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Vail Valley Anglers
Spawning Awareness | Understanding Redds this Spring
Fly Fishing Education

Spawning Trout Awareness

Mike S.

Spawning Awareness

Spring has arrived in the Vail Valley bringing with it warmer temperatures, longer days and eager anglers. As the numbers of wading anglers increases in the Spring now is the time to discuss a subject that touches on one of the polarizing aspects of our sport, fishing the spawn. I am not trying to make any friends nor am I here to admonish other anglers’ fishing techniques but I am trying to educate the fly fishing public and more specifically the neophyte angler. Rainbow Trout spawn in the Spring offering a choice of either harassing an already stressed out resource or to assist in the production of a self sustaining commodity, a true sign of a healthy watershed. The decision falls onto the individual angler so lets present some information to educate anglers and let them make their own decisions.

What fish are spawning in the Spring?

Springtime brings Rainbow and Cutthroat trout into shallow, gravel areas to create a spawning habitat for their eggs called a redd. The egg swollen females work their fins and tail to form a shallow depression in the river bottom gravel. The focused attention to the redd creates a clean substrate for the eggs to adhere more effectively. The area of the redd varies in size depending on the intensity of the spawn but a pair of trout can easily clean a portion of the river bottom the size of a garbage can lid. And the males especially guard their redd vigorously. The spawning trout are more apt to repeatedly strike a fly or intruder out of aggression making them easy targets for anglers.

What condition are they in now?

During this period trout are highly stressed having endured the lean feeding months of a long winter. Their fins and tail are worn and battered from the physical activity of constructing a redd. They have lost a significant amount of their protective slime coating leaving them susceptible to fungal skin infections. And they have lost a major portion of their overall body weight resulting in emaciated, skinny trout all in the name of spawning. Now if we add in the external factors like haphazard waders walking in prime spawning areas, unethical anglers purposely targeting spawning trout or the unlucky angler who has had a rough day connecting and who stumbles upon a pair of rainbows guarding the clean rock bar near the truck. Nobody is looking. I’ll just see if I can catch one of them… lifting his spirits and possibly lowering the success rate of this years brood.

A lot of opinions exist surrounding how much affect anglers have when catching spawning trout. It seems to follow logic that an already stressed out resource doesn’t need additional hassles from those people who appreciate them the most. At Vail Valley Anglers we choose to not fish spawning trout actively guarding a redd. As an outfitter that prides itself on our Fish First initiative, targeting spawners is not a tactic our guides exploit.

How can we fish with success and avoid impacting the spawn?

However there are ways to successfully and ethically approach your fishing during the Spring spawning season. One easy way to reduce your negative impact on spawning trout is to stay on the bank as much as possible. With your wading boots on dry ground it becomes much more difficult to wade over active redds or to squash fertilized eggs on the river bottom. Merely wading upstream of a redd can dislodge enough sediment to smother healthy eggs.

Where you place your nymph/egg rig has a lot to do with avoiding spawning trout. When observant anglers locate actively spawning trout they need to search downstream of the redds for the first deeper water depression. Pre-spawning trout already full of aggression and opportunistic brown trout will set up in this location to take advantage of the high protein, non-locomotive food source. Eggs are easy pickings so to speak. In this sluice box type of situation eggs fall deeper into the river currents tumbling along the bottom where trout feed on them with ease. An egg fly, like my favorite Otter’s egg in orange or apricot color, produces repeatedly when fished below an active redd.

Streamers are another type of offering fly anglers can present with success during the spawn. Pre-spawn rainbows and cutts attack streamers with enough emphasis to set their own hook. And we all know how hard Brown trout hit meat flies. Streamers are a type of fly that will avoid spawning fish, for the most part. However, swing one over an active redd in the springtime and it will probably be struck from the instinctual guarding behavior Rainbow trout possess.

Targeting afternoon risers that are keying in on the Midge or Blue Wing Olive hatch is another successful approach to fishing during the spawn. Usually these are a smaller class of Rainbow trout that have not yet reached spawning maturity or Brown trout. The larger more mature Rainbows are in some phase of the spawn whether it is pre-spawn, spawning or post-spawn. The rising fish are actively feeding in water that is deeper than spawning depth and over broken bottom structure that is not conducive to spawning. Concentrating your efforts on this type of situation builds success and avoids spawning areas.

Time to step it up

A high percentage of fly anglers did not become fly fishers to make things easier. We accept the challenge to try and entice fish into eating rather than feeding them with bait. Spawning season is often a time when anglers need to “step up their game” to maintain successful outings. Keep up the challenge by not focusing on the spawning trout in the river but rather by targeting the other trout not so immersed in the taxing activity of procreation.

So with the warm springtime days and a touch of Daylight Savings we can stretch our fly line into the evening with a variety of productive techniques. Avoiding spawning areas and actively spawning trout helps to insure fish are there for my daughters and your kids to enjoy. Booking a trip with Vail Valley Anglers guarantees you won’t be stepping in the wrong spot. Our guides can put you on fish and insure the longevity of the trout filling our rivers.

Michael “Sal” Salomone, Vail Valley Anglers Guide and Content Writer

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5 Myths about Ice Fishing
Winter Fly Fishing Colorado

5 Myths about Ice Fishing

Mike S.

Tourists have landed in mountain towns across the Rocky Mountains and are looking for activities. Skiing is the main draw and reason for being in the mountains during the snowy months. Providing the opportunity to explore the mountains through other venues deepens ones appreciation for the high country. Snowmobiling and snowshoeing are a few of the alternate activities we can choose. But it is the inquisitive nature of people to want to explore ice fishing. However there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding this activity. Lets take a moment to address five common misconceptions surrounding ice fishing.

1. We will be cold.

True it takes the wintertime temperatures to create the ice necessary for ice fishing, but those thermometer busting nighttime temperatures don’t often translate into frigid days. The abundance of warm, blue-bird sky days in the Colorado mountains during the winter can transform a cold night into a sun burning, t-shirt under a light vest kind of day. Ice and snow reflect light while ice fishing warming the air into remarkably pleasant temperatures.

The Guides at Vail Valley Anglers come prepared for extreme weather with tables for gear and lunches, chairs to keep you off the ice and attentive to your fishing and with ice fishing shelters to escape the wind and snow if necessary. Our ice fishing shelters serve a variety of purposes while out on the ice from providing shelter from the elements, darkening the surface light allowing anglers to peer into the clear water of the lake through their ice fishing hole as well as to provide a place for an underwater camera for viewing the depths below you in real time. Watching a fish you coerced into eating through the 15 inches of ice underneath you is surprisingly invigorating.

Most visitors to the mountains in the winter have packed adequate clothing for skiing or other outdoor adventures. The same clothing can provide the layers necessary to keep warm while ice fishing. The only addition is a decent pair of insulated waterproof boots. Modern day conveniences like air activated hand and toe warmers keep extremities toasty warm and can rewarm fingers chilled from releasing a rainbow trout back into the lake.

Portable heaters insure a warm tent for anglers as well. The sun can warm the tents easily but the addition of portable heaters guarantees a temperate area should and angler need to seek refuge from the wind. We are never really far from vehicles and the warmth and security they provide.

2. We have to use bait and can’t use flies.

Another common thought is that you have to feed a fish to get it to eat in the winter. Well, you can fool them too. Ice anglers have for years used small jigs, flashy spoons and soft plastic baits to entice a bite. Recently guides have been using some of the same weighted nymphs employed during warmer months as subsurface offerings through the ice. Trout are routinely caught on flies suspended in the water column under the ice.

While we carry a variety of things to use when on ice fishing trips from flies to salmon eggs and powerbaits of all sizes and configurations like earthworms, chunk baits or my personal favorite the Honey Worm it is not necessary to have to bait a hook to attain success. Small feather jigs move and breath with a life of their own from small rods movements and underwater currents. Careful attention to your fishing can often prevent a fish from eating a bait too deeply therefore assisting in releasing a healthy fish back into the lake.

3. It is dangerous!

While we never downplay the serious nature of being safe, ice anglers never venture out onto ice of questionable thickness. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife has suggested guidelines for ice thickness and what “hard water” can support. Four inches is the minimum thickness to support the weight of an individual. Six inches can usually support the weight of a snowmobile or ATV. And as a safety factor we are never far from our vehicles.

The bodies of water we guide on are routinely monitored for ice thickness. Our guides spend a lot of time on hard water and have a first hand knowledge of ice thickness and lake conditions on all of our destinations. While your first adventure on the ice has a huge learning curve, the noises emanating from the shifting and settling ice shelf can be unnerving even for the experienced ice angler. Expect there to be some noise from shifting ice.

4. It is too hard.

Ice fishing has a certain amount of work involved but the inventive nature of anglers has lessened the task. Ice augers powered by gas or battery have transformed the grueling task of drilling a hole through the ice into manageable levels. The fishing itself is of an easy nature with little movement necessary on some days. Many anglers experience success with a stagnant presentation and unmonitored pole. Ice anglers can often be seen scrambling across the ice for a rod that suddenly begins bouncing with life. Our guides have learned to leash their ice fishing rods to a chair or bucket to prevent a fish from stealing a rod completely.

5. It is not fun.

Explaining to someone how being on a frozen lake in the middle of winter fishing through a hole in the ice is enjoyable can be a daunting task for some, however the results from repeated trips upon the ice have reinforced the fun factor surrounding ice fishing. An adventure out onto a frozen lake is a pretty extreme task for most tourists. As professional guides it is part of our job to insure you have a good time. From catered lunches to weather beating shelters and even live streaming underwater video we carry the tools necessary to obtain an enjoyable experience.

Making the trip a family adventure can really enhance the fun factor. There is nothing like seeing kids experience ice fishing. The genuine joy children experience is infectious. Merely standing outside the tent listening to the laughter coming from within is a joy.

Take a moment to explore the outdoors of the Rocky Mountains and the vail valley in winter with alternative activities such as ice fishing. The experience Vail Valley Anglers guides provide is a unique way to expose tourists to new adventures. Give Vail Valley anglers a call to book your first ice fishing adventure.

Michael Salomone, Vail Valey Anglers' Guide and Blogger

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onX Maps: Not just for Hunters
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

OnX Maps: Not just for hunters

Mike S.

In this day and age backcountry enthusiasts demand more from their electronics than ever before. The ever-increasing reliability on electronic gadgetry by modern day outdoorsmen has overshadowed the necessity to understand and orienteer by good old-fashioned compass in the outdoors. As a result, a compass can’t deliver the immense amount of information that can be obtained from an extremely detailed and user-friendly app format like the one found using onX maps.

onX for a: Fly Fishing Guide

As a professional fly fishing guide, having an accurate record of private and public lands along the river to prevent accidental trespassing is a necessity. Keeping tabs of my position along the river enhances the safety factor should accidents occur as well. Being able to contact my shop, local authorities or other guides with accurate information surrounding possibly dangerous obstacles in the river or incidents that happened on the river can be more easily recorded with the assistance of onX maps. The areas within our guiding permit where trespassing incidents could occur are well known. OnX eliminates any question as to where one should or should not stand, preventing the chance of infraction and possible negative repercussions.

onX for a: Special Hunting Tag

Initially I was apprehensive in trusting my high stakes Colorado Elk tag to the guiding factors found in the onX app. It had taken years to acquire the tag so I felt the necessity to carry paper maps into the field, but I squashed my anxiety and embraced the new tool leaving my old-school maps in the truck.

