Vail Fly Fishing


Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about Vail fly fishing helpful.

Most everybody who visits the Vail, Colorado asks about fly fishing. It is definitely one of the MUST-DO activities while you are in the area, and for good reason. Colorado boasts 300 days of sunshine annually, and more than 300 miles of gold-medal water so get ready to spend the day enjoying spectacular waterfront scenery while catching wild mountain trout.  Choose from lake, river, pond or stream fishing, and whether it’s summer or winter, wading or floating  you are in for a treat fly fishing in Vail, Colorado.

You can fly-fish year round, but if water temperatures get too hot during the summer in can endanger trout.  Fish thrive at around 50°, but they get lethargic when temps reach the 60s, and they will become very stressed when temps reach the lower 70s. At 74° and above, trout mortality is likely. On the flip side, winter fly-fishing is as rewarding as it is challenging as the low, icy temps of winter keep trout very lethargic and keep them from eating as much as they do during the warmer months.



See Also: Best Fly Fishing Rods 

Vail Fly-Fishing

Wade Fishing

Perfect for novice and experienced anglers. This type of fishing puts you right in the action, with waterproof waders to keep you dry and comfortable as you walk and fish along the banks of the river.  Waders are very convenient for finding the spots where fish are hiding and feeding. Wading is an ideal way to experience the beauty of the river up-close and personal and allows for more hands-on instruction. It also allows anglers to be stealthy, so they can quietly cover the water, blanketing an area with carefully controlled casts for more hits.



Float Fishing

Ideal for both the expert angler and the beginner alike. Float fishing from a boat allows you to cover more river miles than wade fishing and makes it easier to access remote areas that you can only get to by boat and inaccessible to the wade angler. In addition, a boat allows you to bring as much gear as the boat can hold, so you can bring multiple rods, rigged differently and be ready at a moment’s notice for any type of water you may encounter as you float. It is a perfect way for couples, families and small groups to share in the fun of a fishing adventure while enjoying a day on the river.



A Variety of Fishing Excursions

Most fishing excursions offer a full-day trip which generally includes a riverside lunch or a half-day trip that leaves either in the morning or the afternoon.  The Vail Valley, LOVES fishing so you will find unique fishing offerings or find it paired with many other activities to create a full day (or night) of adventure. For instance, local outfitters offer:

  • Bike & Fish Trips
  • Horseback Riding and Fishing Trips
  • Night Fishing Trips
  • Carp Fishing
  • Kids Fishing Camps
  • Caste & Taste – fishing with a gourmet dinner and wine pairing.
  • Overnight Fly Fishing – camping and fishing together.
  • Women’s clinics
  • Wedding Fly Fishing Trips
  • Winter Wade & Float Trips – yes, fishing in the winter can be spectacular!




Gold Medal Waters

Colorado is home to 322 miles of Gold Medal Water that include 11 different rivers and 3 lakes. Vail, Colorado is very near and within easy driving distance to many of these Gold Medal Waters.

Gold Medal Waters is a designation that means a section of stream can produce 60 pounds of trout per acre and must be able to produce a minimum of 12 “quality trout” (14+ inches) per acre.  Here are some of the best waters in the area:

The Gore Creek offers a Gold Medal, 4-mile stretch of river that starts where Red Sandstone Creek meets the Gore, just west of Vail itself, and continues all the way to the Eagle River. Hwy 6 follows the creek and offers easy access to fishermen.

The Blue River in neighboring Summit county, offers 34-miles of Gold Medal Waters from north of the Dam at Dillon Reservoir to its confluence with the Colorado River.  Hwy 9 follows the Blue River for most of the 34 mile stretch and offers lots of access points.

The Roaring Fork River near Glenwood Springs also boasts 22-miles of amazing Gold Medal Waters beginning at the confluence of the Roaring Fork River with the Fryingpan River and continues downstream to the confluence with the Colorado River.

The Colorado River offers 20-miles of Gold Medal waters starting from just west of Hot Sulphur Springs)to the confluence with the Williams Fork River just east of Kremmling, CO. This area is catch and release only and contains brown and rainbow trout.

Steamboat Reservoir, it’s 1,053 surface acres, also boasts a Gold Medal designation. It offers trout of various kinds including the Snake River cutthroat trout. It is located 26 miles north of Steamboat Springs.



For Beginners

New to fly fishing? Don’t let that stop you. It is easy to learn the basics but it’ll take a lifetime to master. Many local outfitters offer FREE casting clinics, during the summer months, so you can try your hand and get the feel of it. If you like it, and you will, you can take more, in-depth fly fishing classes. These step-by-step classes cover everything from casting, tying knots, choosing the right flies and a variety of fly fishing methods.

  • Gore Creek Fly Fisherman offers free daily casting clinics from their store locations. Clinics begin at 10:30 am from Memorial Weekend through September.
  • Free clinics are a great way to see if fly fishing is of interest to you.
  • Choose from a 2-hour class, a half day class, a full day class, multi-day classes or private instruction.
  • Fishing classes teach skills needed to become a successful and self-sufficient angler that can find the fish.
  • Equipment is provided for beginners but if you are looking for an entry-level fly fishing rod check out the Wild Water Complete Fly-Fishing Starter Package either for yourself or give as a gift!



