(Last Updated On: August 16, 2017)
A large Brook Trout

This is what can be caught when an angler has the right fly, and the right spot. Shown here is a beautiful Colorado High Country brook trout.   Photo courtesy of Alex Esclamado

UPDATED: July 8, 2017

Did you know that in addition to having an amazing ski resort and an authentic ski town, Breckenridge is also a destination for world-class fly fishing?

During the last 5-10 minutes of your drive on Highway 9 into Breckenridge, you may have noticed a few anglers fly fishing. This section of the Blue River is known by locals as “the steps.” This popular stretch of river is ideal for fly fishing because of the abundance of beautiful rainbow and brown trout, as well as the occasional brook trout. The proximity to town is also a huge advantage.

The romance associated with wading in a crystal clear mountain stream in pursuit of trout with only a fly rod is timeless. A brilliant Colorado bluebird sky stretches overhead, bookended by the snowy peaks of the Ten Mile Range and the Continental Divide. The splashing sounds of the river current tumbling over rocks and boulders is both calming and energizing. It’s an intimate way to experience the natural beauty of Breckenridge and the Rockies.

For us anglers, the ultimate reward of tying on the perfect match of mayfly occurs when a trout comes up and takes your fly. You may get carried away and imagine Brad Pitt and yourself on the set of “A River Runs Through It” as you battle to land this hooked trout. (OK, maybe that last Brad reference is a bit too much, but you get the idea.)

Fishing Basics

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of gear to make it happen. Whether it is hiking to the many alpine lakes in the area or heading out to a nearby stream or river, here are the basics you need to get out there:

· A Colorado fishing license (a nonresident one-day license is $9. Children under the age of 16 are free)
· Water with some trout living in it
· A fly-rod
· A few flies

Local Fly/Guide Shops

Now let me make a few more suggestions to help your day turn out successful.

A few productive flies are all you need.

Although there are a lot of flies to choose from, it only takes the right one at the right time.  Keith McHugh.

There is a lot to be said for local experience, especially when it comes to fly fishing. This goes for beginners and the well experienced: consider hiring a local professional guide. Breckenridge’s top guides fish year round. So while you are “up there” skiing or snowboarding during the winter, our guides and their guests are out there in pursuit of trout.

I suggest hiring a guide even more if this will be your first exposure to fly fishing. I can guarantee if you are with the right guide, you are going to cut the learning curve by half — and have a great time doing so. Fly fishing itself is rather easy to pick up when given some good direction; without someone to show you the basics, it can be rather frustrating and confusing. Guides provide all the equipment you’ll need to be out on the water.

On the other hand, if you possess that intrepid spirit of adventure like I do and are going it alone without a guide, never fear: it can be done. Just visit one of the Breckenridge area fly shops and make use of their knowledgeable staff.

Breckenridge Outfitters and Mountain Angler both have guides who go out daily and can provide the latest information on conditions since they often change daily. If the shop is crowded, take a few minutes to look around and wait for customers to clear out so one of the shop staff can devote time to answering your questions.

Ask what flies are working in specific areas and get directions. Also be sure to find out what times are the most productive.

Fishing gear

As for equipment, the shops in Breckenridge have everything you need. A full rental package generally includes:

  • A fully rigged rod (rod and a reel spooled with line and a new leader)
  • Waders and boots
  • A “loaded” vest with “nippers” for cutting leaders, additional leader material “tippet,” weights for subsurface fishing, and forceps for removing flies from captured fish
  • A net to land your trophies
The basics for a day on the river.

Shown here are the basics; a vest or lanyard, fly rod, waders, boots and a net.                                                            Keith McHugh

Anticipate around $50 for a full day of rentals. Then, the only thing missing is your license and some flies, which the shop can also provide.

Some other items I recommend for your day on the water:

  • A hat that provides sun protection
  • Polarized lens sunglasses, for safety as well as comfort
  • Sunscreen
  • Water (hydration is extremely important)
  • A mid-weight jacket or fleece
  • A rain jacket (especially if you are fishing later in the afternoon)
  • Pants and warm socks, if using waders

Then, take a lot of photos, pinch those barbs on the hooks, and practice catch and release so the next visitors can enjoy the adventure.

Read more about fly fishing in Breckenridge

Colorado River Fly Fishing Courtesy of Alex Esclamado

Colorado River Fly Fishing
Courtesy of Alex Esclamado


About The Author

Sometimes referred to as the toughest guy to get hold of because he is mostly in areas without decent cell coverage. Keith McHugh is out there, and his knowledge of the outdoors and sense of humor will prove it. No matter if it is telemark powder skiing, hunting or fishing throughout Colorado, Keith’s passion about the mountains and all things outdoors is contagious. He obsessive about turkey, waterfowl and upland bird hunting, as well as archery hunting for elk. He has fly-fished most of his life, and has held his professional Orvis Endorsed instructor and fly-fishing guide credentials for almost ten years. As a guide for Breckenridge Outfitters, he challenges himself to provide a mix of adventure, amusement and a memorable experience for his guests. It might be instructing/guiding the first timer to their first trout on a fly-rod on a walk wade trip, or guiding well traveled anglers with years of experience on a float trip. He guides on unique and legendary rivers like the Arkansas, Blue, Colorado, South Platte, Williams Fork, Eagle, and private water along Troublesome Creek. Stillwater float trips include fly-fishing Antero and Spinney Mountain Reservoirs in South Park which can produce some amazing results. The private access to Duck Lake at the summit of Guanella Pass for the rare and beautiful Colorado native Greenback Cutthroat trout rates as one of his favorites. Being a transplant from the south, “Georgia is still on his mind” even though he has lived in Colorado for fifteen years. Keith resides in Breckenridge with his hunting lab Wigeon.

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