My first impressions were around how easy the installation onto my mobile device was. The app appeared clearly on my phone and located my position quickly. I was able to see through multiple views and layers on the map that appeared on my phone. Roads, even dirt roads on the private ranch, appeared exactly as they existed. Negotiating my way through the private property became commonplace with the added assistance of onX maps.

Focusing on border fences where some elk knew the right or wrong side to be on was a breeze with the onX map app and my phone. Pinch points and burn areas were located with the help of the onX maps. Even in “No Service” areas the application functioned without fail. After a few days the onX app allowed me to pattern the common paths elk were using regularly. Knowing the area and travel patterns of the elk on the ranch because of the onX map app allowed me to fill a cow elk tag on the morning of the third day. I was able to share the waypoint where I field dressed the elk as well as provide tracking from the hunt throughout the day with my wife and friends.

onX for: General Navigation

The real estate agent had never actually visited the property.Searching along the rural county road, the travel instructions seemed to describe every other rock and driveway they encountered. The small for sale sign had long since fallen over in the sage brush but the little ranch property had remained on the market.  The onX map highlighted the drive and the entrance to the ranch along with the names of the adjacent landowners. Landscape features appeared on the map of the property and helped to seal the real estate deal. Without the assistance of the onX app, the ability to project different layers on a map and extreme accuracy even in “No Service” areas, the real estate dealer would have lost a sale.

onX for: Back Country Skiing

Before approaching the open field below the frozen cornice, the back country skiers checked their avalanche beacons while Andy surveyed their surroundings with the aid of the onX map app on his phone. Adjusting their descent towards the closed forest service road where they would cross country ski back to the vehicles the onX app combined aspects of high-end GPS units, expensive mapping chips and degradable backcountry charts to deliver safe passage away from avalanche danger.

Everyone arrived at the vehicles in time for the sunset. Hot chocolate filled the cups as Andy retraced the loop they just made with the help of his onX map app. Custom waypoints illustrated the day with highlights showing where they saw a bull moose, the frozen waterfall and an alternate route to explore on the next time they ski the area.


The amount of opportunities where backcountry enthusiasts can apply the onX map app is limitless. From professional anglers to die-hard hunters and avalanche avoiding backcountry skiers, the onX map app is an awesome tool to carry into the high country on a device most people won’t leave their home without, the cell phone. While the necessity has not been lost to know how to use a compass the opportunities to use this tool are growing. Having trouble deciding if the onX map app is worth it? Take it for the free seven days trial period. The onX app is so full of possibilities it could take days to learn all of the helpful ways to apply it.

Mike “Sal” Salomone, Vail Valley Anglers Guide and Content Writer

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The Toilet Bowl: Closed FOREVER?
Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

The Toilet Bowl: Closed FOREVER?

Mike S.

Latest Update from the CPW:

Ladies and Gentlemen this Toilet Bowl is closed. While this might not be the headliner most people would focus upon, this is different. This is The Toilet Bowl, known world wide for the massive fish that inhabit the depths of its reaches and for the dispersal of a misunderstood food source. Located at the tailwater for Ruedi Reservoir sits the beginning of the World class trout fishery known as the Fryingpan River. Gold medal waters in Colorado are a special treat and the Fryingpan River is a favorite on most anglers’ lists with the Toilet Bowl as the crowning jewel.

From the base of the dam bubbles forth a frothy mix of cold water, Mysis shrimp and huge trout. Anglers have for years plopped their heavyweight flies into the strong current with the hopes of hooking and landing a possible fish of a lifetime. All that is changing under the frozen guides and colorful airlock strike indicators of anglers standing on the banks in the cold shadows found at the top of the Fryingpan Canyon.

Wait What?!

Firsthand reports have been trickling in from anglers’ runoff of Sheriff Deputies enforcing the trespass laws at the base of the dam. Despite being located in the middle of White River National Forest, the privately owned dam facility has chosen to have the public locked out of one of the most famous fishy spots in the United States, a place where anglers have gathered for decades.

Part of the Legacy

Interwoven into the psyche of fly fishers, this area has been the catalyst for iconic fly patterns developed to deal with the highly educated trout. Will Sands created a fly pattern spawned from the high protein, Mysis shrimp that are regularly flushed through the dam into the tailwaters. Charlie Craven another Colorado based fly tyer has a Mysis pattern too that addresses the same issues. Roy Palm is known for the midge pattern he designed for the Fryingpan trout as well. Not just hallowed waters anglers revere but the practice field for fly design and development.

The Facts

It seems a series of events have spurned the recent enforcement. Reports of a Recreational Vehicle exploding at the base of the dam during the past summer have raised concerns that the dam is a target for homeland security to protect. Knowledgeable anglers with their thumb on the pulse of social media will undoubtedly recall videos of scuba divers and Stand Up Paddleboarders floating around the toilet bowl without remorse for their effects, pushing the envelope of acceptability. Some of the concern is certainly warranted for without the first hand working knowledge of a hydroelectric dam poking around the depths at its base in scuba gear has to unnerve certain individuals. Having the audacity to float a SUP serves to only infuriate wading anglers who have for years conducted themselves with civility and poise in a somewhat crowded venue. Only a few times since 1992 have I witnessed guides with little to no tact when it comes to crowded fishing conditions. Most of the time anglers located at the Toilet Bowl are jovial and friendly to share the spot and their heater with whomever asks.

What We Know

Recent phone calls to both Pitkin County and Eagle County Sheriff offices have lead to conflicting enforcement protocols. The lowdown is that according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s office there is to be no trespassing within 100 feet of the base of the dam a “designation that has been in place for sometime.” Eagle County sheriffs are patrolling the area twice daily, when possible. Firsthand accounts of Deputies warning anglers and recording personal information have been reported. Local fly shops have confirmed these reports.

 So whether it is the cumulative affects of borderline acceptable practices or the true to life dangers this site poses as a target for Homeland Security to defend - one thing for certain is that the closing of this Toilet Bowl will be noticed. Anglers will miss what has been the chance to catch the “fish of a lifetime” swimming within sight of your wading boots and willing to eat a well-presented fly. Only time will tell if the enforcement will wane or if the adverse affects of loosing one of the prime fishing locations on the Fryingpan River will force even more congestion into the downstream access points and river stretches.

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How to Fish when its Cold and there are no Bugs
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

How to Fish when it's Cold and there are no Bugs...

Mike S.

We shuffled through the early December snow towards the river bank. A cold front settled into the Colorado high country dropping the air temperature below freezing. Steam rose from the surface of the river and melted into the sky. Undeterred by the cold, the small group of Vail Valley Anglers guides approached the river with confidence knowing how to decipher the early winter conditions. How do you fish when there are no bugs? As the cold weather sets in for the winter and begins to chill the river water - a predictable and productive approach to your trout fishing develops if you are prepared for the conditions.

What water to target?

The bugs haven’t disappeared, but the lack of adult bug activity gives some anglers this impression. A healthy river system is never completely devoid of insects. Bugs are held for an extended amount of time developing in the cold water. The number of insects in the river water that are in the earlier stages of development, the larva and pupae stages, can be tremendous evidence of this fact is reinforced by the cloud of adult midges hovering over open water on bright, sunny, winter days. The slight increase in water temperature triggers the midge emergence producing some impressive dry fly fishing surrounded by snow. Not an opportunity you are presented with every winter day but frequently enough to keep a few size 18-20 Parachute Adams in your flybox.

However the confident cold-water angler has his rod rigged with nypmhs. The amount of underdeveloped insects suspended in the river water gives the knowledgeable nymphing angler the added edge for a successful day on the water despite the cold air temperature. Targeting slow eddies, smooth deep runs and lazy pools the wintertime fly angler concentrates only on the best holding water.

Cold weather flies

Flies for the cold weather that produce consistently are midge larva imitations. Carrying a variety of colors can be the key to frequent bites as opposed to a now and then tug. Olive, Black, Red, White and a color guarded by some guides, purple, tied in beadhead zebra midge patterns and fished on light 6X tippet along the depths of the river bottom guarantees results. Setting your rod at the slightest pause from your strike indicator keeps the angler in tune with subtle winter bites and prevents missing soft hits. Airlock strike indicators come in a variety of sizes from 1/2 inch to 1 ½ inches in diameter and multiple colors including clear, are easily adjustable and provide the best indication of a bite.

Other offerings that routinely adorn winter fly angler rods would be patterns imitating unorthodox food sources such as San Juan worms, egg patterns and attracter flies tied in gaudy flashy materials. Bounced enticingly along the river bottom the soft, chewy Otter’s egg fly fools hungry rainbows into gobbling up the high protein and immobile morsel with commitment. I have even seen some dirty secret stonefly nymphs, tied in shades of pink, chartreuse, and flashy yellows come up out of the water hanging in the corner of mouths.

Gear up

Make no mistake winter time fly fishing is for those committed to the conditions, understand the limitations of their gear and who dress appropriately for the adventure. Layering your clothing for a day on the ski mountain is a good way to begin. Waders cover up a lot of baggage in the clothing department but all of that increases your comfort factor when wrapped up tightly under a pair of our Simms waders. Rubber soled boots produce the safest results for walking upon the ice or through freshly fallen snow. Felt soles will quickly accumulate a heavy platform of ice and snow. Patagonia Foot Tractors and Simms G3 wading boots both supply a top of the line boot that can work perfectly during the colder months with the addition of thick wool socks or a pair of disposable toe warmers.

When it comes down to which fly rod to take to the winter water I wouldn’t pull out your Leonard bamboo, these are harsh conditions you are exposing your fly rod to. Ice forms in the guides and the flex you normally feel in your fly rod disappears in the stiff cold air. While the need to lay down a soft dry fly is not always necessary there is a need to turn over your heavy nymph rig in the slushy, ice filled water. Choosing one of your reliable but not quite top shelf fly rods would be a good decision. The Echo Carbon XL and the Loop Q fly rods are both perfect candidates for wintertime angling. While neither of these rods will break your bank both provide a responsive and trustworthy fly rod for the cold.

Cold weather fly fishing isn’t a half-hearted event for the prepared angler. Loaded up with the appropriate flies, dressed intelligently for warmth on the water and swinging a competent fly rod the wintertime angler stacks the cold weather odds in their favor. Focusing on midges the dominate food source found in the river, sets up the intelligent angler for success. Of course the easiest way to winter time fly fishing is by booking a guided trip through Vail Valley Anglers. We will see you on the water. 

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Loop Q Fly Rod Review
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Loop Q Fly Rod Review

Mike S.

Finding a fly rod with enough versatility to justify a new purchase is often difficult to attain given the vast array of rods available. The Loop Q series of fly rods possess the all-around qualities most anglers desire in their equipment, casting power, fish fighting finesse and a pleasant price point. Deciphering the admirable attributes out of most rods can be taxing and hard to accomplish. Most fly shops carry a minimal amount of fly rods on their shelves making it difficult to “test drive” enough variety. The Loop Q series of fly rods eliminates some of the task for you by presenting a very easy casting, smooth loading, friendly-tipped fly rod.

The Loop Q, 6 weight

Loop fly fishing has been around since the late 70s. A company based in Sweden the Loop label carries a hefty amount of respect in the fly fishing industry. Pioneers in large arbor reel design and innovators in rod construction, Loop fly fishing deserves the reputation they have acquired.

The best way to describe the Loop Q 6 weight fly rod is user friendly. The 6wt carries enough backbone to push large, heavy flies through the wind while laying down enough finesse to tame the smallest dry flies. Versatility in motion would be a good description too.

