Gunnison Gorge - Fly Fishing

Black Canyon, Colorado

June 2009

David Svilar, Ben M


America's steepest, deepest, darkest canyon.  The Gunnison River flows under the Painted Wall.  Ben and I put in where the river curves out of site in this photo.  Photography by Jack Brauer

Ben's obsessed with the Gunnison Gorge.  He floats it nearly every day of the summer, and if  not for other obligations like food and shelter he would probably float the rest of the year too.  For the second straight year Jill and I found ourselves occupying the guest bedroom at Ben and Shawna's place in Paonia, CO.  They made the classic blunder, "Come stay with us anytime," and, with no real lives of our own we took them up on it... again.  With an extra pair of sturdy legs in town Ben 'hatched' a plan.  Hike down from the rim of the Black Canyon and float/fish the river until it ends 17 miles later at the end of the gorge.  According to Ben we would probably be the first to ever fish parts of the upper waters. 

Every man's pulse quickens at the prospect of virgin holes.  Even before embarking on the knee crushing 3,000' descent into the Black Ben was sweating with anticipation.  Not only were we setting out on a new adventure, but the stonefly hatch had reached it's climax.  This meant very little to me since the last time I had caught a fish was the year 1989, but Ben's enthusiasm was impossible not to catch. 

Ben taught me the basics of fly fishing as we floated the river.  It wouldn't have mattered, you could have thrown just about anything resembling a fly in the river and would have caught fish all day.  As we floated down I had thoughts of taking up the sport myself, until Ben revealed the truth, "The fishing is so good it's stupid.  You'll never have another day of fishing like this."  So be it, I thouhgt, I'll stick to the original plan and take up fishing when I turn 70. 

Ben was psyched on the trip, but disappointed in my reaction to fishing.  I should have been more appreciative and excited about such a rare opportunity.  A coward by nature, I had trouble fully enjoying the experience as I tended to worry about the next rapid instead of focusing on my fishing.  Thanks Ben for treating me on something I would NEVER do on my own. 

Ben could spot a good pair of knees when he saw them.  Here I am, loaded like a mule for the 3,000' descent into the Black Canyon.  The canyon has always given me that sense of intimidation and awe that I love.


Putting in at the bottom of the canyon.  The photo at top was probably taken somewhere on the canyon rim in the distance.  Ben's new Hyside raft was the ticket to this adventure.  It's relatively light weight allowed us to actually carry it down from the rim.


Dave ends a 20 year drought and catches a fish!  Many more to come.


A thunderstorm put a damper on the last few miles of river.


- October 2009

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