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Kayak fishing the Lone Star State...


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By Earl
#1523292
Taylor and Gunnison Rivers, Colorado, Aug 11, 2010

Put in: 5 mile put in on the Taylor River, ~ 5 miles up county road 742 from Almount.

Take out: Gunnison River about 8 miles downriver from Almount along HWY 135 between Almount and Gunnison. There is a Public facility on the west side of the Hwy just as Hwy 135 passes over the river. There is a restaurant called “Garlic Mikes” just upriver and on the East side of the Hwy.

Along on this trip is Alec, Zach and myself. My wife and Jake dropped us off and then went into Gunnison to shop around for a few hours. Amy dropped us off at the 5 mile put in along the Taylor River. The put in is just after the county road crosses over the river. We arrived at 10am with a crisp 40 degree morning but the sun was out and it was clear. Two days prior the whole family had rafted the full stretch of the upper and lower Taylor River with a guide. I learned a lot from the guide about that stretch of river including the nasty issues going on regarding landowners and people kayaking or rafting the river. The laws regarding river ownership are a bit different than in Texas and present a real issue for recreational and commercial folks wanting to enjoy the Colorado Rivers.

We elected to only run the lower Taylor rather than the upper as there are 2-3 tricky rapids on the upper which I wanted Alec and Zach to put a bit more experience under their belts before they attempt those. Even so the lower Taylor offers a great ride with near continuous class II-III rapids for 5-6 miles to the confluence with the East River. It is this confluence where the East and Taylor rivers relinquish their names to that of the Gunnison River, called the Gunni by the locals.

We all donned our wetsuits, helmets and of course PFDs then loaded a few other items and lunch and off we were at 10:40am. The first 200 yrds were the slowest of the next 5 miles. The early morning shadows across the river presented a challenge in reading the river and rocks ahead. Amy and Jake honked and they drove by and shortly after that I am looking downriver and see Alec’s kayak flip and he goes underneath. So I am tooling down the river keeping my eye on him downriver from me and then wham, big rock sideways in the river and out I go into the river. I quickly got back in and see that Alec is also back in and then wham I do it again. I remounted and we all eddied out downriver to regroup and discuss what happened. I had missed it but apparently Zach also hit a rock and came out but managed to get back in and keep his paddle. What seemed to be the cause is a mixture of getting used to the many large rocks to dodge that were just under the surface, morning shadows, and our experience. My analogy to the river is driving on a bumper to bumper freeway doing 70 mph with many drivers weaving in and out of traffic flow. If you take your eyes off of the river for just a moment you may wish you had not. This stretch required your total focus and ability to make quick decisions on maneuvers to navigate downriver. After our initial dunkings that would be the last that any of us went in for the rest of the day, so maybe we did learn something quickly. We seemed to relax and get in our groove for the next one and half hours through the exciting rapids and scenery. Once we reached the confluence we stopped and ate our lunch at the public facility just past the confluence on river right. I removed my wetsuit before we departed for the rest of our trip down the Gunnison. As you start down the Gunnison the landscape changes quickly from the steep hills and forest to a more mellow, gently flowing river through thick willows with relative flat river banks. While the Gunnison is more gentle than the Taylor there are still some rapids which one should not take your eyes off of. There are also more downed trees/strainers along this stretch but you can spot most of these from a good distance. As we made our way down the river we kicked back took our time and just let the river carry us away enjoying the warm sunny day. We passed by several rafts with fly fisherwomen and men along the way. We had told Amy to expect us around 2-2:30 and best I could tell on time, but who is watching anyways. Well, after about an hour we could see dark clouds pushing in from the West and began to feel a light rain. We pushed on and reached the takeout shortly after 2pm. As you approach the take out you can begin to hear the Hwy traffic and on river right you pass by “Garlic Mikes” which has a nice set up on the riverside for people to stop and have a bite to eat or a frosty beverage. Just after you pass “Garlic Mikes” there is the Hwy bridge and the take out is on river right. You will need to be over far to the right and there is a good current and no eddy to the left. I picked up the phone to call Amy and tell here we were at the take out and just as I competed the voice mail she drove up, I love it when a plan comes together. We packed up and drove back to Lake City where we had rented a condo along the shores of Lake San Cristobal.

