Fall is the Time For a Fly Fishing Road Trip

Fall Colors
Time for a Fall Road Trip?

Now that fall is officially here and the kids are back in school, many anglers take time off of work, pack their bags, and hit the road. In resort towns like Vail, Colorado, things have slowed down and after fishing local rivers all summer, foreign rivers beckon us. This can be one of the best times to visit towns and fisheries away from home. Places that are normally busy or crowded during the peak summer season tend to run at a slower pace, and can offer a memorable fly fishing experience. Rivers are never crowded and you may not see another angler in a day of fishing.

It is impossible to write about every fall angling destination, but I can take a moment to tell you about a few of my favorites here in the Rocky Mountain West.

The Green

Utah’s Green river begins is journey downstream in Wyoming’s Wind River mountain range. Although it offers excellent fly fishing throughout its upper region, it is most famous for the sections just below the Flaming Gorge dam. The Utah Division of Wildlife has estimated that there are between 8,000 and 22,000 fish per mile in the first 12 miles below the Flaming Gorge dam. Needless to say, with that many trout, the fly fishing on the Green river can be very, very good. Sight fishing to risers is common on the Green.

Wading will be effective throughout the entire A section below the dam but downstream in no man’s land on the B and C sections a boat is a must. Consider a DIY overnight float. A dry bag like the Fishpond Westwater will keep your gear dry. PFD’s required by law when floating!

Hot fall flies for the Green include the size 12 Cards Cicada, size 16 Cinnamon Ant, size 14 Rainy’s grand hopper, size 14 san juan worm (red , tan, or pink), size 20 RSII in grey and olive, size 18 to 20 Parawulf BWO, and size 20 to 22 Rainbow Warrior. Don’t forget tan and cream colored streamers.

Lee’s Ferry

Fly fisherman don’t always think of northern Arizona as an angling destination, but the fourteen miles of the Colorado river below the Glen Canyon dam to Lee’s Ferry is definitely that and more. The cold, clear water comes from the bottom of Lake Powell and is a desert oasis for trout and anglers alike. Larger than average Rainbows are the norm here. There aren’t words to describe the natural beauty of the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry. It has been said, though, that the thousand foot sandstone cliffs towering above can distract even the most focused fly fisherman. After all, it is the Grand Canyon.

This water is best accessed through a guide service or by renting a jet boat. Mobility is key to finding the best wading spots.

Lee’s Ferry fall patterns: size 10 – 16 san juan worm (red, tan, pink, or brown), size 14 – 22 zebra midge (black, olive, or red), size 14 Swisher’s foam PMX, size 12 – 16, Flashback scuds in olive, grey, orange and pink.

Grey Reef on the North Platte River, Wyoming

Every time I travel to this large, slow moving river winding through miles of private prairie land I briefly consider never coming back. Wind and a lack of trees make for a bleak landscape. Access is tough other than directly below the dam and floating is a must to enjoy what this big tailwater has to offer. While this may not be an ideal plug for a road trip destination, I remember the actual fishing part of the trip and I immediately start planning my next trip the “Reef”. Just be prepared for a little adversity when it comes to wind and weather. Bring good raingear and layering pieces and buddies who are strong rowers.

Grey Reef is home to incredible numbers of mostly rainbows but also browns and cutts that are very big and very strong. Averages run between 16-24 inches. Bring heavy tippet and stout rods in the seven weight range. Fall is primarily the time to throw streamers or nymph with junk flies like scuds, worms and eggs. Strong BWO hatches are a possibility. While fishing the Reef consider side trips to the Miracle Mile just upstream or even the river in downtown Casper for some huge brown trout.

Need Other Ideas?

Other great fly fishing road trips within a day’s drive of the VVA flyshop include the Bighorn, Jackson Hole, the San Juan, or even a trip into Yellowstone National Park.
Whether you choose to travel elsewhere or come to Vail, Colorado, a fall road trip can satisfy that fishing itch. The experts at Vail Valley Anglers can provide all the necessary gear and information for campsites, hotels or shuttles you will need for your fall fishing adventure.

Brody Henderson and Andy Smith, Guides and Content Writers