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Vail Valley fishing Report

Alpine River Outfitters
Vail, CO Colorado
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Well, we’re still seeing signs of Old Man Winter here in the county, and run-off has officially arrived.

After the recent cold snap and snow/rain, we hope to see more sunny skies, warm temperatures and classic spring conditions that we anglers love so much. Although we’ll most likely see nothing but rising flows on the area’s watersheds in the month to come, there are still many great fishing opportunities that exist locally and just a short drive away.

There exists, in most anglers mind, a moral dilemma regarding dams and tailwaters. If you didn’t know, tailwaters are rivers that are controlled by the flow/release of a dam.



On one hand, we would love to see our rivers stay untouched and natural without any human interruption, but unfortunately “The Man” also has demands and priorities, and those demands come in the form of water rights. Thus, dams are created and water is re-routed to nearby metropolitan areas for consumption by the populous.

This we can do nothing about but learn to accept it. That’s where we decide to look at the bright side of things and realize that “The Man” has actually created a year-round fishery for us that is typically ice-free all year, and is also somewhat immune to run-off as their flows are ultimately controlled at all times.



Our point here is the fact that, although runoff can be a bummer for some, others take that time to explore our local tailwaters … which also hold some very large fish. Go check out the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir in Silverthorne, the Frying Pan River near Basalt and the Yampa River near Steamboat. They are the three closest options and all three provide excellent fishing opportunities for big fish.

The fishing on the Upper Colorado has also been great, and the flows have stayed relatively low and consistent, which is the opposite of most rivers in the area right now. Its flow is controlled, for the most part, by the two of its tributaries which are the nearest upstream reservoirs and dams: the Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir.

These both eventually flow into the Colorado via the Williams Fork River and the Blue River. While other freestone rivers are at the mercy of Mother Nature, tailwaters such as these are still kept at a lower flow while their reservoirs have time to fill up. This ultimately affects everything downstream.



Aside from rain/storms and the initial stages of run-off, the Upper Colorado can still flow relatively low and clear until the powers that be decide to begin letting more water out of these reservoirs. Moral of the story here is: Go Float the Colorado while it’s still low and clear! It’s currently flowing at just under 500 cubic feet per second (CFS).

The flows on the Eagle River are right around 800 CFS and the early float fishing has been incredible. The fish are eagerly taking streamers stripped from the banks and they’re not afraid to gobble up a big meal when they see one after having such a limited winter diet.

Float fishing is undoubtedly the best way to chase these fish during high water, but there are also wading opportunities – just be smart where you wade and watch your step or you could become the latest member of the Colorado Polar Bear Club.

Another option to keep in mind: Our high mountain lakes will be experiencing ice-off here in the next month or so depending on their elevation. A good hike is good for the soul and is a great way to spend a day off while a wild, hungry, and eager trout awaits you at the top.

Keep fishing.


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