The highlight of my long weekend in Vail, Colorado was a Colorado River fly fishing trip with Gore Creek Outfitters. I had never fly fished before, so I was not sure what to expect. I was afraid it might be too technical for me to get the hang of in one day, but that proved to not be the case. It was a great time on a beautiful river on a gorgeous day.
My guide was a GoPro Mountain Games guide champion
I was in town for the GoPro Mountain Games. Initially I was scheduled to fish on Sunday, but due to the guide’s having to work for the GoPro Mountain Games, they were unable to work that day and it got delayed until Monday. My shuttle departed after two p.m., so I had the morning free, so this delay worked perfectly.
My guide Matt picked me up in front of the Antler’s Lodge. The first thing he said was that he had won the GoPro Mountain games or the people that he helped guide had won the fishing tournament. It is welcome news when you get in a car with a guide who is flush with victory from winning a major competition. That definitely installed confidence, and I knew right away I would catch some fish. Matt and Gore Creek Outfitters did not disappoint.
To float or wade?
When you book a trip with Gore Creek, you can either do a float trip or a wading trip. I definitely would recommend the float trip. With the float trip you can fish from the boat and also get out and wade, so you can do both types of fishing. In the wading option you are only fishing at one spot. The float trips are in special rafts and drift boats. The float trips are almost worth the price just for the ride as you go over some minor whitewater and drift through spectacular scenery. The float trips are more expensive, but it is worth the price. More on the price issue later.
Fly fishing seminar
I was sure that when we got to the put in, there would be a half hour to an hour of instruction. I pictured casting on the shore trying to hit a target until I felt comfortable enough to cast. This was not the case. We jumped right into the boat. Matt explained the general principles of fly fishing and demonstrated a few casts and then handed me the rod and our Colorado River fly fishing adventure had begun.
Matt was more of a hands on teacher, which definitely paired well with the way I learn. I prefer to try things myself and once I fail, then get instruction and tips to improve. Throughout the whole day, Matt would give constructive criticism and at times he would take the pole from me and show me what I was doing wrong. He was very patient and never once showed any hint of annoyance even when I lost a few flies or made a birds nest out of the line with a poor cast. While I would like to say I was a good student and picked up the craft at a good rate, there were some bumps in the road.
Recent fishing failures
I am not a huge fisherman, but I do enjoy the activity, and when I do fish, I like and expect to catch fish. I usually do well as long as the fish are biting. When I do fish, I usually go where the fishing is good. It is hard to fail in Canada. Quetico and the Boundary Waters are places I love to fish, and I usually have good success.
The last two times I have fished have been resounding failures. Last year I went to northern Ontario and did some camping with my dad. We did not really get that far into the interior like we normally do, and the fishing suffered. We did catch some fish, but nothing even remotely close to a keeper. A disappointing outcome for traveling so far north in Canada.
Earlier this year, I went to Wisconsin with friends for a yearly fishing trip to catch some walleyes as they run up to the dam on the Wisconsin River. Unfortunately, the first part of the weekend was really cold, and then when it got nice, they let water out of the dam and our fishing hole was in flood stage. I did not catch one fish all weekend. In fact, we only got one between six guys in three days.
Colorado River fly fishing success
After these recent failures, the bar was low for the Colorado River fly fishing trip. My goal was one fish. Since I had never fly fished before, I thought this would be a modest and attainable number. The day was absolutely gorgeous. It was a deep blue sky with a few wisps of clouds. It was about 70 degrees with a little bit of wind. I could not imagine a more perfect day to fish.
The water was kind of high. When the water is high and floods the banks, worms leave their holes and get swept up in the current and gobbled up by trout. We used pink worms to mimic these flood flushed fish delicacies.
The strategy was to fish the line between the current and the eddies. The eddies are the quiet water below the rapids. I let some line out and cast on this line. This strategy was nice because there was some leeway. If I missed the edge of this waterline even a little ahead or behind it was not a big deal. In fact a few times I succeeded by failing. I meant to cast way upstream to have more float time, but ended up lamely dropping it right in front of the boat. No big deal, there are fish there too.
Once you get the fly where you want it, then you want to get it to float as naturally as possible. You want to whip the line back to get it out of the way so the line is not pulling the fly in the current. In fly fishing, you are constantly making adjustments. It is not like trolling or bobber fishing and not as repetitive as casting and reeling in. Your are constantly either casting or moving the line in order to be in the right place for good drifting and to make that drift appear as natural as possible.
I soon had the fly where I wanted it and felt a tiny little pull. Matt yelled for me to set the hook. I was a little late and the possible fish escaped. I had a couple more of these small failures until – wham, I set the hook after a nibble and the line and pole went taut. FISH ON. With fly fishing you do not reel in the fish. You pull the line in with your other hand. After my recent lack of success not catching anything, I was determined not to lose this fish. I soon had him within range and Matt grabbed him with the net. It was a brown trout. I was elated. Matt seemed just as happy as me. He fist pumped me, which he did every time a fish was landed.
The most exciting catch
I ended up catching seven brown trout that day on the Colorado River fly fishing trip. A couple of them were quite nice. The most exciting catch was one that we gave a little ride. I caught him right above a minor rapids. I had to fight him through the rapids and hold on to him until we could successfully clear the fast water and net him. It took perhaps five to ten minutes to bring this beauty in. There was one stretch where I caught three brown trout in five casts right below one rapids.
Another exciting catch happened right in front of a raft. It is nice to get accolades from your fishing partner or guide, but usually that is the only other person to witness the feat. On one occasion I battled a brown trout right as a raft floated by. It was successfully netted and the appreciative spectators whooped in admiration as I fist pumped them back and yelled “YEA!”
Fly Fishing should be on your bucket list
I both read the book and watched the movie a River Runs Through it several times. I have always wanted to fly fish, but I never had the opportunity or never made the effort to do it. I have always had regular fishing poles and have been satisfied with that kind of fishing. Now that I have fly fished, I am hooked – pun intended. I wish I would have picked this up earlier as it was such a blast. If you are intrigued with fly fishing and have always wanted to do it, I encourage you to take the plunge and try it out and a Colorado River fly fishing trip is perfect place to start.
Taking a float trip is expensive
I am not going to lie, taking a guided float trip like this is not cheap. One way to cut the cost is going with another person as it is $455 for the trip, so if you go with two people, you cut the cost in half. $455 is a lot of money as is $280, but for a bucket list item like this, it is well worth it. This is a once in a lifetime activity, so you might as well do it right. Once you get some training, you can then do it on your own or do the less expensive wade trips. You definitely want to do the float trip at least once. Check out Gore Creek Outfitters web page for more information.
Whether you have the money to do the trip, or if you need to save up for it, I can assure you it is worth it. You get a raft trip, gorgeous scenery, chance to catch fish, and an expert guide who wins tournaments who will help you learn the sport and provide all the gear you need. Matt did a great job of taking care of me.
There are a ton of amazing activities to do in Vail during the summer. I would put a Colorado River fly fishing float trip at the top of the list. This trip was sponsored as part of the #Vailsummer initiative. The thoughts, opinions, and photos are my own.
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