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Colorado researchers spent decades trying to save disappearing rainbow trout. Finally, they’re making progress.

Kevin Simpson, Colorado Sun
Rainbow trout had all but disappeared — victim of a vicious parasite that triggers an affliction called whirling disease.
Rainbow trout had all but disappeared — victim of a vicious parasite that triggers an affliction called whirling disease.
John LaConte | Special to the Daily |

Eric Gardunio had fished this stretch of the Gunnison River throughout his youth, filling the seasons with short expeditions to the river gorge’s East Portal near Delta. There, his father handed down skills passed to him from his grandfather, and Eric took their passion even further while learning every rock and riffle.

By the summer of 2003, he’d become well acquainted with how the nature of the fishery had changed. Brown trout, the speckled species that roams the slower-moving shallows, remained plentiful. But rainbow trout, the colorful cousin that prefers deeper and faster currents, had all but disappeared — victim of a vicious parasite that triggers an affliction called whirling disease.

Yet, on several consecutive trips that year, Gardunio spotted a giant rainbow in a shallow riffle that was among his favorite spots. One blistering hot day, he fixed two flies to his line — a Turks Tarantula with a small red beadhead nymph tied about two feet below it. Wearing shorts, he waded into blessedly cool, thigh-deep water and headed toward the middle of the river. 

He cast the flies into the head of the riffle, upstream from where he expected the giant rainbow to be lurking, so the nymph could sink to an enticing depth. Almost immediately, his act of faith was rewarded with a strike, and he set the hook. Game on. 

The fish thrashed in front of him and he instantly recognized it to be The One. It caught a fast current downstream and Gardunio felt its pull rapidly deplete his reel. He soon found himself battling both fish and flow in the roiling waters.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.


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