The Eagle River remains one of the lesser known stretches of water to most anglers in Denver so we thought we would share some helpful information about fly fishing in Vail and on Eagle River.
With fly shops in Vail & Minturn, it’s safe to say we spend quite a bit of time on the Eagle. If you have any questions about Eagle River fly fishing or guided fly fishing trips on our exclusive access to over miles of private water at the Rolling J Ranch and Sweetwater Ranch. Give us a call at 720-851-4665 or try our location in the Vail Valley at 970-827-9500.
Eagle River Fly & Gear Recommendations
Nymphs: 20 incher and other stones #6 – #14, barr bwo emerger #18 – #22, soft hackle and other pheasant tails #18 – #22, killer mayfly nymph #20 – #24, rainbow warriors #16 – #20, caddis pupa and graphic caddis #16 – #20, serenstupidity #16 – #20, sunk spinners #18 – #24, psycho princes (numerous colors) #16 – #20, biot midges #20 – #22, soft hackle and guides choice hare’s ear (natural and olive) #16 – #20, formerly prince #16 – #20, merc flashback and sparkle wing RSII #18 – #24, soft hackle bwo #20, medallion midge #22 – #24, biot bwo emerger #18 – #22, micro may #18 – #22, jujubee midge #18 – #22, jujubaetis #20 – #22, soft hackle emerger #20 – #22, midge larva #20 – #24, uv midge #20 – #24.
Dries: #14-18 Puterbaugh Caddis (Yellow, black & tan), #12-16 Crystal Stimulators (yellow & tan), #16-18 Mercers profile Spinner, #12-14 Amy’s Ant (olive & red), #14-16 Outrigger Yellow Sally
Streamers: #6 Platte River Spider, #6-10 Slumpbusters, #8-10 Thin Mint Buggers, #6-8 Gummy Buggers (olive & Black),
Terminal Tackle: 9′ 5wt rod, yarn indicators, split shot, 4x-6x tippet for nymphing, 4x-5x for dries, 1x for streamers. Dry shake, Aquel floatant.
Eagle River Description & River Access Points
The Eagle River headwaters are located in southeastern Eagle County near the continental divide above Redcliff, CO. In the rivers 60 mile journey west to its confluence with the Colorado at Dotsero, you will find NO DAMS in the river’s entirety. This makes the Eagle unique for Colorado in that it is one of two free flowing freestone rivers in the state! Before Exploration, the Native Americans said the Eagle river had more tributaries than an Eagle has feathers, which is how it became known as the Eagle River. As the river picks up more and more tributaries, the size of the river and size of fish will both increase.
Eagle River Headwaters | Redcliff to Minturn
The upper section of the Eagle resembles your typical small creek fly fishing scenario with open meadows and Beaver ponds where trout love to eat attractor dries! As the river reaches Redcliff, it flows through a canyon type stretch near an an abandoned mining town called Gilman. The mining town was all but abandoned in 1980 by the EPA due to contaminated ground water and toxic pollutants. After fish kills and threats to drinking water, the area became an environmental Superfund site. Clean up efforts have dramatically improved the fishery and it seams every year it gets better!
Eagle River Minturn to Edwards
The Eagle river through the town of Minturn is a fantastic summer fishery once runoff subsides. A dry and a dropper rig will produce fish consistently from mid June-September and can provide some of the best Eagle River fly fishing all year. Farther downstream, the Eagle picks up a very important tributary called Gore Creek at Dowd’s Junction. Gore Creek is a Gold Medal fishery that runs through Vail and catching rainbows, cutties & browns pushing 20″ is not uncommon. From Dowds Junction to Avon the eagle is a pocket water type fishery with browns and Rainbows in the 12-14″ range with bigger fish possible. A spot we call Patty’s behind Patties Restuarant in Eagle Vail is worth a look. From Avon to Edwards there are a number of other great spots. The rest stop behind Riverwalk shopping center is one access point we like. The Arrowhead access that can be reached off Miller Ranch Road can be fished from river right. Park in the pullout next to the tracks and walk upstream on the beaten path from there. A final spot to check out is at the boat ramp in Edwards behind the waste water treatment plant. Park upstream from the ramp at an obvious riffle we call Perry’s Riffle, which is loaded with fish year round.
Eagle River | Edwards to Wolcott
The Edwards to Walcott stretch is the most popular section for wading and floating when flows allow for boats. Generally the float season is from mid june when flows drop below 2,000 and will last until mid July. 200-300CFS is about when getting a boat down river is more work than it’s worth. From the bridge directly below the boat ramp in Edwards starts the first 2 mile section of private water. The next public access will be found at “1-70 hole” identified by the first I-70 overpass downstream of the boat ramp in Edwards. From 1-70 hole down stream, the river runs through private land on Eagle Springs Golf Course until the “post office hole.” The post office hole is directly across from the post office on highway 6. Below the post office hole begins another large private stretch. Just Below Walcott is a BLM access & boat ramp site known as Climbing Rock. Climbing Rock offers great wade fishing on both sides upstream of the boat ramp. Floating the Eagle is definitely not for beginners and we highly recommend hiring a guide before trying it on your own. If you would like to wade, Minturn Anglers has exclusive access to the over 5 miles of private water on the Rolling J and Sweetwater Ranches. These guys know the area better than anyone, so definitely give them a shout if you are looking for a guide in the area.
Eagle River | Walcott to Eagle
From the boat ramp at Climbing Rock until Eagle you will find a few good access points for wading the Eagle River. The new DOW lease in Red Canyon is an awesome stretch of river accessible of of highway 6. As you get closer to the town of Eagle, you will find public access points. The Brush Creek Confluence near Eagle is a great spot to check out as is the water by Chambers Park in Eagle.
Eagle River | Eagle to Dotsero
The stretch from Eagle to Dotsero is known for producing the largest fish on the Eagle. As the river flows through the town of Gypsum, you will find public access behind the Gypsum Ponds. Lots of good runs and deep pools in this section in and around Gypsum.