No fish tale: The Eagle River is hopping |

No fish tale: The Eagle River is hopping

John Cochran
Special to the DailyJoel Harris of Yampa hadn't floated on the Eagle River for a long time, but his touch came back quite naturally Tuesday.

The fly-fishing on the Eagle River this week is nothing short of amazing. Within the last 10 days, the fly-fishing on the local rivers has exploded with activity. The fish are rising to hatching insects throughout most of the day and into the evening, the last hour of daylight being a frenzy of activity. The water is still a little high to wade comfortably, but you can wade up the edges with great success.

With all this activity unfolding, I felt it was time to get out of the shop and practice what I preach. After all, the very purpose of fly-fishing is not which rod you use, how many “tricky” fly patterns are in your box or even where you choose to fish. Fly-fishing is about creating stories with the people in your life, making memories for the future, and enjoying nature. I scoured my list of fishing buddies and crossed a name that is, lately, more synonymous with big game hunting and training bird dogs. On Tuesday I decided to float the river with an old friend and retired fly fishing guide, Joel Harris. Joel and I guided together in the late 80s when there was only one fly shop in town and 10 or so guides in the entire Vail Valley.

Joel owns and operates Rocky Mountain Pet Resort in Yampa with his wife, Tanya, and he and I still hunt together in the fall but have not fished together in some years. In fact, I think the last time we fished together might have been on the Roaring Fork some 15 years ago. Joel drove down from Yampa, and we hooked up in Wolcott. I had the boat, a cooler full of cold drinks, and an arsenal of flies, rods and other equipment. Joel was coming off a rough morning at work and was a little wound up, but as we made our way to the boat ramp, we caught up on everything from politics to the latest edition of Eastman’s Hunting Journal. He began to settle down, commenting that this would be a perfect day to be on the water. I agreed and we went about our chores to get ready for the float trip. We rigged up, parked the truck in a shady spot, and I pushed away from the bank towards a place familiar to me, but almost a distant memory for Joel. This was the first time in many years that he had floated the Eagle, and he was excited just to be out there. It hadn’t been five minutes, and Joel hooked into a nice-sized brown trout, which we promptly landed. Moving on and having so quickly reinstated his confidence, Joel drifted his tandem dry flies into a stick clump on the bank. He broke off and retied.

Oh well, it happens to us all. We caught and released many nice fish and used a variety of techniques to get it done. Joel even made some recommendations that resulted in fish being caught. Once a fly-fishing guide, always a fly-fishing guide. We also continued to miss fish, get caught on the bank, break off and, in general, have a great time. Halfway into the day, I asked Joel how he was feeling about work. He promptly replied, “I had forgotten what great therapy being on the river truly is!”

It was nearly dark when we reached the boat ramp, and the mosquitoes were having their way with us. We were spent and looking forward to a cold beer and a bite to eat. We joked about how poorly we fished but knew that the day had given us memories for our futures and for our friendship. The sport of fly fishing has many faces, moods and benefits. However, the pure enjoyment of the environment in which we fish is one of the greatest gifts of all. On that day, we learned not to loose track of the bigger picture and that every fish we caught was one of nature’s gifts and should be treated as such. For more information on fly fishing the Eagle River, contact Gorsuch Outfitters at 970-926-0900, stop by the shop in Edwards, or log on to, Colorado

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