Trails To Glory

Trails To Glory

Gore Canyon, Colorado

  • By: Michael Salomone

Gore Canyon


by Michael Salomone

It’s early summer, June, and the Pumphouse boat ramp and trailhead above the Colorado River are full of commercial rafting guides and their clientele, plus private floaters and campers. People load gear in boats and inflate rafts. Dogs exchange their intimate how-do-you-dos. A shuttle full of rafters from all across the United States and beyond scrambles for life jackets and assembles for the customary safety speech. I’m not into floating so I don’t have to hear the spiel. Instead I rig my rod, which is going to save precious time when I get to the water. A double dryfly rig of giant Pteronarcys californica stoneflies, best known as salmonflies, garnishes my leader, and it’s a proven performer in past hatches. If the fish are on and water conditions are prime, this is all I’ll need. If the water is murky with runoff, or the fish just aren’t on dries, I may have to switch over to big black nymphs and bounce them along the bottom rocks.

We register at the trailhead before heading down the path, generally moving upstream. Overgrown willows choke the trail tight. Washes from past flash floods obscure the trail with debris, but we push on. Near the river’s edge the trail runs tightly parallel, tempting a cast or two—we have to remind ourselves to stay focused. The best water and bigger fish live farther upstream, at least a mile up into the canyon. So we keep moving. At one point the main channel splits where great-looking water runs deep and smooth. The fishing here satisfies many, and it’s very difficult to not stop and throw a fly. But we want to be farther into the steep-banked Gore Canyon. So we keep pushing.

When we get there we find big bugs—salmonflies—clinging to the pines and bushes. Shortly, warmed by the sun, they take flight and the air is thick with these orange-bodied giants. They drop heavily onto the water as they lay their eggs. That alerts trout, and I can hear popping sounds as rainbows and browns slurp them down. When the struggling salmonflies get trapped in foam boils the largest trout, hidden by that foam cover, rise for them. These are big rainbows in the five-pound range, and browns to equal size. The fishing is steady and the solitude is perfect. Just fishing a dream hatch of seldom-seen bugs on scenic water is enough for some. The footwork involved to get us here rewards us nicely. It’s a lot easier to fish Colorado rivers that are located just off the highway, and there are plenty of those, but for me hiking into an overlooked section of water where the trout are big and the hatches are amazing is the real draw.

After The Grind

You can find minimal supplies at Rancho del Rio, between State Bridge and Pumphouse, but you have to hit Rocky Mountain Bar & Grill, in Kremmling, for adult refreshment. While in Kremmling you can refuel at Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant.