A river reborn: The Eagle is hopping for fly-fishing | VailDaily.com

A river reborn: The Eagle is hopping for fly-fishing

Brody Henderson

Flowing from above Minturn down to Dotsero and showcasing plenty of public access, the Eagle River is one of Colorado’s best kept fly-fishing secrets.

It’s hard to imagine that 25 years ago, the river suffered greatly from mining pollution damage and catching 20 wild trout in a day was unimaginable. Successful cleanup efforts, habitat restoration and improved fisheries management has created of Colorado’s best trout fisheries. Impressive numbers of large fish and diverse aquatic insect hatches are sure signs that the Eagle River is a destination fishery flowing right through our backyard.

A healthy population of wild brown and rainbow trout along with the occasional native-cutthroat trout and mountain-whitefish inhabit more than 30 miles of some of the most productive water in the state. During the month of July, an angler would be hard-pressed to find better fly-fishing for larger-than-average trout anywhere in Colorado. The dry fly fishing is as good as it gets throughout the western United States and both float and wade fishermen are having consistently excellent success on our home river this week.

One of the hallmarks of a great trout river are thick aquatic insect hatches that get resident trout feeding on the surface consistently and during the month of July, the Eagle River’s hatches do exactly that. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening on the Eagle River this week.


The Eagle River’s summer caddis hatch is an event not to be missed. Several species of these small mothlike bugs are hatching on the Eagle this week. The most prominent is a tan caddis that averages size Nos. 14-16. These insects are a staple food source for the trout on the Eagle.

Look for them to begin flying around in big numbers by mid-morning after the ambient temperatures have warmed enough to get the caddis moving for mating and egg laying purposes. The trout will rise aggressively for caddis and takes can be explosive on dry flies. Try a tan Stimulator or Goddard Caddis for rising trout.

Pale Morning Duns

Pale morning duns are the Eagle River’s most numerous and important summer mayfly species. Trout often prefer them over the more numerous caddis flies because they are slow to emerge and fly awkwardly from the surface of the water, making them an easy target. Look for these size Nos. 16-18 yellow and pink mayflies to begin hatching around lunchtime.

Trout rising to pale morning duns will eat slower and with less of a disturbance on the surface, sipping rather than splashing like those fish chowing on caddis flies. Try a Melon Quill or a Film Critic for trout that are focused on pale morning duns.

Yellow Sallies

Yellow Sallies are a small species of stonefly that are a common sight on the Eagle River in July. Unlike other species of stoneflies that crawl to the bank to emerge from the river, Yellow Sallies hatch in the river and ride the current like mayflies. This makes them more vulnerable to become a victim of a surface feeding trout. Yellow Sallies average about a size Nos. 14-16. Mostly yellow in color, they also feature a prominent pink butt that is a feeding trigger for trout. Good dry fly choices are Putterbaugh’s Yellow Foam Stone and small Yellow Stimulators.

Get out there and enjoy the incredible dry fly fishing happening right now on our home stream, the Eagle River. This week is a great time to book a guided fly-fishing trip with a professional guide from Vail Valley Anglers. We offer a full-service retail fly shop and the premiere outfitter service in the Vail Valley located in The Riverwalk at Edwards.

Brody Henderson is a senior guide at Vail Valley Anglers and he can be reached at 970-926-0900.

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