As a high quality package the Loop Q rod and paired up reel combine to make a pleasurable fishing outfit. Versatility, power, finesse great words to have in a rod review and they are all here and then some. The added convincement anglers may need to commit to the Loop Q can be found in our shop, Vail Valley Anglers, where the Loop Q rods have been chosen as our rental fly rods, a testament to their quality, performance and durability.

The Extras

The Loop Q series possesses a lot of little things usually found on rods at a higher price point. Alignment indicators are a small but significant addition when it comes down to rigging your rod for the day. The smooth, gray-steel color is very inconspicuous on the water with hardly any flash of reflected sunlight like you find on glossy models. A subtle but meaningful attribute when chasing spooky, highly pressured fish. The engraved reel seat has a wide foot gap allowing for a variety of reels to fit easily and securely. Included is a rod tube with individualized sleeves for each rod section, protecting the stripping guides and rod finish when traveling. These are but a handful of little things that the Loop Q is doing right.


The Loop Q is an ideal bass fishing rod for still waters too. With enough backbone strength towards the cork handle, the angler can feel the rod load under the strain of bushy, deer hair flies. Swinging Mouse flies along the bank under the full moon is easy with the Loop Q 6wt. The flexible tip provides enticing action to a variety of rodent patterns when swimming across the surface. The same fish attracting action provided by the tip of the rod can be employed to streamers fished below the surface too.

Remarkably enough the Loop Q in 6wt can present dry flies with a fair amount of precision. Smoothly presenting dry flies when the hatch appears and the fish begin to rise is an advantage this 6wt possesses giving added appeal to this rod. It is not often you can get away with a 6wt rod throwing dry flies on a trout stream but the Loop Q 6wt does the job. It is the efficient transfer of energy from handle to tip that gives this rod the admirable casting attributes anglers are seeking.

Fish Fighting

When fighting a fish the Loop Q 6wt helps turn the heads of large streamer eating brown trout that are taking the battle into the fast water. The friendly tip flexes to protect light tippets and to control bursting runs from any fish, a unique combination of strength and finesse that can only be felt when fighting a fish.

Whether looking for a rod to fill a gap in your arsenal or for a trip planned in the near future the Loop Q series of rods has a model designed for your casting style and chosen quarry that won’t break your bank. The versatility of the Loop Q 6wt rod is impressive with the ability to deliver nymphs efficiently, cast weighted streamers into the wind and softly push dry flies into bankside pockets. 

Try One for Yourself

Stop into Vail Valley Anglers to test cast a Loop Q rod in our riverside casting area or check one out of our rental fleet for a day or a weekend to see if the Loop Q 6wt is a tool you need in your boat. Adaptable for streamers, nymphs and dries the 6wt is a rod many anglers will want for all around fishing or when traveling restricts you to only one rod the Loop Q can cover a lot of water and applications.

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Fall Fly Fishing | Low Water + Big Foam Flies
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Low Water + Big Foam Flies

Mike S.

Early Autumn, September to be exact, a time of year when the low flows of late summer begin to turn the warm water temperatures towards a cooling trend creating a unique opportunity to pull the biggest trout in the river to the surface to eat. The low water of late summer equated to high river temperatures for trout to endure, however with the onset of cool nights as we transition to fall, the river temperature begins to fall into a more desirable range. The drop in water temperature causes an increase in trout activity. The previously lethargic trout caused by the warm water temperatures are now actively feeding. Using large bodied foam flies to tempt the biggest trout out of a watershed is easily achieved with the correct approach.

Dwindling numbers of adult bugs flying around and hatching in the river causes a competition for food. Trout will set up on active feeding lanes looking to bulk up for the winter and the coinciding low food season. While a trout is actively feeding on small insects in a repetitive process the importance of large food sources such as terrestrial insects becomes apparent in how far a fish will leave a desirable feeding lane to eat a grasshopper or ant.

The Bugs

Terrestrials are a category of insects that are important to fly anglers for their ability to draw powerful surface strikes. Examples of terrestrial insects commonly found in the watershed are grasshoppers, crickets, ants and beetles. As large protein food sources, trout will move considerable distances to eat one. When a trout eats a bankside grasshopper that inadvertently fell upon the water the resulting strike is meant to kill the hopper at the same time as the fish eats the bug. Trout do not like anything struggling in their gullet. Kicking hoppers and large winged Stoneflies are devoured so that they have no opportunity to kick or clutch ahold of gills. Large food sources such as terrestrials and other food sources like crayfish are eaten with an amount of authority and power unlike sipping miniscule Blue Wing Olives from the surface. Other prime choices for terrestrials would include the Elderberry beetles, stoneflies around the full moon and, this year especially, cicadas.

Why now?

Brown trout develop an aggression that drives their desire to feed. This pre-spawn aggression is apparent in their ability to cannibalize young brown trout and any yellow and brown streamer that happens to swing their way. Combine this aggressive feeding behavior with a compressed water column and you have the components for a crushing surface bite. The feeding party doesn’t just revolve around brown trout. Rainbow trout are commonly found set up along bankside vegetation and under bubble lines actively feeding on the surface. When the water column is compressed by a low water situation a dry fly on the surface is still within the striking ability by close proximity to a trout swimming near the bottom of the river. A dry fly presented in July floats feet above trout whereas now the dry fly is within easy reach and often results in reactionary strikes.

The Buffet

Heavy bankside vegetation is a prime situation where insects like terrestrials, insects that don’t live in the watershed or have a life cycle revolving around water, become desired food sources. Willows growing along the river often drop grasshoppers and ants onto the water especially during our windy afternoons. Trout recognize this large food source is prevalent at this time of year and will seek out areas where they can take advantage of these higher protein insects. When it comes to comparisons one grasshopper equals the protein equivalent of a pile of midges and requires less energy less to obtain.

The energy necessary to feed in a moving current eating size 20 midges must burn more calories than the little midges provide. However a grasshopper the size of my pinky finger provides the sustenance for a fat bellied trout to have some disposable weight during the lean winter months. Find a feeding trout eating tiny Blue Wing Olives in a feeding lane and watch him swim over for a grasshopper that fell splat on the surface just like buffetline attendees when the prime rib is brought out to the buffet.

Mastering Messy Presentation

Fly choices for low water conditions in the Fall season often contain a lot of foam. High riding and with the ability to uphold a heavy dropper in the ever popular Hopper-Dropper, rigging foam flies slide across the surface with an enticing allure. Rubber legs dance seductively with each ripple giving the suggestion of a struggling insect. As an active bug when it falls into the water, a grasshopper allows the angler to fish the fly sloppy, meaning it can land hard and loudly, it can squirm and wiggle, it can be stripped across the surface like the kicking stroke of an adult Grasshopper.

Large foam bodied grasshopper patterns in colors to match the local insects provide the basis for a fun day. Observe the insects bankside or on your walk down to the river and use them as the template for the size and color you want to mimic. Umpqua’s Realistic Foam Hopper rides in the surface film like a real grasshopper. Match the color and size to your local hoppers and hold on!

Foam Ants are a local favorite for our rivers too. Some patterns are very visible for the angler with high riding foam as the main component and brightly colored tags for visibility. Once again rubber legs have the ability to look alive and move with the slightest movement or ripple. Amy’s Ant is a popular selection for an ant imitation. Hippy Stompers, Carl’s Foam Flying Ant and the Hi-Vis Beetle all from Umpqua provide an excellent selection of foam-bodied flies to use during the low water condition of September.

Low water and big foam flies, Autumn is an ideal time to tempt the largest trout up to the surface to eat. Terrestrial insects cause quite a commotion when fished in the shallow water column. Whether used in a Hopper-Dropper presentation or as a single dry fly on the surface, big foam bugs have a special place in any fly angler’s box. Vail Valley Anglers has all the Umpqua foam flies you need to take advantage of the stellar dry fly fishing Fall possesses.

Michael Salomone, Fly Fishing Guide & Content Writer

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How to chose a Fly Rod, Part 2 | Specialty Rods
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

How to choose a Fly Rod, Part 2 | Specialty Rods

Mike S.

The world of fly fishing opened up and you fell in love. Now where will your fly fishing adventures take you? As the vast array of opportunities opens up for your fly angling it becomes apparent that there are a lot more variations in the fly fishing arena to choose from. Specialized rods from simple Tenkara rods and gentle fiberglass to sophisticated two-handed rods, switch rods and more, but which one are you going to try first?

Two Handed Rods

Depending on what fish you target with your fly fishing a specialized fly rod for your angling adventures is necessary for insured opportunities at success. Different species require specialized gear to give any angler a shot at victory. In the Pacific Northwest and around the great Lakes region Steelhead are a species of great affection. Because of the intense affection for this fish steelhead anglers employ a two-handed spey rod for long casts, swinging drifts and no room for back casting, a no nonsense approach to some of the toughest fish to land on a fly. Multiple companies have two handed rods on their list of choices but a few stand outs would be the ECHO3 Two Handed fly rod for anglers looking to add a spey rod to their quiver or for an angler looking to make a special steelhead trip. The ECHO3 has the power to lift heavy steel from strong currents and at a price point that will truly make you smile. Anglers already possessing an affinity for two handers will find the Scott Radian Two Handed fly rods to be the equivalent of a fine automobile at the sports car show, just something you have to have! And they fish like corvettes too.

The affection for two handed casting has spread over into the rivers and streams of the Rocky Mountains as an alternative for casting streamer flies. Smaller in length these specialized trout rods allow heavy Skagit style setups to be tossed with weighted streamers with ease. Winston’s Micro Spey rod is a fine example of this increasingly popular style of spey fishing and the specialized rods that have emerged from the want and need to take spey casting to waters where it has never been seen before. Stop by the shop and arraign to have one of our two handed casting experts teach you the basics.

Switch Rods

Switch rods have become a very fashionable specialized rod on the river with good reason. Shorter and lighter than the spey category and able to cast over head with one hand, a switch rod increases the accuracy of your casting over spey rods. ECHO SR is the only rod in the ECHO lineup that is Switch only and has a great balance between lifting strength and casting accuracy. The Echo SR excels at real world fishing distances not the long distance casting some rods possess but rather at manageable fishing distances where anglers can swing flies past fish attracting log jams and mid-river boulders with precision control. Loop is another company who possesses a list of switch rods in their catalog with a Loop Cross1 Travel Switch available too.

Tenkara Rods

Tenkara has captured the attention of neophyte anglers and some seasoned fly fishers as well due to the ease and lightweight of the specialized Tenkara fly fishing experience. A fly fishing technique from Japan, tenkara is considered the essence of fly fishing given its simplicity. Easy to pack and take with you tenkara rods and the accompanying gear list occupy a small fraction of room in a pack or vest than traditional fly gear. Perfectly adept on small streams and shallow creeks Tenkara rods will help you to manage your drift easily with high sticking style techniques. With the long length of Tenkara rods, often 11’-13’, anglers can manage fish fighting easily.

Fiberglass Rods

The resurgence of fiberglass as a specialized rod material in the fly fishing industry is a blessing in my opinion. Smooth and possessing a feel not readily available in this world of fast action graphite rods fiberglass has the ability to deliver a dry fly with a delicate touch and the softness to protect fragile tippets during the fight without pulling the hook. Nowhere is a fiberglass rod more appreciated than on small streams with tight casting quarters requiring pinpoint placement. Oh boy do I like small stream rods. They are just fun to play with.

Everyone can find water to cast a small fiberglass rod whether it is to bluegills around lily pads, crappies in the tree stumps or cutthroat trout in the crystal clear waters of the Rockies. Placing high riding dry flies with the slow cadence a fiberglass rods requires enhances the experience of fly fishing small streams. Something we all need to spend more time doing. The fun and accurate ECHO Glass rods are a joy to cast dry flies for brook trout in beaver ponds. When you find a rod that puts a smile on your face just from casting you’ve found a fun piece of specialized equipment. Now imagine the pleasure factor when you hook into a fish…

As an introduction to some of the specialized types of fly rods available you will find more. Choosing a fish to target and the appropriate specialized fly rods to tackle those fish is an enjoyable journey to undertake. Elevating your sport through specialized fly gear enhances the pleasure factor associated with fly fishing. And beside who doesn’t like to buy another fly rod? Stop into Vail Valley Anglers shop or contact us online to discuss the appropriate specialized fly rod for your next adventure.

Missing the basics? Don't miss How to Choose a Fly Rod, Part 1 | The Basics

Michael Salomone, "Sal"

Vail Valley Anglers Guide and Content Writer

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How to choose a fly rod, Part 1 | The Basics
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

How to choose a Fly rod Part 1 | The Basics

Mike S.

Are you thinking about buying a new fly rod? Or perhaps just entering the world of fly fishing? Shopping around can lead to a huge variety of fly rods made in different sizes, lengths and rod materials. So why are there so many choices for a fly angler to decipher? The basic rods any fly angler should know about are dry fly, nymph, streamer and saltwater rods.

Rod actions

A primer on rod actions helps anglers to dive into the variety of choices available for different types of fly fishing. Rods that are said to have a slow action are good for dry fly fishing and presenting a light fly softly. The forgiving nature of this action aids in fighting fish with a softer touch that will not pull hooks or break tippets. Slow action rods have a mid flex or full flex rating with the rod bending significantly in the middle or beginning at the handle and flexing the entire rod length.

Stiffer rods have a fast action that allows for loading more weight such as heavy nymph rigs or large articulated streamers. Fast action rods load quickly but forcefully to shoot casts into the wind. Rods with fast actions have very little flex that extends the length of the rod. This type of action is paired up with soft rod tips and referred to as tip flex.

Dry fly rods

The rod everyone should start off with or the first special rod to add to your angling enjoyment. Most fly anglers have a general idea of how they are going to spend the majority of their time when on the water. If you are pursuing trout in moving waters then a high percentage of your time will be devoted to dry fly fishing. A dry fly rod is a must.

If an angler is going to chase trout along the banks of small creeks then a dry fly rod in the 8’6” length is a good option for accurate casting and dependable line management. Rods in the dry fly category are soft on the touch, often being mid-flex rods with gentle tips to lay down dry flies accurately. The forgiving nature of dry fly rods provides extra protection for lightweight tippets too. The Scott Flex is a great choice for casting dry flies with and accurate touch.

Anglers looking for a Cadillac to take to the river should consider the Winston Air fly rod as the ultimate choice for dry fly fishing. Light in your hand the Winston Air saves your shoulder after 8-10 hours of constant casting on a river.

Small streams with their common overhanging bank vegetation require shorter dry fly rods in the 6’ – 7’6” lengths. 2 weight and 3 weight rods are the general classification for this type of small stream dry fly angling. Tossing small poppers or damselfly dry flies to bluegills in farm ponds in another great type of water for breaking out the little rods. The ECHO Fiberglass rod makes anglers smile with an old-school flex and a fish fighting quality that makes brookies feel like bonefish. Short and sweet, the ECHO fiberglass enhances the enjoyment factor for small stream dry fly fishing.

Nymphing rods

A 9‘ tip-flex 5 weight is the ideal fly rod for most nymph fishing situations. Longer in length than a dry fly rod, a nine footer is the norm as nymph rods need to be able to cast the extra weight of a nymph rig, which can often consist of a heavy strike indicator, weighted flies and line weights. All of these things combat a traditional casting stroke so roll casts become the friend of a nymphing angler. Without the necessity to back cast, a roll casting angler can extend their nymph fishing with ease. Stiff back boned rods the ones that have strength all the way down into the handle are best suited for most nymph fly fishing situations.

There can be a lot of versatility with some nymph rods that would allow you to toss small streamers as well as present dry flies with a certain degree of proficiency. A nymph rod can cover a significant amount of water.

Streamer rods

A favorite for anglers looking to extend their fly fishing for other species such as largemouth bass, northern pike and carp. Streamer rods load forcefully to cast heavy, weighted flies a significant distance. Again the 9’ length is the norm for most streamer rod with a very fast action. Casting streamers on a dry fly rod will ultimately result in an errant hook landing somewhere you don’t intend such as the back of your head. A high quality streamer rod can throw heavy flies like darts in an English pub.

The weighty flies used in streamer fly fishing have become extraordinarily large over the recent years requiring rods with strength and resilience. To maintain the repetitive pounding streamer rods receive rod makers have resorted to using tougher materials to extend the life of most streamer fly rods. Two rods that stand out in this category are the Sage Method and the Scott Radian. Both provide the kind of quality that is necessary for a streamer rod to perform well for years to come with features such as titanium guides and high strength bonding resins.

Saltwater fly rods.

The Saltwater introduces a long list of considerations fly anglers must wade through. Once again the average length on Saltwater fly rods is in the 9’ league. Beginning with 6 weights and moving upward Saltwater fly rods are a stiff, resilient category of fly rods. Saltwater fly rods need to be tough as the constant exposure to the salt is where the harsh corrosive environment can ruin inferior gear. Combating the strength of some ocean species will surprise you. Choosing to spend a few extra dollars with this purchase definitely pays off in the lifetime longevity of your fly fishing gear and in your fish fighting power. The Scott Meridian and the Sage Salt models are designed to withstand the harsh environment surrounding saltwater fly fishing. Employing features such as anodized surfaces and titanium reinforcement both Sage and Scott have devoted a significant amount of time and research into delivering the best quality to combat the destructive saltwater environment.

Fast tips are the type anglers look for when purchasing Saltwater fly rods. Able to punch casts into ocean winds saltwater fly rods must deliver when pressed or the permit of a lifetime could fall just outside the reach of your short casting attempt. Whether for bonefish on the flats or snook off the beach, saltwater fly rods must be designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the ocean environment, have fish fighting strength and be able to deliver a cast at long distance.

Dry fly, nymph, streamer and saltwater fly rods all specialize a sport for added angling enjoyment. Purchasing a new rod opens up waterways that may have seemed unfishable with a fly rod before now they become accessible. Tangling with new fish species on flies is a challenge any fly angler would embrace. Using the right tool for the job enhances your proficiency in fly angling. Stop into Vail Valley Anglers and flex a rod for your self to actually feel the difference each action employs.

Coming Next Month: How to chose a fly rod, Part 2 | Specialty Rods

Michael Salomone, "Sal"

Fly Fishing Guide & Content Writer

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High Water Bugs | How Big is Too Big?
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

High Water Bugs | How big is too big?

Mike S.

The major flex of run off has shown its strength and is now beginning to relinquish the high water patterns our rivers have been experiencing. As the volume in our rivers begins to diminish float fishing becomes a special way to fish. The water is at an enjoyable level to float and the fish are ready to put on the feedbag. Increasing the size of your fly is a good option for the changing water conditions. But how big is too big?

What is happening in the river?

The rivers although past the highest crest for the year are still high. Wading conditions will be prime soon but for now float fishing is ideal. The water temperature is increasing, and the clarity of the rivers is improving rapidly. However there is still a good amount of turbidity in the water. Take advantage of that color now by increasing the size of your nymph or dry fly. Increasing your size of fly and the resulting larger silhouette work to attract hungry, run-off battered trout into eating.

Bugs are getting active.

Caddis nymphs are actively emerging and performing their bouncing surface dance. Casting bushy, size 10, Elk hair caddis dry flies into pockets along the banks will catch the attention of hungry trout. Attaching a trailing emerger pattern to your dry fly like the X-caddis or even an old-school nymph pattern like the Prince Nymph allows anglers to cover two different levels of the upper water column. The guides at Vail Valley Anglers can place you in the best position for this exciting approach.

Stoneflies are still tumbling along the bottom of the river, being knocked loose by current and debris. The nymph stage of some stoneflies can be up to three years so there are always stonefly nymphs around and in different sizes. Large Stonefly nymphs, size 4, can bring crushing strikes sub surface from aggressive brown trout and hungry rainbows. Big bushy dry flies are a good choice for keeping track of your fly in the still choppy conditions as well. A large stonefly dry supports the heavy, competition-style nymphs tied on barbless jig hooks with tungsten beads that are used regularly by anglers. Vail Valley Anglers carries a unique stock of these super effective nymph patterns.

A few other flies of note for this time of year are Pale Morning Duns and Yellow Sallies. Both are emerging in high numbers, along the Eagle River especially. Nymph patterns of both flies fished early in the morning are effective and a variety of dries are producing results for when the hatch is really popping. Mid-morning sunlight catches the fluttering wings of the Yellow Sallies giving a sure sign to start casting a large yellow dry fly pattern. Puterbaugh’s Yellow Foam Bodied Caddis, nicknamed the Spongebob is my personal favorite. I like to up the size of this pattern for the rough water to a size 12 for visibility it rides on the surface a long time and easily supports a dropper nymph. This fly can imitate a variety of bugs when fished at this time of year like an adult caddis to a Yellow Sally dry.

Don’t forget to consider a rogue fly pattern like a Cicada. The nationwide emergence isn’t just designated to a small area of the U.S. they’re everywhere. Just listen. Evenings are a great time to catch the piercing hum of the Cicadas. These large bugs are falling into the rivers and stillwaters everywhere. Tied on a size 4 hook it’s a pattern you can fish with reckless abandon given to dainty dry fly casts. This bug goes splat on the surface with a thud! And then it shimmies and shakes on the water until something has to eat it.

A prime example of how widespread the Cicada hatch is I was casting Cicada patterns to bluegills and bass in the Florida Everglades a few days ago on June 22nd. I am casting the same dry fly Cicada pattern to trout in the Colorado Rockies today, June 26th. And I am planning a trip to the Flaming Gorge in Utah to fish Cicadas on July14th.

 A little about the fish.

The scattered trout population has taken up residence along the bank in pockets, behind boulders and along soft edges. Deep eddies are still havens for trout to sit and rest and actively feed but the runoff has moved the majority of the fish dispersing the numbers along the river’s course. Floating the Eagle and Colorado Rivers casting upsized dry fly patterns into tasty little pockets results in aggressive takes.

Take just enough time to play the fish quickly and efficiently this helps sustain our natural resource. Netting the fish and maintaining touch with the water is the best way to handle our Colorado trout. The fish are our number one concern right along with the water. Helping out to bring your own water bottle along on the float or wade trip is another nod to Vail Valley Angler’s concerted efforts at providing a sustainable experience for years to come. Fish First is our effort to maintain fly fishing in the Colorado Rockies and the Vail Valley. Please join Vail Valley Angler’s efforts for sustainability.

So how big is too big? At this time of year you can’t go wrong upping the size of your flies for fish attracting power, for your visual tracking and for tempting the largest trout in the watershed into eating. Lots of bugs are there for your choosing as the hatches are just forming into their summertime predictability. Caddis, Stoneflies and natural phenomenons like Cicadas all provide larger than life choices for your fly fishing offerings. Vail Valley Anglers delivers the safest, most productive float fishing at this time of year. Book your fly fishing adventure today.

