Rainbow trout, brown trout and cutthroats thrive year-round in the rivers and lakes of the Gunnison Valley. Kokanee salmon swim up from Blue Mesa Reservoir to spawn in the rivers every fall. From the East River and Slate River in Crested Butte, to the Taylor River in Almont and the Gunnison River in Gunnison, there are both small and large rivers and streams in every corner of the valley. Bodies of water range from tiny alpine lakes to Blue Mesa Reservoir, one of the largest lakes in Colorado. Find a fishing guide or outfitter to show you the ropes, or explore on your own. Learn about fishing regulations and how to create a healthy, sustainable environment where fish can thrive. Start planning your Colorado trout fishing vacation from here.
In 2023, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission gave portions of the Taylor River and the Gunnison River Gold Medal status. This designation is given to the most elite trout fisheries in the state. Gold Medal waters must provide long-lasting and healthy habitats for fish of all ages. The portions of the rivers that are Gold Medal include 20 miles of the Taylor River below Taylor Park Reservoir and 12.5 miles of the Gunnison River starting west of the town of Gunnison at Twin Bridges extending up to the town of Almont.
The Gunnison Valley is home to some of the finest fly fishing in Colorado, if not the entire Rocky Mountain West. We’re not boasting! Come cast a line for yourself on a Colorado trout fishing vacation here.
The Taylor River is a prime fishery located halfway between Gunnison and Crested Butte and is a main stem of the Gunnison River. The secret behind the Taylor’s success is the reservoir upstream that controls the flow all year long and makes the gradient of the river downstream consistent. Large boulders and bedrock riffles litter the run and provide perfect spots for trout to congregate. These same features also help aquatic insects flourish. Huge hatches of Caddis, BWO and PMD can cover you in the evenings.
In the winter the Taylor River is the only place to fly fish in the valley. Downstream below the dam for a 1/3rd mile stays ice free due to the temperature of the water. This is the Catch and Release section of the Taylor, often referred to as the C&R. The primary fly to use here most of the year is the Mysis Shrimp in a variety of ties. The big fish here will rise to a well-presented single dry fly if a hatch is happening and your tippet is tiny. If these techniques aren’t producing for you try some small midges and emergers. The last resort is always to try something outside the box. Maybe that fly you’ve been carrying unused for 10 years is the one that pays off.
The rest of the Taylor fishes normally for a western river. Most people use 4X-5X leaders and tippets. Fish the hatch as it comes off and then be ready to switch back to a dry-dropper as necessary. Hare’s Ears, Zebra Midges and Psycho Princes are just a few of the large selection of nymph patterns that will catch fish on the Taylor. These are often hung off the back of large foam flies like Pool Toys and Chubby Chernobyls.
Our Valley’s moving water is not pastoral and much of it is fast-flowing. Being in decent physical shape helps us get through days of fighting currents and fish. Metal cleats are popular here because of their grip for the rocky river bottoms.
Most of our guides offer dory or raft float fishing on the Gunnison River. Half the Gunnison is private land and floating is the only way to access some superb water that is otherwise unavailable to wading anglers. Talk about an epic Colorado trout fishing vacation experience.
Nets are useful. Fighting a fish and trying to maneuver to shore can often pose a difficult task. Many big fish have been lost because there wasn’t a net to catch them.
Wear sunscreen and keep some bug spray handy. Mosquitos and biting flies are usually not much of a problem, except when they are.
A wading staff is a helpful tool for an unsteady angler.
The Gunnison Valley is home to the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest lake. We also have a few other smaller lakes, including high alpine lakes, that offer very good lake fishing.
Surface temperatures in lakes and reservoirs can vary as much as 10-15 degrees in a single day, unlike rivers that constantly flow cold water. All the fish species in the valley are considered cold water species and do not respond well to warming water. Fish will often be more active during times when the sun isn’t directly warming the water.
Taylor Reservoir is home to some truly large northern pike. Try casting the shallow weedy areas in June through October for a chance at a 20+lb toothy trophy. Blue Mesa Reservoir has seen an explosion of perch. These fish, though small, are very tasty and easy to catch. In late summer months and into the fall when other fishing may be tough, take the kids perch fishing. Fish in coves with structure like weeds or trees and use small jigs tipped with small pieces of earth worm. Fish in 10’-20’ and keep moving until you find a school, then enjoy non-stop action.
Trophy fish are a true prize for all anglers in the Gunnison Valley and are typically very old (it’s not uncommon for large trout to be over 20 years old!). Modern day replicas can be made that last longer and look more realistic than skin mounts. The use of Catch – Photo –Release (CPR) will help preserve our valley’s fisheries and give all anglers the opportunity to catch trophy sized fish on their Colorado trout fishing vacation too.
As you plan your Gunnison Valley, Colorado trout fishing vacation, you may want to book a professional angler who can guide you to the holes, tie the flies, and untangle the line. Some of our local guides even provide you with lunch and private land access.