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Vail Valley fishing report

Brody Henderson
Vail, CO Colorado
There are lots of trendy picks for flies to catch trout, but stick with the time-tested ones for good fall fishing.
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Fly fishermen are a funny group of people.

Author Jim Harrison has a story about a coyote watching the weird human “standing in a river waving a stick.” We try to fool creatures with brains smaller than a pea with bits of fur, feather and synthetic materials lashed to a hook.

When we do actually manage to land a couple of trout, we like to point out how “smart” the fish are in this river or that stream and how it was necessary to use just the right fly pattern in just the right size.



Reality is often much different. Trout are simple animals and respond to simple positive and negative triggers found in our favorite fly patterns. They do not think about why they want to eat any given fly nor do they scrutinize the pattern and “decide” not eat it.

Usually flies are refused by trout because they lack a simple trigger that stimulates a fish to eat because of a resemblance to the current natural food source found in the largest numbers.



There are thousands of available fly patterns, and commercial fly tyers have become increasingly creative in recent years. However, even the most outlandish patterns are often based on simple fly patterns that have been around for decades.

These “old” fly patterns still catch plenty of fish. At the shop, we like to say there are flies that catch fish and there are flies that catch fishermen. It is perfectly OK to experiment with different flies, and it is fun to fish a new pattern, especially one of your creation. But, it gets old quickly when you are changing flies every five minutes while your buddy is crushing fish after fish on a pheasant tail nymph that’s been used for the past hundred years.

Most fly fishermen would be better off carrying a deep selection of simple and time-tested patterns in a wide variety of sizes rather than constantly experimenting with the latest, greatest and unproven patterns, sporting bells, whistles and headlights. Again, trout are simple creatures and respond well to simply tied flies that correctly match, in order of importance, the size, shape and color of natural food sources.



Of course, each year there is a “hot” new pattern that seems to devastate the trout for a short period of time and then falls out of favor quickly when its productivity falls off. Some new patterns do manage to really catch fish and manage to become classic patterns that all anglers should have in their fly boxes.

For area anglers, the good news is you don’t need 100 different fly patterns to catch fish in all of our area rivers this fall. Effective nymph patterns for autumn include the Barr’s emerger, prince nymph, pheasant tail, and small soft hackles in olive and grey.

Experiment with the amount of weight and once you find the right depth, the trout will eat these flies. Dry fly choices are simple as well. Throw a parachute adams, griffith’s gnat or renegade in sizes 18 or 20, and chances are good any rising trout will eat your offering.

Streamer fishing is about as simple as it gets when it comes to fly choice. Woolly buggers in olive, brown, black color scheme will do the trick for aggressive fish. Fall is also a time when anglers will do well bouncing an egg pattern or a San Juan worm off the bottom.

Some fly fishermen view this as “cheating” but the fact is these flies mimic actual food sources and can turn a slow day into a day spent with the rod doubled over.

Enjoy the fall fishing while it holds up. It is not necessary to get out at the crack of dawn and the trout have been feeding well the last couple of weeks. We are seeing a few browns spawning so watch out for spawning beds and leave these fish in peace. Stop by Alpine River Outfitters in Edwards.

We have all the flies necessary to get you hooked up in no time and might even show you a few our secret weapon flies.

Brody Henderson is guide at Alpine River Outfitters and can be reached at 970-926-0900.


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