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Vail Valley Anglers
Top 5 Fall Flies for Colorado Fly Fishing
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Top 5 Fall Flies for Colorado Fly Fishing

Brody

When the cottonwoods and willows have turned yellow along the Eagle and Colorado Rivers and anglers are greeted with frosty mornings, it’s a sure bet that the next, short few weeks of fall will provide some of the best fly fishing of the year in Colorado. Hatches of Blue-winged Olive mayflies and tiny midges are enough to keep fish feeding throughout the day. Big, fat rainbows are looking to pack on some additional weight before winter and brown trout lose their normal standoffish attitudes and become hyper-aggressive. Low, clear flows make finding trout easier, with deeper riffles, runs and pools all likely holding spots

On any given day, a patient angler is provided with more consistent cloudy weather patterns and ideal water temperatures along with light pressure, and whether wading the Eagle River or floating the Colorado, one can use a variety of methods and flies to catch some of the biggest fish of the season, trout that are in the best shape of the year, at their heaviest weights and putting up the strongest fights. Fall is simply our favorite season. The scenery is unbeatable, the weather ideal and the trout willing. Throw in the fact that you can start the day off nymphing and when hatches get started by midday it’s a good time to look for risers. When late afternoon rolls around or clouds roll in and the light comes off the water then it’s time to bust out the meat and strip big, bulky streamers that may lead to the biggest brown of your life buckling your rod.

Here’s 5 Must Have Flies for Colorado in the Fall

Cheech Leech

Articulated streamers have taken over the world of fly fishing and the Cheech Leech is a proven winner already this season having produced several browns over the two-foot mark already this year. A bulky head pushes water and lifelike eyes add attraction. Combined with a realistic swimming motion and the fact that short strikers will still be stuck with the back hook and you’ve got yourself a trophy hunters dream fly. We like the black version best.

Barely Legal

The Barely Legal Streamer from big fly guru, Kelly Galloup, is a bulky, articulated pattern with a two-tone color scheme. A weighted conehead helps get it down while the articulated body creates an undulating, lifelike motion that big browns just have to clobber. In October and November it is hard to beat the yellow and brown combination-big brown trout hate it when little browns invade their territory during spawning season.

Pink Beadhead BWO Hollaback Emerger

The hottest guide fly in the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop right now is the Hollaback. While the pink bead doesn’t suggest a real insect it adds noticeable attraction to a spot-on BWO pattern. It’s outfishing classics like the WD-40 and Barr Emerger on the Colorado River right now. Leave the eggs at home and tie on a Hollaback.

KBG Nymph

For those offended by the hot fluorescent bead on the Hollaback, look no further than Umpqua’s KGB. A silver bead adds emerger style flash while the realistic profile accurately suggests either an olive BWO nymph or a black midge pupae. Try lifting and swing this pattern during the first signs of a hatch.

Comparadun BWO

An oldy but a goody this low-floating dry fly has been the difference maker lately for fooling picky risers like the hefty fall rainbows that have been sipping mayflies in low, clear water on the Eagle. A streamlined profile with the bulk of hackled dry flies, the Comparadun catches big fish when other flies won’t. Just make sure you present this fly without any drag and use light tippet and a dry fly rod with a soft tip that will absorb hooks sets on big risers.

These flies and more are available online and at the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards where our expert shop staff and year-round guides are happy to share fly fishing tips. Also check out our website for up to date fishing reports and helpful blog articles.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Personal Fly Fishing Ethics
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Fly Fishing Education

Personal Fly Fishing Ethics

Brody

Developing your own code of personal fly fishing ethics is something most anglers eventually do on their own. There are many different fly fishing methods and techniques that have proven to be successful for a wide range of fish species. I often tell my fly fishing clients that if it swims you can catch it on a fly rod. However, some methods of fly fishing and even flies themselves are very controversial and even unacceptable for some anglers while for others it doesn’t really matter how they’re catching fish as long as they’re catching them. Fly fishing began as a relatively simple way to catch trout and over the years became more technically advanced, with more and more species available to anglers.

As this has happened, the lines between fly fishing and other methods of fishing have blurred. Fast sinking lines allow anglers to reach new species deep in the water column, yarn eggs or pegged plastic egg beads and rubber San Juan Worms imitate favorite baits of gear anglers, and indicators make catching species like steelhead much easier for fly fishermen that aren’t interested in traditional two-handed spey fly fishing. These are just a few examples of choices modern fly fishermen must make when approaching how they’d like to catch fish.

Fly fishing techniques, gear, terminal tackle and flies have evolved in leaps and bounds over the last twenty years or so, resulting in huge changes from the original old school method of drifting a brace of wet flies downstream in order to catch trout. For instance, pegged beads so accurately represent a real salmon or trout egg that some anglers questions whether they are even flies when fished with several split shot under a bobber. But ask a steelhead angler from Pennsylvania or New York if that technique is unethical and they’ll probably tell you there’s no other way to fly fish the Great Lakes Steelhead run other than yarn, crystal flash or bead eggs. The same goes for squiggly, soft worm patterns and spring time trout throughout the country. Some hard-core West Coast spey anglers swinging traditional flies with long two-handed fly rods aren’t afraid to call out single-handed fly rodders who try to mimic the bait guys drifting egg sacks under a float. European competition Czech nymphing rules even preclude the use of weights and indicators. Dry fly purists might deem fishing beadhead nymphs tied on jig hooks cheating.

It doesn’t stop with trout either. Once a fish is raised and in range, billfish flyrodders mostly use a bait and switch technique where anglers simply drop (to call it casting might be a stretch) their fly into the water behind the boat to take the place of a teaser plug or bait. For notoriously difficult permit and bonefish, there’s enough reliable info out there to support the fact that some guides and anglers aren’t afraid to presoak their flies in a soup of crushed crabs and shrimp before casting to their quarry. Chumming up roosterfish and other gamefish with live bait is a common practice as well.

These fish are being caught on a fly rod but is it fly fishing? That’s up to each individual angler. We should try not to judge other fly fishermen or even spin or bait fishermen based solely on their methods. All fishing is about having fun in the outdoors and sometimes we fly anglers take ourselves too seriously. I started out as a youngster slinging bait for stocked trout and sunfish with my father and now that I have my own two young boys I’m fishing the same way with them, and truthfully it’s a lot of fun.

While I may not enjoy fly fishing with bobbers and nymphs, I constantly have to remind myself to put myself in the other anglers’ shoes. I might consider dry fly fishing the pinnacle of fly fishing methods for trout but that other angler may be having the time of their lives catching fish with their preferred method. There’s certainly some ethical questions that some anglers may need to address for themselves if the catching of fish is the only goal. For example, to me, a permit caught on a crab juice soaked fly is not a fly caught fish at all. Ripping trout off spawning beds with pegged beads is also something I personally consider unacceptable. But I’ve come to the conclusion that adopting an attitude of “You fish your way and I’ll fish mine.” is the way to go.

The next time you are wading or floating your local river instead of making fun of the fisherman on the bank fishing with bait or the fly fishermen struggling to learn how to nymph with a strike indicator, try to remember we’re all on the same team. The more anglers that enjoy our fisheries the better off our fisheries will be because all fishermen will have a bigger voice.

At Vail Valley Anglers we are all about catching trout with all fly fishing methods, whether it’s nymphing a deep pool in the winter, stripping big articulated streamers in the fall or casting double dry flies to rising trout in July. Just get out there and enjoy a day of fly fishing anytime you’ve got the chance and stop by the shop or check our website for the latest fishing reports and hot flies. And remember, it’s all about having fun.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Five Fly Fishing Tips
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Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Five Fly Fishing Guide Tips

Brody

Day in and day out fly fishing guides see it all. Some days it seems an angler can do no wrong and trout will eat just about anything while other days just getting a single bite is a struggle. No matter the day or the conditions, guides must fish through the worst weather and the best hatches with anglers with absolutely no experience and those who have been fly fishing their whole lives. In a single fly fishing season, professional guides are witness to thousands of casts both good and bad, a multitude of strikes and missed fish, hundreds of landed and lost trout, and a wide range of common mistakes anglers make.

A guide who spends most of the year on the river is armed with a bunch of fly fishing tips gained from experience. There is a popular saying among fly fisherman that hits the mark-“Always listen to your guide”. At the very least if you listen to your guide’s fly fishing tips you’ll be a much better angler even after a tough day of fishing and when the fishing is good you’ll land many more trout by following your guide’s advice.

Here’s some fly fishing tips that guides often give during a day on the river looking for trout:

1. Good drifts are more important than good casts

Guides can work around an angler who has limited casting experience. Long range accuracy is not nearly as crucial to success as a good drift. Casting issues can take a long time to sort out and correct but getting a good drift is a generally simple task that even complete novices can accomplish. Usually, unless it’s a huge casting problem, I work with and tweak the cast the angler has and focus on the drift. Trying to change someone’s cast can help but it can also lead to more mistakes when time on the water is limited and catching fish is the focus.

For this reason, mending properly is of the utmost importance while nymphing or dry fly fishing. Take the time to learn how to mend and understand why trout want a fly drifting the same speed as the current. There’s a reason why your guide says “Mend” hundreds of times in a single trip. My personal guiding mission statement for my clients is “Cast, mend, point at the fly-every cast, all day long.” It’s all about the drift.

2. Set the Hook Properly

Many anglers, especially those new to fly fishing come to the river with previous spinning gear experience and some are saltwater fly fishermen with no trout experience. The best trout set is a very quick upward lift of the rod tip towards the sky with enough power to bury the hook but not so much that you break the leader. Avoid the ultra-aggressive Bassmaster hook sets and saltwater strip sets. You already know how to trout set-it is the exact same motion as lifting up your fly rod for your backcast.

Also, if you’re guide says “Set the Hook!!” do so immediately. Your guide will see many strikes that even the best anglers will not see. A common reaction from anglers after failing to set the hook when the guide says “SET!!” is “I didn’t see it” or “I didn’t feel it” or “The fish missed it”. You’ll catch more trout if you simply set the hook when advised to and even in the extremely unlikely event that the fish did miss the fly (which rarely happens) you never stood a chance anyway unless you “SET THE HOOK!”.

