Since Vail Mountain began operations in 1962, the Vail Valley has been known throughout the
world as primarily a world class ski destination. Many tourists and even locals overlook the
myriad of other activities available. This includes fly fishing.
Because of the popularity of skiing
here in Eagle county, Vail has never really fallen into the destination fly fishing category with
other towns such as Bozeman, MT, Jackson Hole, WY, or even Idaho Falls, ID. Many of my
clients say, “I’ve skied here for years, but never knew how good the fishing was.”
What many anglers fail to recognize is that the quality and variety of fishing options here in Vail
are just as good if not better than many of the more popular destination fly fishing locations like
Ennis, Montana. I have been fly fishing almost my entire life and have been fortunate enough
to fish all over the Rocky Mountain West. Almost every trip ends with the same conclusion; I
love fishing new water, but I couldn’t be happier living and fishing anywhere else than Vail,
Trout Fishing in Vail, CO
Our trout populations are strong and wild fish are our primary quarry. Wild browns are numerous
on the Upper Colorado River while a great mix of wild browns, rainbows and native cutthroats can be caught on the Eagle and Roaring Fork Rivers. Fish average a solid 14-16
inches in these rivers and fish over 20 inches long are caught regularly.
True year round trout fishing is a big part of what makes this area so special. We live at the ideal
latitude and elevation for fly fishing 365 days a year. When it is too cold and windy in Montana,
Wyoming, and Idaho, warm days seem plentiful here. When it is too hot and buggy to fly fish in
the Caribbean flats, it is cool and dry in the mountains.
Variety comes next. High mountain lakes and streams flow into larger freestone rivers and
eventually turn into world class tail waters. Anglers have the option to float or wade almost
every day of the year. Because of all the water nearby, fly fisherman can usually find great
fishing even during the toughest conditions. It has been said that one could fish here every day
for an entire lifetime and never see it all.
Insect life in local rivers is off the charts. Colorado’s Western Slope is home to almost every
common western insect. Anglers are usually greeted by one or some combination of the
numerous insect species. We all know that the best fly fishing occurs when the bugs are out,
and here the bugs are almost always out. More often than not, experienced anglers are given
the chance to catch large trout on dry flies during a hatch except perhaps on the coldest of days
during January. Fly fishing guides here in Vail take pride in carrying “every bug in the book,” and part of
what makes this pursuit so much fun is fly selection itself.
The water flowing through Colorado’s western slope is beautiful, challenging, and rewarding
enough to last any angler a lifetime. On your next ski trip make sure to plan at least one day to
experience some of the finest fly fishing in the country with Vail Valley Anglers. We guide year-
round and always have options available for great fly fishing.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer