What’s needed for a high country fishing trip?
The high mountain lakes and streams of Colorado provide fly-fishermen a break from the crowded freestone and tailwater rivers that run through towns and along highways in the west.
August in the high country of Colorado offers anglers incredible scenery, and great fishing in a variety of creeks and lakes. Cutthroats and brookies, which can be hard to come by down in the valleys are a common catch. These trout are very eager to take a fly in contrast to the fish on lower elevation fisheries which have seen a lot of pressure and may be a little harder to catch later in the summer.
Before you head into the mountains to chase wild cutthroat, brook, and rainbow trout, you need to make sure you have the right gear. Things like sturdy hiking boots, lightweight rain gear, and a first-aid kit take priority over high performance rods, reels, and lines. Your high country day pack should include extra layers, rain gear, a water purifier, maps or GPS, headlamp, and of course, just enough fishing gear without bringing too much. A three weight, a box of flies, some tippet and terminal tackle and hemostats is all you’ll need.
One of the most important things you can bring with you into the mountains is physical fitness. Whether you are skiing, climbing, hunting or simply fishing, the stronger you are, the further you will be able to go. This means you will be able to catch more fish, get away from crowded trails and campsites, and have a safer, more rewarding adventure all around.
Because high-elevation fish do not experience very much fishing pressure, they tend to be less selective than their low elevation relatives. This means that there is some room for error in your fly selection. A smorgasbord of basic dry fly and beadhead attractor patterns will fool most fish when presented correctly. Some of my favorites include small Royal Wulff, Parawulff Adams, Quasimodos and beadhead Prince Nymphs.
Where to Fish
Because of alpine stocking efforts by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, some high lakes have more fish than others, and a lake that had 20-inch cutthroats 10 years ago might be full of tiny fish now. A good thing to look at when choosing a lake to fish is its depth. A mixture of shallow flats and deeper water is best. Streams and creeks are a little easier. If water flows through it all year long, then it probably holds some fish.
Eat a Fish
If you are ever going to keep a fish for dinner, then high alpine trout taste better than most freshwater fish, and nothing beats a fresh meal that you harvested in the wild. Brook trout are the best species to keep since they are not native to Colorado. Make sure to pay close attention to posted bag limits for each species. Prepared backpackers bring a small piece of aluminum foil, butter, lemon slice and some salt and pepper to cook the perfect high country trout meal.
No matter how many famous rivers and flats you have stood in, or how many trophy fish you have caught, there is something special about chasing wild trout in the high mountains of the Colorado Rockies. If you have never experienced it before and want to give it a try, then there is no better way to get acquainted with alpine fishing than to book a hike-and-fish trip with one of the pros at Vail Valley Anglers by booking online or calling the shop at 970-926-0900.
Brody Henderson is a senior guide at Vail Valley Anglers and can be reached at 970-926-0900.