What You Need to Know About Fly Fishing the Piney River

Piney River Fly Fishing

The state of Colorado is often known for its towering mountains and graded river canyons. But there are portions of Colorado that lend to its defining features far more than others. Sitting around 12,000 feet in elevation, the Gore Range is one of those places. One of the rivers born from this textbook Colorado landscape is the Piney River near Vail, Colorado.

Tumbling 28 miles from its headwaters, the Piney River is a long tributary of the Colorado River. The headwaters begin at Piney Lake before stretching through a rugged wilderness canyon until it ultimately feeds into the Colorado River.

Often overshadowed in name by nearby well-known rivers like the Eagle River and Colorado River, the Piney is an absolute gem. And not just for its majestic exposure to the Gore Range’s towering beauty. The Piney River offers some of the best freestone fly-fishing in the state of Colorado.

The Piney River near Vail, Colorado

Fishing the Piney Valley Ranch

Located just above its confluence with the Colorado River, the Piney River flows through the spectacular, Pine Valley Ranch. This stretch is the crème de la crème of the Piney River. And access to this private stretch of water is only available to guests of ​Sage Outdoor Adventures.

Sage is fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with the owners of Piney Valley Ranch and the exclusive lease to guide trips on these waters. When you book a fishing trip with Sage, you’ll have this historic ranch, this beautiful river canyon, and this world-class trout fishery all to yourself.

The Piney Valley Ranch encompasses seven river miles of private water. And the guide service at Sage Outdoor Adventures checks all of the boxes.

Piney River Guided Fly Fishing

Planning A Fishing Trip to the Piney River

Peak fishing conditions on the Piney River begin immediately after runoff subsides, usually in late June and will continue through the early fall. These summer and fall months bring consistent water levels and prolific hatches of mayflies and caddis. Mid-summer and early fall is also an excellent time to fish terrestrials like hoppers, beetles and ants. Whether you prefer to throw dry flies, nymphs, or swing streamers through the deeper runs, all of it is available here on the Piney.

Because these fish see very little pressure, they tend to be aggressive and not very selective. But the guides at Sage will help you pick the best patterns for the conditions and the time of year. While these trout can usually be fooled by a variety of fly patterns, the low, clear water conditions later in the summer often require a stealthy approach. Prepare to approach from downstream and make upstream casts to avoid being seen.

No matter the time of year you decide to take on the Piney, it’s important to keep in mind that the higher altitude provides less protection from the sun, so wear and reapply sunscreen throughout the day for the duration of your trip. Anglers will want to bring a hat, and long sleeves. And we’d recommend a buff to cover your neck. As far as the weather is concerned, there is a common saying in Colorado that, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” From cold temperatures in the morning, to intense midday sun, to afternoon thunderstorms, be prepared to experience it all. Dress in layers so that you can quickly adjust to the changing conditions.

Guided Fly Fishing in Colorado

Piney River: A Gore Range Freestone Tributary

It would be difficult to overstate the quality of the fishing on the Piney River as it runs through Piney Valley Ranch, or the beauty of this canyon and the surrounding scenery. The only way to truly understand it is to come experience it for yourself.

To learn more about guided fly fishing trips with Sage Outdoor Adventures and to reserve dates for your adventure, please click here. Or, give the folks at Sage a call at 970-476-3700. Come experience the Piney River this summer with Sage!

Piney River Fly Fishing

Written by the Staff at Riversmith

Colorado Fly Fishing Trips Are Now Underway

Colorado Fly Fishing

The spring season has officially begun here in the Vail Valley! We are now running guided fly fishing trips on the Eagle river and Colorado River. Spring conditions are fantastic and it has been an awesome start to the season in Colorado!

Colorado Fly Fishing

We have openings through this month on the Eagle and Colorado rivers. Reservations are now open for the rest of the summer on these waters, as well as the Piney River – an epic stretch of private water along one of Colorado’s most spectacular wilderness river canyons. Guides are limited, so please give us a call now to reserve your spot this season – 970-476-3700. Or check out our fishing page to learn more.

Early season fishing on the Colorado River and Eagle River brings excellent water conditions and some memorable dry fly hatches – most notably, blue winged olives. As we get later in the spring, we will begin to see caddis hatches along both rivers. With runoff in late May and June, we will see higher water flows, as well as hatches of big salmonflies. When runoff subsides, dry fly fishing remains consistent through the warmer months – including hopper fishing. Nymphing and streamer tactics are also effective throughout the season.