3. Do not fish behind the boat

This is a very common mistake anglers, even those with years of experience, make on float trips and it will drive your guide crazy and kill your chances of catching trout. The best angle to cast from a drift boat or raft is slightly forward or downstream in the direction the boat is moving. This results in long, drag free drifts and your guide can see your flies. Casting behind the boat results in instant drag and bad drifts along with a horrible angle to set the hook and your guide can’t see what’s going on. Constantly turning around to look for flies results in cranky guides with sore necks who have to take their eyes off of where they are rowing. I learned a very appropriate saying from a good friend and excellent fly fishing guide, Alvin Dedeaux, “Fish in the future not the past”. Ignore the impulse to cast behind the boat at a spot or fish you missed and look downstream for a better option.

4. Ask your guide questions and tell them your expectations

Your guide may not realize you need more help with a certain aspect of fly fishing unless you ask how to do it or tell them you don’t understand. Your fly fishing guide is a resource-take advantage of their experience and knowledge. The more questions you ask, the more you will learn, making you a better angler faster. If you want to focus on a certain aspect of fly fishing, such as learning to double haul for an upcoming saltwater trip, go ahead and tell them. Fly fishing guides should not just be viewed as means to an end-catching fish. Anglers have the opportunity to learn from and be taught by an expert and the best guides are the ones who are willing to take the time to teach their anglers constantly so at the end of the day, you’ve gained the skills to become a better fly fisherman.

5. Slow down

For some reason many anglers, both experienced and novices, get in a huge rush while fly fishing-the Spaz Factor. Don’t be a Spaz. Going too fast is sure to lead to a laundry list of problems including tangles that eat up fishing time, bad casts that miss the mark or spook trout, overly aggressive hook sets that miss or break off fish and a generally stressful and unpleasant day on the water. Experienced fly fishing guides will assure you that going too fast and hard will result in less fish, more mistakes, and added stress. There are certain times when being focused and fast will help but they are usually isolated moments during the day and usually you’ll have more time than you think to get a fly to that big fish. As a rule, one good cast and good drift is worth so much more than a long string of hasty, poor presentations. Pick your spot, take your time and you’ll land more trout. It’s just fishing after all and it’s supposed to be fun and relaxing not a white knuckle ride to the finish line.

To learn from some of the best fly fishing guides in Colorado, book a guided fly fishing trip with Vail Valley Anglers.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Fall Fly Fishing Gear for Foul Weather
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Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Fall Fly Fishing Gear for Foul Weather

Brody

Here in Central Colorado the weather is still hot but it is time for anglers to start thinking about fall fly fishing and the colder, wetter weather, chilly water, and shorter days that are just around the corner. The fly fishing definitely improves each year as late summer transitions to early autumn and September brings the first frosty nights and the aspens and cottonwoods begin to show some color. Fall brings some of the best fishing of the year to float fishermen on the Colorado River and wading anglers on the Eagle. Trout streams are often deserted as summer tourists have left and locals focus on their own vacations or elk hunting. Trout begin to feed aggressively as water temperatures cool and the days shorten before the onset of a long winter. What fall fly fishing in the Rockies also means is a change in gear and clothing is also necessary with the changing weather.


During the fall on Colorado's trout streams, storms like
this can roll in fast. With the right gear you'll be prepared.


While you might be tempted to wet wade or wear shorts and flip flops in the boat on a nice fall day, the smart angler comes prepared for the worst weather while fly fishing the autumn season in places like Colorado. I’ve guided in snow storms as early as the first week in September and it is not uncommon to start out your morning float on the Colorado with temperatures below freezing in October. In short, if you are not prepared with the right gear, a day on the river that started out sunny with ideal temperatures and little wind can change instantly into a nasty fall storm that makes staying dry and warm a priority.

Here are several pieces of top notch fly fishing gear you’ll want have in your vehicle or in your pack or boat at all times.

Good Rain Gear

For successful year-round fly fishing, staying dry is priority number one. Your arsenal should include a rain jacket designed specifically for fly fishing like the Simms Slick Jacket. The Slick Jacket is made with stretchy, three-layer GORE-TEX Pro Shell fabric so that you can move freely and remain totally dry – even in the worst weather. Its five large pockets are made with a low-profile design so that they provide ample storage for all of your fly boxes, tackle, and tools without getting in the way or catching your line. Other important features include watertight cuffs, a two-way drawcord waist, and interior pass-through zippers that let you gain access to your waders without undressing and getting soaked.

Waders are your next line of defense against chilly wet conditions, even if you aren’t actually wading and are just rowing your boat, quality waders will be appreciated when the mercury plummets and spitting rain changes to swirling snow. While float fishing I used to just carry a pair of rain pants but it’s hard to beat the full foot coverage and increased durability of a pair of wading pants like the Simms Freestone Pants. The Simms Freestone Pants give anglers durable, waterproof agility without the bulk of chest waders. These lighweight, waist-high waders slip on and off easily and stay put when you are on the move with the built-in adjustable belt. Four-layer Toray Quadralam fabric technology provides breathable waterproofing and sturdy abrasion resistance. Built-in gravel guards protect the neoprene booties from sand and debris. Scrambling over rocks and logs is made easier with the mobility-minded center seams and articulated knees. The streamlined Simms Freestone Pants are ideal for active anglers who appreciate functionally superior, minimalist gear that won't slow them down.

Layering/Insulating Pieces

Staying dry is only the first step when your fall fly fishing trip runs into foul weather. Keeping warm will allow you to fish comfortably all day. In addition to what you wear to the river, at the minimum your layering and insulating pieces should provide full body coverage. Start with a warm hat like the Simms GORE-TEX ExStream Hat with 3-layer GORE-TEX fabric that provides 100% waterproof, breathable protection while built-in ear flaps and a quilted fleece lining provide extra warmth. Next keep your torso and legs warm with the Simms Montana Wool Top and Bottoms. Finally with the RepYourWater Trout Skin merino socks your toes will also stay warm no matter the weather.

Dry Bag

All of the items above become worthless if they get soaked before an angler actually needs to use them. For this reason both wading and float fishing anglers should store their foul weather kit in some kind of waterproof storage. After proving itself during a two-week stay in the backcountry rainforests of Alaska, I’ve come to love my Umpqua Tongass Gear Bag which combines all the best attributes of a dry bag with the carrying capacity of a big duffel and the shouldering comfort of a backpack. The elongated mouth and dual tarpaulin bands at the opening ensure that water never gets inside, and the padded shoulder straps make for a comfortable ride when loaded down with equipment. It is a simple, rugged way to protect your most important pieces of gear and features a top web grab handle, coated web lash points, dual tarpaulin-banded roll-top with mouth extension for extra water resistance and the 90-liter main compartment fits large items.

Thermos

Cold mornings at the boat ramp and chilly fall breezes that turn into icy gales mean anglers need more than just warm and dry clothes to stay comfortable. A little piping hot fuel will also make any fall fly fishing session more pleasant when the weather starts to grind an angler down. There’s no better solution for carrying a full day’s worth of coffee, hot chocolate or soup than with Yeti’s Rambler Bottles. The Rambler Bottle is a thermos that offers a wide mouth with Over-the-Nose technology for easy loading, drinking, and cleaning. The TripleHaul cap is comfortable to grip, 1% leakproof, and insulated. You’ll also get all the benefits of a Rambler, including durable 18/8 stainless steel construction and double-wall vacuum insulation that keeps your beverages hot (or cold) while preventing condensation through its No Sweat design. Three sizes are available.

Fall is a favorite time of year for our fly fishing guides here at Vail Valley Anglers. The fishing is great, angling pressure is minimal, the autumn colors are vibrant and for the most part the weather is pleasant. But we always hit the water prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store for us. The right gear can turn a tough weather day into a successful day of fly fishing that won’t soon be forgotten.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Fly Fishing Depends on Public Land Access
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Fly Fishing Depends on Public Land Access

Brody

In the past year the importance of public lands access has become a hot topic across the western United States, especially for fly fishermen. As a citizen of the United States, these are your waters and your lands. In a state such as Colorado, the majority of fly fishing for trout occurs on publicly owned and accessible waters, including millions of acres that are home to high country creeks and lakes on National Forest lands and larger rivers flowing through Bureau of Land Management parcels. Nearly half of all lands in the western U.S. and the rivers and creeks that flow through them, fall into this category. These federally managed, publicly owned lands and waters are the lifeblood of not only the trout that anglers cherish but also are crucial to the overall health of the environment and all wildlife of the Rocky Mountains. Politics aside, it simply makes sense for anglers to support the continued access to our rivers and lakes.

In Colorado, for example, only a small percentage of state-owned land is actually accessible to anglers and all private waters are off limits to those without permission. Due to Colorado’s stream access laws, which deem the river bottom as private property wherever a river flows through private land, legally accessed public waters are all the more important here. If we were to lose access to federally managed lands, entire watersheds, like the upper Colorado River for example, would be out of reach for anglers, recreational boaters and anyone else who wants to enjoy this beautiful and important area.

Just on the Colorado River alone, without access to areas like the Pumphouse, Radium, and State Bridge BLM areas along with several downstream boat ramps and camping areas, anglers, boaters, and campers would lose the ability to use nearly fifty miles of the river. Additionally, businesses like outfitters, fishing guides, fly shops, whitewater rafting companies and concessionaires would suffer greatly. Also think of the hiking, backcountry skiing and mountain biking opportunities that would be lost in Eagle County, Colorado alone. The Eagle Valley is also home to the world famous ski resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek who lease federal public lands for their ski operations. The rest of western Colorado is no different and the entire Rocky Mountain region of the United States also depends on these lands for recreation and a healthy economy.


At Vail Valley Anglers we do the majority of  our fishing and guiding on public lands and waters.

There’s also a good chance the fisheries themselves would suffer if access to these areas were taken away. Keep in mind that many of our most important native and threatened trout species rely on habitat refuges that occur almost exclusively on these public lands. Native brook trout in National Forest streams in the Appalachian Mountains, Cutthroat Trout in the lakes of Colorado’s Flattops Wilderness area, Bull Trout in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, and Wild Steelhead in Coastal Alaska’s National Forests are only a few of these examples. Without the protection these remote areas offer these species, angling opportunities would disappear.

