East Lake (OR) Gunnison River (CO)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by David Holmes, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. David Holmes

    David Holmes Formerly known as "capmblade"

    Mar 5, 2004
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    Snoqualmie, WA, USA.
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    We just got back from a road trip that included a few fishing stops. We had recently lost our digital camera (they are just too small these days!) so I had to resort to taking pictures with my backup film camera. Anyway, on with the reports.

    East Lake, Newberry Crater, OR

    ...on our way to Colorado, we stopped to stay the night at the Red Lion in Bend, Oregon. The hotel was adequate but had a great outdoor pool, which all three boys swam in as soon as we checked in.

    In the morning, more pool time, then breakfast at the Black Bear diner next door and a visit to the Riffle Fly shop just a block away. We got some day licenses and a few flies and before you knew it, we were on our way to East Lake. Its about a half-hour south of Bend and then another half-hour climbing up to the volcano and passing Paulina lake. When we arrived the boys were unimpressed at the volcano (since its so big it doesn't look like you are in one). We parked at the boat launch of the first campground and strung up our rods and headed out to the right of the launch (the dog area). The weather started out kind of chilly but quickly became sunny and warm - a perfect day for shore fishing!

    (this is a picture of East Lake from last year)

    I was working a black wooley bugger on a sink tip. I had a few grabs but they felt like little fish. There was a fierce callibaetis hatch going on with bugs in the size 12 range coming off in the shallows. Occasional nearby rises made one feel hopeful. After 30 minutes I removed the bugger and replaced it with a bead-head gold-ribbed hare's ear on a 5x tippet. I figured 5x would be enough for those little 12" fish I could see out there.

    On perhaps my 20th cast with the new fly, I was doing a slow retrieve when a great weight suddenly stopped my line. The line itself started twanging like a guitar string and then jerking back and forth as the big fish went through the head-shake routine. I called out for the net, which I had somehow left way down the beach. Amy ran for it and while she was gone the fish jumped right in front of us. I had the presense of mind to drop my rod tip and I marvelled at the size of the fish as he flew through the air in front of me. He appeared to be about two feet long and dark brown. I was sure the 5x tippet was going to break but it held.

    Amy arrived with the net and fish became cooperative and we netted him (just barely). He was easily the largest brown I think I've ever caught. He dwarfed the entire net. I put him in the 22-24" range. Maybe 3.5 pounds? He was perfection; he wasn't beat up at all like you see with some big fish. His golden skin had neat diamonds of purple and pink starting far behind the eye and then becoming more and more frequent as you went back to the tail. He was glorious. We had accidentally left the cameras in the truck so, sadly, there's no picture.

    We fished for 3 more hours but had little to show for it; Amy caught a 12" rainbow and got into some other small fish. I caught a chub. Still, that one big brown turned out to the be the biggest fish of the trip.

    Gunnison River, CO

    We had two mornings to fish the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. If you've never been to the Black Canyon, it is a destination worth visiting. Imagine driving up into some scraggly shale hills and then coming across what appears to be a near-vertical 2000 foot gash that extends for miles and miles in either direction. The canyon is so incredibly steep that the opposite side seems eerily close. The first time I looked down into it I became queasy and had to step back and look away. My father is a geologist and he said that the Gunnison river only took about 10,000 years to cut that 2000 foot canyon - its a blink of an eye in geologic time. The road down into the canyon has several places that approach a 16 degree grade and trucks must use low gear to get down there. The road is closed during the winter months for obvious reasons.


    At the bottom of the canyon is the Gunnison river, a gently-flowing, light brown tail-water that builds big fish fast. Rainbows and browns inhabit its murky depths and during the hot parts of the summer days they hug the bottom the deeper runs. Everyone fishes nymphs with indicators. The technical guys fish tiny, tiny cream-colored flies that are little more than cream-colored thread and brass wire around a #20 hook. The word is out about the quality of this fishery because there were a LOT of fly fisherman there this year as compared to last. Last year, Amy and I felt like we had the river all to ourselves during the week. Not this year. This year it seemed like there were fly fisherman everywhere. Oh well; it didn't seem to affect the fishing that much.

    On the first morning, my brother and his GF fished rapalas but were skunked. Amy and I fished identical rigs; a #10 yellow stonefly as the upper fly with a #14 pink shrimp (NOT technical) on the bottom. Amy hooked two fish, one which escaped clean and the other broke her off. The latter fish jumped about 10 times afterward trying to get the hook out of his mouth. He appeared to be a brightly colored 17" rainbow. I caught two browns in the 12-16" range and then two rainbows in the 17-19" range, all in the same run. We kept one of the browns for my mom. They have done away with the slot limit on browns and now you can keep 4 browns of any size.


    On the second morning, Amy and I returned by ourselves. We fished all over the river and caught only one fish by noon. Amy was pretty discouraged but finally we returned to the hot run we had fished the day before. There Amy caught a beautiful rainbow that lifted her spirits. He took the shrimp at the end of her drift as she was raising it up. She handled him like a pro. I caught a few more in that same run including the biggest rainbow of the trip; he was quite a chunk and put up a great fight.

    Words cannot express how much I enjoy fishing down there in canyon. We wore tevas and shorts and got tans. We were roll casting dual nymph rigs into lazy water on a hot day and dredging up suprisingly fat fish. I could do that every day and not get tired of it. I think. Too bad its 1200 miles away.

    Willowa, La Grande, OR

    On our way home from Colorado, we stopped in La Grande, OR. The fly shop there suggested we try to fish Morgan Lake outside of town. Morgan Lake is a beautiful mountain lake high up above the city on a woody ridge surrounded by meadows. Unfortunately, the lake was turning over and it was quite windy so we weren't able to catch any fish. But its good to know that its there. Just 10 minutes or so out of town.


    The next morning we drove north out of town to where the Willowa river meets the Minaem river. We fished the beautiful campground area for an hour or so taking turns but caught only one small brown trout. Oh well, better than nothing. The Willowa seemed very much like the Yakima but faster. The riverbed rocks give the water a dark-brown color.

    If I remember right, Charlie Mastro moved somewhere near there, didn't he?

    Vacation is over, and now I'm 20 hours in the hole at work. I have to work 5 weeks just to get back to even.
  2. buford

    buford Member

    Dec 31, 2003
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    City, State
    Next time lower the fish down a few inches, please. :rofl:
    Just kidding, bro. Nice report. :beer2:
  3. fishintom

    fishintom Member

    Jul 24, 2006
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    great report, for east lake, i've found that the chuck and sit method with small calibaetis patterns work the best, that or a painfully slow retrieved emerger off the bottom for the bows there...it's so tough to get those browns during the day, you lucky dog.......sounds like you had fun!
  4. Gary Thompson

    Gary Thompson dirty dog

    Mar 21, 2007
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    East Wenatchee, WA
    I lived in Bend for a few years and always loved the Paulina crater lakes. I only fished East a couple of time and was skunked both. Good show on catching that big brown.
    Great report