Eagle River: Great Fishing on Your Big-Game Scouting Trip

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.

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.

Dusky grouse at Flat Tops camp
The curious dusky grouse at our Flat Tops camp. Photo by Amy Bulger (CPW)

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.

Eagle River brown trout.
A brown trout on the Eagle River. Photo by Amy Bulger (CPW)

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.

Current report
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.

FISH MAP: Colorado River and Eagle River

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.

5 Responses

  1. Amy: your article was posted August 2013, but what time of year did your husband and yourself fish the Eagle?
    In April 2014, I did fly fish the Eagle but was discouraged with the amount of Posted Property. Are you familiar with Minturn area?

  2. Hi Mike: We fished the Eagle on Aug. 10 last year, I wrote this shortly after we got back from our scout trip. …I know Minturn, but haven’t fished the Eagle in that area much. (We usually stay as far in the backcountry as we can.) I understand that all of the private land can be difficult to navigate in that area. When my hubs and I do decided to fish in places like that, we make a habit of stopping at a local fly shop. Most will have public access maps of the area to help you plan your trip, and it never hurts to pick the brains there to find out what’s working best on stretches of the river. And, of course, just to the north of Minturn are the Gold Medal Waters of Gore Creek. If you haven’t, I highly suggest you check it out if you go back! Good luck!

    1. IMPRESSED!!! I was not expecting such speedy response time. Thank you. I plan to visit Minturn after this weekend (Memorial Day) and visit the local fly shop. I received the “Colorado Outdoors” May/June 2014 issue this week and read the New Gold article … you have an enviable career… being outdoors, photos, author/associate editor, hunt, fish and get paid.

      I read a previous issue about Gore Creek from an associate of your magazine. Keep up the good work.


      1. I hope you have good luck up in Minturn, the article on Gore Creek should give you some good tips. Thanks for your note, hope you have a great time out there!

  3. Hey Amy,
    I have been fishing just below the confluence of the Eagle and the Colorado since I was a young boy. Great fishing! I have hunted elk behind Deep Lake (near Indian Camp northwest of Dotsero at the base of the Flattops) since I was a boy too! I took a nice bull there when I was 12. Best wishes to you. Say Hi to Aaron
    Kim H.

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