Because the states are mandated to manage their own wildlife resources, including fisheries, without ample access and opportunity, angler participation would drop immensely, which would reduce fishing license sales which would further reduce the funding necessary for a state like Colorado to properly manage trout fisheries for the best angling experience possible. Many of the state’s best destination fly fishing streams like the Colorado River, Arkansas River, the North Platte River, the Gunnison River, and more flow through significant portions of publicly owned federal lands. It’s often been said “They aren’t making any more trout streams”. Simply put, this land is our land and what he have is a limited resource so anglers need to value and protect the access to and quality of the fisheries we currently enjoy.

There’s no question that private waters and limited access provide some excellent fly fishing, especially for larger than average trout. These private areas also provide a buffer against excessive angling pressure and private water can provide an outstanding experience for many anglers. However, without ample public access, the average angler would lose out. The amount of quality fly fishing that occurs on public water is what most anglers enjoy day in and day out. Whether it is an extended backcountry camping and fly fishing expedition into a wilderness area or a two hour session after work on your local river, public lands and waters provide most anglers the best possible outdoors experience.

The number one reason why outdoorsmen such as hunters and anglers stop participating in outdoor activities is not having a good place to recreate. Without somewhere to fish, people will simply stop fishing. Without continued recruitment of young and new anglers our sport will suffer and become marginalized. Anglers need public lands and waters to promote fly fishing as a worthwhile, healthy outdoor activity and trout need habitat in which to thrive. It’s part of our fly fishing heritage. Everyone wins with continued access to our public lands.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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How to Choose the Right Fly Fishing Tippet
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

How to Choose the Right Fly Fishing Tippet

Brody

Choosing the right tippet is a crucial step in fly fishing for anglers targeting everything from trout to tarpon. Tippet is your final connection between you and the fish and with so many sizes and types of tippet available it can be easy to make a mistake. For instance heavy fluorocarbon tippet and small dry flies aren’t a good combination nor is light monofilament tippet the best choice for anglers casting bulky streamers to hefty trout. It’s always helpful to be prepared with a thorough selection of tippet sizes and materials no matter the species you are after because different fly fishing methods, different flies and different fish require specific tippets for the best performance and catch rates.

Tippet comes in two basic materials, monofilament and fluorocarbon. Monofilament tippet is a nylon material that has been around a long time and is still a very effective tippet choice. Monofilament tends to be more supple and less dense than fluorocarbon and is a good choice for long leaders and realistic presentations with dry flies. Monofilament is well-suited for anglers who build their own leaders. It is also less expensive than fluorocarbon and covers basic fly fishing needs well. Durability is fairly good but monofilament tippet should be checked regularly for nicks and abrasions. Monofilament also has a certain amount of inherent stretch which may protect lighter tippets from breaking better than fluorocarbon.

Fluorocarbon tippet material is much different from nylon monofilament. Fluorocarbon is stiffer and much more abrasion resistant than mono. It also stands up to sun better which will break down and degrade monofilament over time. A key advantage to monofilament for anglers lies in the fact that it refracts much less light than mono making it nearly invisible to fish. Because it does not absorb water and is very dense, fluorocarbon sinks better than monofilament, making a better choice for subsurface nymph and streamer presentations. It is also very abrasion resistant so anglers targeting bass in heavy cover, toothy critters like northern pike or bonefish and permit around sharp coral heads should make fluorocarbon their first choice in tippet material. Fluorocarbon is nearly three times as expensive as monofilament so use it wisely.

Choosing the right tippet size is also an important consideration for many anglers. Tippet size is generally categorized by diameter and pound test breaking strength. With designations of 0x through 8X and the smaller the number the heavier the breaking strength, most trout anglers should carry a selection of 2X through 6x which is the equivalent of 12lb through 2lb test. For general trout and freshwater fishing a simple formula is good place to start. Simply divide the size of your fly by three and you’ll be very close to the correct tippet size. For instance a size #12 Royal Wulff would require 4x tippet. This is a general formula that might require a little wiggle room. During high or off color water conditions, anglers should consider increasing tippet size and strength while low, clear water and spooky fish might demand lighter, thinner tippet sizes.

For heavy duty freshwater fly fishing and most saltwater fly fishing, tippet is categorized by the pound test breaking strength. Anglers may need everything from 10 lb test to 60 lb but ultra-spooky bonefish in ankle-deep water, for instance might even require a long, light 8lb tippet while big toothy pike or massive billfish may require a length of 80lb test shock tippet at the end of their leader.

Some anglers who fish for predators like sharks, pike, barracuda or bluefish also carry knottable wire tippet or wire bite guards. Durability is such that this material is impervious to the sharpest teeth. However, the disadvantage may be a less lifelike fly action and the fish may shy away from the more visible wire. I fly fish for big northern pike quite a bit and prefer heavy fluorocarbon tippet over wire but when a huge wahoo or mako shark inhales your fly, wire might be the better choice.

With the right selection of tippet sizes and materials, anglers will be prepared for whatever fly fishing conditions they encounter and be able to adapt to changing conditions as needed. Be sure to check your tippet selection regularly and update as needed. It can be really frustrating problem to be faced with dozens of trout rising to a size 22 trico mayfly and find the lightest tippet you have is 4X fluoro that won’t even fit through the hook eye of your tiny parachute dry fly.

For more help on choosing the tippet stop by the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop or take a look online and check out our huge selection of tippet sizes and materials.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Catch and Release Tips for Late Summer Trout
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Catch and Release Tips for Late Summer Trout

Brody

As we move into August on the rivers here in Colorado, the latter part of summer brings challenges to both angler and trout. Low, clear water can make catching trout that have seen an abundance of artificial flies more difficult while warmer water temperatures hampers a trout’s ability to recover quickly after being caught and released.

Warmer water, with temperatures in the mid to high 60’s carries less oxygen and trout tire easily under these conditions while water over 70 degrees can be fatal to a trout that has been played to exhaustion. Oxygen depletion and toxic lactic acid build up will cause trout to die when they are caught in warm water. Many of these fish may not die immediately but hours or even a day later, leading anglers to believe the fish was released unharmed.

There are several direct and indirect cause of unintentional fish mortality when anglers practice catch and release during the warmer water conditions of late summer. The first, and most obvious is, unfortunately, the grip and grin hero shot of your catch. Keeping trout out of the water for more than a few seconds for pictures leads to suffocation. Poor and abusive handling of trout while removing hooks or taking photos can also cause injury or death. Playing or fighting trout for an extended period of time can result in exhaustion and eventual mortality.

Fortunately, for anglers who want to ensure that catch and release practices when fly fishing for trout during late summer actually work, there are some easy steps one can take to ensure the future of our trout fisheries.



1. #keepemwet is a social media hashtag and website aimed at educating anglers on the proper techniques for taking photos of trout anglers intend to release unharmed. It’s very simple-keep the trout partially submerged in the river, never removing them from the water and limit handling and photo sessions to just a few seconds.

2. Play fish quickly and aggressively. The idea here is to land the trout as soon as possible in order to release them while they are still active and in good shape. A “green” fish-one that is still spunky- that is released quickly has a much better chance of survival because it was not fought to exhaustion.

3. Avoid light tippet. Many anglers feel they will catch more fish in the low, clear water of late summer with thin diameter tippets. Perhaps, but I’ve experimented extensively with “smart, spooky, tippet shy” tailwater fish and I rarely fish tippet lighter than 4X and never go lighter than 5X and my catch rate remains higher than anglers who go extremely light. Using the heaviest tippet possible allows anglers to play fish more aggressively and land them faster as noted above.

4. Barbless hooks reduce injury to trout and also help anglers release trout more quickly. If a fish is hooked deeply, anywhere near the gills, simply cut the tippet and leave the fly and release the fish. The hook will rust and fall out in a couple days which is a better choice than digging around in a trout’s throat doing more damage.

5. Don’t handle trout at all if you are not going to take a photo. With barbless hooks a quick twist of the hook with your fingers or hemostats will dislodge the hook while the trout rests in the water in your net.

6. Rubber Net Bags like those found on Fisknats and Nomad landing nets are must have tool for effective catch and release fly fishing for trout. They do not damage a trout’s layer of protective slime and they don’t snag hooks. Larger rubber net bags are better than small, giving the trout a comfortable place to rest in the water while being released or revived.

7. Revive trout as necessary. When landed under warm water conditions, trout, especially larger specimens that have been played hard require a little extra attention when being released. Think of a marathon runner at the end of a race. Oxygen needs to be recovered and lactic acid purged. If a fish cannot remain upright, wag its tail, shake its head and look generally spunky it needs to be revived. Do not handle the trout while reviving. Do not move it back and forth in the water. Keep it resting in the net facing upstream into the current allowing water to flow over its gills and simply let it recover oxygen for as long as necessary. When the fish begins to actively try to swim out of the net it is ready to go. I’ve had to revive large trout for as long as ten minutes or more before they swam off on their own.

8. Fish when the water is coldest. Conveniently, during late summer when water temperatures approach or exceed 70 degrees during the day, the best times to fish and catch trout are also when the water is cooler. Limit your fishing to a few hours from sunrise to mid-morning or the last hour or two in the evening before nightfall.

9. Use common sense. Carry a stream thermometer and use it. If the water is holding in the mid 60’s you’re probably alright to fish as long as you practice the above catch and release techniques. When temperatures reach the upper 60’s, exercise caution and if the water hits 70 degrees simply stop fishing because even if you do everything right, there’s a good chance the trout you are releasing will die.

10. Fish where the water is cold. If the water on lower elevation fisheries like the lower Roaring Fork or Colorado River is regularly exceeding 70 degrees then anglers should seek out trout where water temperatures remain cold all year. High elevation, mountain trout streams and alpine lakes like the ones we fish on our HikeNFish trips stay cool throughout the hottest part of summer. Tailwater streams below dams that draw water from the bottom of reservoirs also feature cold water no matter how hot air temperatures are.

During late summer there’s no reason anglers should not be able to continue fly fishing for trout as long as proper catch and release techniques are followed. At Vail Valley Anglers, all of our guides are adamant about protecting our fisheries and doing the best job possible to keep the trout we love alive and well.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Drift Boat and Raft Maintenance for Fly Fishermen
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Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Drift Boat and Raft Maintenance for Fly Fishermen

Brody

When float fishing season in Colorado is in full swing, it can be hard to remember how important boat maintenance can be. In order to keep your drift boat, raft and trailer in good working order for many years, it is crucial to stay on top of cleaning and maintenance. A well-cared for raft or drift boat and trailer combination should provide an angler with a reliable float fishing set up for well over ten years or more but abuse and lack of maintenance commonly leads to a shorter lifespan and money that could have been spent on fishing trips is necessary for either expensive repairs or replacing a boat or trailer.

