This late summer (mid September) I had the fortunate experience of taking a vacation with The Travel Whisperer in the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The trip was pretty last minute. Flying over from London, the TTW team organized everything from the immaculate accommodation to amazing activities, as well as booking some friends and I into fantastic restaurants. They sent me so much great information on all outdoor activities, including plenty of personal touches and local recommendations.
My focus for the trip was to enjoy the best places to fly fish in Colorado, particularly the Vail and Beaver Creek area. Having never fished in the US before I thought I was going in blind, but the TTW team pointed me in the right direction of stores, guides and amazing fishing hotspots – all of which I took full advantage of! As thanks, I suggested I summarized all the top tips into a guest blog for them for all of their future guests to enjoy.
The bottom line…
To summarize – I had an incredible trip. I stayed in Edwards and the fishing opportunities were amazing, managing to get out 5 out of the 7 days that I stayed. Fishing gold medal, crystal clear and empty waters – I managed a great catch every single day including multiple 18-22” fish. I predominantly fished the Eagle River as a result of convenience, though also visited Gore Creek (Vail) and Beaver Lake (Beaver Creek). There were multiple other rivers I could have fished, including the Colorado, Roaring Fork and The Frying Pan which were all just a short drive away – though I was having such great fishing I didn’t feel the need to travel further afar.
Types of fishing?
Unsure of how high the rivers were and what flies to bring, I packed a variety of gear to cover multiple scenarios. I bought both a 6ft 3# rod, as well as a 9ft 5#. I set up the 3# to fish dries and swapped between nymphing and streamers on the 5#. Having dropped into one of the local outfitters, it was suggested a hopper/dropper set up was producing fish, as were small 18-22 nymphs. I also took a few sculpin and leech patterns out with me, as well as all the usual’s that you’d find in a standard fly box (Adam’s, May’s, PTN’s, Copper John’s etc).
Now, I’m a big fan of seeing the take, so predominantly was flittering through my dry flies all week, despite not huge rising action… so most of my fish were caught this way. That said, the locals often nymph with indicators and split shot weights – which produced serious results (more info below on this). I didn’t have any luck on the streamers – maybe this was a result of low rivers (though more than likely my own poor technique).
A guided trip
The TTW team organized a half-day on the Eagle with Andersons Fish Camp a husband and wife team with over 30 years experience in the area between them. Cooper was our guide on the day and took us to a local stretch of the Eagle River, which meant less time travelling and more time fishing.
We used all Cooper’s gear on the day and he was rigged up for some nymphing. Being a local, he had an indicator set up, with 3 nymphs up to 2ft below. Between the nymphs were a couple of small weights to help them get down in the faster moving water. When I first saw the set up, the traditionalist in me felt a little unsettled, but the adventurer in me was curious.
We fished small sections of slow moving water behind large boulders among the rapids. Generally I’d have strolled past these sections, so I was intrigued to see if they produced the goods. It’s safe to say that throughout the 4 hours we were non-stop – catching over 30 fish between us, with Cooper putting us in the right spots with the right flies. Spending their time in the rapids meant the fish were powerful, producing some great aerial action.
All in all it was a great day out. Not what I’d call a “traditional” fly experience, but learning local techniques and catching a heap of fish is always a winner!
Self-Guided Fishing in the Colorado Basin
Thanks to the TTW team and the local outfitters, my exploratory trip was also very successful. The locals were all very friendly and pointed out some of the best fishing spots in Colorado. Predictably, the weekends were much busier than the weekdays, so I would recommend fishing Monday through Friday if you can. I’d definitely advise wearing waders, although I did see a handful of people fishing some deeper sections from the banks. Below are some areas that I fished with some top tips to accompany them.
Eagle River by Gypsum Ponds.
Park up at the “Gypsum Ponds” and you’ll find over a mile of public water both the East and West. Its well known to the locals so was pretty busy but there’s plenty of space with a variety of water to fish on (the further East the quieter it got). Parachute Adams produced the majority of fish for me here, both brown trout and rainbow trout!
Hiking up an hour from Beaver Creek opens up to a beautiful and pristine lake. The hike is relatively easy and once you get to the top I’d recommend starting at the south of the lake. There’s plenty of movement, so a great spot to sight fish.
Eagle River by Wolcott Post Office
This is another beautiful spot with a wide section of slow moving water, great for dry flies. The fish were everywhere, but a little harder to hook up here. Fishing close to the banks produced the best results.
Gore Creek, West Vail
Being the end of summer there wasn’t much water flow, meaning shallow and thin sections of creek. I found a great spot, marked on the map where there was an abundance of fish. I hooked up browns, rainbows and cut throat – just missing the brook for the perfect 4! Smaller flies were the go here, delicate presentation and plenty of sight fishing.
Hopefully this gives some helpful information for those looking to wet a line in this area. In the future I’d love to explore fishing spots near Denver, and also places to fish in Colorado Springs. I’d like to recommend a guide for someone less experienced, and also The Travel Whisperer was amazing at sorting all my needs.
Story by Dan.J