Fly Fishing Trips Near Vail and Beaver Creek

If you’re in the Vail or Beaver Creek area this summer, consider joining us on a fishing trip to the Piney River. It’s an experience you’ll never forget! We have exclusive access to 7 miles of this incredible freestone river. The Piney River tumbles out of the rugged Gore Range and into a jaw-dropping wilderness canyon. As it flows through the 30,000-acre Piney Valley Ranch, Sage guests have the exclusive access to this wild and scenic river, loaded with trout. It’s truly an angler’s paradise.

To learn more and to reserve your spot, please give us a call at 970-476-3700 or visit the fishing page.

Fly Fishing on the Eagle River

Vail Colorado: A Summer Playground

Summer Rafting near Vail, Colorado

Feeling a tinge of cabin fever? We’ve got you covered. This summer, we will be back to enjoying our favorite summer activities here in Vail, Colorado. Just minutes from both Vail and Beaver Creek, we’re ready for whitewater rafting, fly fishing on the Piney River, side-by-side ATV rides, horseback rides and sporting clays. Make plans to get busy this summer on your Colorado summer playground!

Rafting Trips

We have 40 years of experience here in the Vail Valley and we operate from three great locations for each river destination. Our guests enjoy brand new equipment and outstanding river guides that will make your trip both safe and a ton of fun.

Learn more about our rafting trips here.

Whitewater Rafting Trip

Side-by-Side ATV Trips

Come drive your own ATV as we explore a 6,000-acre private mountain with an adjoining 14,000 acres of public land near the Castle Peak Wilderness Study Area. We’re talking about an expansive chunk of wild country where you can feel the wind in your hair.

Learn more about the ATV trips here.

Side-by-Side ATV Trips near Vail

Guided Fly Fishing Trips

When you fish with us, you get exclusive access to some of the best water in Colorado. The Piney River begins high in the Rugged Gore range and flows through a wilderness canyon to the Piney Valley Ranch. Here’s we have private access to seven miles of incredible trout water. Sage Fly Fishing guests are the only anglers on this sprawling 30,000-acre ranch. The experience here is simply unbeatable.

Learn more about our fly fishing trips here.

Fly Fishing on the Piney River near Vail

Horseback Riding

Here at Sage, we rarely stick to trails and we avoid riding nose-to-tail. Come explore this 6,000-acre private mountain with breathtaking views of Castle Peak and the Vail Valley.  Ride through fragrant Sage meadows, towering aspen groves and dense pine forests. This is like no other horseback ride you’ve ever experienced!

Learn more about our horseback rides.

Snow Update & Summer Rafting Forecast

Summer Season Rafting

Well, it has been an awesome winter season here in the Vail Valley. Even a global pandemic can’t stop all these smiles! Sage owner Darryl Bangert said it best, “COVID has led to a huge demand to get outside and reconnect with nature,” he said. “Seeing our guests come alive during these trips is very rewarding for our staff.”

An outdoor snowmobile adventure is the ultimate socially-distanced activity and we have excellent safety protocols in place. Snowmobiling throughout this season has been a ton of fun. Recent storms have led to great snow conditions. And now, we’re excited that spring is around the corner. Before we know it, we will be making the transition from snowmobiling to rafting season!

Snowmobile Tour

As we look forward to spring and the summer rafting season, we can’t help but get excited. This winter was unique with big early season storms during the late fall – followed by a relatively dry period around the holidays. Fortunately, we’ve had a snowy February and early March. Snowpack across the state is catching up. Lots of snow on the mountains means great rafting conditions ahead!

Right here in the Colorado River basin, the current snowpack is about 85% of normal with more spring storms in the forecast. With a near average snowpack in the high country, we can expect good early season rafting on Gore Creek and the Eagle River, which are some of Colorado’s best early summer trips.

In fact, when the Eagle River is at its peak, it’s some of the best whitewater in the country. But what makes the Eagle River is unique, is the steady downward gradient. The upper section from Minturn to Avon features a consistent elevation drop, essentially creating a 10-mile long wave train.

If you’ve never experienced Gore Creek or the Eagle River, don’t wait – come experience it this year!

Colorado Rafting trip

Meanwhile, over in the Arkansas River basin, snowpack currently sits about 90% of normal. This is the most famous stretch of whitewater in Colorado for good reason. Once the spring thaw begins, we’re in for a memorable summer of whitewater rafting on the Ark.