What You Need to Know

Most outfitters supply all the equipment and gear you will need, including waders, rods, reels, beverages and flies used during the trip. However, you are required to get your own Colorado fishing license.

  • Get a fishing license online at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website or pick one up at a local sporting goods store or fly fishing shop.
  • Fishing trips go out rain, snow or shine so remember that Colorado weather can be very unpredictable, pack for warm weather, cold weather and wet and windy weather because it can easily change on a dime.
  • Polarized sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen are also vital to a happy day on the river.
  • There are a variety of rivers and private lakes in the area such as the Colorado River, Gore Creek, Eagle River, Homestake Creek, Roaring Fork, your guide will know what’s biting and where. Check out the day’s local river report to find out more.
  • Most local outfitters also own and operate local fly shops where you can pick up any last minute supplies, or gifts for your favorite fisherman.



Local Outfitters

These local outfitters have been in business for years and really know their stuff. You will find more information about the trips described above at these outfitter’s websites as well as informative blogs, upcoming events, merchandise and more.


Mobile Fishing Maps

Here is an interesting fishing map app and detailed instructions on how to best use it on Fly Fishing Outfitters’ website. The Avenza PDF Map App is a great way to have detailed, digital maps of Colorado rivers in the palm of your hand. Just click on the image of the app to the right to go to the Apps’ website and download. Happy Fishing!



See Also: Best Winter Fly-Fishing Gear


What do you think of Vail fly fishing? Please let us know if we have missed any local fishing outfitters or if you feel we have omitted any important information regarding fly fishing in the Vail valley. We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and would love for you to share some of your Vail fly fishing stories. Thanks for reading.


Related Articles: Best Winter Flies to Catch Trout



View Comments

  • My brother is a just starting out fly fishing and I really want him to stick with it. I know that it is easy to learn the basics however, do you have any recommendations for my brother for faster improvement?

    • Hello Furkan, thank you for your question. I would recommend that your brother hire a fishing guide for the day. One day and he will have so much more knowledge and the guides give you so many tips and tricks it's unreal.

  • Thanks for this information rich article.
    I would definitely try my hand at fly fishing the next time I am in Vail.

    • Hi Josh, when your ready to give fly fishing a try I would contact one of these outfitters on the list. They make learning how to fly fish fun and interesting.

  • Hi there,

    I come from a huge fishing family out on the west coast of British Columbia. We do not fly fish much around here, but it is a great interest of mine and I would love to learn!

    You have some great information here, and it has definitely peaked my interest. Perhaps a trip to Colorado will be in our near future!
    Thanks so much!

    • Well I do hope you get to Vail as I think with a fishing background like yours, you would find fly fishing in Colorado really interesting and a ton of fun!

  • Thank you for the article, I would love to try wade fishing and after reading this I feel like the best approach is to hire a guide so I can learn the fundamentals properly, as well as have fun and learn some tips and secrets during the trip as well.  Thanks for the idea, I will plan this for the next time I am in the area.  By the way is fishing only in the summer in Colorado?

    • You are so welcome, and I think that is a solid plan.  Going with a guide is the best way to go for a beginner. And no, fishing is not just a summer activity it is year round.  Winter fly-fishing is colder and prone to the elements but is an amazing experience and seeing the river covered in ice and snow is so beautiful.

  • I grew up in Colorado fishing, hiking, camping, and all that stuff. We are headed back there for a vacation and my son wants to fish. My dad always did the fly fishing and makes his own flies. I am wondering if it will fairly easy for my son to get the hang of? I never was a fly fisherman, so I am of no help to him. LOL

    • Yes! Most fisherman agree that kids can pick up the mechanics of casting so much easier than most adults. There are many free introductory clinics in the Vail valley that he can take to start getting a feel for casting. I would recommend a half-day float trip because then you can go too and just enjoy the river and the scenery while watching him learn how to fish. There is nothing better than a day on the river on a sunny day in Colorado.

  • Hi! I've never fly fished but your article certainly invites interest. I've never been to Vail either and it sounds beautiful. There are many activities available there that sound interesting to me. And I like that you provided contact numbers to several outfitters as well as the state wildlife site. Thanks for all the useful information.

  • Hi Kyle Ann,

    Thank you so much for your comment about Vail fly-fishing.  I am glad you liked the information. Yes many times, when people visit Vail, Colorado they do things they may not have considered doing in the past such as fly fishing on the Colorado River, horseback riding in the back-country or skiing down a black diamond run.  There is so much adventure waiting here. I hope that this information including local outfitters' contact information makes it easier for people to take part of the adventure!  Thank you again.

  • Excellent post! Looks very exciting and relaxing at the same time. I always thought of Vail as a ski place. Now I know I can go fishing there.

    • Hi Joe, Thank you for your comment. Yes it is relaxing because you are in the river surrounded by nature but it is exciting as every minute the next big fish could strike! Vail, Colorado is of course, known for skiing but fly fishing on the Colorado River is amazing. There are also a ton of other activities available.


This website uses cookies.