Taking its name from an old Native American tribal myth, the Ute people claim that there are as many streams, creeks, branches, and tributaries on the Eagle River as there are tail feathers on an eagle.
The headwaters originate near the Continental Divide, surrounded by the familiar and popular vista of Mount of the Holy Cross.
This area is also home to Camp Hale, which is the original training camp of the famed U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division (currently the 10th Mountain trains at Fort Drum in upstate New York).
Fly fishing the Eagle River in Colorado during the annual caddis hatch. Video by Fly Fishing Outfitters.
From the Divide, the Eagle flows northward to the Vail Valley, where it joins with Gore Creek and flows westward all the way to the Colorado River around the small town of Dotsero some 60 miles distant from the Eagle’s headwaters.
Long stretches of the river follow the I-70/Highway 6, passing through the towns of Minturn, Vail, Avon, Gypsum, and Edwards before terminating at the Colorado River. The waters in these areas offer plenty of rainbows, cutthroat, browns, and brook trout.
In fact, it is not uncommon to come across wild rainbows and browns that exceed 20 inches when fishing the Upper or Lower Eagle.
Many anglers tend to overlook the Eagle, as it is actually on the way to numerous more famous and legendary fly fishing destinations such as Beaver Creek.
The Upper Eagle nearest the headwaters is best known for its brown trout population and habitats, and anglers who favor fast water and pocket fishing will want to stick closer to the river’s source for the best dry fly action in the summer and early autumn.
The fishing is still superb along the Lower Eagle, but it tends to be more fished and crowded during peak season from June to October.
To access the headwaters of the river, take Highway 24 from Leadville and Dowd’s Junction, then cross The Divide at the Tennessee Pass.
The majority of the land in this region is a part of the White River National Forest, and there are a number of campgrounds available with access to Eagle River (shown on map above).
Tributaries of the Eagle are easily accessed via forest roads throughout the area off of Highway 24. Be careful of private property near Minturn and Gilman though, as there are sections of the river that are posted.
For those anglers interested in fishing the Lower Eagle, the best access points begin at Dowd’s Junction where The Eagle River meets Gore Creek.
Avon, Edwards, and Wolcott all offer fairly limited access due to the large number of private properties in the area. If you travel further down between Wolcott and Dotsero, however, you will find plenty of public access areas all along the Eagle til it reaches the Colorado River.
If you do decide to fish near Avon, be extra cautious regarding private property lines if you are strolling along the bank to try your luck. The only real public access point to the Eagle River in Avon is at the Bridge locals call “Bob”.
Access points are shown on the map above.
Year round fishing is available all along the Eagle River, but but the best hatches are in the summer and early fall.
Hatches are frequent and numerous, and the river is host to numerous species of midges, tricos, stoneflies, caddis, mayflies, and baetis flies almost all year long.
Keep in mind that if you decide to fish during peak season you may find yourself competing for space, as it can get crowded on the banks, particularly towards the Lower Eagle River where it flows toward the Colorado River.
You can also float certain sections of the Eagle depending on the season, too.
NYMPHS: RS2 20-22, Magic Fly 20-22, Zebra Midge 18-22, Green Psycho Prince 14-18, Flashback Pheasant Tails 18-20, BWO Flashback Barr's Emerger 16-18, Pat's Bread Crust 14-16, Electric Caddis 16-18, Caddis Pupa 14-16, Prince Nymph 14-18, Twenty Bomb 12-14, Pats Rubber Legs Golden 8-12
DRIES: Para Adams 16-20, Mini Hot Garcia 16-18, Foam Parachute 16-18, Mahogany Parachute Ext. Body 18-22, Irresistible Adams 16-18, Renegade 16-20, Pearl and Elk Caddis 16-18, Clacka Caddis 16-18, X2 Caddis 16-18, PMX Royal 14-16, Yellow Stimulator 14-16
STREAMERS:Thin Mint, Motor Oil, Sparkle Minnow, Sculpzilla, Autumn Splendor, Baby Gongas
Fly recommendations courtesy of Vail Valley Anglers
In terms of hatches, winter and early spring see midges and baetis, later spring and summer are caddis, mayflies, stoneflies, and tricos, and the fall sees more midges, tricos, caddis, and mayflies.
Terrestrials can also prove useful during the summer months as well. Provided you match the hatch properly for the time of year of your visit, you should have no trouble landing fish anywhere you choose to set up for the day.
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs. For larger nymphs and streamers a 9-foot 6-wt makes life easier. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Eagle River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
From the confluence of the east fork and south fork downstream to the confluence with the Colorado River the Bag and Possession Limit for trout is 2. Check the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website for current regulations and to download the Colorado Fishing Regulations brochure.
During peak season, your best bet to get to the Eagle River area is to fly into Denver and drive to Avon along the I-70. It’s a about 130 miles or 2 hours depending on how you measure drives, but the scenery is gorgeous year round.
Accommodations are plentiful if somewhat pricey in and around Avon, Edwards, and Wolcott. The White River National Forest offers campground sites for those who prefer to rough it on a fishing trip.
There are also hunting and fishing cabins for rent from outfitters and private individuals all around the Avon area. It's also worth checking out local vacation rentals as well in case someone has a really good out-of-ski-season deal on a condo or cabin near Aspen.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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