Stay fly: Spring fishing in Eagle County is the calm before the storm |

Stay fly: Spring fishing in Eagle County is the calm before the storm

Start good fishing etiquette now

By Ray Kyle
Stay Fly
During the spring spawn, the trout go through a large amount of stress. Add in a unknowing angler to this equation and you can easily kill one these fish. (Photo Special to the Daily)

The Eagle River has thawed out and the river is coming back to life. If you’ve driven down U.S. Highway 6 in the past couple weeks, you’ve probably noticed a large amount of vehicles pulled off the road along the river. The fly-fishers have come out in numbers this spring and the early spring fishing has been great, however, there are some things to be aware of before heading out.

Spring Spawn

Along with the warming weather, spring marks the time of year the that rainbow and cutthroat trout spawn. This annual spawn is what we anglers have to protect to assure that the rivers will provide us with the great fishing we’ve come to know.

Ray Kyle

Ray Kyle / Stay Fly

During the spring spawn, the trout go through a large amount of stress. They are already emaciated from a long winter and have beat up their fragile bodies creating redds. This is when you’ll see fish with torn up fins and tails. Add in an unknowing angler to this equation and you can easily kill one these fish.

As a novice or beginner fly-fisherman, these trout are easy targets. They are exposing themselves in the shallow water and are typically paired up, if not surrounded by numerous other spawning fish. Redds can best be identified with clean, small gravel areas about the size of a bathroom floor mat. We need to remember if we disrupt this all important time in the life cycle of these trout we not only harm the fish but we also are killing the future of the sport we love so much.

Knowing the river and where the spawning grounds are is very important for any angler. There are some great fishing holes that should be avoided during the spawn that are some of the favorites for locals. This may come as a reality check to some experienced anglers but it needs to be addressed. The “I-70 Hole” is great spawning ground for rainbow trout, however many anglers target these fish and walk all over the redds.

Our local Trout Unlimited chapter has been able to get permission from the BLM to mark some of these known spawning areas with signs to educate anglers. Another thing you can do is if you have friends that are bragging about catching a ton of trout in known spawning areas, give them a heads up. The only way we can be better conservationists is by policing each other.

Run Off Safety

The Eagle River is going to get big this year due to the amazing snowfall the mountains have had this winter. The annual runoff should occur next month and last until the end of June. This time can be very difficult for anglers to find good, safe spots to wade and fish.

Anglers need to be sure to use extreme caution when wading in the river and possibly carry a wading stick or an old ski pole. The clarity of the water is typically off-color and muddy during the runoff, therefore it’s difficult, if not impossible to see the bottom of the river and what you’re walking on.

Also, be sure to tighten wading belts before getting in the water. The wading belt is there to prevent water from entering your waders in the chance of a fall into the river. The rocks in the Eagle are extremely slick and a nose dive will happen to even the best of anglers. Wading boots with felt bottoms and/or studded soles really help with wading on the “greased bowling balls” that line the bottom of the Eagle.

Start Good Etiquette Now

With the Eagle River becoming more and more popular it’s very important for everyone to practice proper river etiquette. On a busy river, like the Eagle is becoming, giving each other space is going to be very crucial for everyone to have a good time out there. If there are a couple vehicles in a spot that you were hoping to fish, move on instead of trying to fish on top of each other. If someone is in an area, give him or her plenty of space and don’t “high hole” them.

One of the easiest rules of etiquette to follow should be an easy one, most private areas are well marked with no trespassing or private property signs. However, there are some areas that are not well marked and are indeed private property. If you don’t know, pick up a river map or stop by a local fly shop to avoid trespassing. The On X app has become an amazing resource for anglers and hunters to see exactly were property lines start and finish. If you don’t know, don’t go.

Lastly, staying at one spot for the entire day can be frowned upon by some anglers. This is a tough one. If you get to a spot and are having an epic day it can be very difficult to leave, on the other hand it is a good gesture to leave a spot after crushing it for a few hours. Other anglers can enjoy the success or failures that you have had in that hole. Like your mother has always said, “It’s very important to share.”

I hope for most of you, this has been a friendly refresher of the things to do and not to do on the river to make it an enjoyable place for all. If these etiquette rules and spawning areas are new to you, then I truly hope that you take them to heart. Obviously, it’s on us as anglers to keep us honest, so I encourage everyone on the water to promote a friendly, fun, and beautiful place for us to enjoy today and generations to come. Get out there and fish!

Ray Kyle is the shop supervisor and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or

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