Three Goals for the Road Trip
I’m making this road trip to see for myself the canyon with the steepest and highest rock walls in Colorado, to photograph the night sky — Black Canyon is a designated International Dark Skies Park — and to do a little fly fishing, my new passion. The stretch of the Gunnison River here is known for huge trout, and the Colorado Wildlife Commission has recognized it as part of the 322 miles of rivers and lakes in Colorado designated as “Gold Medal Waters.” That means the river produces 60 pounds of trout per acre and at least 12 trout per acre that measure 14 inches or longer. I want to catch some of these big fish.
First, though, I drive the park’s South Rim Road. Seven miles long from Tomichi Point to High Point, the drive features 12 overlooks with excellent views of the canyon, each offering a new perspective. The torrential sounds from the fast-moving water below the rugged, towering walls are awe-inspiring, and I know already this trip is well worth my time. But now, I have bigger fish to fry. Pun intended.
The East Portal of the Canyon, where the Curecanti Recreation Area meets the park, offers the easiest access to some of the best fishing, but the East Portal Road is closed for maintenance. Plan B requires that I hike down one of the many trails leading to the canyon floor and camp a night or two along the banks of the Gunnison River. Back at the visitor center, I receive a backcountry permit for the next day and then head for the South Rim campground for the night.
Hiking down early the next morning, I encounter mule deer, turkey and golden eagles. When I reach the river, I have the entire place to myself, an unexpected bonus. After setting up my tent, I walk the riverbank and pick out a few good spots to fish. How do I recognize good places? That’s easy. I can see huge rainbow and brown trout swimming in the clear, cold water.