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

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 1: How to Maintain a Mountain

Snowmobile Trail Grooming Equipment

Here at Sage, we’re extremely proud of our fleet of professional snow grooming equipment. Not only do we offer an incredible variety of snowmobile trails across a 6,000-acre private mountain. But we also take great care in our trail design and grooming operations. Come ride with us on this mountain and we guarantee to put a big grin on your face.

While most snowmobile guide services rely on shared Forest Service trails with very little control over the conditions, we’re fortunate to operate on a private mountain larger than Vail ski area. Here, guests of Sage Outdoor Adventures have the whole place to themselves.

Grooming Snowmobile Trails

Operating on a private mountain means we’re able to custom-design our trail systems. And as soon as the snow starts flying, our snowcats keep those trails in excellent riding condition. But grooming trails and operating a snowcat it’s not as easy as turning a key and hitting a throttle. It takes practice and some serious snow-know-how.

We recently caught up with Sage Owner and Director of Operations, Cole Bangert, to talk about snowcats and grooming…and why it’s harder than it looks!

“This snowcat (pictured below) is a smallish sized cat to fit our unique trails,” Cole began. “The size of this cat allows us to groom trails through aspen groves and in some unique places. We do have a bigger snow cat as well, like the size you would see up on the ski hill. We use that larger cat for our play meadows and some of the bigger trails with deep snow drifts and more powder.”

Snowmobile Trail Grooming Equipment

The snowcat pictured here is a Prinoth Husky. Sage purchased it brand new for $215,000.

“But getting the equipment is only the first step,” Cole told us. “Having someone capable of driving it is a whole other thing. These things have 12-way blades, plus the tiller operation. Once you master those, there’s the trick of actually driving it without hitting trees. Grooming trails in a snowcat takes multi-tasking to a new level.”

It certainly isn’t easy or cheap to operate a fleet of snowcats. But it’s a necessary investment to keep these snowmobile trails in prime condition.

“When grooming, the driver is always making assessments based on a variety of factors,” Cole explained. “You have to consider snow deposition, density and wind direction. A good cat driver must also consider ‘snow farming’ or where we increase snow depth for future use. Whenever we’re pushing drifts around, we’re planning ahead for the springtime so that we can maximize trail depth as the days get longer and temperatures get warmer.”

Grooming Snowmobile Trails

These practices make for great snowmobile experiences throughout the winter, and they help extend our snowmobile season into the beautiful spring months here in the Colorado high country.

There’s no doubt that driving a snowcat and grooming trails takes practice and skill. A great driver takes all these factors into account, all without running into trees along the way!

But according to Cole, the real secret and all you need to be the world’s best cat operator is right here:

What it takes to be a snowcat operator.

If you’d like to learn more about our guided snowmobile trips, please take a few minutes to explore our snowmobiling information. We’d love to help you plan a memorable backcountry snowmobile adventure here in Colorado!

Experience a September Adventure in Colorado

September in Colorado

It has been a beautiful summer here in the Vail Valley. We’ve had a blast on rafting trips on the Eagle, Colorado and Arkansas Rivers. The fishing on the Piney River has been excellent. And at our mountain base, we’re having a blast on horseback rides and side-by-side ATV rides with all of our guests.

As we welcome September, we’re thrilled for one of the best months of the year here in Colorado. The temperatures are still warm, and the September weather is idyllic. Cool mornings lead to warm, sunny afternoons. Soon, the aspens will be turning a bright gold. And wildflowers are still growing throughout the mountain meadows. This is where summer meets fall, and it is spectacular!

September Horseback Rides

Horseback riding here at our private mountain base is an awesome experience in September. You’ll ride through old growth aspen stands and witness incredible scenery. And in typical Sage fashion, these are not your average nose-to-tail horseback rides. Being on a 6,000 acre private mountain means that we aren’t restricted to designated Forest Service trails. We can explore the entire place, and ride freely through this historic ranch that’s larger than the Vail ski area!

Side-By-Side ATV Adventures

Side-by-side rides are also a great way to see Colorado in September. These rides also take place on this expansive private mountain, where you’ll have incredible views of the entire Vail valley.  In addition to the adjoining public land, we have more than 20,000 acres of wild country to explore!

Scenic September Rafting in Colorado

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the incredible rafting opportunities here in Colorado in September. River conditions are perfect on many of our favorite stretches of river. There are a number of fun and incredibly scenic river trips to experience in September around Vail and Beaver Creek.

September Fly Fishing on the Piney River

And finally, this is one of the best times of year to experience fly fishing in Colorado. In September, big brown trout begin moving in advance of their fall spawn. And rainbow and cutthroat trout take advantage of grasshoppers and big hatches of late summer insects as they prepare for the lean winter.

Fly Fishing in ColoradoIf you find yourself in Vail or Beaver Creek this September, consider yourself one of the lucky ones! Not only is it one of the most beautiful months of the year in Colorado. But it’s also usually a little bit quieter after the peak summer season. Take advantage of it, and find some adventure!

For information on our trips, please explore our website at SageOutdoorAdventures.com. For details and booking you can contact us online or give us a call at 970-476-3700.

5 Tips For Fly Fishing Colorado’s Wild 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!

To learn more about these guided trips and this epic stretch of private water, see our recent post on guided Piney River fly fishing. In the meantime, here are five tips to remember when fly fishing any of Colorado’s small wilderness rivers!

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.

  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. 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. 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. 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.

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!