Michael Salomone, "Sal"

Vail Valley Anglers Guide & Content Writer

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Fly Fishing Product Review | Echo Fly Rods
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Product Review | Echo Fly Rods

Mike S.

The ECHO rod company has surged ahead with an arsenal of fly rods to cover any fly fishing situation. Sweet little creek rods, heavy backboned beach rods and extended length two handed chuckers, ECHO has designed a fly rod for your casting style and preferred approach. Easy on the pocketbook and stacked full of quality components ECHO fly rods are guaranteed to make you smile.

Just to touch on a few of the opportunities ECHO supplies for fly fishing (see Vail Valley Anglers website for the full selection of ECHO rods we carry) I will begin with the ECHO Carbon XL fly rod which is an entry level priced rod with an array of likeable qualities. At 9’ in length the Carbon XL feels like any other 9’ rod in the hand. Able to deliver heavy nymph rigs as well as dry flies. The deep rootbeer color glows in the bright sunlight adding an attractive richness to the rod. The carbon fiber reel seat gives a nod towards modern rod making materials and provides an attractive look.

Loading up and punching casts into respectable distances with a feeling not expected at this price point, the Carbon XL is a very versatile fly rod. For an angler looking to make a purchase that will last and a rod that can grow with the expected learning curve neophyte anglers experience, the Carbon XL is sure to become a favorite. Vail Valley Anglers can make your purchase of an ECHO Carbon XL a genuine investment into your fly fishing future.

A new offering from ECHO comes in the form of a dry fly specific rod. Light and lively in the hand the ECHO Dry delivers a feather-like touch to your dry fly presentations. At a price point that does not place it in the basement of the ECHO lineup, this mid-priced dry fly rod is an excellent addition to the accomplished fly angler looking for a well-made, sweet performing rod that can deliver when pushed.

Equally at home on a float trip to cast dry flies tightly up against grassy banks or for a wading angler looking for a designated dry fly only rod. On those days when you can leave your nymph box at home, the ECHO Dry is a great rod to reach for. Upgraded hardware compliments the quality cork handle well. With a tight crisp casting stroke the ECHO Dry fly rod excels at true fishing distances where mending is critical. No need to reach the next area code with your cast as the ECHO Dry shoots accurate casts into difficult water and manages the fight with a finesse and smooth touch that keeps hooks set.

ECHO has a large lineup of specialty fly angling rods that cover the spectrum from small, freshwater steams to large, broad rivers and even into the Saltwater. Here ECHO shines like no other company I know. The research and development that has gone into creating what has risen to the top of my enjoyable saltwater beach rods is the Bad Ass Glass series of rods. No discussion necessary they are just plain fun. Easy on the shoulders for casting all day long, the B.A.G. loads at moderate distances but retains the backbone to punch casts across windy flats. The soft tip keeps hooks in place without pulling them the way stiffer rods do. And the butt section of the rod transmits critical feeling into your hands during the fight allowing you to adjust pressure or to really put it on them. Looking for a really fun saltwater rod to add to your bag of tricks? Look no further than the ECHO Bad Ass Glass.

ECHO - heavyweight performers at real world prices. When entering the world of fly fishing or looking to add a specialty rod for targeting saltwater challengers ECHO offers a selection of fly rods that are sure to bring a smile across your face, leave your wallet a little fatter and deliver the performance expected from a quality rod company. Check out all of the ECHO rods we offer on the Vail Valley Anglers website.

Michael Salomone, "Sal"

Vail Valley Anglers Fly Fishing Guide & Content Writer

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Arkansas River | May Caddis Hatch
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Arkansas River | May Caddis Hatch

Mike S.

The Arkansas River is one of the most popular destination waters to fly fish in Colorado. With a Gold Medal designation there are a lot of reasons why this river receives the attention it does. The Arkansas is a river that is friendly to float fishing and to wade fishing, so any angler can find some section of the “Ark” to explore. Predominately a wild brown trout fishery healthy Hofer strain rainbows are encountered too in this river only with less frequency. If there was a prime time of year for a fly angler to fish the Arkansas that time would be now through the end of May, during the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch.

The Hatch:

As springtime temperatures warm in Colorado an emergence of magical proportions occurs within the Arkansas River. Water temperatures gather life en masse as the river flows reach the 50s. Given the Infamous name, the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch, the emergence that occurs on the Arkansas is a well-storied Colorado hatch like the Salmonflies on the Gunnison or Green Drakes on the Roaring Fork, and with good cause.

Beginning somewhere near Canon City, as early as the middle of April some years, the caddis start to become active. Water temperatures creeping up into the 50s spur along the hatch of Brachycentrus caddis.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife lists over 80 miles of public access along the Arkansas River between Leadville and Canon City. Finding fishing access along its course is easy as following Highway 24 or 50 riverside and pulling over and parking at numerous State provided access areas, on BLM and National forest land or floating from boat ramp to boat ramp.

The hatch will progress upriver daily. Finding the heaviest activity is as easy as looking for the blizzard of moths over the water. Start your fishing above or upriver of the hatch for the best activity. Often in the midst of the hatch it is difficult to raise a fish to your dry fly with so many naturals on the water. A dry dropper approach is one of the favorites techniques for fly fishing the Arkansas River. Fishing above the hatch in anticipation of the upcoming activity takes advantage of the heavy numbers of insects in the nymph stage already in the river.

Trout in this River:

The Brown Trout rules the Arkansas River. A high population of Browns can be encountered anywhere along the entire river. These are wild fish, treat them as such as they spook easily. Keep low when casting and watch your shadow. Shadows give anglers away more than most fly fishers realize. Even in heavy, broken current a shadow cast into the riffle will cut through the surface all the way to the bottom of the run spooking fish as it moves.

The State of Colorado has stocked a whirling disease resistant Hofer strain rainbow. The rainbows gain size easily in the Arkansas River. However the Arkansas is not a trophy trout fishery but rather a trophy experience fishery. The strength in this watershed is the dry fly fishing for a high population of 12”-16” Brown Trout.

River Breakdown:

Beginning outside of Leadville the Arkansas River offers high altitude access to some beautiful stretches of water. Brown’s Canyon is a boat only section of the river between the towns of Buena Vista and Salida. From Salida downstream for the next 50 miles the river holds all types of pleasant angling water with boulder pockets, gravel bars, back eddies and pools where a dry fly beckons to be cast. When the caddis hatch is on this is some of the most enjoyable water to fish as you try to stay ahead of the hatch that creeps up the river daily. 15 miles of Special Regulation water near Salida reduces the amount of harvested fish in this area giving the feeling of higher fish numbers. The Salida area has some of the easiest access to the river along with healthy trout populations. Near Canon City anglers encounter the Royal Gorge an area that is difficult to fish but could hold the largest fish in the entire river.

Gear for the “Ark”:

Most anglers are comfortable using Floating Weight Forward fly lines like Airflo’s Super-Dri Cast Fly line. 5weight rods in 9 foot lengths are the norm. However some of the longer 10’ and 11’ rods or switch rods can help in reach, casting and critical line mending. The Winston Boron III X Super 10 is a fine example of the type of rod I am describing. Longer rods have forgiving tips, strong back bones and great presentation qualities.

Flies for the Hatch:

If you tie your own flies the Arkansas River’s Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch is the arena where you want to tie on your own bugs. The reward is two-fold when you connect with a wild brown trout on a bug you tied yourself. The Arkansas is also a river where the angler can exercise the dry fly demons winter weather has kept in check. High riding Elk Hair Caddis patterns will catch fish all over the Arkansas River. When times get tough or the hatch seems to puzzle you a few other offerings to carry would be some type of Egg Laying Caddis pattern or a crippled caddis will often take finicky fish.

The Blue Wing Olive is prevalent at this time of year too so a Parachute Adams in your box would be advantageous. Streamers will account for fish on the Arkansas River as the high number of Brown Trout are very predatory and actively seek out larger food sources.

The Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch on the Arkansas River could be the most spectacular emergence of caddis throughout Colorado. The dry fly fishing opportunities abound from Leadville to Canon City and everywhere in between.

The opportunity to fish a legendary hatch on renowned water is a priceless experience we can easily achieve here in Colorado. Give Vail Valley Anglers a call to sort out all of your May Caddis Hatch necessities.

Mike “Sal” Salomone

Vail Valley Anglers Guide and Content Writer

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Saltwater Fly Fishing for Snook
Salt Water Fly Fishing

Saltwater Fly Fishing | A Focus on Snook

Mike S.

When fly anglers take the plunge to enter the world of saltwater fly fishing, the style of adventure an angler wants to experience develops into personal goals to achieve - whether it is a wading angler chasing bonefish and permit on tropical flats or a fly fisher targeting tarpon from the bow of a skiff. The goal is the same to conquer new species and environments, to push our fly fishing experience into new realms. When it comes to South Florida and fly fishing in saltwater, Snook top the list of admirable targets to conquer off the beach.

Best time to focus on Snook:

A closed season encompasses the spawning months of June, July and August in Florida. During the rest of the year Snook experience a constant barrage of live baits as they are sought after for excellent table fare. Only the true diehard Snook anglers chase them in the summertime. And that is when fly anglers can target Snook around inlets and passes, along rocky points and right off sandy beaches.


One of my favorite fly fishing endeavors is walking the beaches of South Florida at dawn, a quiver of fly rods in my pack to cover a variety of situations and a cup of coffee. Snook are my number one sought after species when walking the beach, but I don’t get hung up on specifics. If a school of jacks is busting bait I fish for them. Anything a fly angler catches in the ocean pulls like a champion so I like to catch a variety of fish.

Inlets and Passes:

Inlets and passes into the intracoastal waterway and the back country are excellent places for a fly angler to set up. Snook are staging around areas such as this in the summertime preparing for their annual spawn. Often around these rocky structures you will see Snook of bragging proportions. Places in South Florida like, the Lake Worth Inlet, Boynton Inlet and Boca Raton Inlet along the Atlanticside and the passes around Sanibel and Captiva on the gulfside are prime areas to target when fly fishing for Snook.

Dock lights at Night:

A true treat for any fly angler is fishing at night. However the situations that present itself for nighttime fly fishing are few and far between. This is where the Snook can shine in the night sky. Dock lights are found throughout South Florida. And Snook are a favored target under those lights. Laying in wait for drifting shrimp or baitfish just along the edge of the circle of illumination Snook are prime targets for the fly angler at night. The best docks will have both illumination and current.


As a bonus Snook have the ability to travel into freshwater as well. More than once I have caught Snook around Miami when targeting Peacock Bass in the canals. Not the class size you will experience in the saltwater but a Snook on the fly I will take anytime.

Flies for Snook:

Depending on the type of application such as fly fishing the beach or angling under dock lights at night there can be some variety in the selection for Snook flies. When targeting the summertime Snook on the beach an excellent choice is a small white fly such as the Schminnow or a light, bead chain eyed Clouser also in white or my personal favorite the chartreuse and white Umpqua Skinny Water Minnow. The pre-dawn hours are primetime for tossing topwater poppers near shore when the surf is accommodating.

When targeting nighttime Snook around dock lights I prefer a shrimp fly and an Epoxy Shrimp is my favorite. The shine and translucency of an epoxy shrimp mimics the reflective qualities of a natural shrimp in the water. The tell tale “popping” sound Snook make when eating a shrimp close to surface can be heard for a long distance at night.