Trailers

For float fishermen, a working trailer may be a more important asset than your boat. Without regular maintenance trailers can be become a nuisance and even result in a traffic ticket.

1. Be sure to regularly grease your wheel hubs. This is a quick job you can do yourself. Buy an affordable grease gun at an auto parts store and use marine grease which protects your hubs when backing into the water. Dealing with a burned out hub on the side of the road will end a fishing trip in a hurry.

2. Check your lights regularly. Trailer lights are notorious for burning out. Keep all connections dry and have an extra light around just in case.

3. Check your wiring harness every time you use the trailer. Your lights may not work because of a bad connection.

4. Travel with a spare tire. Trailer tires take a beating and flats are common on rough dirt roads.

5. Sand and paint your trailer each year. It will last much longer. For anglers with wood decking, replace it before it shows signs of rot and breakage.

6. Keep an eye on your rollers, winch and strap and update as necessary.

Rafts

More and more float fishermen are choosing rafts over drift boats these days. They’re more versatile and with the modern fishing frames available, they’re just as comfortable as drift boats. They do however require more maintenance if anglers want them to last many fishing seasons.

1. Sun is the number one enemy that will shorten a raft’s lifespan. Regularly treat your raft with 303 Areospace Protectant. You can find it auto parts stores and most kayak and rafting stores will carry it as well. Think of it as sunscreen for your boat.

2. Thoroughly wash your raft regulary. Sand, dirt, aluminum residue and other grime is like damaging sandpaper to a rubber raft and will destroy the surface of the boat over time.

3. Check your valves and clean them periodically. Seeping valves are often the source of a mysterious leak.

4. Tighten straps and keep all frame connections tight. The less your frame moves around the better.

5. Check all seat swivel bases and bearings frequently. If you don’t, your seat may break at the base and send an angler into the river.

6. Maintain a thorough repair kit. Replace repair glue in your repair kit every year. It dries up and becomes useless which will be a huge problem when you actually need to use it on the river.

7. Properly store your raft in the offseason out of the sun, ice and snow. Keep it well covered or break it down and store in your garage.

Drift Boats

While metal drift boats require little maintenance, they are extremely heavy and not very popular these days. Wooden drift boat are extremely pretty but can be a maintenance nightmare and are limited to calmer rivers. Most anglers these days choose fiberglass or injection molded plastic drift boats. They are durable and light. But even these boats do require some care in order to maximize the number of seasons they can be used.

1. Wash your drift boat inside and out after each trip. Drift boats collect dirt and grit which will scratch the surface of the boar. Clean that scum line on the outside too unless you want a permanent line of grime on your boat.

2. Keep an eye on the fasteners for storage chambers. These regularly break.

3. Keep an extra set of plugs in your boat. Sinking is not an option.

4. Glue down or screw down any plastic stripping, cup holders, rod tubes etc that are loose. These accessories commonly separate from the hull of drift boats.

5. Repair dings and chips in the chines and outer hull as soon as possible. Otherwise they will continue to grow each time the drift boat scrapes a rock. It is easy to repair these chips with marine epoxy and fiberglass sheets. Just cut the fiberglass screen to size, generously apply epoxy and sand smooth when dry. You may need to flip your drift boat over to do this.

Oars and Blades

Your oars and blades also require some maintentance. Each season sand down your wood or fiberglass oar shafts and spray with several coats of polyurethane. If your oar blades have cracks you can repair them with epoxy and fiberglass. Keep and extra oar right and oar lock in your boat. You’ll need one eventually.

Every year on the Eagle River and Colorado River, I’m impressed by some fly fishing guides who have been using the same boats for nearly twenty years. Guiding boats get worked hard but these guides have kept their boats in perfect shape for two decades. With the proper care and maintenance list above, there’s no reason your float fishing boat shouldn’t last that long as well.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Fly Fishing for Cutthroat Trout in Colorado
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Fly Fishing for Cutthroat Trout in Colorado

Brody

Colorado is home to three species of native Cutthroat trout and offers excellent fly fishing for these beautiful homegrown trout that are eager to eat a fly. The Greenback Cutthroat was once thought to be extinct but now thrives in several Front Range fisheries. Rio Grande Cutthroats can be found in the drainages of the San Luis Valley. Finally, the Colorado River strain of Cutthroat Trout is native to the Western Slope of Colorado and is quite common in many high country fisheries and occasionally is caught in larger, lower elevation streams like the Eagle River near Vail. A fourth species of Cutthroat found in Colorado, the Yellowfin Cutthroat, was native to Twin Lakes Arkansas River Headwaters area of Colorado is now extinct. This species commonly grew to over ten pounds!

According to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, Cutthroats are the most diverse trout species in North America and the historical distribution of cutthroat trout covers the broadest range of any stream dwelling trout in the Western Hemisphere. The rugged topography of their range has lead to isolation, which in turn has given rise to fourteen recognized subspecies. Many of these strains of trout are now managed as species of special concern and some are even considered endangered species. Cutthroats do not compete well with other trout and in much of their historical range, loss of habitat has had a very negative impact on some populations. Some rare strains of cutthroats are found in only a single watershed drainage and are at extreme risk of disappearing altogether without proper protection and management.

All three of Colorado’s strains of Cutthroat Trout are similar in appearance with large black spots, orange to red throat slashes, and body colors ranging from olive to yellow. Cutthroats were originally named by  William Clark on the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. Additionally, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife may occasionally stock non-native fine-spotted Snake River Cutthroats, common in Wyoming and Idaho, into some fisheries. In Colorado’s lakes and streams most Cutthroats average 9 to 16 inches, with the occasional monster reaching over 20 inches. My biggest Colorado River Cutthroat was caught in the Frying Pan River and was taped at 25 inches and weighed over six pounds.

Cutthroats tend to be eager and aggressive when eating flies. They are especially fond of dry flies and terrestrials and bushy attractor dries are usually the most effective cuttie patterns. Many anglers make a point of attempting to land as many different strains of cutthroats as possible and making a bucket list fly fishing trip for Cutthroats will take you to some fantastic fisheries across Colorado and much of the Western United States. There’s even sea-run cutthroats that can be caught in shallow saltwater estuaries in the Northwest and Alaska. Next to my favorite, the Colorado River Cutt, I’m especially fond of the big, rosy-colored Westslope Cutthroat found in northwestern Montana.

While most larger river systems in Colorado such as the Eagle and Colorado River are now home to thriving populations of wild but non-native trout species like Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout tend to do better with less competition from their more aggressive cousins. Additionally, pure strains of cutthroat trout are also threatened by hyridization with rainbow trout since the two species may crossbreed during their shared spring spawning season. These fish are called cuttbows and area a frequent catch on the Eagle River. For these reasons, more pure cutthroats are found in high country fisheries such as small mountain creeks and alpine lakes. Even at higher elevations, however, cutthroats must often compete with non-native brook trout which are more aggressive and breed prolifically. In fisheries with a population of both native Cutthroats and Brook trout, anglers are encouraged to harvest a few brook trout in order to help out Colorado’s native trout.

Fortunately, for anglers in Central Colorado near the Vail Valley Anglers Fly Shop in Edwards. Colorado there is no shortage of places to catch the Colorado River strain of Cutthroat Trout. Most high elevation streams and lakes in the Holy Cross and Eagle’s Nest Wilderness hold cutties. The Flattops Wilderness Area is also home to many excellent cutthroat destinations with Trapper’s Lake being a top choice.

Anglers interested in learning more about Colorado native Cutthroat Trout population should check out the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife at http://cpw.state.co.us/cutthroat-trout . For more specific information on each species of cutthroat take a look at http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchColoradoRiverCutthroatTrout.aspx , http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchGreenbackCutthroatTrout.aspx, and http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchRioGrandeCutthroatTrout.aspx .

For more information on where and how to catch cutthroat trout on a fly in Colorado, ask the experts at Vail Valley Anglers and check out our High Country Fly Fishing Report. Brody Henderson

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Understanding Fly Rod Actions
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Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Understanding Fly Rod Actions

Brody

Fly rods come in many different lengths, weights and actions depending on the fish species and fishing methods being used to pursue those fish. One of the most important details anglers need to understand about their fly rod what is actions are best for the particular type of fly fishing they will be doing. The action or flex of the fly rod has a huge impact on how the rod will cast over a range of distances, how it will perform fighting fish, how it will protect tippet from breaking and what type of flies it will present the best.

In general terms, fly rods come in fast, medium and slow actions. The action of the rod is a direct reflection of how deep the rod flexes into the blank while casting. A slow action or full flex rod bends deeply into the blank, almost to the butt of the rod. Slow action fly rods have a very soft feel and can be described as “noodles”. They are ideal in lighter weights and shorter lengths for small stream dry fly fishing for trout since they load very easily and are capable of soft presentations at short ranges. These rods also protect light tippets from breaking very well since the full flex action acts as a very effective shock absorber. Slow action rods require patience, feel and finesse on the part of the angler to cast well. These are not long distance casting tools or designed for casting big heavy streamer patterns. A good example of a quality slow action rod is Scott’s F2 series of fiberglass fly rods.

Medium action or mid-flex fly rods are a good choice for beginner anglers buying their first fly rod or experienced anglers looking for an all-purpose freshwater fly rod for everything from trout to larger fish like steelhead or northern pike. Medium action rods flex into the middle of the rod and load easily but have the lower blank strength and stiffness to punch out longer casts and fight powerful fish but have enough flexibility in the upper half of the rod to make accurate and quick short range roll casts. Medium action rods are also capable of making good presentations with dry flies, nymphs or streamers. Scott’s G2 Series of Fly Rods are an excellent choice for anglers looking for one of the very best medium action fly rods.

