5 Tips For Fly Fishing Colorado’s Wilderness Rivers

Fly Fishing in Colorado

Fishing conditions on our private stretch of the Piney River are at their best. River flows have come down to the perfect level. And summer dry fly fishing continues to be outstanding. When it comes to fly fishing Colorado’s remote and scenic rivers, it doesn’t get any better than this!

Fly Fishing in Colorado

Fly fishing on small wilderness rivers, like the Piney River, comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Even our guests who are experienced anglers might learn a few new tricks if they are used to fishing on bigger waters.

Here are five tips to remember when fly fishing any of Colorado’s small wilderness rivers:

  1. 1. Pay Attention to Your Profile

The water here can be crystal clear. It’s beautiful, and it’s fun being able to spot the fish. But it’s important to remember that the fish can also see you.

Colorado Fly Fishing Trip

On a guided trip, pay attention to how our guides approach the river. When fishing small wilderness rivers, it’s important to be aware of your profile. If you walk right up to the edge of a cut bank and see the shadows of trout skittering across the river, you’ve gone too far.

Instead, you may need to approach the river cautiously. Don’t let your profile loom over the places where fish are most likely to be holding.

  1. 2. Make Upstream Casts

In many other situations, anglers are used to making quartering-upstream casts, allowing the fly to drift downstream, past the angler’s position.

Here on the Piney River, take note of where your guide positions you for the cast. When fishing these high alpine streams, it’s more common to make upstream casts, and allow the fly to drift back down toward the angler.

Fly Fishing in Colorado

Trout tend to face upstream in the current, opportunistically feeding on insects that come drifting down to them. By making an upstream cast, you’re approaching the trout from behind, where they are less likely to see you.

  1. 3. Start at the Bottom of a Run

When you approach a new run or riffle, it’s often beneficial to begin at the downstream or tailing end, and work your way up. This allows you to target the downstream fish first, without spooking the fish at the head of the run.

Vail, Colorado Fly Fishing

This technique isn’t unique to wilderness fishing. The same principle applies to larger rivers. However, it’s especially important on these small alpine waters. In such clear water, it’s easy to spook fish if you’re not careful. When you target fish at the bottom first, and then work your way upstream, you’ll maximize your opportunities.

  1. 4. Don’t Ignore the Little Pockets

Most anglers have a tendency to fish the biggest, most promising-looking runs and riffles on the river. But when you’re fishing on wilderness creeks, don’t skip over the small pockets. You might be shocked at where you’ll find big trout holding. This is true here on the Piney River and most other high country creeks.

Don’t be surprised when your guide asks you to make a cast into a surprisingly small and innocuous-looking piece of pocket water. These little holes can be full of surprises. You might only get a two-second drift through one of these little pockets. But sometimes, that’s all you need for a fish to attack your fly.

5. Stop and Look Up

When you’re fishing these mountain rivers, the fast-action fishing is exciting. On each cast, you’ll be expecting the water to blow up beneath your dry fly. It’s addicting. And while it’s tempting to keep your head down and tell yourself, “Just one more cast!” don’t forget to lift your eyes and look around you.

The scenery here on the Piney River Ranch is nothing short of stunning. Every once in a while, take a break from casting and enjoy what’s around you. Enjoying the mountain scenery here in Colorado is an important part of the experience.

Colorado Mountain Scenery

Join Us on the Piney River

Our private stretch of the Piney River near Vail is exclusively available to Sage guests, and receives no public fishing pressure. Additionally, our knowledgeable guides help maximize our guests’ experience. Whether you’re a beginner angler, or a crusty old veteran, we work hard to make the most out of your time on the water.

We offer half-day and full-day guided trips on the Piney. To learn more, please explore our Fishing Page. If you have questions about availability or other details, please contact us. We look forward to helping you plan a memorable fly fishing adventure!

Guided Fly Fishing Expeditions on The Piney River

Piney River Guided Fly Fishing

Here at Sage Outdoor Adventures, we are extremely proud to have exclusive access to the famed Piney River near Vail for guided fly fishing trips! 

