Scouting trips for your next big-game hunt are just as much about the unexpected adventures as they are about narrowing down the perfect place to set up elk camp in the fall. At our house, “scouting” is the magic code word for “perfect excuse for a fishing trip.”
If you are scouting along the Interstate 70 corridor in the next few weeks, don’t forget to pack your rod and plan a stop along the Eagle River. The river is fishing excellent right now and reports from local fly shops keep getting better and better. Large browns and rainbows inhabit these waters and make for some of the best river fishing in Colorado. With a two-trout daily bag-limit, fish over the 20-inch mark aren’t uncommon here.
My husband and I recently took a camping trip to scout a new rifle hunting spot in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. After finding a promising locale — where a curious dusky grouse nearly hopped right into our tent — we headed south out of the Flat Tops en route back to the Metro area.
When the two of us are on the road we look for any excuse to stretch out the days and play as long as we can. And there was the Eagle River, flowing by outside the passenger window, offering just such an excuse. Soon enough, we found it also offered hungry browns that gave us a few hours of unexpectedly great fishing before an afternoon storm rolled in.
Passing the confluence of the Colorado and Eagle rivers, we exited I-70 for the frontage road near Dotsero. It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday, but the pullouts weren’t too crowded — there are plenty of fisherman-friendly access points along the Eagle. We decided on a nondescript point west of Gypsum that offered plenty of parking and a dirt-road boat launch to the river’s edge. With float season mostly over, the Eagle has become a wader’s paradise, and this little pullout offered some fun riffles and pools to play in.
From the minute we stepped into the super-clear water, we both had numerous strikes as we drifted our lines over deep pools and around riffraff that eventually stole two of my best flies. My Copper John produced the first fish of the day, a feisty little 13-inch brown that swam directly at me, letting loose with an explosive flop and fighting hard the rest of the way.
Beadheads and midges produced the most strikes, and my husband soon landed another 15-inch brown on a midge. A fly fisherman upriver kept busy using blue-winged olives. We tried yellow sallies, which a quick search on the Web said were supposed to be working great, but we didn’t get any interest. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck.
After a line glitch with his fly rod, my husband switched to his spinning reel (we aren’t a die-hard fly-rod-only fisher-couple by any means), and he worked a Fire Tiger Kastmaster downstream into a deep hole. The fat, 17-inch brown was proof enough that you don’t even have to be a fly fisherman to enjoy the fruits of the Eagle.
Orvis.com still lists yellow sallies as one of the best patterns since the caddis, pale morning duns and yellow sally stoneflies are the predominant hatches right now. The report also lists PMDs and midges in the top fly patterns. Dry flies and hopper/dropper rigs are hot with stimulators, pheasant tails and Parachute Adams among the tastiest offerings for your line.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife enforces a two-trout limit on the Eagle River, from the confluence with the Colorado River (near Dotsero) to Dowd’s Junction along I-70 and south along to Eagle as it follows Hwy. 24.
From the confluence with the Colorado River to the bridge at Exit 147 on I-70, there is no limit for the following: channel catfish, largemouth or smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, green sunfish, bluegill, bullhead, yellow perch and crappie.
To download maps of Colorado fishing water regulations, go to the CPW Fishing Maps.