Kyle: Exploring 3 rivers to fish within a 2 hour drive of Vail Valley (column)
If you’re an angler and you live in this beautiful valley, then you should be very grateful for the endless stretches of water we get to explore. We live in the heart of trout country.
If you feel like you have exhausted the opportunities on one river, there’s another amazing river within an hour and a half drive in any direction of the valley.
I consider the Eagle River, Gore Creek, Roaring Fork and the Colorado River to be our home waters, so I am going to briefly touch base on three other waterways that you can fish within a two-hour drive from the Vail Valley.
The Blue River is a 65-mile-long river that starts in the Ten Mile Range on the western side of the continental divide and ends its journey when it meets up with the Colorado River in Kremmling. The headwaters of the Blue (as it’s commonly known) dumps into Dillon Reservoir near the town of Dillon and pours out below Dillon Dam where it creates the well known tailwaters of the Blue.
The Blue River tailwaters located throughout the outlet shops in Silverthorne hold some very large rainbow trout that stage near the dam in hopes of feeding on the mysis shrimp that are present in the reservoir. This section is very accessible, making it a very popular location for angler. The popularity and the year-round access can make this section very technical and sometimes difficult to catch fish. Sight fishing with very small tailwater patterns can be the best way to get a Blue River rainbow on the end of your line.
The Yampa River is located near Steamboat Springs and travels for 250 miles until it feeds into the Green River. The headwaters of the Yampa flow through private ranchland and into Stagecoach Reservoir. The Yampa tailwaters flow out of the reservoir and provide some of the best dry-fly sight fishing in the state. The river continues its course through some additional ranchland and through the town of Steamboat Springs.
The fishing through the town can be some of the best “urban” fishing around. There’s a bike/walking path that runs parallel to the river and makes access incredibly easy. The only drawback to fishing the in-town section is the number of people tubing down the river in the summer, which can really put a damper on the fly-fishing. However, there is chance of catching one of the in-town toads that lurk in these waters.
Float fishing the Yampa is a great option west of Steamboat Springs. There are a fair amount of boat launches and take-outs through this area. The benefit to floating this area is the access to fishing some great private water that would otherwise be unfishable. There are some monster fish that call this section home and will provide you some of the best streamer fishing in the state.
The Arkansas River begins near the town of Leadville and ends its 1,469 mile journey when it drains into the Mississippi River in southeastern Arkansas. The headwaters that are located just south of Leadville provide some fantastic fishing sections as well as world renowned whitewater rafting. These recreation opportunities reach all the way to and beyond the Royal Gorge.
Wade fishing the Ark can be great but the best way to fish this river is by floating. The Arkansas River has a very healthy and large population of brown trout. The browns aren’t the largest in the state, however there is a massive amount of them in the river, making for some of the best days of hooking fish. Explore the water from Buena Vista to Salida, there’s a number of public access points that won’t disappoint.
There is a lot of exploring to be had around the Vail Valley and these are all great rivers to check out if you have a full day or even two to travel. We are very lucky to have all of our local rivers within a half-hour drive, but it’s always fun to challenge yourself on new waters. Fill your tank with some gas, load up your gear and get out there and explore, you won’t be disappointed.
Ray Kyle is a manager and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.