Center of the Colorado Fly-fishing Universe
Vail and Beaver Creek’s proximity to some of the best fly fishing in Colorado might very well make it the center of Colorado’s Fly-fishing universe. Since Moving to the Vail valley in 1992 to mainly ski-bum I did become quickly aware that there was more to this valley then great skiing/riding. Summer of ‘92 my buddy Dan and I set out from Detroit to find our way in the Colorado mountains before settling on a permanent place to call home. From Steamboat to Telluride and all points in between we were in full investigation mode. The last stop on our journey lead to Vail. Along out trek we were told many a time that no one wants to live in Vail! There’s an interstate, Vail Mountain isn’t steep enough, there’s an interstate…. During most of our stops I took time to hire a guide and go Fly- fishing. I fished the Yampa, Frying Pan, Roaring Fork, Colorado, San Miguel…It was when we were making our final decision on where to live that I decided on Vail. Why, because: If I drew a 100-mile radius around Vail I would hit pretty much all the “Gold-Medal” Fly-fishing water in Colorado. Not to mention the proximity to all the other amazing ski areas Ski areas!
It’s the diversity of the Vail valley’s fishery that makes it so appealing. Also there is a very good amount of public access on most of the major rivers we fish. Among the most notable of the larger rivers that lend to both wade and float fishing we are really fortunate to the rivers in our back yard.
- Colorado River(30 Minutes from Vail) -Arguably the most famous river in the state, the Colorado River is also probably the most diverse fishery as well. The sections of the Colorado we fish/guide start above the Kremmling area and extends to the Rifle area west of Glenwood Springs roughly 80 plus miles of floatable and wade able river. Many miles of the upper Colorado make its way through some of the most scenic areas that you can access only by boat or hiking in. Large Browns and Rainbows as well as some native Colorado River Cutthroats. The Colorado is a great Terrestrial river during the warmer Summer months when big fish are looking for a Grasshopper falling from the banks. Spring and Fall is Streamer season on the “C”, that’s when we like to throw large double streamer rigs on 6-7wt. rods for the big Pre-spawn browns. If you are mystified by the whole streamer program, then it’s time to get on board by taking advantage of our off-season guide rates and get out with us.
- Eagle River-(5 Minutes from Vail)The Eagle River is one of the last true large freestone rivers in Colorado. The Eagle runs right through the heart of the Vail Valley. Starting it’s 77-mile journey high above the valley floor near Tennessee pass and dropping 2,400 vertical feet in its first 30 miles the river slows and widens as it flows through the towns of Avon and Edwards. The upper Eagle is famous for its great Brown Trout habitat and faster water/ pocket fishing, this area is overlooked by many anglers but offers some great wade fishing using big dry flies and streamers. As the Eagle cuts, it’s way west towards the Colorado River from Edwards, float and wade fishing for a mix of larger Browns and Rainbows is some of the best fishing in Colorado in early to late July. The lower Eagle is more heavily fished but offers good public access. Wild Rainbows and Browns up to 20 plus inches are not uncommon in the Eagle River.
- Roaring Fork River- (45 minutes from Vail)The Roaring Fork River starts high above Aspen and makes its way down valley through Basalt (Frying Pan River) to Glenwood Springs where it meets up with the Colorado River. The upper Fork above the Town of Carbondale is fantastic wade and raft float fishing on the large freestone fishery. From Carbondale, down river to Glenwood Springs the river widens and is more conducive to Drift boat fishing as well as wading. The Roaring fork although not as scenic as other rivers is an incredible trout fishery that is known for its Green Drake hatch starting in early July most years. The Roaring Fork is home to some big Browns and Rainbows especially as you get near Glenwood Springs. Excellent public access is available from Glenwood to Aspen. The current flows are low for the hard boats in some spots. Great wading access above Carbondale all winter. The Frying Pan River enters the Roaring Fork at Basalt; the Pan is one the world’s most recognized trophy Trout rivers.
- Frying Pan River-(1 hour from Vail)- A true “bucket list” destination of trout fisher’s worldwide. The Frying Pan River is a world famous Tail water fishery that starts below Rudi Reservoir and continues downstream for approx. 14 miles to the confluence of the Roaring Fork River in Basalt. The top 1.5 miles are the catch and release “holy water”. This section is where anglers go to catch the fish of a lifetime as well as mingle with big crowds. The Pan from below the Holy water is more of a freestone fishery that offers some fantastic wading opportunities for nice size browns and Rainbows on dry flies as well as nymphs. There is quite a bit of public access mixed in with the private water so a good map is key. Private water on the pan is very well marked. The pan is known for its Mysis Shrimp, midges, but is also famous for it’s Green Drake and Pale Morning Dun hatches that usually start in mid-summer and go well into early fall. If there is a cloud, then there are Blue Wings hatching as well. Avoid the crowds and fish downstream at mile markers 7 and 4. We guide the Frying Pan on full day wade trips only due to the 1 hour plus travel time, but boy it’s worth the drive!
Great trout rivers don’t come without great Trout tributaries! From road/bike path side to an adventurous days hike to access un-fished waters the amount of stream/creek fishing is more than you could fish in a year. 1-3wt. rods with floating lines are perfect for these streams. The fish in these waters are very receptive to attractor dry flies. Our more well know smaller waters are.
- Gore Creek- This little gem of a creek cuts its way from the top of Vail pass through the town of Vail to the confluence of the Eagle River just west of Vail. The upper Gore creek is a faster moving creek that has a good population of Brook trout as well as Cutthroats, Browns and Rainbows. Designated a gold medal fishery below the area at Lionshead the Gore can be a tremendous fishery for those who can figure out her little secrets. Sight fishing to large fish can be very rewarding if not Challenging. The Gore Creek fish are smarter than your average trout. So, hire a smarter than average guide for success on the Gore. Enough said! The Gore is in good fishing condition if you know where to go, that’s why we’re here. Good dry/dropper fishing from Lionshead down to the Eagle confluence. Stealth and a good guide are the keys to success on the Gore Creek.
- Homestake Creek- Locate high above the Valley floor between Red Cliff and Leadville off highway 6&24. This small high mountain stream is unique in that it is easily accessible during the Summer months. Perfect for the small rod(1-3 wt) and a fist full of attractor dries. The fishing is very scenic and a picnic lunch is a must. Brookies and Browns mostly inhabit this 10 plus mile creek that begins at the base of the Homestake reservoir. Great small steam with plenty of Beaver ponds and undercut banks that hold wild fish up to 12 inches. There is also a good amount of car camping within the White River national Forest and in close proximity of the creek. A smaller 1-3 wt. rod and a fistful of small dry attractors and a few small olive or black buggers to swing under the cut banks will bring hours of fun for the whole family.
- Cross Creek- Cross creek is another small and more of a walk-in type fishery for wild cutthroats and Brook Trout. There is access by vehicle up to the back of the Ski/Snowboard Academy property. From there is all hike-in dry fly fishing. Much more of a vertical incline to cross creek
- Piney River- The Piney river has limited access. You can only fish it from the confluence with the Colorado up stream for a mile or so of great secluded dry fly water in a beautiful albeit a more for those who want to hike a bit. From it’s origins at the base of the Gore Range at Piney Lake the Piney river has a couple miles of hiking access downstream and upstream of the lake. The downstream has great access to dry fly water. Perfect 1 wt. rod stuff.
This is just a smattering of what our valley offers fly-fishers of all types. I am not at liberty to divulge any local secrets for fear of retribution. If you’re willing to do your homework it most likely will pay off. From large freestone/Tailwaters to technical back country creeks and lakes our valley offers a huge amount of fishing opportunity.