Fast action rods have become more and more popular over the last decade as fly rod companies improve materials and technology that make fly rods lighter and more powerful that are capable of rocketing accurate casts out to bonefish tailing on the horizon or steelhead holding in unwadeable runs all the way across big coastal rivers. Fast action rods are fairly stiff and flex only in the upper third of the rod. They are the favorite of anglers who are often faced with long casts with heavy flies in windy conditions. Fast action or tip-flex fly rods require a longer portion of weight forward fly line to be in the air to load the rod and cast well and for this reason they aren’t always the best choice for anglers who make a lot of short casts. For saltwater anglers who need to punch out lengthy casts into the teeth of the wind and then fight big, tough fish that require rod strength and lifting power, a fast action fly rod is the best option. Fast actions are also a good choice for western float fishermen who drift big rivers and enjoy firing big hopper patterns or streamers inches from the bank where big brown trout are lying in ambush. One of the best new fast-action fly rods on the market is the Sage X Rod.

Keep in mind there are also a lot of fly rods out there with hydrid actions that allow anglers to fine-tune their preferences. A medium-fast action rod, for example will have a little more touch and feel than a straight fast action while an ultra-fast action rod is a very specifically designed long distance casting tool that a beginner angler might be intimidated by.
For more information on fly rod actions or advice on your next fly rod purchase, stop by the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, Colorado, give us a call or chat with us online at our website.
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Vail Valley Anglers Introduces the New Sage X Rod

Brody

Introducing the New Sage X Fly Rod

Utilizing the latest high tech materials and advanced technologies along with intense on the water testing, Sage has long been the fly fishing industry’s most trusted source for high quality fly rod development and the new X Fly Rod is no exception. The X Rod has some incredibly large shoes to fill as it replaces Sage’s most popular series of the fly rods, the One. Fans of the One need not be disappointed however, the Rod is a worthy successor and Sage pulled out all the stops in developing the new X Rod.

Early indications are proving the Sage X Fly Rod to be a lightweight cannon with more power, control and sensitivity than the One. On a recent float trip down the upper Eagle River with high, fast water conditions, a 9 foot 5 weight X Rod performed impressively. The X has a powerful fast action but what stood out right away was how smooth and accurate the X Rod was. Although it has a fast action it did not feel overly stiff and loaded deep into the lower half, allowing anglers to harness more energy and which made quick, accurate casts easier. With the high water, productive holding water was located in tight, small areas near the banks where flooded willows threatened to snag flies on every cast. In a fast moving boat hitting these spots with speed and accuracy was the only way to catch trout and the X Rod delivered. The X rod also produces tight loops and drives flies towards the horizon with little effort on the part of the caster. In areas where the river was moving more slowly or more distance was required, the X Rod punched out spot-on long casts without the need for false casting.

For all-water, multiple species fly fishing versatility, there’s a four-piece X Rod for just about every fly fishing application from small stream trout, to coastal steelhead to the strongest bull redfish. The X is available in single-handed fresh and saltwater rods in three through ten weights with lengths varying from seven and a half to 10 feet long. All saltwater rods feature a full wells grip with a fighting butt while freshwater models utilize a half wells grip. Stepping up from the single-handed rods are the X Switch Rods. These versatile two-handers bridge the gap between single-handers and spey rods and come in six through eight weight at eleven feet long, ideal for large trout on big rivers or most steelhead fishing on smaller rivers. Finally, for steelhead and salmon anglers who love to swing bulky flies on big coastal rivers, the X Rod is also available in the Spey category. The X Spey Rods come in six through ten weights in lengths of twelve to fifteen feet. Both the Switch and Spey X models feature a Super Plus Fore and Rear Grip.

Building on and enhancing their famous Konnetic Technology, Sage’s new Konnetic HD Technology featured in the X Rod results in an even lighter, more powerful fly rod designed to throw the tightest loops and most accurate casts possible. A very slim diameter rod blank reduces the overall weight of the X Rod while the high density composite fibers boost strength. Many fast action rods lack the sensitivity and touch of softer fly rods, especially in the short game that can be common when fishing for trout on smaller rivers or that is often needed when a big bonefish suddenly appears two or three rod lengths from the boat. The X Rod, however, has both the power and feel needed for fly casting at every range.

The X Rod is outfitted with high quality components that enhance the durability and performance of the rod. Fuji Ceramic stripping guides and hard chrome snake guides shoot line flawlessy. A tough, lightweight anodized aluminum uplocking reel seat anchors fly reels and functions easily. The half-wells cork grip feels just right in the hand, not too bulky and not too slim. The rod also looks great with a Black Spruce blank and green and metallic grey wraps. For storage and transport, Sage provides a cloth rod sock and sturdy powder coated aluminum rod tube for the X Rod.

There is a ton of anticipation over the release of Sage’s latest flagship Fly Rod, the X. At Vail Valley Anglers, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on one before the initial release and the field test results will released soon. For those who can’t wait, Vail Valley Anglers is taking presale orders for the X Rod. With an early August release date, anglers who preorder the X Rod won’t have to wait long to see just how impressive this fly rod casts and fishes.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Wade Fishing Preparation Tips
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Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Wade Fishing Preparation Tips

Brody

Summer has arrived in Colorado and the best fishing of the year is just around the corner. As river levels drop, wading anglers will have access to more water and better fishing. Now is the time to make sure all of your fly fishing gear is in good working order. Making repairs or replacing faulty gear now will save time and headaches later. The first time you step into cold thigh deep water is not the time to discover your waders have a bad leak or that your wading boots have a loose sole. Proper early season gear maintenance along with adding a few new items to your fly fishing wading system will go a long ways towards catching more fish and staying safe on the river.

Waders

The first thing any angler who spends a lot of time wade fishing should do is buy the best waders they can afford. They’ll last longer and keep you dry and warm for years. It’s hard to beat any of the Simms wader line and my personal favorites are the Simms G3 Guide Pants. They’re a comfortable four season wader that enhance mobility but for anyone who needs to wade deep into a steelhead run or cross a cold trout stream in the winter, chest waders may be a better choice.

No matter what waders you choose, there’s a good chance that eventually you’ll experience a leak, whether from an accidental puncture or just general abuse. The most common problem, tiny pinhole leaks, are the hardest to find but easy to repair. Turn your waders inside out and spray the general area of the leak with rubbing alcohol. As the alcohol evaporates, the leak will turn dark. Mark it with a sharpie and put a dab of Aquaseal on it and you’re ready to go. While larger tears can be fixed with a patch, most wader companies will do a better patch job if you send in your waders for repair. Leaks in the bootie area of waders are more problematic and should also be sent in for a warranty repair.

Wading Boots

One of the most important pieces of gear for a serious wade fisherman are wading boots. Wading boots are what keep you on your feet and stable while you’re wading in fast currents and slick rocks. Get a boot with traction and support that maximize durability and comfort and you’ll fish all day without any complaints, even when a long hike is in order to reach the water. The Korkers K5 Bomber Boot or Devil’s Canyon Boots offer anglers a rugged wading boot with versatile interchangeable soles called the Omnitrax system that allows anglers to quickly switch from felt to rubber to studded soles depending on the type of traction needed.

Since wading boots take the brunt of abuse during any fly fishing wading session, anglers will eventually need to do some repairs. Anytime I see a rubber toe or heel cap or sidewall peeling away from the boot, it’s a quick fix to glue it down with Shoe Goo. If a sole starts peeling off, you’ll need to get more aggressive with the repair. Apply barge cement liberally and clamp the sole back to the boot until the glue has dried. It’s also a good idea to carry and extra boot lace or two or an additional Boa Lace Repair Kit in your pack.

Wading Accessories

Experienced anglers know the value of having a few extra fly fishing accessories that make wade fishing easier. The new Simms Pro Wading Staff is the best wading to come along in years. It’s light, sturdy and make river crossings much safer. Even the most nimble wading anglers can take advantage of a good wading staff.

When the water is the right temperature and shallow enough to get around safely, it’s hard to beat wet wading. Without a good guard sock, however it can be a miserable experience. Regular socks aren’t designed for hours in the water and become extremely uncomfortable inside a wading boot. A good guard sock, like the Simms Guard Socks are built for durability, a comfortable, a precision fit and protect your shins from getting banged up on rocks.

For some reason, a lot of wade fishermen seem to choose an inadequate landing net. A good landing net with a long handle and a larger hoop will result in many more trout landed than a tiny net that clips on the back of your vest. I like a hybrid sized net like Fishpond’s Nomad Mid-Length Net that can do the job from a drift boat, a float tube or on a small creek. The extra reach is invaluable but they’re not so big that they hang up in the brush while hiking.

At Vail Valley Anglers we’re looking forward to a long, productive fly fishing season here in Colorado. From wade fishing the Eagle River right in our backyard to exploring the upper Colorado River in Gore Canyon to hiking into remote mountain creeks full of wild brookies and cutthroats, the wade fishing options are endless and with well maintained, quality fly fishing gear, the experience is even more enjoyable.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Colorado River Gold Medal Fly Fishing
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Colorado River Gold Medal Fly Fishing

Brody

The mighty Colorado River, the most iconic watershed of the American West, begins life as a small creek in Rocky Mountain National Park in the central region of the Centennial State. As it flows through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the river gains volume as numerous tributaries augment its flows. As it turns south and west, outside the town of Kremmling, the Blue River joins the Colorado and just downstream at the base of the steep, craggy cliffs harboring bighorn sheep and Class IV whitewater, Gore Canyon releases its hold on the river. It is also here, in Grand and Eagle Counties, that the Colorado becomes a postcard picture perfect, classically beautiful, large western trout stream and the state of Colorado’s newest Gold Medal Trout Fishery. 

A Gold Medal designation is Colorado’s classification of wild, trophy trout waters of the highest quality. These are the state’s best fisheries for both numbers and size of wild trout. To qualify for a Gold Medal designation, a stream, river or lake must consistently support over 60 pounds of trout and at least a dozen fish over 14 inches per acre of water. Of Colorado’s 9000 miles of trout streams and hundreds of lakes and ponds, only three lakes and just over three hundred miles of river qualify as Gold Medal. These are by far the best wild trout fisheries the state has to offer anglers. Managed for healthy populations of larger than average trout, these fisheries usually fall under special regulations aimed at maintaining a quality fishery.

