Colorado Adventures: Fly Fishing in Crested Butte

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Earlier in the week I shared a post on my recent trip to Crested Butte, Colorado where I had an amazing time exploring the mountain biking trails there. If you read that piece, you already know that CB is considered one of the birth places of mountain biking, and as such there are plenty of trails to ride. In fact, there are more than 750 miles of trail, spread out over 150 different routes. That’s enough to keep even the most dedicated rider busy for awhile.

But, Crested Butte isn’t just a great mountain biking destination, as it has a lot to offer other visitors too. For instance, in the winter it has excellent skiing both at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort and backcountry options for the more adventurous. There is also plenty of great snowshoeing and nordic skiing too, if you prefer your winter adventures with a bit less adrenaline-fueled downhill action. During the warmer months, the hiking and trail running routes are spectacular, and the most of the mountain bike trails can be done on horseback too. This being Colorado, there also plenty of options for camping, climbing, and paddling as well, with even some good whitewater to run.

While I didn’t have the chance to try each of those activities while I was in town, I did get the chance to do a little fly fishing. And while I’m mostly a beginner at that sport, I found it to be a relaxing, yet still engaging, way to explore the local culture.

For my fly-fishing experience we drove about 20 minutes outside of Crested Butte to reach the Three Rivers Resort, located in the small town of Almont. Three Rivers not only has a some wonderful rooms, cabins, and houses for visitors to rent, it also offers some active day-trips for those looking for some adventure. In addition to guiding rafting and kayaking excursions, travelers can also book stand-up paddleboard sessions, and skiing and snowboarding outings during the winter months. They also have a knowledgable and friendly staff in a well-stocked tackle shop for local and visiting anglers, as well a guide service that can get you out on the water and reeling in fish in no time.

We dropped by one morning to find out what fish were biting (trout and salmon it turns out!) and to hire one of the guides to take us out on the Taylor River. His name was Patrick, and he brought years of experience and excellent knowledge not only about the best places to fish in the area, but the different ways of setting up your pole to try to land a few big ones. As someone who has fly fished before, but is still relatively new to the sport, he proved to be an invaluable asset out on the water.

For those who have never fly fished, there is a bit of skill involved with learning to cast, letting your line drift, setting the hook, and bringing a fish to shore. All that can be picked up fairly quickly however, and after a brief refresher course, I soon found myself casting relatively efficiently. Patrick provided good tips on how and where to cast our lines, and he gave plenty of encouragement as we stood hip-deep in the refreshingly cool river.

It is often said that fly fishing is a bit of a zen-inducing activity, and after spending a couple of hours out on the water, I began to understand why. There is certainly a skill to getting the casting motion down, and the patience required to lure in a fish requires a sense of calm. Add in a dramatically beautiful back drop like the ones found in Gunnison County, and you have all the ingredients for a great day. Standing in the middle of that river, watching salmon swimming upstream around you, while learning to cast efficiently was an amazing experience, and even though we didn’t end up landing any fish that day, it was still a terrific way to spend the morning.

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That isn’t to say we didn’t have several bites. On more than one occasion our lures were stuck hard by a salmon or trout, and just like that we found ourselves with fight on our hands. On some occasions, the fish would leap clear out of the water in an effort to free themselves from the line, while others escaped just before we could get them into the net. Considering this was a catch-and-release stream, we didn’t end up minding too much, and half the fun was just getting them to strike our lures in the first place.

One sure sign that you’re having a great time on any outdoor adventure is when you look at your watch and are shocked to see how much time has passed. That was exactly the case during our fly fishing excursion. Before I knew it, several hours had gone by and it was time to move on to another activity. But, after even that brief time in the water, I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked (ha!) and I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to give it a go again. It will be tough to match the landscape I was immersed in while visiting Crested Butte though, as the surrounding mountains looming overhead were exactly what you’d expect for a fantastic fishing trip.

If you’re headed to CB and you’re looking to take a break from mountain biking or hiking, or you’re simply looking to go fly fishing while you’re in the area, the Three Rivers Resort will certainly do a great job of helping you land some fish. Even if you don’t hire one of their guides to lead you out on the water, drop by their tackles shop to pick up any items you might need, and get some hints and tips on where to go and what is biting. They’ll be more than happy to help you out. Check out the resorts website here.

After my all-too-brief fly-fishing experience, it was time to move on to more mountain biking. Obviously that was not something that I would object to, but the next time I visited Crested Butte, you can bet that fishing will be back on the agenda. If you’re headed that direction, it should be on yours too.

Kraig Becker