Author: Trouts Staff
One of the last freestone rivers in Colorado, the Eagle, is an often
over look and under rated river. It begins as a small trickle near Tennessee Pass just north of Leadville and then flows roughly 70 miles until it confluences with the Colorado River at Dotsero. The Eagle River was named by the local Ute Indians, who thought the river had as many tributaries as an eagle had feathers. Like many rivers in Colorado, the Eagle followed the path of the Colorado mining boom during the mid 1800’s. Gold, silver, lead and zinc were mined heavily as settlers scrambled to grab their piece of the American dream, and those hazardous practices began to take their toll on the river shed. By the 1970’s, much of the river was “dead” and void of fish, and it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the federal government began to take notice and intervene. After millions of dollars in clean-up efforts, and a commitment by the local communities to see the Eagle thrive again, the river is beginning to return to its pristine state.
Although the entire stretch of river can sustain trout, it is in the lower section of the river, from Dowd Junction (where Gore Creek and The Eagle River converge) to Dotsero, where the fishing is typically most productive. Be warned though, the river below Wolcott isn’t typically fishable until mid to late summer. This is due to Milk and Alkali Creeks, which until runoff subsides will dump dirty, sediment rich water into the Eagle. The river plays host to mostly rainbow and brown trout, although some cutthroat and brook trout may be caught. Most fish you will catch will be in the 12″ to 14″ range, although fish over 20″ aren’t unheard of.
The most notable hatch on Eagle has to be the Caddis hatch, which typically starts right at the end of runoff (usually around early to mid June). Caddis will continue to hatch throughout the summer, so its always advisable to have a good selection of caddis dry, nymph and pupal patterns on hand. Other insects that will hatch on the Eagle are Baetis and BWO’s during the spring and fall, and PMD’s, Red Quills and some Green Drakes during the Summer months. Terrestrials are also productive on hot summer days.
There are a multitude of access point from Dowd Junction to Dotsero, making the Eagle one of the more walk wade friendly rivers in the State. The river is fishable year round, though ice-free sections of water are limited during the winter months. Flows on the Eagle will vary throughout the year; with flows as high as 3000 cfs during peak runoff, to more meager flows of 100 cfs during the winter. The ideal time to fish the Eagle is from mid March to early May (or when ever runoff begins), and then from mid June through November. Keep your eye on the weather though, as a quick afternoon thunderstorm can turn the Eagle into an unfishable mess.
The Eagle is also one of a few Colorado streams that can be float fished during the summer season. Although the river is boatable from Minturn to Dotsero, it is the section of water between Edwards and Eagle that will see the most fishing traffic. The upper section of river is a more popular white water boating destination, with famous Class IV runs such as Dowds Chute. Though the Eagle is runnable at most flows, please be warned that this is a very difficult river to navigate, and only expert oarsman should attempt floating the Eagle. There are a number of Class III and IV rapids throughout the river that have severe consequences!