Where do you find good public fly fishing in the Vail Valley when waters in local rivers run high? If you do not want to drive more than 20 minutes try out a few of the following Vail Valley high water hot spots.
Atop of Vail Pass sits the Black Lakes, a pair of ten acre lakes that sit in a deep ravine on the south side of I-70. These lakes are often frozen until the end of May so check in with Vail Valley Anglers for a local fishing report to find out if the ice has disappeared. Vail Valley longtime locals all say that when the Black Lakes ice out, river run-off is heading down for good. Look for some large stocker rainbows and a stray Brook trout, cutthroat trout or brown trout to tug on your fly. This place is incredibly scenic!
When I say Gore Creek I mean the upper Gore Creek, above the confluence with Black Gore Creek. Essentially this flow mostly comes from below Black Lakes and can run fast in the spring but is usually clear. For a fly fisherman willing to walk, beaver ponds await, not as affected by the fast water, the trout often will spend spring in the leisurely flow of a beaver pond vs the main current in the upper Gore Creek. Smallish brown trout dominate this area but cutthroat trout, brook trout and rainbows are all common.
Homestake Creek is a small tailwater coming out of a pretty high altitude reservoir called Homestake Reservoir. Most fly fisherman are content with the constant action the Homestake Creek wild brown trout offer. Small attractor dry flies with a dropper can be a successful way to fish Homestake Creek in the spring. The river only runs for several miles as it flows into the Eagle below the large green Hwy 24 Bridge in Redcliff.
Miller Ranch Freedom Park Pond
Eagle County has been proactive in stocking the small 5 acre man made impoundment and keeping it open with bubblers all winter long. Spring hatches here have trout rising to emerging midges most mornings and evenings. Typically cutthroat trout have been stocked in the pond but I have seen browns and rainbows added to the mix already this spring. This is a great place to walk the dog and take a few casts! Legend has it that a huge brown trout rules the pond and if they keep feeding it rainbow stockers you may need to make sure to bring your I-Phone for some pictures.
Nottingham Lake was drained in 2015 in order to redo the liner. After a successful restocking of fish, the fish are plentiful and only growing. There is a strain of Snake River Cutthroat Trout that has been stocked. These fish are prone to eating larger terrestrial patterns on the surface. There is also a healthy population of rainbow trout. This lake a great place to catch a few fish while enjoying the public park.
Yes Wilmore Lake, the I-70 rest area, I am not kidding. Trophy-sized trout lurk in this crawdad and scud infested pond. I’ve seen the pictures. Most mornings when I travel past I see lots of rising fish. The state hatchery stocking truck is often seen at Wilmore Lake; I think they put fish that may be extra or about to expire here because of its proximity to the interstate. While guiding here in recent years during the high water, my client landed a pretty large perch on a black wooly bugger. Please remove all invasive species except the trout from Wilmore Lake. The reservoir is fed by a spring creek and the ice has melted off Wilmore Lake.
Sylvan Lake State Park
This Colorado State Park a few miles south of the town of Eagle offers both lake and stream fishing. Sylvan Lake is a clear, beautiful lake loaded with rainbows, cutthroats and brook trout. Both shore anglers and boaters can find plenty of success here. Both branches of Brush Creek also flow through the park and have meadow sections with beaver ponds where the stream can be fished even during high water. Expect to find browns and brookies in East and West Brush Creek.
Best of luck with these local Vail Valley fly fishing hot spots, please don’t forget to stop by Vail Valley Anglers for some fly patterns that will work in the spring on these local waterways.
Bill Perry, Guide and Content Writer