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Salomone: Wrapping up a season on the river

Michael Salomone
Vail Valley Anglers
Vail Valley Anglers Guide Float passing of the bottle.
Courtesy photo

The bulk of the fly guiding season is well behind us. Leaves are struggling to keep hold as the major explosion of color has passed. To recognize the difficulties of a long and historic season and to build upon the camaraderie that bonds angling guides, Vail Valley Anglers put on an end-of-season float and dinner party.

We combated closures of our beloved Colorado River for over 120 miles. We negotiated abhorrent river temperatures. We jockeyed around clusters of newbies at boat ramps and on the water. And we took extra care of the fish we encountered knowing full well that some of our good intentions with catch and release would be for naught. I tip my hat to the guides from all the shops in our valley, “well done.”

Vail Valley Anglers Guide Tavis Foust with brown trout.
Courtesy photo

Never in my 20 years of guiding have I seen the river beaten, broken and battered the way this summer did. In the future, guides need to change their game. The days of high fish numbers and uninterrupted angling serenity are few. With the increase in anglers compounded by the growth in recreational water activities we as guides my need to adjust our focus.



The experience is the tractor we can control. The scenery has not changed. The eagles still fly in the sky. And the trout come up for the fly and play the game. We just have to give them a little extra love. Focusing more on the overall experience for a client guarantees a good trip.

The Vail Valley Anglers guides met at Rancho del Rio for a seven boat float. Shuttles were set and gear was shifted to the right location. Up at Radium the flotilla disembarked. Choosing to spend our free time on the river we call “the office” is a sign of how true anglers can’t get enough.



Tiger trout
Courtesy photo

The contest was for a new pair of Simms waders. The angler with the longest fish would take them home. A token trophy any guide could use and enough of a prize that people put forth an honest effort.

Justin Carr pulled out some secret fly and tied it on my line. My first brown ate within sight of the boat ramp. And so the day continued for me. I pulled fish after fish on Justin’s choice. A 16 inch brown was measured and photographed. I didn’t think it would be a winner but you never know. Soon a hefty 17 inch brown took my top honors.

When we all convened to share the Honey Whiskey and pass around beers an 18 inch took the lead. My streamer continued to produce fish. And if numbers had anything to do with it, I was winning in that aspect.

Stopping for a quick measure.
Courtest photo

A small fish came to the net. When we gave it a closer inspection a tiger trout was identified. My first tiger. A few quick photos were taken to keep the unbelievers at bay. These are the kind of angling friends you want to be around. And a tiger trout is the kind of fish you want to catch with them.

The float ended later than planned. No surprise there. Showers washed off the river scum. And after dragging a brush through my hair I was picked up by Emily and Casey to carpool up to Vin48. Drinks and stories, laughs and hors d’oeuvres the evening was a celebration for a long summer of work.

Dinner at Vin48 was superb. More stories were shared. Awards for a wide range of achievements were given. And gifts from the shop were presented to all. What a day.

The day began early as most guiding days do. We spent the entire time with the people we always spend our time with and loved it. Recognition awards and season-ending gifts gave everyone something practical, tangible and deserved. It was a historic summer season on the river. Coping with undesirable conditions is better achieved with a team. I feel pretty blessed to be able to guide fly anglers where I live. It doesn’t get any better. See you on the river.


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