A Love Affair with the Gunnison Reel

Flylords caught up with Michael Salomone, a longtime fly fishing guide and writer based outside of Vail, Colorado. We discuss why he prefers to fish Ross Reels, why he thinks the Gunnison Reel might be the most reliable and iconic reel around and he shares a few late spring-early summer fishing tips in the Colorado Rockies. Check out the full interview below.

Flylords: How long have you been fishing Ross Reels?

Sal: At the Denver Sportsman’s Show in 2001, I purchased some raffle tickets. One of them was from a Denver area Trout Unlimited. I won the Grand Prize. It contained everything a fly angler could need–waders, boots, jacket, vest, flies, boxes, tools, float tube, rod, reel, and more–kinda crazy. The reel was a Ross Reels, Canyon II. Fell in love with it. Since then I have acquired multiple Ross Reels from the entry-level Flystart and Rapid to the lightweight Colorado LT, the large arbor Evolution LTX and the ever-reliable Gunnison. Still use the Canyon but have developed a regular relationship with the Ross Reels Gunnison. My best suggestion is to buy a couple of raffle tickets when the opportunity presents. Somebody has to win.

Flylords: Tell us about the Ross Gunnison Reel?

Sal: The Gunnison is a restored classic. The analogy I use is that the Gunnison is like a classic automobile that has been taken into the garage and restored to new. Like a classic driver, a car meant for the road, the Gunnison is meant for the river. It is a reel equally at home on your favorite dry fly rod pursuing Colorado high country cutts, on your spey outfit chasing Great Lakes steelhead or walking the beach searching for summertime snook.

Flylords: People claim the Gunnison Reel is the most reliable reel around, do you agree?

Sal: Smooth drag, classic design, attractive porting and with a user friendly handle that gets better when wet, the Gunnison has become a “go-to” reel for my fly fishing. Anglers get a very high value per dollar when purchasing a Gunnison from Ross Reels. With a tippet-protecting drag the Gunnison helps anglers fight and land challenging fish.

The reel takes care of itself. A thorough rinse and maybe wipe of the spindle is all an angler ever needs to do. The deep anodization protects the reel from harsh conditions like saltwater or Pyramid Lake making it an extremely versatile reel for multiple environments. The Gunnison is just badass.

Flylords: One word that comes to mind when you think of the Ross Gunnison?

Sal: Classic.

Flylords: What rod and line do you have paired with your Gunnison? Type of fishing you do with it?

Sal: I have found the matte surface on the Gunnison matches perfectly with the same soft finish found on the new Echo Trout model rods. The look, feel, and performance of these two matched up with an Airflo Elite fly line creates a high-class outfit that doesn’t cost as much as a used car. But I have to admit I find myself tightening down the reel seat on an old Abel 5wt rod that pairs so well with the Gunnison.

The stacked disc drag found on the Gunnison is the same reliable drag used on the Evolution LTX. With a low start-up and consistent pressure the Gunnison is a perfect pairing for the dry fly fishing a large majority of my clients prefer. The light tippets many anglers use for small dry flies can break if you look at them harshly. But the Gunnison protects a light tippet when a 20” trout sips your Parachute Adams off the surface and bolts for the closest cut bank. I can count on the Gunnison reel to help my clients stop powerful fish before they’re lost.

Flylords: Any maintenance tips for your Ross Reels?

Sal: The fly reels from Ross like the Gunnison Reel have a self-lubricating bushing that eliminates the necessity for added lubrication. If a Ross Reel develops a “squeaking” noise, a window cleaner such as Windex is all that is recommended. Not oil. To clean, use a rag on the spindle and wipe inside the spool with a Q-tip. Allow the frame and spool to air dry separately before reassembly. Sealed drag reels like the Evolution R require even less maintenance. Any of the Ross Reels that are exposed to harsh environments like saltwater or Pyramid Lake should be soaked in distilled water, preferably, and then allowed to air dry before reassembling.

Flylords: As a veteran fly fishing guide what are three tips you would say to a novice angler getting into the sport?

Sal: Read. Magazines, books, online content–they all can teach you something off the water or teach you a technique to attempt on your next outing. Flylords is an excellent source with its massive amount of content. Books like Lefty Kreh’s Presenting the Fly and anything Gary LaFontaine wrote really helped me out when I was first starting.

Watch when you get to the river–other anglers, how they fish, cast, land fish, what bugs can you see and look for signs of trout that give their location away. Once located those fish are easier to catch. Slowing down and observing are skills anglers need.

Develop a relationship with your local fly shop. They have a wealth of knowledge and are willing to share it. Fly shops provide how-to-information, stock necessities like tippet, leaders and flies and carry new gear like the latest fly rods, new reels and updated waders. Most fly shops have tying nights too where fly anglers can learn to create flies with the help of an experienced tyer.

Flylords: Any springtime trout fishing secrets you want to share?

Sal: Look forward to what hatches are coming up and begin to fish the nymph phase of those bugs early. Knowing there is a big Salmonfly hatch on the Colorado River in June has me using large Pat’s rubber legs stonefly nymphs beginning in May. The well-known Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch on the Eagle River makes fishing caddis nymphs starting in April a good idea for the same reason.

Flylords: What else are you doing to pass the time during Quarantine?

Sal: With my home on the bank of the Eagle River, I don’t have a backyard. The river is my backyard. So under direction from my Dad, who suggests I get out every day, I have been fly fishing at my place. I am able to wader up on my deck and have a well-worn path down to the river’s edge. I’ve been mixing it up a little each outing–nymphing one day, dry flies the next and streamers when the water gets off-color from mud. Artwork (see recent work above) and writing about fly fishing have helped occupy the quarantine time too.

Flylords: Anything else you want to add?

Sal: With the Coronavirus keeping everyone apart these are trying times that can be hard to wrap your head around for some anglers. The disconnect I receive from fly fishing eases the anxiety surrounding the current situation. Organizing fly boxes, exploring local fishing opportunities on internet maps or wading through online content are all positive incentives for keeping anglers connected to the fly fishing world at home. Whether it is casting on the grass, rigging up your fly rod on the water or just sitting on the riverbank, fly fishing creates a productive distraction that eases your soul and clears your mind. Keep your head straight.

Mike “Sal” Salomone is a veteran fishing guide and writer based in Vail, Colorado. Be sure to check him out on Instagram at @mikesalomone88 or online at www.michaelsalomone.com. He can be reached at adventuresal@yahoo.com or by calling Vail Valley Anglers at 970-926-0900.

Cover photo by Tanner Smith @sanjuanandeggs for Flylords Article He Said He Wouldn’t Bail

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