Small High Country Trout Streams

Fly Fishing Small High Country Trout Streams

Fly fishing small creeks in the Vail, Colorado area is an underrated fly fishing goal.  Most anglers tend to focus on well-known streams that regularly churn out large rainbows and browns during prolific hatches. Trout numbers in larger rivers are usually high and riffles, runs, pools and pocket water all hold fish. These streams are also often easily accessible since major roads tend to follow rivers in the Rocky Mountains. We tend to get into this rut here at Vail Valley Anglers as well. But luckily we have an outlet where the trout may not be as large but the quality of the experience cannot be matched. July and August are the best months to fish these high country creeks.

It’s time to Explore

There are more miles of water in more small high country creeks that are loaded with wild trout than any angler could possibly cover in years of trying. Best of all with a little effort and boot leather on the ground these tiny gems can get us away from other anglers on busier rivers. The scenery cannot be beat and during late spring, summer and early fall the trout are constantly looking for their next meal.

The Approach

A spartan, minimalist approach is best. Anglers just need a backpack, water and food, light rain jacket, rod and reel, a leader or two, a spool of tippet, floatant and a small box loaded with attractor dry flies, beadhead nymphs and small streamers. The dry flies are usually all that is necessary to catch a bunch of six to twelve in trout with a chance at a monster fourteen to sixteen incher wherever a deep pool offers the chance to grow old and winter over.

Reading the Water

Most of our high country creeks and mountain streams have varying character and water types. Most common is a tumbling, rocky pocket water creek that features plunge pools and small holding areas. Some streams will slow down and meander with long runs and pools where they flow through relatively flat meadows. Some carve and drop through impassable narrow cantons and waterfalls while others are damned up by beavers and turned into small lakes.

Within an hour of the Vail Valley Anglers shop in Edwards are several small high country creeks that consistently fish well, offer diverse water and species and have trail access into areas anglers unwilling to hike mostly ignore.

Local Favorites

  • Cross Creek – This creek drops out of the Holy Cross Wilderness and into the Eagle River just outside of Minturn. Mostly pocket water with some deep pools and four species of trout. Best access off of Tigiwon Road at trailhead.
  • Deep Creek – Easy access at parking area on Coffee Pot Rd one mile up the Colorado River Road in Dotsero. Some large browns in lower stretch of BLM and brookies, rainbows and cuts above. Rocky pocket water.
  • Brush Creek – Meadow water in the town of Eagle, plunge pools and meadow water on east branch in Sylvan Lake State Park. Browns and some rainbows near the Eagle River confluence and brookies in upper reaches.
  • Piney River – Not a river at all but a great wilderness small creek that exits Piney Lake north of Vail. Several miles of pocket and meadow water available to hiking anglers. Also a mile of water available above the confluence with the Colorado River near State bridge
  • Other worthwhile possibilities include: upper East Lake Creek south of Edwards in the Holy Cross Wilderness, upper Gore Creek, upper Eagle River near Redcliff, Homestake Creek, Ten Mile Creek on the other side of Vail Pass, Grizzly Creek in Glenwood canyon and the upper parts of North and South forks of the White River in the Flattops Wilderness.


Once many anglers give “creeking” a try, it becomes their preferred type of fly fishing for trout. Solitude and scenery combine with excellent fishing and beautiful trout which makes for an addicting past-time. Although I spend the vast majority of my time guiding out of a raft or drift boat on larger rivers, when it is time for me to spend a little time on the water alone, I usually opt for the purity, serenity and flashes and sparkles of small trout slashing at a Royal Wulff.  Only a creek in the wilderness can provide this type of enjoyment. Because we appreciate these experiences so much at Vail Valley Anglers, we offer the trip which is designed to provide an enjoyable day exploring a small trout stream in the Rocky Mountains.