Vail Valley fishing report |

Vail Valley fishing report

Brody Henderson
Vail, CO Colorado
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When things slow down in the valley after a busy tourist season, many local fishermen like to get out of town.

It’s a great time to take a trip, where the goal of fishing some new or different waters keeps the entire trip interesting. Whether it is just for a day or a full-on road trip lasting a week or more, there’s plenty of great fly fishing within two hours to two days drive from Vail.

While it’s true that we have some of the best trout fishing found anywhere within an hour of the valley, there is something exciting about packing your gear the night before and jumping in the car in the early-morning hours before sunrise to go fish some water that’s unfamiliar.

The fish may not be any bigger and they might even be harder to catch, but fishing different rivers helps keep fly fishing new and motivating for any angler.


For the fly fisherman looking to hit some waters closer to home but still outside the valley, there’s plenty of options available for day trips involving a couple hours of driving. This time of year is when things begin to really turn on in the North Park area.

Delaney Butte lakes have some truly huge and aggressive brown trout, and fall is the best time to catch them cruising the shallows. The North Platte River and its many tributaries also fish very well in the fall, and there’s plenty of public access. It is easy to fish a couple different streams and lakes all in the same day in the area surrounding Walden.

South Park has some great stream and lake fishing as well. Spinney and Antero Reservoir hold some big, well-fed trout and pike, and the Dream Stream section of the South Platte gets a good fall run of browns and kokanee salmon out of Elevenmile Reservoir.

Front Range?

Another option for a day trip is heading to the Front Range and doing some fishing for species other than trout before it gets too cold to do so. The South Platte River below Chatfield Reservoir and on toward Denver holds carp, walleye, smallmouth bass and even channel catfish willing to eat a variety of streamers the average trout angler probably already has in their fly box.

Boyd Lake near Loveland is a good bass fishery for those fishing from a canoe or boat and throwing deer hair poppers over the weed beds. Sawmill Ponds (all 16 of them) near Boulder hold bass, panfish and some monster carp. Try renting a boat at Pueblo Reservoir and motor around looking for schools of wipers boiling on the surface as they attack schools of shad.

This is one of the best wiper fisheries anywhere and has some truly huge fish that rival many saltwater species for strength and size. Saltwater weight rods and large streamers or poppers imitating shad will do the trick. All over the Front Range, there’s dozens of great stillwater fisheries for species that many trout fishermen would consider exotic and fun to catch on a flyrod.

Serious miles

For the angler that wants to put a few hundred miles under their belt and spend an extended period of time outside the valley chasing trout, just drive in any direction aside from east. To the north, the area around Jackson, Wyo., and Yellowstone National Park is a great region to fish in autumn.

There are countless miles off lesser-known rivers in the park. The crowds are gone and you can even have the more famous trout streams to yourself. The Snake and Madison hold thousands of trout per mile. The Big Hole and Beaverhead around Dillon, Mont., fish better in the fall than any other time.

West of Vail, look towards the Green River in Utah for some outstanding tailwater fishing below Flaming Gorge Reservoir. This river is at its best in the fall with consistent dry fly fishing and willing trout.

To the south, try heading towards Durango. The Animas and San Juan rivers are very different from one another. The Animas is a large and fast freestone river that has vastly improved due to cleanup efforts and holds some giant brown trout near Durango. The San Juan is a slowly flowing world famous tailwater fishery with large finicky rainbows and clear water coming out of Navajo Reservoir.

Other considerations for a fly-fishing road trip would have to include the Bighorn River in Fort Smith, Mont., the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Clark’s Fork around Missoula, Mont., or really committing to a drive and heading to the Northwest coastal streams of Oregon or Washington for a steelhead trip or kayaking the Gulf Coast of Texas near South Padre for redfish on the flats of Laguna Madre.

Take some time this fall to unwind, enjoy a road trip, get out of your comfort zone and fish some new water. You’ll thank yourself for leaving your favorite local stretch of water behind and discovering some new country and new fish.

If you decide to fish somewhere you’ve never been, stop by our shop in Edwards with questions. Chances are great that we’ve got the information, advice and flies that will make your trip a memorable one.

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