And lastly don’t be afraid to toss large flies for Snook off the beach or around rocky opportunities. The transition area from sandy beach to rocky outcropping is a fantastic situation for the saltwater fly fisher. The last few summers I have found myself casting large articulated flies in the swash zone right off the beach where the waves crash. Big Snook cruise this trough looking for ambush opportunities on baitfish caught up in the tumultuous current. The results have been smashing strikes occurring in inches of water from a larger class of Snook than I normally encounter along the South Florida beaches.


Quality saltwater fly rods are a necessity having more backbone to punch into strong winds and components that will withstand the abuse a corrosive saltwater environment presents. A minimum for saltwater fly fishing is a six weight rod with nine weights being the top of the chart for Snook. The Sage Salt and Scott Meridian are true shoulder shaving, premium fly rods that will enhance any saltwater fly fishing experience.

Weight forward floating lines cover the gamut as much of the fishing is in relatively shallow water or right up along the shoreline. The AirFlo Super-Dri Tropical series of fly lines insures long casting success.

Sealed drag reels are assets when it comes to saltwater and sand. Adequate backing is often needed however if a Snook is good enough to run you into your backing it can often be a futile affair trying to catch back up with it. A Hatch Finatic 7 or 9 depending on rod size provides a bulletproof platform for battling the toughest Snook.

Snook also possess an uncanny ability to get free from your hook. Strong hard runs can sever a weak leader and when the beast jumps it takes a sturdy bite tippet to hold them. Bite tippets in the 40 pound category are not uncommon when fly fishing for Snook. And a word of caution to those who have never experienced a Snook, resist the urge to lift the fish out of the water by holding the gill plate like a Northern Pike. Snook have razor sharp gill rakers that will cut your hand deeply when lifting them or that can sever your leader during the fight. Grab them by the lip.

Saltwater fly fishing is a specialized game. Choosing the application you want to experience will dictate the style of fly fishing you employ. Traveling anglers in South Florida have multiple opportunities to conquer one of the greatest fish in fly fishing, the Snook. With a willingness to take a fly, heavy weight fighting prowess and at times are massive in size the Snook is a game fish to add to any fly angler’s list. Shop Vail Valley Anglers for all of your traveling saltwater gear.

Mike Salomone |  Vail Valley Anglers' Guide and Content Writer


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Pre-Runoff Fly Fishing | What to Expect
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Pre-Runoff Fly Fishing | What to Expect

Mike S.

Spring has finally arrived in the Vail Valley as locals and tourists alike begin to focus on water in a more liquid form than the frozen, skiable type. Here at Vail Valley Anglers our wade guides have been busy with half/day trips focused around the midday or warm afternoon hours. And the float guides have pulled boats out from under the security of tarps and winter equipment all to take advantage of the excellent pre-runoff fishing conditions.

The Water:

During the springtime our local rivers experience a daily fluctuation in water levels. Valley snowmelt begins with the warmth of the spring days swelling the rivers, increasing the flow and then settling down, lowering the flow with the cool nighttime temperatures. This warm and cold temperature pattern causes these small peaks and valleys in the river runoff. Turbidity can also be an issue with localized streams pushing muddy runoff into the river. Vail Valley Anglers can give you up-to-date river conditions with the ease of a phone call, 970-926-0900.

The increase in flow causes a disruption along the river bottom dislodging worms, stonefly nymphs and more. All kinds of food sources tumble along the bottom in the river current delivering a smorgasbord of food items to hungry winter starved trout. Rainbows in preparation for their spawn eat to bulk up before the heavy toll of spawning exerts its primal grip.

The Fish:

The trout are putting on the feedbag, eating the daily emergence of midges and the first hatches of Blue Wing Olives along with the multitude of other food items being washed downstream caught up in the spate. Browns are actively chasing streamers stripped along the river bottom and in pockets along the shoreline. Rainbows are dressing up in spawning colors and clearing off redds. As water temperatures begin to increase there is an equal increase in trout metabolism and activity.

What to Throw?

As pre-runoff progresses focus begins to fall upon a variety of small nymphs and a few stonefly nymphs. Midge larva and pupae will take trout during the day before the daily Blue Wing Olive hatch begins. Small Pheasant Tails mimic the Baetis hatch found on our local rivers by imitating the prevalent Blue Wing Olive mayfly nymph.

Small baitfish, sculpins and immature trout are washed downstream in the tumultuous currents. At the mercy of the overwhelming flow they become easy targets for strong swimming predators. Heavy streamers raked across the river bottom solicit powerful strikes from predatory brown trout. Large profile flies like Pat’s Rubber Legs or the Umpqua Twenty Incher nymph imitate the insects inadvertently knocked loose by the moving water.

Now is a time to pull out the 4x tippet maybe even 3x depending on the conditions that day, save your Fluorocarbon and fine monofilament for the educated trout in tailwaters or for the fine eyes of Trico sippers later in the Summer. Vail Valley Anglers carries a huge stock of tippet from manufacturers such as RIO and Umpqua. Beef up your leader for streamer fishing as well. Our shop has a large selection of leaders from RIOUmpqua and Airflo. Strong leaders and heavy tippet provide a lot of advantages when it comes to fighting fish. The ability to land fish quickly is a bonus when it comes to catch and release fishing. Think Fish First!

The massive spawning activity that is occurring by rainbow trout creates the tell tale signs of cleared gravel and indicates a prevalence of eggs in the watershed. Brown trout will recognize the overabundance of the high protein food source and begin to stage directly downstream from any spawning activity. Take care to not wade directly into spawning grounds and to target downstream of active beds to attract non-spawning brown trout.

How to be safe:

The powerful river currents will overturn rocks and tumble gravel bars dislodging logs and debris. The currents will not only disrupt the river bottom but the wading angler needs to be attentive to the river conditions as well. Pre-runoff can be a treacherous time to fish on foot. Exercise extra caution when wading in pre-runoff conditions. Just like fish eating insects dislodged from moving rocks, logs and crumbling banks the wading angler encounters loose shorelines, unstable rocks and floating logs (both above and below the water line.) In these precarious wading conditions the best advise is to purchase a wading staff. And use it. At Vail Valley Anglers we carry collapsible staffs by Fishpond and Simms to attach to your wading belt.

Now is the time to prepare your boat for the really high water soon to come. Replacing worn out components and double-checking rafts for slow pinhole leaks is better accomplished now. Picking up one of the new “heavy-duty” coolers for your raft or drift boat like a Yeti or Orion type is an excellent addition to your river gear. Vail Valley Anglers has a model sure to fit your needs.

Whether wading or floating springtime pre-runoff has some excellent opportunities for the fly fishing angler. Knowing the river conditions and what is happening in the watershed insures successful outings before the real high water fills our riverbanks. Targeting post-winter, aggressive Brown trout produces some of the best catches of the year. Call Vail Valley Anglers to book a pre-runoff fly fishing trip on foot or by boat today.

Mike Salomone | Fly Fishing Guide & Content Writer

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Destination Trout | Gray Reef
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Destination Trout | Gray Reef

Mike S.

Following along the course of the North Platte River in Wyoming, the traveling angler encounters one impoundment after another. Storied stretches of water none-the-less, but dam created and damn good to fish. As tailwaters the North Platte takes on glorious names like the Miracle Mile, but it is the stretch of river near the little town of Alcova that attracts the tactical angler ready to combat the largest fish in the river dubbed the Gray Reef.

To clear some confusion you will find this section of the North Platte River referred to as the Grey Reef and the Gray Reef, however the Wyoming Game and Fish Department uses the “Gray” spelling so I will too. Fishing licenses in Wyoming cost $14.00 daily and $92.00 annually for Non-Residents. The Annual Non-resident fishing license does incur the cost of an additional Conservation Stamp at $12.50, whereas daily fishing licenses do not have the Conservation Stamp requirement.


Wyoming has no tolerance for trespassing and the wading angler is responsible for knowing where to go. Numerous access points along the Gray Reef section of the North Platte River accommodate anglers on foot. Immediately below the Gray Reef Dam is great access to the tailwaters flowing from the dam. Blue Gulch, the Redds and Pete’s Draw make up the access points along this Bureau of Land Management area.

The wading angler will find the Gray Reef regularly rewards those anglers who wish to stay fishing from their feet. Effective choices for wading anglers in the springtime revolve around eggs, worms and small nymphs. As non-locomotive food sources, meaning they don’t actively swim, fish hold tight to the bottom structure waiting for high protein worms and eggs to come to them. Choosing flies that drift along the current lines and that flow with the river channel is a good choice for the wading fly fisher. Streamers are not the best choice for a foot-bound angler, as wading anglers do not cover enough water to make streamer fishing effective, however an egg bounced along the bottom of the river is easily managed by wader-clad anglers. Think about the speed of your drift from a stationary position, which fly is going to perform best in that situation. A streamer that requires movement is more effectively fished from a moving boat than a stationary point and an egg or worm drifting along slowly is more easily managed by an angler standing still.


Once again the emphasis is placed on no trespassing along the Gray Reef float. A large majority of the float is within a private ranch so no anchoring, beaching or wading. However it is within those far reaching hard to achieve angling locations where huge rainbows lurk and reward the floating angler with the fish of a lifetime.

The float from the Gray Reef Dam to Lusby covers 8.4 miles of water. This float usually takes around four hours depending on the amount of fishing time you put in during the float. An additional float from Lusby to Government Bridge adds 4.5 more river miles to the float. With any luck you will need to spend a few minutes taking some photos. As always in Wyoming the wind will blow so adjusting float times for the wind is often necessary.

When to go?

Spring is a time when fly anglers emerge from their man caves to test their winter-dulled skills against the giants of the North Platte. The Gray Reef section truly holds the fish of a lifetime for most anglers and they never have to leave the lower Forty-eight to catch it. Rainbows, Browns and Cutts of enormous proportions distend in the nutrient rich tailwaters and not just trout. The Gray Reef holds walleyes of trophy proportions too.

Spawn is actively happening in the Spring and anglers routinely target the hoard of feeding fish located below the active redds. Actively casting to the spawners occupying their bed is looked down upon so take care while drifting to place your cast into the area downstream from the redds.

What to throw

Fly anglers targeting the Gray Reef in Spring will want to carry the typical tailwater flies however the prevalence of what some refer to as rock worms as well as high concentrations of annelids in the watershed makes heavy red wire wrapped hooks a go to when rigging up. Not a fly of high regard by some anglers (they really are quite ugly and unsophisticated) either is a San Juan worm but they do catch fish especially when bounced along the bottom of the riverbed. Loading up on flies before arriving in Wyoming is a good plan as flies are tight commodities once you get to the Reef and cost a lot or are often out of stock. A few suggestions for flies to have in your box during the Springtime months and flies that Vail Valley Anglers stocks regularly are:

Midge larva red or black

Grey RS2

Small Pheasant Tails


Red Rock worm

San Juan worm




Gear suggestions and Terminal rigging:

5wt rods with reels that have smooth, easily adjustable drags are a necessity to turn and land the giants that inhabit the Reef. 6wt rods are a great asset when tossing streamers or mice patterns. Vail Valley Anglers stocks a large selection of rods for hands on casting practice when choosing a new 5wt or 6wt rod for a Gray Reef trip.

Using large flies along the Gray Reef is a great way to hook into the fish of a lifetime because the truly big fish are looking to eat a piece of meat. Quite frankly the huge fish along the Reef need to eat big food to maintain size and regain energy after spawn. During the spawn huge fish loose their wariness and actively feed on the high protein, easy to eat eggs and whatever else is caught up in the spate.

