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An Insider’s Guide to Fly Fishing in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley

Introduction

Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley in Colorado are renowned for their fly fishing opportunities. With two million acres of public land surrounding the headwaters of Colorado’s largest river drainages, it’s no wonder that anglers flock to this region. Whether you prefer float fishing or backpacking to alpine lakes, this area offers some of the best fishing in the state.

The Value of Going with a Guide

To truly maximize your fly fishing experience in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, going with a guide is highly recommended. By searching for fly shops and guides in the valley, you can easily find a knowledgeable professional who will enhance your trip. Starting your fishing journey in a local fly shop not only allows you to understand the progression of local hatches but also provides you with a solid starting point.

Easy Places to Fish

1. Roaring Judy Ponds: Located south of Crested Butte and before Almont, the Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery Ponds offer car-side access to fishing. With plenty of river access available, this spot is perfect for families and beginners who are looking for both still and moving water. 2. Gunnison River: The Gunnison River, with multiple access points and an abundance of float fishing guides, is always a great option for both quick outings or long days on the water. Hiring a guide will greatly increase your chances of success, especially on the section north of Gunnison. Using access points in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, such as Cooper’s, Beaver Creek, Willow Creek, and Neversink, allows you to walk-wade fish large portions of the river above Blue Mesa Reservoir. 3. Taylor River: Known as the most famous fishing river in the area, the Taylor River’s catch and release section below the dam attracts many anglers. The rest of the river also provides excellent fishing opportunities, with consistent water releases making it easy to predict flow levels. Although the river offers roadside access, the difficulty in crossing to the other side during the summer months may make fishing from the opposite bank challenging.

Moderate Places to Fish

1. Cement Creek: Located 7 miles south of Crested Butte, Cement Creek offers approximately 4 miles of public fishing from Pioneer Guest Cabins to Cement Creek Ranch. Beyond Cement Creek Ranch, another section of public land opens up, featuring a meadow with numerous beaver ponds. Accessing the ponds requires maneuvering around the area. Above this section, the creek transitions to private land, and a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle is needed to continue fishing to the top of the headwaters near Deadman’s Trailhead. 2. Coal Creek: Situated up Kebler Pass Road, Coal Creek is one of the closest fishing spots to Crested Butte. Starting at the Wildcat/Carbon Trail, you can fish your way up to the Irwin Cutoff. This creek is home to wild brown and brook trout that eagerly take dry flies throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for moose while enjoying the serene surroundings. 3. Horse Ranch Park: Following Coal Creek and crossing over Kebler Pass Road, you’ll arrive at the Ruby Anthracite drainage, where Horse Ranch Park is located. This area, along with the accompanying meadow, is an ideal spot for catching beautiful little brook trout. Stimulators are highly effective during the summer and early fall, eliminating the need for nymphs.

Difficult Places to Fish

1. Texas Creek: Accessible through Taylor Park, Texas Creek requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle or mountain bike. This moderately sized creek offers ample public water, beaver ponds, and willow-lined fishing spots. Fishing extends into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and includes several high alpine lakes. 2. Brush Creek: Another challenging fishing spot that necessitates a four-wheel-drive vehicle is Brush Creek. Close to Crested Butte, this area is reached by taking the turn at Skyland and following Brush Creek Road. As the road turns from gravel to rough dirt, and then to a 4×4 trail, you’ll eventually reach the creek crossing. Once past the meadow, all sections upstream fish well, with cutthroat trout becoming more prevalent at higher elevations. Beyond the East Brush turnoff, a reliable vehicle with all-terrain tires is essential. 3. Green Lake: Close to Crested Butte, Green Lake is a high alpine treasure filled with cutthroat trout. Hiking from the Crested Butte Nordic Center up the road cut and then along the Green Lake trail will lead you to this picturesque destination. The round-trip hike spans approximately 8 miles and involves a fair amount of elevation gain.

Conclusion

Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley offer an array of fly fishing experiences suitable for all skill levels. From easy-access points to challenging adventures, the possibilities are endless. Exploring the roaring rivers, tranquil lakes, and captivating scenery is a fly fisherman’s dream come true. So grab your gear, hire a guide, and embark on an unforgettable fishing journey in this angler’s paradise.

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