Sage is the sole fly fishing outfitter on the Piney Valley Ranch, and it’s only available to our guests. We offer fully guided adventures to this pristine alpine stream, tucked away in the spectacular Colorado backcountry.

The Piney River is a classic, Colorado wilderness gem. With its headwaters at Piney Lake at the foot of the rugged Gore Range, this freestone river tumbles through a roadless wilderness canyon for 25 miles until its confluence with the Colorado River. 

As the Piney River approaches its confluence with the Colorado, it flows right through the Piney Valley Ranch, a sprawling, 30,000-acre mountain paradise. Guests of Sage Outdoor Adventures have exclusive access to a stretch of water has never been available to the public.

The team at Sage Outdoor Adventures was able to secure this premier fishing lease thanks to a longstanding relationship with the owners of Piney Valley Ranch, who previously owned Castle Peak Ranch. Castle Peak is where we offer ATV tours, snowmobiling, horseback riding and sporting clays. There were several reputable fly fishing businesses knocking on the door for the Piney River lease. But after seven years of working together at Castle Peak, and knowing first-hand the quality of Sage operations, the owners chose to sign with Sage.

We offer half-day and full-day trips to this remote, private stretch of the Piney River. Trips will include side-by-side ATVs to navigate the ranch and high-end fly fishing gear. Full day trips also include a streamside lunch.

The ranch will be limited to very few fishing guests each day to maintain a high quality experience. As with everything we do, we place a high priority on the quality of the fishing, the undisturbed wilderness experience, and the quality of guest service.

The exclusive fishing lease on the Piney Valley Ranch also includes a premier section of private water on the Eagle River. This will allow us to offer premium half-day trips just a few minutes from Vail and Beaver Creek.

In addition to these new private waters, Sage Outdoor Adventures will continue to offer guided float trips on the Eagle and Colorado Rivers.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit our Fly Fishing Page. If you’d like to chat with us in more detail or check availability, you can call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online. 

The Annual River Guide Training Program Is Underway

Our annual River Guide Training Program has begun, and we’re excited to have 36 rookies in the class this spring. With rain and even some late season snow, it has been an eventful start to the rafting season here in Colorado!

Our River Guide Training is a premier program that prepares our trainees with the skills they’ll need to guide commercial whitewater and fishing trips. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun!

River Guide TrainingAs a part of our raft guide training, rookies must complete a minimum of 50 hours of training. This 10-day program will focus on rescue techniques, rowing, paddle guiding, river features, hydrology, boat terminology, rigging, customer service and more. Prospective guides must also receive training in leave no trace ethics.

These state requirements are mandatory for all river guides in Colorado. We not only adhere to the mandated state requirements for river guide training, we surpass them in most areas. We begin by approaching all training exercises with a deep respect for the river. All our guides are trained specifically for the demands of commercial rafting.

During this exciting training program, our rookies will be challenged daily, having the opportunity to swim through intense whitewater, practice rescue situations, and maneuver boats with and without a paddle crew…and have a blast while doing it all.

What makes our program truly special is the group of instructors that are some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable river experts in the business. Instructors must have 1,500 miles of commercial and private experience. This year, we have eight instructors teaching our spring classes.

Rafting Instructors

Our raft guide training is always exciting, because these classes coincide with the start of spring runoff and high water conditions. Every day is a new day for our rookie guides. Every day come new skills, as the water levels get progressively higher.

Our crew here at Sage works tirelessly to make these adventures possible, and that’s exactly what sets us apart. We love the mountains and these rivers, and we are passionate about sharing that with our guests. We are proud to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace. And with this team, you won’t find a more fun, genuine, professional, and skilled group of guides anywhere else.

If you’d like to learn more about our annual River Guide Training Program or other career opportunities at Sage Outdoor Adventures, please check out our Careers Page.

To learn more about rafting with us, take a look at our Rafting Page. We’d love to see you on the river with us in Colorado this summer!

