Escaping the Crowds:
High Alpine Trout On Horseback
2020 was definitely a year to forget and while most of us dealt with the hardships faced by the pandemic, it is no secret that the outdoor industry and fly fishing in general has experienced quite the boom. Most data suggest that the fly fishing industry as whole saw a 150% increase and was mostly supported on the backs of new anglers. Just take a Saturday drive to the Eagle or Decker’s and this point will never be more evident. Anglers are struggling to find room and our rivers are packed shoulder to shoulder. Here in the shop we are fielding calls with clients and folks almost daily asking were to fish or more often, is there any where I can go to escape people? These are all great questions and if we are to be stewards of our rivers we need to ask ourselves those tough questions. Maybe 2021 is the year we get out and explore more, give those tailwaters a break and discover something new that fly fishing can offer. There is so much water to be found in Colorado and it can often be done with a 3wt, one fly box and a simple approach. So let’s ditch the Gore-Tex and get back to what drew us to fly fishing in the first place; solitude, rising trout and breathtaking landscapes. For folks who don’t know where to start or are looking for a unique guided experience, Minturn Anglers can help set you off in the right direction.
Since 2019, Minturn Anglers and Flat Tops Wilderness Guides have partnered to offer a backcountry day of fly fishing for brook trout and cutthroat trout within the Flat Tops Wilderness. These trips offer the quintessential western experience by marrying horseback riding and fly fishing. We recently sat down with Jimmy Oswald of Flat Tops Wilderness Guides to ask him a few questions and understand what anglers can expect on this action packed day.
What is a typical day like?
Anglers show up to the FTWG barn by 8am where they will have a coffee and pastries (I highly recommend eating a hearty breakfast ahead of time as you will have a BIG day!) We get all the gear we need for the day packed onto the horses/mules and get you on your riding horse. We then head out. It’s up to a 2 hour ride each way, depending where we go. From there your guide will take you fishing while your wrangler will cook a hot shore lunch. After about 4-6 hours of fishing we then start our ride back.
What are guests usually most surprised by?
The biggest thing people don’t expect is how remote our fishing locations are. These fisheries offer anglers true high alpine fishing for both cutthroat and brook trout. I would say, 80% of the time you will not see another person outside of your group. These locations are typically not accessible by most people on foot. As a result the scenery and fishing is something that you will not forget.
What type of fish are we targeting?
There is some flexibility as to where we fish and what the goals of the day are. We mostly target high alpine cutthroats or brook trout. From there anglers have a few options, such as creeks vs still water. Longer ride vs shorter ride etc. Minturn Anglers has done a great job of matching their clients expectations and wish lists with the services we provide here at FTWG. Our diverse offerings truly offer something for every angler.
What if I have no horseback riding experience?
Don’t worry, you won’t need any! We own all of our stock and know them very well and we pair riders to horses based on experience, height, and weight. I would say the vast majority of our clients have little to no horse experience, but don’t worry your wrangler has plenty!
What’s for lunch?
Your wrangler will make a hot shore lunch for you. Typically it will be either a beef or chicken stir fry or pork carnitas and we do offer other options based on the anglers dietary restrictions. Our goal like everything else we do is to provide the you the best possible backcountry experience.
What if I have no fly fishing experience?
Minturn Anglers have super experienced guides and are very skilled at targeting these high country trout. Often times anglers reap the benefits as well since these trout see very little pressure. In addition, unlike most trout we target in the rivers, these high alpine trout must be very opportunistic to survive. They typically only have about 4 months of ice off and they must attack bugs with a vengeance if they are going to pack on enough calories for the winter. If you can get the fly to hit the water you’ll have many shots. Just make sure you are ready and your arm is up to the task, its often a very action packed day.
What kind of wildlife can the guest have a chance at seeing?
The Flat Tops boasts the largest elk herd in the world, estimated around 40,000 and the moose population is exploding! Mule deer, black bears, and bighorn sheep also call the Flat Tops home. So yes, lots of opportunity. The vast majority of trips we see critters as we ride.
Do you offer any other trips?
FTWG is primarily a hunting outfit offering hunts for elk, mule deer, black bears, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. We just happen to also have phenomenal fishing! We do offer multi-day lodge trips (3 days, 3 nights), a wilderness 4×4 trip (4 days, 3 nights), and a 5 day wilderness horseback trip.
To find out more about our Horseback Experience or book,
please call the shop at 970-827-9500 or click the link below.