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A Grand Fishing Season

Winding up the canyon I notice the truck thermometer drops to 39. It’s a stark reminder of how quickly the summer has gone by. They always seem to do that. As I turn into the Taylor Park Marina, things seem quiet today. A sure sign that some of the summer visitors have gone home for the year, but then again there’s rarely a full parking lot here. It’s so foggy I can’t see the other side of the lake where the elk usually hang out in the early mornings. I’m sure they’re there, probably a little calmer this morning hidden by the white blanket.

Big Lake Fish

As I pull out of the mussel inspection station, there’s only one truck and trailer parked by the ramp. The boat trailer is still dripping water. I study the water until I find his wake; he’s headed to the pike grounds but hasn’t got a line wet yet. I back my trailer down the ramp until the back end of the Lund starts to float. As I jump out of my pickup, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. A quick glance shows a text, “What do you have open the first week of September?” Good grief, that’s only two weeks away; September is only two weeks away.

The 150-horse mercury starts on cue and wakens the morning air. As I feel my boat bump the sandy bottom my pocket vibrates again, this time it reads “Running a few minutes behind, will be about 15-20 minutes late.” I park my truck, grab an extra coat and my half-full cup of coffee and walk down the gravel shore. After digging out the rods we’ll need to chase lake trout this morning, I sit in my boat and start looking at pictures of another season that is quickly coming to an end.

It doesn’t take long for me to remember what a fantastic spring it was. Multiple 50-fish days of brown trout on Blue Mesa Reservoir in late April was the norm. The pictures of browns start to all look alike. The lake trout fishing was pretty good too this year, but it took some work. A rising lake made for lots of weeds. But boy was it good to see it almost full again, and the fish were so healthy. Back-to-back pictures of 20- and 15-pound lake trout remind me of the day we caught those fish almost at the same time, less than 15 minutes apart. That was a kick. Then the one we caught with the group of guys from Denver in the last 5 minutes, and the one we got the next day 10 minutes in.

Next is a picture of Barney with his 21-pounder from the first day of ice off on Taylor. I’m sure glad Barney got one, what a top notch guy. I wish Paul could have made it with him. Man oh man did we have a good stretch on Taylor this spring. A picture of my wife with her first big laker and a smile to match flashes by and makes me smile a little. Next up is the 36-pound hog that the brother from Pueblo caught; he was so excited. That was a fun group.

Picture after picture start to run together. Then one from Morrow Point Reservoir pops up‚ a beautiful 3-pound brown. It was a slow start on Morrow Point this year. With the heavy water year, we didn’t even get started down there until after July 4. The salmon were a little tougher this year, but the browns were awesome. There’s a picture of Chuck and his son; we didn’t get a mile from the dock that day. I think Chuck landed at least a dozen over 18 inches. Then a mid-summer picture back on Taylor of a fat 18-pound lake trout. What a run we had on Taylor this year. A picture of the family that had the 100-fish day is next.

Then the group that always has the guys vs. girls competition. I still can’t believe each group caught 50 on the dot.

A picture of Mike and his girlfriend with their 14 salmon comes to mind. I can’t believe how big the kokanee were on Blue Mesa this year. Those 14 fish weighed 54 pounds. A picture of one on the grill; my family couldn’t even finish that one fish.

kid with a fish near Blue MesaMy phone rattling on the dash of my boat brings me back to reality. It’s Jonathan. It’s just a quick chat to firm up our elk hunting trips this fall. I can’t believe it’s already time to start thinking about guiding elk hunters. I look up and see Jack just a few steps away from the boat, almost close enough to startle me.

“You’re right, this lake sure is beautiful. I can’t believe how lucky you are to live here,” he says.

I think to myself how right he is. I am lucky to get to see this every day and guide on lakes most only dream about. But it sure does take a lot of work to make a living here.

Bob’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts.  “You gonna take up the whole boat again today Jack?”

“Was planning on it” is all Jack says with a smirk on his face.

I ask, “You ready to go find some fish?” and we shove off.

Ryan Johnson is owner of Weekend Warrior Outdoors LLC  based in Gunnison, providing fishing and hunting guide services.

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