Spring fly fishing on Colorado’s Eagle River offers a lot of different opportunities for anglers who are willing to adjust to changing conditions. Rising water flows, differing water clarity and various food sources that trout key on at this time of year all make Spring fly fishing on the Eagle interesting, challenging and productive. The weather can change from stable, ideal spring conditions back to frigid, icy winter and again to summer thunderstorms-all in the same day.
Morning may find an angler nymphing a deep run or riffle with a big golden stonefly pattern trailing a BWO emerger, throwing big streamers as clouds and wind roll in around lunch time and finishing up with drifting a parachute adams to rising trout later in the afternoon. Spring is a great time to target the Eagle’s larger trout which can exceed 24 inches. Rainbows feed heavily before spawning and brown trout get more active as water temperatures increase.
Spring Food Sources on the Eagle River
Spring food sources for Eagle River trout include the standard winter fare of tiny midge larvae but other larger insects begin to play a bigger role. BWO mayflies hatch from March through May and can be imitated by Barr Emergers or WD-50s and Foam BWO Parachutes on the surafce. Caddis larvae also begin drifting more and prince nymphs, Electric Caddis and chartreuse copper johns works well. In lower runoff years, the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch creates incredible early season dry fly action. Golden stoneflies are available year-round but springtime Eagle River trout really search them out. Try a Rubberleg 20-incher or brown Pat’s Rubberleg.
Other spring food sources become increasingly important as flows on the Eagle River increase. Sculpins, trout fry, young suckers and other baitfish makes carrying a variety of streamers a must during April and May. Both aquatic and terrestrial worms mean red, pink, and tan San Juans should havea spot in your fly box. Because rainbows spawn at this time, eggs should also be included in your arsenal.
Water Factors: Flows, Clarity and Temperature
Anglers should be aware that spring is a season of change on the Eagle and conditions can vary greatly from one day to the next. As days lengthen and temperatures rise, flows on the Eagle will generally increase slowly but steadily. Gradual flow increases will usually not negatively affect the fishing but a fast spike in flows from extremely warm weather or rain can have a couple of unwanted impacts. Clarity may decrease from clear to green to muddy. Also, water temperatures may plummet as snowmelt cools off the river. Clear or green water is good but brown is not worth fishing. Look for stable and water conditions in the spring on the Eagle and you will find the best fishing. Be aware it is not uncommon for the lower portion of the Eagle to run off color in the spring. Check our fishing reports for the latest conditions.
Float or Wade
For most of the year including all winter, the Eagle is primarily a wade fishery. Flows are ideal for wade fishermen in the spring until sometime in May when spring runoff causes high, muddy water and poor fishing conditions for wade fishermen. Through March and April, wade anglers will find ideal fishing conditions.
Many fly fishermen are aware of the short but sweet summer float season on the Eagle which runs from mid-June through July. What some float anglers may not be aware of is the extremely productive and again short but sweet pre-runoff spring float season on the Eagle. For a few short weeks beginning sometime in April, the Eagle will usually reach a good level for float fishing. This window of opportunity generally only lasts two to four weeks before the high flows of peak runoff shut things down for safety reasons. While it lasts, however, the Eagle River’s spring float season offers exceptional streamer and dry fly fishing.
Take advantage of the great fishing the Eagle has to offer. Vail Valley Anglers offers guided wade and float fly fishing on the Eagle River throughout the spring.
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer