Springtime on Spring Creek: Dusting off the Gear and Landing Keychain Browns

Before I begin my first Fishwest article, I’d like to thank you for reading this far! My name is Lance Kittel, I am a graduate student in Gunnison, Colorado. When I’m not catching trees, shrubs, grass, my girlfriend’s hair or my own shirt, I tend to catch fish. I’ve been extremely blessed to frequently travel internationally, and I’m looking forward to writing about my favorite thing in the history of ever: flyfishing.

Spring has arrived to much of the United States and for most us, this means bringing out the gear and getting ready for warmer weather fishing. While some of us are already planning trips to land the lunker of a lifetime, some are instead keeping it mellow and getting ready for day trips with friends. Regardless of your situation the feeling or reorganizing flies, inspecting lines and perusing Google Maps invokes emotions of blissful peace (or utter frustration, depending on the day).

River in Colorado
Here in Gunnison, our spring is a bit different. While some cities experience tree blossoms, we experience late season dumps of 1-foot-plus snowfall. Some towns turn colorful with lawns and flowers, ours turn brown as mud season sets in. Despite the differences, spring is a time to revel—and get out to the water. I was recently blessed with an (in my opinion) amazing day on a small stream north of Gunnison in the Taylor Canyon.

Spring Creek is a place I hold dear to my heart. Its location is relatively quiet in spring and early summer before tourists show up in flocks to recreate, fish and camp. When winter ends and spring begins to warm its meadows, I’ll take a solo drive to scope the road conditions and leftover snow pack. While this year provided us with ample snowfall, I could make it far enough to fish some slow water while the overcast day provided a calm backdrop.

I had low expectations for the day, mostly enjoying the views and serenity of the creek. I parked just before the road turned undriveable and grabbed my 3 weight fiberglass rod. If there were any fish munching on dries this rod would make them feel like sharks.

Holding a fly

I marched over some snowpack in my chacos and got to the water. At first sight, nothing seemed to be inhabiting the ripples. The first fly of choice was a small Adam’s-like fly, since any spring hatches in the area tend to be blue-wing olives. Now I’m no professional when it comes to ‘reading the water’ but every now and again I make decent fly decisions. This was one of those times.

I hooked into my first tiny brown after four casts. The fish spit the fly immediately but I was feeling on top of the world. The stream was hungry, and I kept after it. Another few casts later I landed my biggest fish of the year!

Holding a fish

It wasn’t much, but the thrill of flyfishing dries in spring kept me going. In my opinion fish hitting dries is the real indicator that spring has arrived. It doesn’t matter if the snow is melting or grass turns green, dry flyfishing means the turning point between cold and warm season. So, I kept fishing, catching keychain after keychain. Every now and again the sun would break and the water would boil. My giddiness was getting the best of me and the feeling still resonates.

Fly fishing

To end the story, I’d like to reflect on a lesson learned. It may not matter if you are a professional or a beginner. It may not be about catching the biggest fish. But, there is no better feeling than shedding your winter coat, spritzing a tiny dry fly with floatant and watching a brown scoop your offering. These are the days that remind me why I flyfish—to enjoy quiet reflection on my favorite waters.
Fish on, my friends.