Trout tales of the Gunny: Floating the Gorge & backpacking into the Black Canyon!

This would be the first trip Juliana and I would take following our engagement the previous week. So it has special meaning for both of us for many reasons. Thought I would share. We truly enjoyed our last "big" trip last year to the Wind Rivers and decided on another backcountry backpacking trip to a new destination for both of us. After some research we decided the Black Canyon Of the Gunnison River would offer the solitude and present a challenging trip which we loved. We also opted to float the Gorge (which is just below the canyon) on a 2 day float trip with Black Canyon Anglers. They are a great outfitter with a beautifull facility, amazing food, friendly guides and staff. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

We landed in Grand Junction and immediately drove to BCA as we would stay there the first night in one of their cabins, meet our guide and enjoy their hospitality. The food was incredible! Many fish stories were told with the other guests and talks of our trip to come. The excitement was at a all time high!

We had a long drive to the river on a rough road in one of BCA's 4x4 vans. It was a good time to talk with the others and listen to the stories of the guides, they were entertaining. Once we got to the river the views were incredible...Salmon flys were flying, crawling...and fish were feeding.

They have over 1,000 acres at BCA. It has been a working peach tree farm for many years as well as vineyard. There are also petroglyphs on the property as well as seen in the photo below.

On to some pictures of the trip.

Not a bad first fish.

What drove the fish crazy!

Even though there were salmon flies hatching, golden stones were very productive as well. Caught fish on nymph droppers also.

Stopping for lunch and taking in the amazing views.

Juliana caught a chuncky brown and was her biggest trout yet.

I guess our guide was feeling a little lonely and decided to "pucker up" for one of the locals lol.

The only rainbow from the float trip. Whirling disease has really purt a hurt on the rainbows.

The mid day sun of day 2 was a little too much for one of the "seasoned" anglers in the other boat.

After the float trip we stayed the following night at the lodge for a good meal before we headed out with our packs to the National Park of the Canyon. It was sad to leave but we were both pumped for our next journey! We were assured to have an amazing time by the guides who had made it to the bottom of the canyon. The park rangers take hiking to the canyon very seriously. We must sign in before doing any hikes to the bottom of the canyon telling the rangers exactly how long you would be down, emergency contact, and which trail you were taking. They also wanted to make sure we felt up for the challenge...I could tell Juliana was a little nervous at this point but I assured he we would be fine as I new she could do it.

So we loaded up our packs, while I took as much of the heavy gear as I could and we set out down the Warner route on the South Rim. It is considered one of the hader routes only because it is the longest. But the advantage here is that it has a good trail as many of the others required some non technical rock climbing which I new would pose a problem with our heavy packs. Our trail was only 2.7 miles long...which sounds like cake considering many of the things I have done...but it drops 2,722ft OUCH! For comparison the empire state building is 1,250ft tall. Not for the faint of heart. Other canyons are deeper but few if any are steeper or narrower. They also warned us of the poison ivy...I have never seen so much. Fortunately we never had issues and stayed out of it. The trail was no took us 4 hours to hike down...thats a averge of about .5 mph lol. I wanted to give Juliana as much time as she needed and gave her plenty of support. She had done many hikes/backpacking but this was the hardest she said.

After arriving at the floor we were pretty spent. We set up camp, cooked some food and then hit the river. I will say, our legs/quads were sore for the next 3 days from the hike down. The views were truly amazing, just think that we were down here alone with a .5 mile up stream and a .5 mile downstream to explore was hard to imagine.

The "painted wall", our camp would be just around the bend..

So glad to be at the bottom!!

Our first view from the canyon floor.

The fishing was, well...I have never experienced anything like it. So many browns from 14"-17" it was silly. They weren't pushovers, but they were there ready and willing. We caught them on salmon flies, golden stones, nymph droppers, and even a cone head woolly bugger from a deep pool.

While fishing upstream one morning we even came across a female big horn (ewe) and here baby. This was an amazing sight to behold as they didn't mind our presence as we just kept our distance and used the zoom lens.

I caught a nice 17" brown on a conehead olive woolly bugger out of the pool above...nothing was taking dries here so I went deep. This was also the pool I caught my largest rainbow from the next day.

Juliana caught a heck of a brown one evening just as we were loosing light...she did great out there and really made me proud.

I was really hoping to catch a nice rainbow on this trip (even though they were not as common) and was really surprised that the first 3 days did not yield any at all. Well, the last day that changed. I caught 3 and Juliana caught 1 bow amongst the many browns. My last 'bow would be the one I was after as biggest rainbow yet!

The first bow of the last day...a nice 15 incher.

Shortly after I caught an magnificent 17" female...definately won the award for most acrobatic fight of the trip. Many jumps and cartwheels out of the water...was surprised she stayed on actually.

Then...the stars and planets aligned and I caught the big one I was truly hoping for from this trip. A gorgeous male just over 20" that fought like a diesel truck just bulldozing and going deep in the pool I hooked him in...strangely he never left the pool though. He barely fit in the net, but was landed and quickly released after a few photos. He capped off an amazing trip for me.
I had cast my salmon fly and dropper right behind a rock into a foam line and it was just churning there in this big pool...after about 20 seconds he smacked it and the battle was on.

Juliana and her nice bow!

And the last fish of the trip....which was fitting as I had fished to him every day as I walked by where he was hanging out. I could actually see his shadow on occasion and I hooked him the day before but he shook the fly out. He was sitting in the back of a tail out...

Thanks for reading we had an amazing time...and now as when all trips end we begin to talk of the next adventure.

Looks like you two had an awesome time! Congrats on the engagement too!
How hard was the hike back up, or did you get a helicopter to come down and pick you up?
Looks like you two had an awesome time! Congrats on the engagement too!
How hard was the hike back up, or did you get a helicopter to come down and pick you up?
Thanks! I forgot to mention, the hike out took us 5.5 hours. We started early after breaking camp trying to avoid the sun...but still it got hot and was really tough. We kept eating and drinking fluids to keep our energy up but it was just slow going.
Trip of a lifetime! Wait, so was your Wind River Mountains trip from last year. You sure know how to pick your spots. Great report and pics. Congrats on the engagement!


the Menehune stole my beer
Outstanding report....congratulations to you and your spouse on such a fantastic trip. The trips with parts that make us a bit nervous are the ones we remember the most eh?

Those trout are gorgeous!
Thanks everyone. Exactly Mingo, I love the challenge of the road less travelled. I can say without a doubt one of the things I love most about fly fishing is the places it takes me. To know there are still places like this that we can go to with some work is fantastic.
Fabulous place! Enjoyed the photos and commentary - have not "done" Colorado but this story makes me really want to consider it! Thanks for sharing.

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