Fly Fishing the Eagle River Preserve

The Eagle River Preserve offers anglers great access to the river near Edwards, Colorado. Maybe you have been lucky enough to have an opportunity to fly fish the Eagle River Preserve this year?  Maybe you have had the chance to walk the dog on the intricate trail system  there?  Maybe you have been viewing the elk herd wintering on the Preserve?  Whatever your interest in the 72 acre parcel, this Eagle County Open Space Park offers fly fisherman some of the most prolific water on the Eagle River.


The entrance to the Eagle River Preserve is on highway 6 just west of the main Edwards intersection.  You can even park and walk from the local fly shop, Vail Valley Anglers, located in the Riverwalk Center less than half a mile upstream of the Eagle River Preserve.   The open space has walking trails, some wooden benches scattered along the river, a fenced area for dogs to run, a small pond and a parking area which provides access to the Eagle River for fly fisherman.


Eagle County planner, Cliff Simington, said the park is “devoted to preserving peace and quiet in a natural setting”.  Work at the Eagle River Preserve has been ongoing as crews plant trees, create wetlands and add more trails.  Because the land is under a conservation easement, the uses are restricted; natural space is enhanced, parking spaces are allowed but no public functions can be held on the land.

The Preserve land was purchased in 2005 for $12 million in a joint effort between Eagle County, the Vail Valley Foundation and the Eagle Vail Land Trust.  More than 1,200 individuals wrote checks to help buy the Eagle River Preserve.  Needless to say the trip went well. The parcel, part of a centennial ranch, was owned by the Eaton family. It was used in the past for grazing and leased for a gravel pit it will now serve as a new Eagle River access point.  The conservation easement is held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

The Eagle River Preserve is now open every day from dawn to dusk.  Please stay away from the elk, they should be leaving shortly.  Eagle County officials have asked the public to; please stay on established trails, be mindful of sensitive vegetation along the river bank, keep dogs on a leash, except in designated areas, pack out any trash you may encounter and remember to review posted signs and rules.

Fishing Opportunities

The fly fishing in the park begins in the flats above Lake Creek where willows have been planted by volunteers from the Eagle River Watershed Council for the past several years.  The goal is to restore the riparian to the way it was prior to grazing and man’s arrival to the Vail Valley.  After the flats the fly angler will encounter a rather steep rocky canyon, “Eaton’s Canyon”.  This is the official ending to one of the state of Colorado’s wildest rafting rides, “the Edwards Mile”.

You will find more rainbow trout in the riffles below Eaton’s Canyon.  Brown trout dominate the classic rock strewn pocket water in the Canyon.  The best fishing in this area is during summer and fall but the recent pre-runoff spring fishing has been very good as well.

Should you plan on visiting the Eagle River Preserve, please stop at Vail Valley Anglers, just up river from the Preserve, for some local knowledge and hatch information.  Last week my client’s had good success on this section of the Eagle River using small Prince nymphs, Barr emerges and black midge emergers.

Bill Perry Guide and Content Writer