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Fishing Conditions

Fishing report March 20, 2019

Dolores ~ Uncompahgre ~ San Miguel ~ Gunnison


Snowpack numbers in our corner of the world look promising.  Currently, graphs show the Gunnison and Dolores drainages higher than 2017, a stellar water year for Colorado.  Snotel Snow Water Equivalent numbers by drainage as of today are:

Gunnison Drainage: 154% of average

San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan: 158% of average

Colorado Statewide: 143% of average

Very promising indeed. Keep your fingers crossed for snow and keep your powder skis waxed, but pull your 5-weight out from its closet corner. Some of the best fishing of the year is right around the corner.

San Miguel

Most of the ice is off the river now, save a few shady spots in the upper canyon. The Miguel is flowing cold and slightly colored from the recent snows and warmer air temps.  We’ve driven down the river as far as Naturita, where grass is coming up and the river is low and clear. Run attractor flies through the San Miguel’s deeper slots, especially below Placerville. Pat’s Rubber legs, San Juan worms and Prince Nymphs are favorite prospecting flies for pre-runoff San Miguel fishing. Try a larger SJW or Pat’s with a smaller Prince trailing. Remember, the water is cold, so shoot for the warmer part of the day or late afternoon. Don’t forget to look up.  A snow-kissed red rock canyon framing a calico river bottom, peppered by a warm spring sun is a sight to behold. Is there a prettier freestone in the state?  Flows are 61 cfs at the gauging station mid-canyon. This is spot on with the 82-year average flow.


Old man winter has been a little harsh, depending on how you look at it, to the Dolores from Rico to McPhee. Ice skates still might be more useful than a fly rod on some stretches, but rest assured spring will come. The river is starting to open up in Dolores, but not quite ready to fish. Spring comes quickly to this south facing drainage and any day now the Dolores will yawn a long winters yawn and stretch its arms wide open to the season. The best time of the year to find the river’s largest fish is early. Big attractors are the ticket here as well, more easily fished on a 5-wt rather than a 4-wt. The fish are usually hungry and eager once it begins. Right now, the gauges are reading ICE below Rico and in the town of Dolores, but that is changing by the hour.


What a terrific stretch to have in our backyard. The Unc helps a lot of us suffering from post summer fly fishing syndrome cope with a long winter. Flows have been holding steady around 45 cfs (current reading) this winter and the fish have generally been receptive. March usually sees an increase in bug activity and a visit from the state’s hatchery truck as well. These newcomers enter the water eager and oblivious to the ways of fly fisherman, but they learn quickly. New recruits will readily accept prince nymphs, but as they learn the nuances of their new home, they pick up the tailwater menu quickly. 

Give us a call at the shop to check on current conditions. Guides are currently fishing nymph rigs with mostly small leeches and midges. A good rig to start with consists of a Mayer’s Mini leech followed by a #22 disco midge, desert storm midge, midge larva, miracle nymph or zebra midge. Fish a stealthy nymph rig (no fluorescent bobbers) with just the right amount of weight well above your first fly. 6X fluorocarbon is recommended. Keep switching up your bottom fly, changing your depth and working towards a completely clean drift. Don’t be frustrated by a refusal. Use it as a learning experience and keep switching up until you crack the code.


Spring is perhaps our favorite time of year on the mighty Gunnison.  Last year was phenomenal. BWOs came off all of March and April, and the event seemed to span the length of the river from the East Portal to the Pleasure Park. This year is a little different and spring seems to be taking its time. We have walked up from Pleasure Park several times, as recently as last weekend. Hatches have been sparse and prospecting with nymphs somewhat unproductive.  Last weekend fish were out and visible, but very hard to feed. The water was as clean and clear as we’ve ever seen it with visibility over 6 feet. It feels like any day now the river will turn on and we’ve heard some decent reports from fishing partners down there, but no one has mentioned those three letters yet: B.W.O.  The current release on the Gunnison is 475 cfs from Crystal Dam. 


Please call Telluride Angler with your fishing questions.  We will be happy to steer you toward our best local fly fishing opportunities.  1-800-831-6230

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Telluride Outside

Box 685, 121 W. Colorado Ave.
Telluride, CO 81435
800.831.6230 ~ 970.728.3895
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