Joe Tomasic Joins the Team at Sage Outdoor Adventures

We are pleased to announce a new addition to our team of skilled experts in the outdoor recreation industry. Joe Tomasic has joined Sage as General Manager and will lead the development of several new programs. 

Tomasic is a long-time Vail Valley local, outdoorsman and entrepreneur. In fact, Sage owners Darryl and Cole Bangert worked closely with Tomasic when they founded Lakota River Guides together more than 20 years ago. 

“Joe brings decades of operational and work-integrated leadership experience and we’re thrilled to be working with him once again,” said Sage owner Darryl Bangert. 

A Vail Valley resident for more than 26 years, Tomasic continues to work as a business broker specializing in the sale of resort based businesses, along with niche markets in the software, start-up, outdoor recreation, transportation and oil & gas industries.  

Tomasic has owned, operated and sold many successful businesses. Additionally, he has provided strategic, personalized counsel to individuals and companies in areas of business sales and acquisitions, private debt and equity financing, and succession planning.

With a passion for start-up companies, Tomasic worked with Phil Horsman to build the world’s first large-scale ski rental delivery operation, All Mountain Sports. Later, they built All Mountain Transportation into the largest independently owned limousine service on Colorado’s Western Slope and sold that business in 2008.

At Sage Outdoor Adventures, Joe will focus on developing a newly purchased property near Dotsero, Colorado along the Colorado River. This project will include a large, recreation-based facility to serve Sage’s rafting clients, as well as a rental facility open to the general public. 

The Dotsero outpost, called Colorado River Sports (C.R.S.), will offer daily rentals for bikes, stand-up paddleboards, tubes, rafts and duckies. The facility will offer food service, retail and a large pavilion. A shuttle service will be available along with river rentals

Additionally, Tomasic will be working to develop the newly acquired fishing access on the Piney Valley Ranch. The Piney River flows through the heart of the ranch, and Sage Outdoor Adventures is now the exclusive fly fishing outfitter on the property.  

As Sage continues to grow its services in these areas, Tomasic’s role as General Manager will be to ensure that the company utilizes these resources responsibly, and provides a level of service that sets the bar for all others to be measured by.

The Spring Melt is Underway

Another late blast of snow across the Rockies last week dumped more than a foot of wet spring snow in some locations. This week, temperatures are back up into the 70s in many places across Colorado. The smaller creeks are filling up and water is starting to rise. The spring melt is underway!

Even this late in the year, the state’s snowpack currently stands at about 105% of normal. Runoff is just beginning and there’s still a ton of snow up high. Depending on how rapidly summer temperatures arrive, runoff this year could last weeks longer than normal. At its peak, this season will bring some epic whitewater rafting conditions!

In fact, much of the Arkansas River and the Colorado River are already at the low end of their runnable levels. It won’t be long before we’re entering prime rafting season! This will be a rafting season not to be missed. Give us a call at 970-476-3700 to reserve your spot. Or check out our rafting trips.

While the rafting community is celebrating an outstanding year of whitewater conditions, fly fishing enthusiasts might be less enthralled with the prospect of an extended high-water season. However, many veteran anglers will tell you that runoff is not the time of year to sit on the sidelines.

Among many in the fly fishing world, runoff gets a bad rap. Water is high, often muddy and many of your favorite holes might be unrecognizable. But that doesn’t mean the fishing isn’t great. I just means you have to fish it differently.

In some ways, runoff provides advantages that help offset the challenges. During high water, fish concentrate in predictable locations. They tend to get pushed out toward the banks and into any slack water where they can find reprieve. You may not be able to wade during runoff, but you probably don’t need to. With fish in these more reachable locations, they can be easily targeted from shore. Check out our fly fishing page for more information.

No matter what you find yourself doing this spring, whether you’ve got a paddle or a fly rod in your hand, have fun and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer! If you have questions about trips with Sage Outdoor Adventures, call us at 970-476-3700 or send us a message.