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Vail Valley Anglers
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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Autumn Angling in Colorado
Fly Fishing Colorado Rivers

Autumn Angling in Colorado

Mike S.

As long summer days change slowly into dark cold nights, trout prepare for winter. Brook and Brown trout dress up in spawning colors and Rainbows follow the migration. The change in seasons brings a change in fly fishing tactics as well. Adjusting your tactics will allow you to continue catching trout on the surface and under the water right up until the edge of winter.

Daytime temperatures play a big role in a trout’s willingness to feed on the surface in the autumn. If summertime temperatures persist into the Fall, sun up to mid-morning and again in the evening become prime times for targeting trout. Should the Fall temperatures come early with daytime temps in the 50s the window anglers will want to fish will be from mid-day through the afternoon.

Brown trout actively hunt for terrestrials coming into fall seeking, grasshoppers, beetles and winged ants. Ants are a requisite in any autumn fly box. As fall swings into progression ants play a major role along stream banks for dry fly anglers. Ants develop wings and seem to be found struggling on waterways throughout the Rocky Mountains tempting hungry trout along the way. Prospecting along the riverbanks with winged ant patterns and grasshoppers can be an exhilarating affair. Trout don’t just sip a grasshopper they hit it to kill it. Large, kicking, struggling food sources are taken with a little more vigor than a size 18 Mayfly. Trout do not like anything struggling in their gullet or grabbing ahold of their gills so the resultant strike is forceful. Stepping up in tippet weight class prevents inadvertent breakoffs from powerful hits.

Hatches of October caddis appearing throughout the fall. The spruce moth can also prevalent and both are often imitated by a large elk hair pattern. Blue Wing Olives show up in smaller sizes than their summer cousins. A size 18 Parachute Adams fools most finicky surface feeders and some anglers too. The Griffith’s Gnat is a proven winner for autumn afternoons as well. The best advice when fishing with tiny dry flies is to set on anything that eats on the surface even if you can’t visually track your fly. A size 16 Parachute Adams supports a light nymph, such as a small pheasant tail, when fished as the top fly in a BWO dry dropper combination.

Nymphing in the autumn is a productive approach with lower flows and a decrease in fishing pressure trout are very willing to take a sub-surface fly that is well presented. Selecting flies to coincide with the time of year and temperatures you are encountering is the code you need to break. Subsurface offerings include large stoneflies nymphs down to the diminutive midge larva flies. An RS-2 fished in tandem with another nymph is a good place to start. Once you have determined some productive fly choices anglers need to choose how and where to present their flies. Concentrating on mid-river current seams and bubble lines well off the bank focuses the nymphing angler’s intentions into the correct area. Another subsurface offering that targets many trout in a river would be to use an egg pattern. Large brown trout moving into spawning areas in late fall have a contingent of rainbows following them awaiting the release of eggs. Whitefish and Brook trout are both fall spawners adding to the egg melee tumbling down the river. Choosing to fish an egg pattern is a debatable subject in fly fishing circles and a topic for another time, however, knowing eggs are present in a river leads anglers to match a prevalent food source trout are exploiting. Matching the hatch with the egg game is another puzzle to decipher with the size, color and texture (think Otter’s eggs) of your egg pattern becoming choices anglers need to work through.

Pressure by anglers is on a downturn during autumn. Sportsmen must choose to divide their time between field and fish. School has returned to normal calling vacationing anglers back to work as well. Previously crowded waters become deserted stretches. The river has a quiet feel when preparing for a long winter.

The colder temperatures that are more prevalent in the Fall require a little more attention to maintain comfort. Wading boots, one size larger than normal accommodate thick socks in the cooling waters of autumn. Layers of fleece and primaloft build walls of warmth under waders. Check out Brody’s Blog, Fall Fly Fishing Gear for Foul Weather. As the evening sky comes earlier each day, by employing some well thought out tactics, fly anglers can stretch their time on the water right up to snowfall. Chasing the autumn trout in Colorado during one of the most beautiful times of the year can be very rewarding. Adjusting to the changing conditions as we slide into winter insures success on the autumn water we all love. Try a guided fly fishing trip with Vail Valley Anglers to experience Colorado's excellent Autumn Angling.

Mike Salomone

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