our rock--30 second moonlight exposure).

On Sunday we headed to Lake City to inquire at the local fly shop about what the trout in Lake Fork River might be biting on and found, much to our reluctant delight, that everything in this quaint little town was closed on Sundays. On Monday we ran a higher section on the river in John’s oar boat. I fished holes as we floated down but our luck wasn’t there.

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The following day we ran the lower section of the Lake Fork—John alone in the oar boat and I in the pack raft. There were a couple of fun class III sections of rapids featuring a gnarly, partially submerged rock on one towards which the flow tended, and a 3-foot drop off another. I took a swim when I didn’t quite paddle out of the hole at the bottom of the drop. But the day was mostly sunny, almost 70, and certainly unsurpassable.

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We finished the run with time for John to ride his bike back up the gravel road that paralleled the river to grab the truck. Hasting to meet our old (although not in years) college professor Gary in Gunnison, by late afternoon a slight breeze was pushing us along a section of sunlit rock face in the Blue Mesa Reservoir as we drifted, lines dropped, for mackinaw and brownies.

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5am the next morning found us waking up to hit the reservoir. While our luck was limited, the weather was with us and by late afternoon we were hiking down, with sunburned cheeks, to where the Gunnison departed the reservoir (to river fish more brownies).

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Upon returning to BV that night, John and I had time to squeeze in another hour of casting flies on the Arkansas. I’m so grateful for the week of first-rate companionship, continuous adventures, tasty trout Gary smoked to go with a pine nut salad (on my last night), and the butter light we had to make photographs.

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I can’t get enough of that light.

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