A group of young fly-fishing enthusiasts have banded together to establish a fly-fishing club at Delta High School. The club has 12 members, including two females, and is headed by Pete Lousignont, club president, and Matthew Bohling, vice president. Their adviser is Ben Magtutu, a DHS teacher who in the summer works as a fishing guide on the Gunnison River.
For some members, the club is an opportunity to hone their casting skills or learn how to tie a better fly; others catch a glimpse of career opportunities that incorporate their passion for fishing. Lousignont, a junior, says he is interested in a career as a guide or a fish biologist. Bohling said he didn't give career opportunities a thought until he had a chance to work with specialists from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management on a recent club project.
Club members had earlier visited the Roaring Judy fish hatchery near Almont, which raises fingerlings and catchables of kokanee salmon, cutthroat and rainbow trout. As club members were educated about the life cycle of trout, they saw the need to raise awareness for anglers who are walking and wading on the redds, where trout eggs have been laid. With every step, anglers can potentially kill hundreds of trout eggs.
"Since the rainbow trout population has been shrinking, it's really important to save this species in the Gunnison Gorge," Lousignont said.
"We have some of the best fishing in the state and we want to preserve that," Bohling added.
They decided to put up signs advising anglers to avoid the soft gravel beds in the spring. The redds are generally located in shallow parts of the river, about two to three feet below the surface of the water. The eggs lie in the gravel for about 30 days before hatching; as fry they remain in the area another 30 days. "For 60 days, we want to make sure they're safe," Bohling said.
So earlier this month they put up advisory signs at key access points, including the Gunnison River Pleasure Park, Ute trailhead and the Cottonwood campground. They worked with Edd Franz, an outdoor recreation planner with the BLM, and Eric Gardunio, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatics specialist.
Franz explains the BLM manages the recreational facilities, land and habitat in the Gunnison Gorge NCA, and CPW manages the fishery and licenses and regulates the fishing. "It's been a strong partnership for many years," he said.
The fact that a young group of fly fishermen was getting organized at the high school delighted Franz.
"We really have an aging population of fly fishers out there," he said. "It doesn't seem like the younger generations are picking it up quite as quickly, so seeing this club come into existence is very, very cool. Fishing is such an important part of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. It's one of finest trout fisheries in the state."
CPW and Eric Gardunio have been working for years to try to restore a whirling disease-resistant rainbow trout to the Gunnison River, Franz said. "It looks like they're having some pretty good success, but the kids were concerned about impacts to the eggs of the rainbows during the spring season. They wanted to put out informational signs about how to avoid these sensitive redds, where the fish lay eggs, during that sensitive time of year. It was a great idea."
Club members worked with Gardunio to get the wording for the signs just right. On March 17, they placed the signs where they would do the most good.
"The kids were fantastic," Franz said. "They were motivated, friendly and curious. I anticipate we'll work with them on other projects."
Club members hope to help with fish stocking projects this spring. In addition, Cedaredge Elementary School recently received a grant for flyfishing equipment, and club members plan to teach students how to cast, so they can fully utilize the equipment.
The high schoolers toured Scott Fly Rods in Montrose and hope to visit Ross Reels and Whiting Farms in the near future.