Next year if we are in the area I would like to kayak a day trip down the Lake Fork River from Lake City to a take out called “The Gate” or just down from that. I would also love to take a week long trip down the Rio Grand from the starting point below the reservoir to South Fork or Del Norte. However, there are reports about landowner stretching wires across both of these rivers about 18-24” above the water in attempt to stop people from paddling through the river that passes through their property. While I cannot confirm that this is the case it is noteworthy and one should be on guard for such obstacles.

Here are a few pictures of our trip, enjoy.


See you on the water,

Earl

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All suited up and ready to go

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At the put in

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Taylor River


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Taylor River

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Taylor River

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Alec waiting on me to finish taking pictures

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Confluence of Taylor and East Rivers—Lunch Time

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Gunnison River

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Gunnison River

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Alec coming through a rapid on the Gunnison

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Gunnison River

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Gunnison River

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Making our way
#1676151
Earl,

I was trying to find someone that kayak fished the lower Taylor and your post popped up. Did you come across any info or individuals that are running kayaks just for fishing in that area? We're going to Crested Butte next weekend and will be scouting campsites for next year. We're wanting to stay in that area for a few weeks and I'm planning to rig up a regular, sit in, white water boat for single rod catch and release. I used to, decades ago, do a lot of serious whitewater kayaking and I'm hoping to find virgin pools with the kayak. Thinking a lightweight spinning rod with single hook spinners fitted to the top of hull should work. Just have to come up with a quick strap mechanism for the rod and paddle then go out and see if I can still do a roll in moving water.

Did you make the trip this year and, if so, do you have any suggestions?

Thanks
#1676490
Yes, I was up in that area in late July and ran the Gunni from North Bridge into Gunnison white water park. I did not do the Taylor this year. Both Rivers had a good amount of water in them this year. As for fishing the Taylor you will not be able to fish while paddling, it is to fast. If you want to fish the Taylor you will need to pull over but be very careful. That is almost all private property and they are a bit testy about it. The Gunnison you can fish from you kayak most of the way. Again be careful where you pull over and get out to fish, lot of private property.

There were plenty of people fishing the Gunnison this year. We had Mike or Matt at Scenic River Tours in Gunnison run our shuttle for us when we ran the Gunnison.

As for camping we camped out for 9 days total. We spent 3 days up in the mountains between Lake City and Ouray. Them we spent a couple of nights at a campground called "The Gate" along highway 149 between Lake City and Gunnison then head edto New Mexico for 4 more days. In total we paddled the Gunnison, Rio Grande and Rio Chama on that trip over about 9 days and hiked several trails in the mountains west of Lake City and climbed one 14k mt. My trip reports and pics are coming. I did not fish on this trip. It is my one time/year when I leave the fishing gear behind and totally focus on my boys and what they want to do. They love to fish also but did want to this year.

Hope this helps.

Earl
#1676521
Earl,

Thanks for the info, will check out the camping and shuttle people next week.

Wasn't planning on getting out of the kayak,a Jackson Rogue 10 with spray skirt. I can strap a rod to top of hull and keep pliers and small tackle selection in PFD pockets. There are always eddies and slow sections that will let you get in a few casts without the paddle. Will probably have to mount a rod holder as well and re-learn how to land fish while paddling backwards. I've used this method in Alaska, Kenai and Eagle Rivers in the early 80's, and it was always fun.
#1677488
Earl,

Great report and beautiful pictures. That river is a beauty, isn't it!!

I'm planning to go to Crested Butte in a few weeks, probably the end of October or first part of November, and can hardly wait. I've gone up 2 or 3 times a year for a week to 10 days since 1980; its a home away from home for us. My kids, grown now, are skiers, and my youngest grandchildren are going to get their starts this Christmas, so I'll be going up a couple of times in quick succession. I am also getting them all into kayaks, flytying, and fishing. So far, the grandchildren, 6 to 11 years, enjoy the whole deal.

Another great thing to do is backpack the mountains behind CB, there is a road (main one running straight up the mountain) leading through Gothic, several miles past Mount Crested Butte, that leads you on into the back country. Get your gear and boys and head in there some summer.

Ray

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