The world-famous Pine Creek and Numbers sections of the Arkansas boast some of the best class IV and V whitewater rafting in the country. Further downstream, Browns Canyon National Monument offers a trip through an incredibly scenic gorge with 10 miles of class III rapids. Add to this a backdrop of 14,000-foot peaks and rocky desert landscapes, and it’s easy to see why the Ark is a popular rafting destination.

The 2020 rafting season in Colorado is shaping up to be a great one. If you’re planning a trip to Colorado this year, be sure and reserve dates early for your whitewater adventure.

To learn more, visit our Rafting Page. If you have questions or to book a trip, please call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

The Snowcats of Sage Part 2: Operating a Snowcat

Snowcat Grooming

One of the things that makes our snowmobile trips among the best in Colorado, is our fleet of snowcats and our grooming operation. Here on this 6,000-acre private mountain, we enjoy an incredible trail system of custom-designed snowmobile routes, all maintained for ideal riding conditions.

In case you missed the first part in this series, go check it out here. In this second part, we’re talking with Sage Outdoor Adventures owner and director of operations, Cole Bangert, on what it takes to operate a snowcat.

Operating a Snowcat

If you’ve ever seen snowcats grooming a ski hill, cruising up and down the mountain, you might have no idea what goes into operating and maintaining these machines. And it’s probably more than you think!

According to Cole, the blade on the front of the machine is the most crucial part, that is the workhorse of the cat – of course aside from the motor and hydraulic pumps that drive it. But the more you can do with the blade, the better.

“The blade is made to roll snow and introduce heat into the snowpack through the rolling motion,” Cole told us. “Then, the snow passes underneath the tracks that pack the fresh snow downward. Finally, the tiller on the back of the machine that reprocesses the snow And the plastic flaps leave the nice corduroy lines that you’re used to seeing on the ski hill. In one pass, going about 8 to 10 miles an hour, you can take a rough road or a very sloppy road, and turn it into a nice and firm, smooth surface.”

Grooming Snowmobile Trails

Aside from the initial upfront cost of buying a snowcat, the expense of putting them on the snow is pretty high.

“We estimate that it costs about $400 every time you start and run the snowcat, even if it’s only for an hour,” Cole explained. “Of course the hourly expense goes up the longer that you’re out grooming. If you are grooming a lot, that means there’s tons of snow on the ground and that is a very good feeling. But it’s also a big cost to keep up with.”

Why so expensive to operate? A number of factors drive up the cost. From complicated parts to rough winter conditions, it’s not easy to keep a snowcat on the snow.

“Snowcats are mighty machines in a small package,” Cole added. “They run off diesel motors, usually Mercedes or Cummins diesel motors. And all the new snowcats also have an EPA required regeneration system on the exhaust that tends to be very problematic.

“What’s more, the hydraulic pumps that power the tiller, the blade, and the drive tracks are extremely temperamental. Even one small droplet of water entering that hydraulic pump system can destroy a $35,000 hydraulic pump.”

Groomed Snowmobile Trails

Consider the fact that snowcats operate in sub-zero temperatures almost all the time. When you add very cold temperatures, very high pressures and small moving parts, along with lots of snow and ice, it all adds up to frequent problems.

“Overall though, snowcats are very cool tools,” Cole emphasized. “And honestly, they are quite fun to drive.”

But make no mistake; it takes a very skilled driver. When operating a snowcat, many things are happening all at the same time.

“If you can pat your head and rub your tummy, then you’re a fraction of the way to being able to drive a snowcat,” said Cole. “You’ve got your drive sticks on the left hand throttle, with your right foot on the windshield wiper and your left foot controlling the blade and tiller operations, while your right hand is on the on the joy stick. And all the while, you’re trying not to run into trees and rocks or get stuck…and don’t forget the big one – trying not to dig holes!”

Snowcat

An easy way to spot a rookie snowcat driver is if you go on a trail that has the feel of a rollercoaster, up and down, up and down.

“It’s important to look ahead, judge your momentum, the snowpack and snow density,” Cole explained. “You must cut where you need to cut, deposit where you need to deposit, but not overdo it because if you continually dig a hole and then deposit and then dig another hole and deposit, you’re just making one big roller coaster trail. And it’s very difficult to fix once this has happened.”

It may be complicated. And it’s certainly not easy. But there’s no question that we’re extremely proud of our grooming operations here at Sage. In large part, it’s what makes our private mountain experience a fantastic one for our guests.

If you’d like to learn more about our guided snowmobile trips, please take a few minutes to look through the information on our Snowmobiling Page and don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. We’d love to help you plan an unforgettable backcountry mountain experience!

Snowmobile Trail Grooming