It is time to start thinking about fly fishing in the high country near Vail. While there is still quite a bit of snow up high, soon trails to mountain lakes and streams will be accessible and anglers will be able to target cutthroats and brookies that will aggressively eat just about any fly. Backpacking to an alpine lake in the summer is an angling adventure with big rewards .
The exhilaration of hiking several hours to a hidden high county gem full of rising trout is worth the effort of a long hike. Arriving, fishing and camping at an alpine lake with no other fly fisherman or people can be a unique experience.
Bring Quality Gear
Bring along quality lightweight rainwear, both top and bottoms. Have a hat, sunglasses, Buff face shield and hiking boots. Zip-off pants will keep you dry hiking in the morning and cool walking in the heat of the day. Good quality, comfortable hiking boots and socks will help to ease the pain of a heavy pack. Lightweight wading boots and waders are optional but not necessary. If you prefer wet wading, a pair of neoprene wading socks are worth packing.
Many mountain lakes also have nearby streams so you want a rod that is at home on small streams and lakes. Eight- to 9-foot fly rods in the four or five weight range are your best bet. Usually the trout are not giant but there is always the chance for a trophy in many of the area’s lakes. When the wind blows, a light rod will limit your casting distance. Four-piece rods are ideal for backpacking.
Simple Does it
A simple single action fly reel with a disc type drag will do the job of storing your line and hauling in some wild, high-altitude trout. A quality floating line will cover most of your fishing needs but some experienced lake fishermen also carry a sinking tip for reaching deep water.
Your Baits Bet
During summer, you can have success with a single attractor dry fly in most of the creeks. Dry dropper rigs work well in lakes as do small streamer patterns. Try a Royal PMX, Renegade, Griffiths Gnat and ants for dry flies. For nymphs, carry small beadheads such as the Guide’s Choice, Copper John, scuds and pheasant tails. Keep your streamers such as Prince Aggravators and olive woolly buggers on the small side.
Nine-foot leaders can be lengthened for lake fishing or shortened for casting in small streams. Tippet from 3x-6x should be sufficient.
Get The Right Pack
Many fly-fishing companies now make quality backpacks designed specifically for backcountry adventures. They will accommodate your fly-fishing gear, sleeping bag and a small tent and are often compatible with fly-fishing chest packs.
The only good trip is a safe trip — use common sense and follow standard backcountry safety procedures. Bring a friend, have a plan and tell someone your plan. Grab a map, compass and GPS. Remember your sunscreen, knife, first aid kit, moleskin patches, cell phone, flash light, water proof matches or lighter and water purifier. Camp below tree line in a low lying sheltered. Finally, leave the area pristine and pack out all garbage.
There is no finer, more beautiful setting in the world to catch trout than Colorado’s high country.
Brody Henderson is a senior guide for Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-0900. For advice on where to find some great alpine fly fishing locations, stock up on any gear needs and prepare for a high country angling adventure, stop by the Vail Valley Anglers shop in Edwards.