The stretch of the Colorado River that has recently been upgraded to Gold Medal is often referred to as the “Upper C” by locals and runs for twenty-two miles between the Pumphouse BLM recreation area and Rock Creek near the small town of McCoy. This section of the Colorado River has had a volatile history as a trout fishery in recent decades. The river was a world famous destination fishery for a large, wild strain of Rainbow Trout as recently as the early nineties. Whirling Disease decimated the fishery and trout numbers dropped precipitously. Over time, wild brown trout replaced the rainbows and trout numbers began to climb again. But the river suffered from water management issues due to demands for more water from both Denver and the parched Southwest. Several drought years also hampered the river’s recovery.

About a decade ago, river flows began to surge with several consecutive good snowpacks and wet summers. Heavy spring runoffs scoured the river and insect hatches rebounded. Trout numbers on the upper Colorado also increased dramatically. Joining an already abundant population of wild brown trout, we are seeing more and more wild rainbows each year since Colorado’s Division of Parks and Wildlife began introducing a disease-resistant strain of rainbow. Occasionally, a cutthroat or brook trout makes its way into the river from a high country creek. A good number of mountain whitefish also call this part of the Colorado River home and despite taking a backseat to trout, these fish are great fly rod sport and more importantly, an indicator of clean, cold water.

Brown trout and rainbows tend to average 14-18 inches with most days giving up a fish in the twenty inch range. Every year the Division of Parks and wildlife shocks the river and every year several brown trout measuring well over thirty inches and weighing over fifteen pounds are sampled. There are definitely giant trophies here for anglers to catch. The good old days of fly fishing the Colorado River are back and better than ever.

While not a year-round fishery, the Gold Medal portion of the Colorado River is available to anglers from the beginning of spring until early winter with only a couple months of iced up river in between. This section of the Colorado is mostly freestone in nature but because of several dam controlled tributaries it has beneficial tailwater characteristics which mean it often runs clear when surrounding rivers are muddy from runoff or rain storms. The river fishes best from early June through the end of October. Insect hatches are strong and typical of a healthy western trout fishery. Because of the variety of food sources available, anglers can often catch fish using a variety of techniques.

Salmonflies are an event hatch that show up in early June. There is also plenty of golden stoneflies in the river as well. A variety of caddisflies hatch from spring through fall and several species of mayflies emerge from the Colorado throughout the year. Most numerous are blue-winged olives in spring and fall, Pale Morning Duns in early and mid-summer and tricos later in the summer. Perhaps the very best dry fly fishing on the river does not revolve around aquatic insects, however, but terrestrials, specifically grasshoppers. The Gold Medal stretch of the Colorado River may provide the state’s best grasshopper dry fly fishing from mid-July until the heavy frosts of early October. Excellent streamer fishing draws out the river’s largest fish and peaks during the fall months but can happen anytime cloudy skies prevail.  My personal favorite time to be on the river is the four week stretch between mid-September and mid-October. This has been the most productive time for me to target big brown trout with streamers and big hopper dry flies.

Public access is widely available on the upper Colorado and much of the river flows through federally managed, publicly owned lands. Access is easily achieved via County Road 1, called the Trough Road or State Highway 131. There is very little development along the river and much of the stream has a fairly remote feel. While the river is large, there is plenty of water that is fishable by wading anglers. Most of the time crossing the river on foot is not an option but places like the Gore Canyon Trail at Pumphouse, the Radium Recreation BLM Area and Two Bridges Open Space have miles of good wading.

While wading the Colorado gives anglers a more intimate experience, float fishing is what this Gold Medal river is known for and allows anglers to cover miles of inaccessible water in a single day. Both drift boats and rafts are popular and there is several public boat ramps scattered along the twenty-two mile portion of river. Float fishermen can choose from short half-day sessions, long full days and even overnight camping floats. The river ranges from mild riffles and huge, slow pools to rocky, whitewater rapids so a little rowing experience is needed.

It’s difficult to envision a more scenic and productive western trout stream than the Gold Medal Colorado River and every time I guide it or fish it on my own, I’m more impressed. As it flows past red rock canyons and stands of cottonwood and willows, braids around islands and plunges through rapids, harboring a healthy population of wild trout, it is a fisheries management success story that all anglers can appreciate.  

Anglers interested in experiencing the incredible fly fishing on the Gold Medal section of the Colorado River should check out Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards, Colorado for guided fly fishing trips and the latest fishing conditions.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Top 5 Reasons to Fly Fish Gore Creek
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Top 5 Reasons to Fly Fish Gore Creek

Brody

Vail's Gore Creek offers local and visiting anglers plenty of reasons to spend some time fly fishing this local gem. From the upper reaches of Vail Pass, past world class resort hotels and under ski lifts, Gore Creek provides miles of public acess directly in the heart of Vail. It's hard to imagine a more productive small stream trout fishery that flows through one of the world's most renowned ski resorts.

1. Gold Medal Fishing

The lower two miles of Gore Creek is classified by the state of Colorado as a Gold Medal Fishery. This is the highest ranking a trout stream can receive in Colorado and is indicative of a healthy population of wild trout, including many larger than average fish.

2. Four Species of Trout

Gore Creek is home to four species of wild trout. This diverse fishery includes rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout and native cutthroat trout. Also a possibility is the hybrid strain of cuttbow trout. There are very few places where anglers can land four species of trout in a single outing and Gore Creek is the ideal place to attempt to achieve the Fly Fishing Grand Slam.

3. Public Access

Access to Gore Creek is basically unlimited and without the hassles of trespassing on private land. Most of Gore Creek is easily accessed via a bike path running through East Vail down to Vail Village and continues to West Vail. Anglers should avoid stomping through someone's backyard or crossing the golf course but other than that the stream is open to fishing.

4.  Location and Convenience

Gore Creek enjoys the valley's most convenient location for anglers visiting the Vail area. Travel time to the creek is basicaly nonexistent and even anglers without a vehice can use the free bus system to fish different parts of the creek. It's very easy to go for a hike, a mountain bike ride, hit the links or get in a few ski runs in the morning and then hit the stream for some fly fishing. Afterwards head to a local restaraunt for a meal and drinks.

5.   Fantastic Fishing

Gore Creek offers anglers plenty of challenge and opportunity in the fly fishing department. There a lots fish and big fish. Insect hatches are good and there's great dry fly fishing throughout the summer. Best of all, anglers get to experience a high country, small stream fly fishing adventure without having to hike miles into the backcountry.

Give the excellent fly fishing on Gore Creek a try or for anglers who are interested in learning how to fly fish Gore Creek, book a guided trip with the experts at Vail Valley Anglers.

Brody Henderson



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Float Fishing Boat Ramp Etiquette
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Float Fishing Boat Ramp Etiquette

Brody

The summer float fishing season is about to get underway here at Vail Valley Anglers in Colorado. We are expecting a great summer of fly fishing on our local rivers with a good snowpack and plenty of water. In just a couple of weeks when spring runoff subsides, boat ramps on the Colorado, Eagle and Roaring Fork Rivers will get a lot busier and fly fishermen will have to do their part to make our rivers a pleasant place to catch trout.

Float fishermen have to share the river not only with each other but recreational and commercial whitewater rafters and kayakers. Boat ramps can be become chaotic and tensions can rise when proper boat ramp etiquette is ignored. In particular the ramps at Pumphouse, State Bridge and Two Rivers Park on the Colorado River, the Edwards boat ramp on the Eagle and both Carbondale and Westbank on the Roaring Fork can become congested when lack of courtesy, inefficiency and disorganization cause problems.

Here’s 20 tips for avoiding trouble and saving time while putting in and taking out your boat this summer.

1.  Arrive early before or after most boats tend to start their day. You’ll have more space and time to get things done.

2.  If you are floating with other boats as part of a group, make your plan for the day now not on the ramp. Boat ramps aren’t the spot to hold an important conversation.

3. Rig your boat well away from the ramp BEFORE putting in. Most boat ramps have nearby staging areas. Use them. This is the spot for pumping up rafts, unstrapping your boat, getting your oars ready, and putting plugs in the drift boat.

4. Load up your boat first at the staging area as well. Load your life jackets, cooler, boat bag, fly rods, and raingear before backing in. There’s nothing worse than waiting for someone to do all of this while they’re clogging up a spot on the ramp, slowing down everyone behind them. Not all boaters are polite or patient and you’ll get a well-deserved earful if you are the person slowing everyone else down.

5. Know how to back up a trailer. Sounds simple but waiting for someone who has jackknifed a trailer while ten groups wait their turn is a common issue on the river.

6. WAIT YOUR TURN in the queue. DO NOT cut people off.

7. Drop your boat in quickly but SAFELY. Watch for people walking around on the ramp behind you or boats that may be in the way. Move your boat quickly away from the ramp and secure it or anchor it. DO NOT anchor directly in from of the ramp.

8. After dropping in and anchoring away from the ramp, quickly but safely pull your rig off the ramp. This is not the time to load your boat up with gear from your rig. Proceed to the parking area

9. DO NOT drive like a maniac around boat ramps and parking areas. There are people who will not be paying attention. Often there are small children around who have no idea what is going on and don’t understand the danger of moving vehicles and boat trailers in areas with limited visibility.

10. DO NOT rig your fly rods with your boat on the ramp or while your boat is parked in the water directly in front of the ramp. This is a very common and annoying problem that prevents people behind you from putting in quickly. Row your boat a short distance from the ramp and rig there. Better yet rig your fly rods before you even drop your boat in and then load them into the boat before you drop in.

11. Get in your boat and float well away from the ramp and then begin fishing. Dodging backcasts on the ramp is not fun.

12. BE READY for the takeout before you get there. Have your boat buttoned up and well organized before reaching the ramp.

13. DO NOT stage your boat directly on the ramp. Park upstream in a safe spot like an eddy and make sure your boat is well anchored or tied off.

14 WAIT YOUR TURN in the queue if there are boats ahead of you. This is a great time to derig rods, zip up boat bags, secure life jackets, pick up trash in the boat and tie down oars.

15. Head to your vehicle while the boat ahead of you is taking out. Back down when your spot opens and load your boat quickly. Now is not the time to rehash the day’s fishing. Get off the ramp quickly.

16. DO NOT load every piece of gear on the boat into your truck while your boat sits on the ramp and those behind you wait. You’ll get some dirty looks if you’re clogging up traffic behind you. Leave the gear in the boat and move your vehicle and boat away from the ramp. Load your gear into your vehicle there.

17. Just because you are on a boat ramp on a more remote or less busy section of river does not mean you can throw these rules out the window. Be considerate of the boat that might show up any minute.