When it comes down to the terminal end of your rig there is no need for the 6X tippet spool on your vest. 3X is the norm as the water often has some degree of color mixed in, especially in the spring. Save your Fluorocarbon for the educated trout on the Fryingpan River and other tailwaters. Vail Valley Anglers provides a large selection of leaders and tippet to outfit your Gray Reef expedition.

The Wyoming scenery is at its best along the Gray Reef with wandering antelope, iconic western vistas and giant fish you won’t soon forget. Whether dry fly fishing to pods of rising fish along mid-river current seams, nymphing the large, deep river pools or perhaps the most exciting way to offer your fly by casting streamers, the fish of a lifetime is waiting for you just outside the town of Casper, Wyoming. Contact Vail Valley Anglers for all of your traveling angler necessities and the professional advice to make your Gray Reef trip a success.

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How to Customize your Fly Fishing Gear
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

How to Customize your Fly Fishing Gear

Mike S.

Customizing your fly fishing gear for function and appearance
In the world of fly fishing it is easy to fall into line with your gear, only to look like the next wader-clad angler to stumble down the bank into the river. Some anglers strive for a cookie cutter approach to their gear often aiming to mimic their buddy or the latest decked out angler from the cover of a magazine. But it is the fly fisher who looks to stand out with a one of a kind appearance or to customize their gear for a specific technique or fit that really expands their game.
Function and Appearance
Function and attraction are the two main reasons for customizing your gear. When it comes down to function, fly anglers are often building a platform for targeting the toughest fish in the watershed. Those anglers who travel need to understand the demands of fly fishing for powerful fish and adjust their gear to handle those demands. Customizing your gear is the best way to combat demanding fish like large trout, salmon, and tarpon. Choosing strong backing, specific fly lines and reels with adjustable drag settings can adapt your fly rig to successfully conquer these ultimate predators.

Reels are a place for customization where the possibilities are unlimited. With a minimal amount of effort, the knowledgeable angler can create a rod and reel combination with a one of a kind look. Companies like Hatch and Able have taken the custom reel game to a new level. Able leads the way with numerous limited-edition fly reels with custom artwork and unique bold graphics. A variety of trout patterns, bonefish and tarpon colors and even the highly intricate artwork of Andrea Larko have adorned the side plates of Abel reels. A small edition of Colorado flag Abel reels and a highly desirable Grateful Dead inspired line are the cream of the crop in the Abel reels selection.

Hatch has a mix and match ability with a variety of spool colors and choices. The Vail Valley Anglers website walks you through the process to create a custom Hatch reel that is sure to stand out from the others at the boat dock eliminating that, “Oh it looked just like mine,” mistake.

Backing and Line
Backing and fly line give anglers another area for customization again for both aesthetics and function or both. One of our guides had red and blue backing lined onto a limited edition Colorado flag Abel reel for his father, talk about aesthetics, Wow! Vail Valley Anglers provides six custom color choices for backing.

Utilizing different colored backing I have customized a blue water fly reel set up for off-shore fly fishing for billfish, tuna, and sharks. The functional choices are a change in color that indicates distance, the first 150 yards of backing are pink and the last 250 yards are chartreuse helping me to log mental notes during the battle. Brightly colored backing has helped Captains keep a visual during the fight on some of my past trips, aiding with boat position and direction. The entire outfit looks pretty cool too. There is a multitude of color choices coming out these days for fly line colors as well. Scientific Anglers, Airflo and RIO all make clear stealthy line options to increase the functional factor for ultra spooky saltwater species like bonefish and permit.
Simms, the leader in functional fishing apparel, has offered a custom shop for perfecting the fit of their waders for a specific angler. With extended sizes, custom bootie choices, camouflage hardware, an upgraded suspender package and the ultra desirable zipper addition, Simms waders go above and beyond when it comes to custom choices for an angler to make. When you figure the hours spent inside your waders, swinging for steelhead, wading across rapids or hiking into a mountain stream, the choices you make before you buy payoff in the long run in comfort and riverside style points. Simms Custom waders deliver the ultimate in function, comfort, and style. Look no farther than the Vail Valley Anglers Custome Simms Wader page to begin constructing your custom Simms waders.
Wading Boots
Korkers, the highly adaptable wading boot company, has the ultimate in customization choices for wading boots. With nine different soles for every type of river or fishing condition imaginable, Korkers covers your wading with style and functional adaptability. The addition of a BOA system allows a custom feel around your foot and an easy foot extraction at the end of a long day. Just give it a twist and a deep step to create enough wiggle room to easily slip off your feet. The ability to adjust how snug the boots tighten around your wader bootie, even with gloves or in cold weather is a big advantage.
Customization for function or aesthetics increases the pleasure factor in fly fishing for any angler. Creating a one of a kind rod and reel outfit through the myriad choices that Vail Valley Anglers offer enhances that special feeling we all enjoy. Customizing gear for fit and function increases the safety factor of your gear as well. Contact Vail Valley Anglers to create a one of a kind heirloom rod and reel or to fashion a custom fitting pair of waders and boots.

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Destination Trout Fishing | Colorados Fryingpan River
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Destination Trout | Fryingpan River

Mike S.

A world-class destination:
Located in the mountains of Colorado Ski Country exists an extraordinary fishery, the Fryingpan River. Within a scenic 45 minute drive from Aspen and well under two hours’ drive from Vail is this world-class, fishing destination that should be on any serious angler’s list of travel locations to fish. The Fryingpan River holds high regard amongst Vail Valley Anglers’ guides who routinely test their skills against the educated lunkers found in the Catch and Release waters of “the Pan.” And winter is a prime time to exploit the low angler numbers and decreased fishing pressure. 
 The dam creating Reudi Reservoir was constructed in 1968 and changed the face of the river that flows through the canyon. Today the water that is discharged through the dam is of a consistent temperature, possesses a specific menu of insects, and harbors a unique, high-protein food source that is only available in a few locations in Colorado.
 What makes it special?
Mysis Relicta is a small freshwater shrimp that fishery managers introduced into reservoirs throughout the west during the 1950s-1970s as a food source for trout and Kokanee (land-locked salmon). The resulting devastation from introducing a non-native, such as the Mysis, was unpredicted. The Mysis fed heavily upon the same zooplankton in the reservoir that juvenile salmon and trout needed as a food source. However, the tailwater section of the river benefited from this misguided management.
Trout in the Fryingpan River feed heavily upon the Mysis shrimp that flush through the bottom of the dam. The top two miles flowing out of the reservoir hold the highest numbers of Mysis in the water column, where giant trout swell under the high protein diet and end up looking more like Olympic weightlifters than beaver pond bookies. There are numerous Mysis patterns to fish on the Fryingpan, even your own Mysis creation can prove successful. Often it takes a few attempts with different sizes or flies that have more white or are more translucent to find the effective pattern for the day. And don’t be surprised if that pattern changes throughout the day too. Vail Valley Anglers’ guides have an arsenal of Mysis patterns in their fly boxes to tempt the trout living in the Pan. Booking a guided trip on the Fryingpan with Vail Valley Anglers stacks the odds in your favor for hooking into the trophy of a lifetime. (We do not guide the upper river only the lower 7 miles under DPW permit.)
Time in the Toilet Bowl:
THE place on the Fryingpan everyone wants to fish at least once is the Toilet Bowl, the water immediately exiting the dam, which creates a very deep round basin before flowing on downstream into the Flats, the Bend Hole, Beatis Bridge and more. The Toilet Bowl is the location where sighting 10, 12 even 15 pound trout can cause any angler to get a little excited. Mysis are the key in this area. When immediately flushed through the dam the Mysis are somewhat translucent but with very noticeable eyes. As the Shrimp drift downstream the shrimp slowly die and take on a milky, white appearance. Adjusting your flies to this change as you move downstream will enhance your on-stream performance. The epoxy Mysis patterns, such as Sand’s Epoxy Shrimp, are effective even in the frothy fast water gushing from the bottom of the dam. As you move downstream a white pattern like Charlie’s Mysis attract more action.
Alternative Locations:
Anglers have more than the water near the dam to explore and the river is very well marked to designate the public and private areas. Closer to Basalt, starting around the Seven Castles area, and for the last four miles of river there is a slightly different face of the Pan to fish. The bottom has accumulated enough silt to change the variety of insects found in the river. Stoneflies begin to appear and make a significantly larger offering. Green Drakes emerge in large numbers during the summertime and the big nymphs have been developing within the watershed for years.
Anywhere throughout the entire length of the Fryingpan River is a good place to fish a midge pattern all the way down to the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. A suspended trout feeding actively in the middle of the water column will take a midge emerger but only on a perfect drift. The Fryingpan trout have received their PHDs from Umpqua University. Fooling these educated fish is often not easily achieved and requires flies in the size 18-22 category. Custom patterns can also make a huge difference.  
 Helpful Hints:
However, some little things mean a lot when it comes to fooling some of the largest fish in Colorado. Knowledgeable anglers will take advantage of low light conditions such as extremely overcast days or even before sun-up. Fishing in this type of situation allows you to bulk up or move up a size in tippet without being detected as easily. The low light conditions make spooking trout with strike indicators difficult as well. Anglers can also get away with more movement without scaring the trout in front of you. Vail Valley Angler’s guides can often be the key to a super successful adventure on the Fryingpan River providing a variety of flies, an extra set of eyes and a large net for insuring a triumphant result.
Why Winter?
Winter becomes a time when anglers can take advantage of less pressure, a consistent food source and heavier terminal gear. The hazards to fishing in the winter are evident in the temperatures you have to negotiate. Often single-digit temperatures routinely keep anglers away but with a little planning you can experience pleasant fishing in some of the harshest conditions around and the results can be the fish of a lifetime. Layering under your waders with insulating apparel like the Sitka Kelvin Jacket or a Simms Fall Run Jacket can make all the difference. Packing along a portable heater when monitoring the Toilet Bowl maintains a little bit of dexterity in your numb fingers especially after a release.
The Fryingpan River rings in the ears of serious anglers all over the world. The truly trophy size rainbows, brookies and browns can cause any angler to get a little giddy. Mysis and midges are a necessity for wintertime success. Vail Valley Anglers is the source for flies, clothing and guides for a winter bound trip of a lifetime on the Fryingpan River.
 (Feature Photo Credit: Spencer Watson, @wading_ntime, Fryingpan River)

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Get the Scoop: 2016 Holiday Fly Fishing Gift Guide
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Get the Scoop: Angler's Gift Guide

Mike S.

Puzzled about gift giving this season? Tired of gifts relegated to the bottom of the drawer only to be seen when laundry has been put off and the clean clothes choices are lean? Let’s make this year’s gift one that is remembered with fondness regularly throughout the year or even longer. Vail Valley Anglers has a unique collection of high-end fly-fishing gear. All items are sure to become cherished accessories in any angler’s collection.
The easiest way to get the ideas rolling is to peruse the multitude of fly fishing gear and related items in the comfort of home using this website. Any questions about products can quickly and easily be answered using the "Chat" function on the Vail Valley Angler’s web page to immediately speak with a knowledgeable representative who can guide you through your selection process.
Vail Valley Anglers deals with only the best of the best when it comes to the fly fishing industry. The choices we have made concerning product selection for our shop were made after hours spent in the field, climbing our mountains and floating our rivers in the hands of the guides who know best. Rest assured knowing the items you choose as gifts will deliver a lifetime of performance. At the forefront of the Angler’s Gift Guide are fly rods (everyone’s favorite and number one gift to give) then moving on to a few apparel choices and finishing with packs and bags. This Angler’s Gift Guide is merely the surface of a very deep lake of fly fishing product choices you can make. Vail Valley Anglers' website is designed to help you navigate your way through those decisions.

