What is the Bike and Fish Guided Trip? – Interview with E-Bike Guide Eric Phannenstiel

Over the past couple years Vail Valley Anglers has offered a guided E-Bike and Fly Fishing trip. The trip offers clients a guided wade trip using fly fishing equipped electric bikes. It is a very unique way to access water along the Eagle River while enjoying some time riding the bikes along trails and bike paths. The trip is also a step in the direction to encourage sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of the guide service and the anglers participating in the trip. Many clients are unsure about what exactly this trip is all about and what to expect. Thus, below you will find an interview with E-Bike Fly Fishing Guide Eric Phannenstiel, where he addresses the ins and outs of this unique trip offering.

Patrick: Where did the idea come from?
Eric: The first I heard about the idea was from our General Manager John Cochran. He tapped me to lead the implementation of the idea since I am an avid cyclist. I have ridden “Ride the Rockies”, a week-long cycling event in Colorado as well as some of the longer single-day ride events that are available in Colorado and New Mexico.

Patrick: What’s the advantage of using a bike?
Eric: There are several. Most notably is that we can access parts of our rivers where parking for motor vehicles is not readily available. In addition, we can be more selective about where we fish since we can view much more of the river from our paths which follow the river system. Also, since we use e-bikes, we can cover a lot of river in a day. Lastly, you get to exercise in a sport that is not typically known for its workout benefits!

Patrick: What types of electric bikes do you use?
Eric: The bikes are from a company named Sondors. When we started the program, there were very few affordable bikes available, but these seemed to fit our needs nicely.

Patrick: How do you transport the fly rods and other gear?
Eric: We have two-piece rod cases that attach to the bike frames with bungee balls and we use spacers between the case and the frame to ensure that the cases don’t interfere with the bikes in any way. On the guide’s bike, we have a set of panniers to stow the guide’s equipment pack and other items that are necessary for the trip. There is also space on top of the guide’s bike rack for a large landing net. We typically go wet wading (wading boots and neoprene socks) since riding a bike in waders and boots is not very practical.

Patrick: Have you had any issue with clients crashing or equipment problems?
Eric: During the test phase of this program we had initially envisioned a trailer behind the guide’s bike to carry all of the necessary gear.  On one of the test drives, a wheel fell off the trailer which led to a catastrophic crash that broke multiple fly rods. It was not pretty… I am not aware of any client crashes. The bikes are very sturdy and are well balanced. They have 4 inch wide tires on them too, which helps with the stability. In fact, I have had a 72 year old man on a guided trip where we were riding on single-track trails. It was awesome!

Patrick: What rivers do you mainly fish on these trips?
Eric: We typically fish the Eagle River in the Vail Valley. It is a freestone river that has a wonderful history of legendary fish during pioneer days, then an unfortunate period where the river was subjected to heavy metals contamination from the mining industry. The Eagle River has come bank thanks to many conservation efforts and is now a very productive, healthy fishery that offers primarily Brown and Rainbow trout, some Cutthroats, and the occasional Brook trout.

Patrick: Do you think this concept will trend amongst other anglers?
Eric: I think that this mode of travel is a great opportunity for our guests to check multiple things off their list of things to do in a single activity. It is a fun way to experience fishing and see parts of our valley from a bike that would otherwise not be practical. I have been riding my bike and fishing since I was a young boy, but I have yet to see many fishermen doing this yet. Perhaps with the growing popularity of e-bikes, this will allow more fishermen to experience this activity mashup.

Patrick: Is this trip offered year round or is there a specific time of year you suggest? 
Eric: The summer seems to be the best as bike trails and paths conditions are stable and the fishing on the Eagle is great. We also offer the trip in the spring and fall when conditions are right. The bikes have fat bike tires so they can be used in variable trail conditions.

Patrick: How does someone book an E-Bike and Fish Trip? 
Eric: The best way to book the trip would be to call the shop, you can reach them at 1-877-926-0900. Other ways to book the trip would be to go online or stop by the shop in person.

Hopefully, this clears up any questions you may have had with the E-Bike and Fish Trip, be sure to check it out online here. And check out this Facebook Review from a customer that enjoyed his time with Eric last summer.

Barry Allen reviewed Vail Valley Anglers — 5 stars July 13, 2018“I was in vail on the week of the 4 th of july… I have fished in Colorado the last 4 or 5 years.I must say that this was the best trip ever! I saw on line the bike and fish and thought that it looked fun. Eric Phannenstiel was my guide for two different trips. He was by far the best guide that I have ever had, extremely knowledgeable and easily to get along with. He took the time to tweak my cast , presentation , well just about every little thing to help me be a better fly fisher! We had a great time sharing stories and mostly catching fish! Thank you Eric for such a great time and no doubt I will be back to do the bike thing again, or maybe the hike and fish …. thanks again for all the great tips!!” Barry from Texas!

Patrick Perry, Former Guide and Content Contributor, @patperry