18. Offer a helping hand wherever and whenever possible. Helping to pull a boat on or off a trailer, moving gear out of the way, politely directing traffic or advising onlookers to stay safely out of the way will all go a long ways to speed things up.

19. Many visiting fishing and whitewater clients do understand the chaos or potential danger of boat ramps. Let them know the safest place is well away from the ramp.

20. You will deal with boaters who will not follow any of these rules. Deal with it as politely as possible. Screaming at someone rarely makes things go faster. Be polite and have fun. Sometimes during the busy season waiting on others is just part of the program at the boat ramp.

Here’s to a safe and fun summer of float fishing on Colorado’s rivers. We’re excited at Vail Valley Anglers for the best fly fishing of the year.
 
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Sage On the Water Tour
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Join Vail Valley Anglers for the Sage on the Water Tour

Brody

Sage's On the Water Tour will be stopping by the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, Colorado on June 29 from 5-7 pm. This is an excellent opportunity to check out new Sage fly fishing products, discuss fly casting and fishing techniques and chat with expert anglers about everything fly fishing. We'll be sharing fishing stories and gearing up for the summer fly fishing season with locally brewed beers and appetizers. Sage Demo rods will be available for casting. Sage has graciously added Vail Valley Anglers as a stop on their national tour and they'll be on site to answer any questions you might have. Please stop by on June 29 for some great product information, expert advice and fly fishing camaraderie!

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Fly Fishing Colorados Top Ten Summer Hatches
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Fly Fishing Colorado's Top Ten Summer Hatches

Brody

Summer is just around the corner and Colorado anglers need to be prepared with the right patterns for fly fishing Colorado’s Top Ten Summer Hatches. These insects hatch about the same time each summer and provide the majority of the food for trout in all area trout fisheries. While anglers fly fishing in and around Vail, Colorado would do well to have fly boxes stocked with general searching and attractor patterns like Prince Nymphs and Royal Wulffs, to be consistently successful it is important to understand when the major summer hatches in Colorado occur and what flies to reach for when these insects hatch.

  
Notice how well this Chubby Chernobyl imitates an adult Golden Stonefly!

Here are Colorado's major summer hatches in basic chronological order as they appear in the summer along with some fly choices and fishing tips. Don’t forget many of these hatches overlap and trout may feed on several different hatches in the same day.

Salmonflies
The first major hatch of the summer and at two to three inches in length, Salomflies are also the biggest insect we’ll see all year and the hatch begins before the official start of summer, sometime in late May or early June. Primarily found on the upper Colorado around Pumphouse, smaller numbers of these big stoneflies are also present in the Eagle and Roaring Fork Rivers. Try a # 2-6 brown or black Pat’s Rubberleg, Yuk Bug or Bitch Creek for the salmonfly nymph and a Rogue River Stone, Orange Stimulator or Orange Noble Chernobyl for the adult. While trout will hammer nymph patterns for weeks before the actual hatch, the adults are only around for a few days and your timing must be superb to experience good dry fly fishing.

Green Drake
Green Drakes are Colorado’s largest mayfly species. These #10-12 olive mayflies are found in the largest numbers on the Roaring Fork River but also hatch on the Eagle and Gore Creek. Their emergence varies from mid-June to early July depending on stream flows and water temperature. The Zug Bug, Mercer’s Poxyback Drake, and Olive Guide’s Choice are all good nymph patterns while the Green Drake Parawulff, Lawson’s Cripple Drake and House and Lot Variant are great dry flies.

Caddis
The summer hatch of caddis usually begins right after runoff begins to recede in mid to late June on the Eagle and Roaring Fork Rivers. These tan caddis run #12-16 and hatch for several weeks with trout feeding heavily on the surface. Soft Hackle Pheasant Tails, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear and Barr’s Graphic Caddis will work dead drifted or on the swing while a Tan Stimulator, Tan Elk Hair Caddis and Tan Foam Caddis will all work on the surface.

PMD
PMDs or Pale Morning Dun mayflies hatch beginning in early July on the Colorado, Eagle and Roaring Fork and trout seem to prefer them as a late morning change of pace from caddis. Colorado’s PMD are a pinkish orange color and average #16-18. Good nymph patterns include a brown Micromayfly, Trina’s Bubbleback PMD, and Quasimodo Pheasant Tail. For risers try a Pink Foam Parachute, Melon Quill or PMD Parawulff.

Golden Stonefly
Golden Stoneflies are the Salmonfly’s slightly smaller (#4-10), less popular but more numerous and more important cousin. They hatch on all area rivers from early July through the end of summer.  The adults emerge mostly at night but nymph patterns can be effective anytime while a big Golden Stonefly dry fished in the early morning or when hoppers are around can bring explosive strikes. For nymphs it’s hard to beat a Tan Pat’s Rubberleg, Twenty Incher or VVA Rubberleg Hare’s Ear. Dries that work well are a Tan Chubby Chernobyl, Yellow PMX,  or a Peacock Stimualtor.

Yellow Sally
Yellow Sallies are another stonefly but at #14-18, much smaller in size. These bright yellow insects start hatching in early July often alongside caddis and PMDs on the Eagle and Roaring Fork. They’re slow and trout like them. Look for patterns that feature a red, pink or orange butt for added attraction and realism. Mercer’s Microstone, Kyle’s BH Yellow Sally, are good nymphs while a Yellow Foam Stone or Yellow Elk Hair Caddis will fool surface feeders.
 
Terrestrials
Usually, by mid-July in Colorado a variety of terrestrial insects such as ants, beetles and grasshoppers are on the menu. They’re a valuable food source on any piece of moving water from mid-summer through early fall but the trout on the Colorado River seem especially inclined to pound hoppers fished tight to grassy banks. Terrestrials, while they can be fished drowned and under the surface are really most effective as dry flies. Here’s some favorite patterns: Gould Half-Downs, Royal and Yellow PMX, Chubby Chernobyl, Noble Chernorbyl, and the Fat Albert.
 
Red Quill
Red Quill mayflies are often seen hovering in packs of adults over the water. As their name implies they are a rusty red color in size #12-16. Most common on the Colorado but also important on the Eagle and Fork, they begin hatching in August. For nymphs, a simple Pheasant Tail or Red Copper John is a good imitation while a Royal Wulff with a trailing Rusty Spinner are top dry fly choices.

Trico
Another mayfly, the Trico, or "the white-winged curse", is a diminutive #20-24 olive and black mayfly with bright, whitish wings. They hatch in late summer around mid-August on all of Central Colorado’s major trout fisheries. Trico Spinners, small Royal Wulffs and Renegades are especially important to trout sipping on the surface in slow water on the Colorado. Drowned trico imitations, Barr’s Trico Emerger and black midge emergers work well in faster water on stream like the Eagle or Roaring Fork.

BWO
When the small Blue-winged Olive mayflies begin hatching with the arrival of cooler nights in late August or early September, it’s a sure sign that summer is coming to an end. The same bug that hatches in the spring, this late summer/early-fall version tends to run a little smaller at #20-22. They can be found on any trout stream but hatch in the largest numbers on the Colorado River. Barr’s BWO Emerger, Sparkle RS-2 and the WD-50 are ideal nymph patterns while the Adams Parawulff, Foam BWO Parachute and the good old Parachute Adams are go-to dry flies.

With some basic knowledge of these ten summertime hatches, anglers in Colorado can expect to have good fly fishing no matter when they hit the river during summer. For more information on the best fly patterns, when to fish Colorado or to book a guided fly fishing trip, check in with the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, Colorado or check us out online.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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Fly Fishing During Spring Runoff
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Fly Fishing During Spring Runoff

Brody

Spring runoff can bring difficult fly fishing conditions to the rivers and creeks of Colorado. Streamflows increase rapidly, water temperatures drop and water clarity degenerates into a muddy mess. Generally speaking, these situations make for difficult angling. For some anglers, this is the time to head for the saltwater flats in search of bonefish or tarpon but for those of us who are stuck in Colorado during mud season there’s still plenty of trout to be caught when the annual snowmelt of spring begins.

Colorado Spring Runoff Fly Fishing Locations
During spring runoff, catching trout is all about finding water that’s fishable and holds hungry trout. Not only are high, muddy rivers going to be unproductive, there are also very real safety concerns that anglers should avoid. Try some of these locations for great spring runoff fishing.

Tailwaters

Dam controlled tailwaters often offer clear, fishable flows when most rivers are flowing high, cold and muddy. Colorado has several very popular tailwater fisheries that have large populations of large trout. Streams like the Blue River in Silverthorne, Gunnison’s Taylor River, and  Aspen’s Frying Pan, Stemboat’s Yampa and various sections of the South Platte River  are no secret and you’ll have competition from other anglers but the fishing in these streams can be worth sharing the water. For anglers looking for more solitude, seek out tailwater streams that receive less pressure. Try the Williams Fork, the Blue River below Green Mountain Reservoir and the Umpcompaghre River.  There are many lesser known small streams in Colorado that have tailwater fisheries such as Rifle Creek, Boulder Creek, the St Vrain,  Muddy Creek and many more. Do some research and you’ll find more.
 
Stillwaters

Many fly fishermen in Colorado avoid fishing lakes. They are either intimidated by large bodies of water that don’t immediately offer obvious spots to catch fish or they're under the assumption that fly fishing and lakes don't mix. Generally, though, in the spring trout will be cruising in fairly shallow water near shore and often offer sight fishing opportunities. Inlets and outlets of lakes are another Stillwater hotspot. Because of the current in these spots, trout are attracted to these areas for spawning and feeding purposes. For anglers who feel the need to cover a lot of water, take advantage of your raft or drift boat to reach fish beyond the casting range of shorebound anglers.

Stillwater Hotspots:
1.       Delaney Buttes, Walden, Colorado - Three lakes offer outstanding fishing for four species of trout. Nearby Lake John and Cowdrey Lake are also very good.
2.       Steamboat Lake, Clark Colorado-Gold Medal lake fishery for large cutthroats and rainbows. Try Pearl Lake just down the road for the opportunity to catch grayling.
3.       Spinney Mountain Reservoir-Still kicks out big browns and bows and anglers can also fish Elevenmile Reservoir and several miles of South Platte River Tailwaters.

Sleepers

Look beyond trout and spring runoff season is one of the best times of the year to pursue warmwater fish with a fly rod  in Colorado stillwaters. Try northern pike in Stagecoach and Williams Fork Reservoir. In Harvey Gap Reservoir a new fishery for Tiger Muskies is available. Bass, sunfish, and carp can be caught in dozens of Front Range locations.

Don’t let high, muddy rivers keep you from catching fish this year during spring runoff. There’s plenty of excellent fly fishing locations to explore in Colorado during snowmelt season. For more information on fly fishing in Colorado this spring, check in with the experts at the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop in Edwards, Colorado.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer

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2016 Colorado Fly Fishing Forecast
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

2016 Colorado Fly Fishing Forecast

Brody

With winter in the books here in Colorado, it’s time to start thinking about the 2016 fly fishing season. We’ve already had great late winter and early spring fly fishing on the rivers around Vail, Colorado and we are looking forward to the rest of the year. Signs are pointing towards awesome fly fishing conditions for the next several months.

A good year of fly fishing in Colorado is very weather and snow pack dependent. Currently, our snowpack in the Colorado River drainage is sitting right at normal. There’s still plenty of snow up high to keep things in good shape throughout the summer. Expect an average spring runoff with high flows for several weeks from mid-May through mid-June. Colorado’s reservoir levels are generally in pretty good shape which will help to keep summer stream flows at ideal levels.

A series of mild winters has also led to good fish recruitment and survival. Mild winters result in less anchor ice which can kill significant numbers of fish. Spawning recruitment has been good for several years and the age class structure in all of our area streams is very good with catches ranging from one year-old 8-9 inch fish on up to trout in the 20 inch class that are several years old.

Eagle River

The fishing on the Eagle River has steadily improved over the last ten to fifteen years and is now at the point where this Colorado freestone river has to be considered on the state’s best fisheries. It’s not always on the radar because it takes a back seat to streams like the Frying Pan or Blue which have declined in quality with less fish and smaller overall size while the Eagle has only improved with fantastic numbers of trout averaging 14-16”. Fish populations are at their highest in years with a pretty even mix of brown trout and rainbows with the occasional cutthroat. More big trout in the 20-26” range have been landed on the Eagle in the past couple of years than ever and we expect this trend to continue. Bug life is great with strong hatches of BWOs, caddis, PMDs and yellow sallies. Flows should be good this summer with enough but not too much snow. All of this points towards a great 2016 fly fishing season on the Eagle River.

Roaring Fork River

The Fork is Central Colorado’s “Old Reliable” with a Gold Medal designation that is the result of a healthy river with a great trout population and diverse insect hatches. Trout numbers in the Fork have remained steady for decades. There’s a ton of browns and rainbows in the 12-16 inch range and anglers can expect to land a few 18-20 inch trout. Snowpack in the Roaring Fork drainage is good and runoff may start early this year with a warmer than average spring. This could result in great fishing a little earlier than usual. In years when runoff subsides early, look for fantastic fishing during the Green Drake Hatch which could begin as early as mid-June. Plan on a great conditions through most of summer on the Fork and hope for cooler conditions later in August when warmer water can slow things down. By early fall, the Fork will be back in prime shape.

The Upper Colorado River

The upper Colorado River from Pumphouse down to State Bridge, Catamount and Dotsero may offer the best fly fishing in the state this year. This river has been through a series of ups and down over the past 20 years. Once, before whirling disease took its toll in the 90’s, it was the state’s premiere wild rainbow trout fishery. It bounced back with healthy brown trout populations and some excellent fishing for several years but had some challenges due to drought years and water management issues.

For the past few years, the Upper Colorado has been nothing short of amazing. Good snowpack, strong runoffs, steady summer flows, and thick hatches and booming trout populations have made the Colorado River one of the state’s best fisheries for wild brown trout and increasing numbers of wild rainbows. In fact, high water quality and outstanding fish numbers recently prompted the state designate 24 miles of the Upper Colorado as a new Gold Medal fishery. Anglers looking for a trophy fish over thirty inches long should consider this area of the Colorado River. Just in the past couple of years, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife has shocked, measured and safely released multiple brown trout nearly three feet long and weighing in at  fifteen plus pounds. Rainbows over two feet long are becoming increasingly common. These are signs of a river that is in very good shape that can support both large numbers of trout and trout of exceptional size.

With a solid snowpack, good reservoir levels and a staggering population of trout in several age classes from 12-22 inches, 2016 should be a banner year on the Colorado. Look for good streamer fishing this spring, a huge Salmonfly hatch around Memorial Day and steady hopper dropper fishing through summer and early fall.

For more advice on when and where to fish Colorado’s 2016 fly fishing season, contact the experts at the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop. They help with ideas on when to book your guided fly fishing trip or how to catch more fish on your own.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer
 

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Fly Fishing Colorados Gold Medal Trout Waters
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Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Fly Fishing Colorado's Gold Medal Trout Waters

Brody

Here in the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado we are lucky to have several nearby Gold Medal trout fisheries that offer fantastic fly fishing. The Gold Medal designation is the highest ranking for top quality fishing for wild trout that a fishery can achieve in Colorado. These fishing areas have been designated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife as providing the necessary water quality and habitat to support healthy populations of large trout. These waters are defined as being able to produce 60 pounds of trout per acre, and at least twelve trout over 14 inches long per acre. Only 322 miles of Colorado's 9000 miles of trout streams, and three lakes, carry the "Gold Medal" signature. These Gold Medal fisheries are protected with special regulations limiting harvest numbers and size of fish allowed to be kept in order to ensure quality fly fishing in the future.

The state of Colorado is constantly monitoring current and possible Gold Medal waters to ensure quality and has recently upgraded new rivers as well as delisting some streams that didn’t meet the high quality standards needed for Gold Medal status. In 2014, 102 miles of the Arkansas River were added to the list of Gold Medal trout fisheries, the longest stretch of trophy fly fishing water in the state of Colorado. Just a few days ago, the Upper Colorado River between Pumphouse and Rock Creek near McCoy was designated as a Gold Medal fishery. This adds another Gold Medal fly fishing destination for Vail Valley Anglers guided float trips.

Here’s a quick rundown of Colorado’s Gold Medal Trout Fisheries:

Animas River (4 miles)
There was not a major fish kill due to last year’s mine spill and the Animas River near Durango remains a Gold Medal fishery  The Gold Medal section between Lightner Creek and Rivera Crossing Bridge has nice rainbows and some huge brown trout.
 
Arkansas River (102 miles)
The 102 mile stretch between the Lake Fork Confluence and the U.S. 50 bridge is the largest stretch of Gold Medal waters in Colorado. It is also a major mining pollution clean-up success story. Mostly browns with a growing number of rainbows. Good numers of 14-17 inch fish.

Blue River (13 miles)
The Blue River recently lost about 20 miles of Gold Medal Water between Silverthorne and Green Mountain Reservoir due to water flow and habitat quality problems but still has a lot of great Gold Medal trout fishing from the dam at Green Mountain down to the confluence with the Colorado River Near Kremmling.

Colorado River (40 miles)
Great wade fishing along the 20 miles of the Colorado River between the US 40 bridge to the confluence with the Williams Fork River east of Kremmling is designated as a Gold Medal river. Incredibly scenic float fishing on 20 miles of river from Pumphouse to Rock Creek. Primarily a brown trout fishery with a chance at a giant 30” fish in the newer Gold Medal Water downstream from Pumphouse.
 
Fryingpan river (14 miles)
From Ruedi Dam downstream to the confluence with the Roaring Fork River, about 14 miles of the Fryingpan is Gold Medal water. A mix of public and private, the fish are larger near the dam but angler pressure is heavy.

Roaring Fork River (22 miles)
The Roaring Fork River from Basalt to Glenwood Springs offers a great mix of wading and floating water. This fantastic fishery has a healthy mix of browns and rainbows and with plenty of 14-18” fish.

Gore Creek (4 miles)
Just up the road from our Vail Valley Anglers fly shop is Gore Creek. From the confluence with Red Sandstone Creek downstream to the confluence with the Eagle River is a few miles Gold Medal Water. With rainbows, brown trout, cutthroats and brook trout, this is a great place to try for a Grand Slam.

Gunnison River (27 miles)
Large Rainbow and trophy brown trout swim in the Gold Medal section of the Gunnison River between the Crystal Reservoir dam downstream to the confluence with the Smith Fork. This section of the Gunnison flows through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument where grueling hikes or overnight float trips are the best way to experience this fishery.

North Platte River (5 miles)
The Gold Medal waters of the North Platte River near Walden, Colorado start at the southern boundary of the Routt National Forest near Northgate Canyon downstream to the Wyoming state line. This is beautiful, remote water with large trout.

Rio Grande River (17 miles)
The Rio Grande near Del Norte holds a big population of larger than average browns and rainbows from South Fork downstream to the Rio Grande Canal diversion structure. There are some great floats in this area.

South Platte River (37 miles, 3 sections)
The South Plate River has some great Gold Medal sections. In South Park, about 20 miles from the Colo 9 bridge downstream to Spinney Mountain Reservoir is available. From Spinney Mountain to the inlet of Eleven Miles Reservoir, about 4 miles called the Dream Stream offers seasonal runs of giant trout. Downstream, try from the lower boundary of the Wigwam Club downstream to Scraggy View Picnic Ground. Keep in mind the proximity to Denver and the Front Range means more angler pressure.
 
Spinney Mountain Reservoir
Spinney Mountain is a 2,500 surface acre lake formed by the South Platte River and one of three Gold Medal stillwater fisheries in Colorado. Trophy rainbow and brown trout as well as northern pike can be caught in this water.

Steamboat Lake
At 1,053 surface acres, Steamboat Lake holds large rainbows and cutthroats. Along with great fishing, the lake offers classic mountain wilderness views.
 
North Delaney Lake
This lake is only 160 surface acres but offers great fishing for rainbow, brown and cutbow trout. Nearby East Delaney Lake has oversized browns and Rainbows. Spring and Fall are the best times to fish here.
 
Now that spring has arrived it's time to get out there and explore some new water. Stop by the Vail Valley Anglers fly shop for tips on what to use on these Gold Medal fisheries or to hire a guide to take you fly fishing on some of these trophy trout destinations.

Brody Henderson, Guide And Content Writer

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