Winston Air Fly RodFly Rods: The best choice for your angling gift giving is undoubtedly a new fly rod. Nothing is more appreciated, used and necessary as a fly rod, so choosing one for a gift is an automatic win.  Just watch the face of the recipient when they tear open the box. Topping the fly rod choices at Vail Valley Anglers is the Winston AIR fly rod. The choice of anglers everywhere who know that casting small dry flies is an art form, and these rods paint like the finest brushes around.  Scott released a pleasant addition to their offerings when the Flex line of rods was introduced. Any angler would be proud to have a Scott Flex in their quiver of fly rods. Filling a niche your angler really appreciates, like small stream dry-fly fishing or big river streamer fishing, is easily accommodated with the variety of Scott Flex rods available. 

Sitka Kelvin Primaloft JacketApparel: With the onset of winter and the regularly chilling conditions that anglers put themselves through there is nothing more appreciated when you are freezing your fingers to the bone than a Sitka Primaloft Kelvin jacket. Filled with Primaloft, the Kelvin jacket is an ideal layer to insulate your core from frigid conditions. When worn as an outer layer in cold, dry conditions or under a rain jacket for toasty body warming, the Kelvin will not fail to perform when you really need it.  In choosing wading boots, Simms BOAtech wading boots are a pleasure to get on or off after a long day on the river. With a twist of the BOA and quick kick these wading boots come off your foot with ease. Adjusting to customize your fit or snug them up while on the water can be done without removing your gloves. Try that with laces. Another versatile choice for the wading angler is a pair of the Korkers wading boots. Offering a multitude of sole selections to customize your boots to a variety of river or stream conditions is as easy as "buckle and click".

Patagonia Stormfront SlingPacks and Bags: Patagonia has come out with their Stormfront line, a selection of waterproof bags and packs. The Stormfront Pack is assured to be a personal favorite and has the versatility to hold a fair amount of gear like large fly boxes, rain jackets and cameras. This pack will keep your items high and dry through the entire storm. The Stormfront hip and waist packs are extremely easy to use by wading anglers. Vail Valley Anglers also has a full selection of Fishpond gear, bags, and packs. This Colorado-based company has a high-quality line of products to impress any angler when given as a gift.

Umpqua Stocking-StuffersStocking Stuffers: If you really find yourself at the end of your time limit or utterly confused with the process, remember the ease of purchasing a Vail Valley Anglers gift card to let your angler choose their own necessities. As a sure-fire win or a last minute stocking stuffer, gift cards are always appreciated.  Fly boxes, leaders or tippet, and flies are all consumable items in the fly fishing world and are always appreciated. Vail Valley Anglers can even customize a fly selection for your gift. Loading a Vail Valley Anglers fly box with guide-selected flies is an easy way to say Merry Christmas to your favorite angler.

Vail Valley Anglers makes gift-giving easy with the help of online Chat, the convenience of gift cards, and the largest selection of high quality, fly fishing related products around. From Fly rods and apparel to packs and bags and even the little things that are often overlooked, let us fill your stockings or help you select the gift of a lifetime for the angler in your life.

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November Fly Fishing in Colorado Ski Country ∣ Making the Most of Warm Winter Conditions
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Making the Most of Warm November Fly Fishing

Mike S.

November and 60-degree temperatures don’t fare well for the ski runs, but rivers flowing through Colorado ski country around Vail, Beaver Creek, and Aspen are in great shape. Cool evenings, bright moonlit nights and Indian summer daytime temperatures have all combined to create some stellar fly fishing opportunities for anglers.
“NoSnowForYou” special: While normal November temperatures in Colorado ski country have not settled in and visitors and locals alike await ski season; fly rods have remained in rooftop rod racks and broken down in back seats to take advantage of afternoon hatches in the warm November sun. Committed visitors and unoccupied locals are all searching for activities to fill the ski-less days. Vail Valley Anglers has the answer for you. Book a guided fly fishing trip using the code “NoSnowForYou” and get a discount on your trip.
With the uncharacteristically warm days, fly anglers have been enjoying an extended opportunity at free flowing waters. The Eagle River flows through the Vail valley uninhibited by ice anywhere along its course. Lately on any given afternoon anglers can find active fish feeding on or near the surface somewhere along the Eagle.
Midges have been extremely active along the Eagle River. Prime dry fly times around mid-day continuing into the afternoon have produced some great surface opportunities not normally experienced at this time of year. A dry dropper rig is about all you need to properly tempt the actively feeding trout. With a little exploration or the help of a seasoned guide, the tell-tale rings of trout sipping emerging insects can easily be found.
Line, Leader and Tippet: Leaders in the 9-foot length tapering to 6-X are the norm for the fly fishing conditions found throughout Colorado ski country and the Vail valley. Take a moment to enter Vail Valley Angler’s November giveaway, a prize package containing RIO fly line, leaders, and tippet.
Slow, crystal clear water shows just how invasive the shadow from your fly line can be. The spaghetti string fly line casts a shadow onto the river bottom that even the observant angler can notice let alone a fish-eyed trout. Give yourself a little extra leeway by not casting directly over feeding fish.
Flies: Red midge larva has been the go-to nymph for the Eagle River now and Griffith’s Gnats have been a personal favorite for the dry fly conditions. Remarkably small Blue Wing Olives have been popping off to give anglers a chance at early winter mayfly action too. A parachute Adams in size 18 has been a proven producer for surface action. Your favorite BWO patterns in the size 18 should fool trout keyed into the surface. A drag free presentation is key when targeting narrow feeding lanes or bubble lines in the autumn.
Dry fly fishing around Vail, Beaver Creek, and Aspen in November. There is no shelf ice to contend with along the riverbanks or the annoying accumulation of ice in your rod tip. Colorado ski country in November and dry flies - you don’t get opportunities like that every year. Picking an afternoon drenched in the sunshine is a great way to try out that new fly rod you’ve been wanting to place on your Vail Valley Anglers wish list. Filling the lazy afternoons of your Thanksgiving Break on the river fly fishing helps to ease the doldrums from a slow ski vacation. Book a guided trip now with Vail Valley Anglers “NoSnowForYou” special and save a few dollars as well.
And while we all wait for the snow to fill our mountains, the chance to continue flexing our fly rods on the rivers around Vail, Beaver Creek, and Aspen is a welcomed treat. Targeting the primetime hours around mid-day and early into the afternoon presents the ideal opportunity to encounter feeding trout on the surface in the Vail valley. The guides at Vail Valley Anglers are ready to extend the fly fishing season with some favorable November angling conditions.

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Mouse fly fishing
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Mousing; fly fishing with a mouse fly

Mike S.

" Mousing,"--the mere term in fly shops and guide circles brings smug grins to outdoor faces. It is not for the foolhardy, however. Tossing large rodent patterns is an angler’s love affair conducted under headlamps on moonless nights. It requires hefty fly rods in the 7-weight category and reels with space-age drag materials. But, fly fishing with mouse patterns routinely turns the heads of giants that rarely show themselves to anglers in daylight--Big fish that hide under the protective cover of undercut banks, large submerged boulders and cantilevered ledges.
 Chunky brown trout need to eat large prey often in order to maintain their size and metabolism. They don’t satisfy their hunger by eating a handful of midges like tic-tacs. It’s the drive thru and Big Macs for them!
 Where it came from
 Fly fishing with a mouse fly was a secret stashed in duffle bags and angler psyches and brought back to the lower forty-eight by adventurous Alaskan anglers. During the high-water early season, the warm weather summer months, and especially in the fall, mice provide a mouthful for predatory trout trying to maintain size or bulking up before winter.
When to fish them
  Spring high water washes banks away and causes burrows to spill into the river. This sudden inundation places a lot of unfortunate edibles like lizards, snakes and mice in the watershed. When mice inadvertently fall into the spate as fast water splashes ashore, they become an opportunistic food source that only the most aggressive fish exploit.
 Summertime is a bountiful time, with rodents moving about actively. A mouse on a flimsy branch can inadvertently find itself swimming amidst the slower currents found in the long days of summer. I’ve even fished a mouse fly in Florida for aggressive largemouth bass.
 Autumn has a fat population of mice available to hungry trout storing up for winter. Cool nights provide the backdrop for anglers with headlamps and bushy high-riding mouse flies. When a chubby mouse swims across the surface in October, hold on, because the fish that show themselves in autumn are block-headed browns and cherry-cheeked rainbows looking to fill their gullet with fur.
Fly patterns
 The combination of thrill-seeking blended with trophy possibilities are two of the main reasons guides get excited about fly fishing with mouse patterns. Top-water fly fishing is an exciting adventure especially when paired up with hairy, mouse patterns. Providing a large profile that only the biggest trout exploit, mice are an alternative food source that is often overlooked.
 Big water-pushing patterns catch the attention of opportunistic trout and other fish. And heavy hooks are required to hold them. Some fly tyers often design their mouse patterns with a trailing hook at the end of the tail for added insurance.
Popular patterns
Morrish (MOORISH?) mouse
Loco mouse
Baby lemming/mouse
Nervous Neda
Mouse rat
Articulated mouse
How to fish mice; swim, swing and doggy paddle
SWIM: Stiff fly rods rule the playing field when it comes to fly-fishing with a small mammal. A quick cast to the bank and a slow wiggle of your rod-tip as the mouse fly pulls away from shore solicits strikes from cut-bank carnivores.
SWING: Toss to the far or opposite bank and swing the mouse fly on top of the water across the current. Holding your tip high will prevent the mouse from diving or sinking on the swing.  Target slow, slack water close to shore, soft banks and less-rapid current. It is extremely difficult for trout to track a mouse at night in broken water.
DOGGY PADDLE: Lastly, think about a Labrador swimming after a duck: his body rides deep, tail on the surface and doggy paddle strokes creating a rhythmic tempo. The doggy paddle cadence is one that is achieved in daylight hours by practicing and observing your retriever and then repeating these motions in the dark. When you hear a strike in the dark, resist the urge to trout-set by lifting your rod, which often results in pulling your fly away from the fish. Instead strip-set after you feel the heft of a fish on your line or leave the fly and wait for a second strike as you make a few small movements to mimic an “injured” mouse.
Gear for mousing
 Rods for mouse fly fishing need to have enough backbone to cast heavy waterlogged mouse flies with a certain degree of efficiency. The Sage Method in 6 or 7 weight is a great example of a mousing rod. The Scott Flex is a surprisingly easy casting rod that makes long nights chucking heavy flies more enjoyable.
 Reels that can hold a fair amount of line when retrieving without improper stacking are the best. It is often easy to overlook how you are managing your line in the dark. Initial runs are often strong bullheaded bursts. Allowing any large fish to get too much line out is a recipe for disaster, especially at night.
 Lines that can handle turning over a large fly are the best for mouse fly fishing. Most weight Forward Floating lines can cover the job well. However, some of the newer lines developed for Peacock Bass fly fishing in the Amazon or Pike fly fishing up north have tapers that enable easier turnover of heavy flies when casting.
"Mousing,"the term evokes memories of triumph and heartbreak for some anglers. Hidden like a hermit under a bridge and only showing their face when the pangs of hunger require, big trout need big food to survive. And a mouse fly fills that void. Book a guided fly fishing trip with Vail Valley Anglers and our staff of experienced guides to explore this new technique.

Mike "Sal" Salomone

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