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Ski Fishing is what we call a “two-sport day” at my house: We hit the slopes for the opening chairlift, lay down first tracks in the powder until 11:00 a.m. and then we cast dry flies to rising fish in the afternoon. It’s a fact: At many western ski resorts it’s very likely that your ski instructor is also a fishing guide. If you don’t go fishing, you’re missing out.

So, when is the best time to plan a combo trip? December and January are often tough, with short days, freezing temperatures and lethargic fish. Things change in February and just keep improving through the end of the ski season in April.

It is worth noting that most ski country fishing outfitters/guides are geared up to provide clients pretty much all they need in the way of tackle and flies. And that is good because skiing is gear-intensive enough without also trying to bring fly fishing equipment. Actually, the clothing you will need to go fishing is almost interchangeable with what you need to go skiing: long underwear, fleece insulation layers, waterproof/breathable jacket. All you really need in the way of extra fishing clothing is a pair of fingerless gloves and a warm hat.

The default fishing technique for winter is nymphing. But, if you hit it right, you may find an outstanding midge or baetis hatch, with fish rising enthusiastically.

There are simply too many opportunities in the West to list in one story, so here’s an over-the-top summary of opportunities in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. This is not a comprehensive listing by any means; it’s a snapshot of some places where fishing is an easy add-on to a ski trip.

Colorado: This state has more skier visits each year than any other state, so let’s start there: Aspen/Snowmass ( has legendary skiing on four great mountains and fabulous options for dining, shopping and nightlife. But it also had some of the earliest “organized” winter flyfishing. Chuck Fothergill opened a fly shop in Aspen in 1970 and pioneered fishing on the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan rivers. I was a college ski bum when “Father Gill” first sold me flies and gave me advice. Two guide services are carrying on that tradition: Scotty Nichols, owner of Aspen Trout Guides (970-379-7963; is director of the ski racing at Aspen Mountain; Chris Lemons of Aspen Fly Fishing (970-920-6886; and his guides are committed to winter fishing and have made a fantastic winter fishing video (

Vail ( and Beaver Creek (www.beaver are also legendary ski resorts with excellent fishing nearby. Gore Creek runs right through Vail Village and the Eagle River is close. The Frying Pan, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are also nearby. Despite the huge number of skiers who flock to Vail, the fishing waters here are virtually empty in the winter. Flyfishing Outfitters (970-845-8090; is an Orvis-endorsed operation with as much as 200 miles of fishable water available during the winter.

Just over Vail Pass is Summit County and the ski towns of Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco and Breckenridge. The ski resorts here are Breckenridge (, Copper Mountain (, Keystone ( and Arapahoe Basin (www., which together offer a huge variety of terrain and conditions. Visitors love the idea of being able to sample so many different areas while staying at a single location. The Blue River tailwater, practically in the middle of “downtown” Silverthorne, offers BIG rainbows all winter. Zeke Hersh of Blue River Anglers (970-668-2583; in Frisco fishes the Blue, Colorado, South Platte and Arkansas rivers.

Near Winter Park (, which was the first western ski resort I ever visited, is Grand County Fishing Company (970-726-5231; www.grandflyfishing .com) in Fraser, Colorado. Jeff Ehlert, co-owner and guide, tells me they fish the Colorado River and several smaller streams, including some private water.

Steamboat (, in Steamboat Springs, is famous for its “Champagne Powder.” But it also has some good fishing. The company to call here is Bucking Rainbow Outfitters (; 970-879-8747). They fish tailwaters on the Yampa River and are even set up to haul clients to parts of the river by snowmobile, which sounds like fun. This operation has been personally recommended by several of my friends.

Moving south, Crested Butte ( has Dragonfly Anglers (800-491-30709; www.dragonfly They fish the Gunnison, East and Taylor rivers. Telluride ( has Telluride Outside (800-831-6230;, which fishes the Uncompahgre and San Miguel rivers, as well as some private waters. Way down near the border with New Mexico is Durango, the closest major town (one hour drive) to the famed San Juan River tailwater fishery and the Durango Mountain Resort (www.durango formerly known as Purgatory. Duranglers (888-347-4346; fishes the San Juan and the Animas River right in Durango on winter afternoons.

Utah: Unlike Colorado, where the ski resorts are scattered, most of Utah’s ( destination resorts – Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Park City, The Canyons, Deer Valley and Snowbasin – are clustered around the Salt Lake City metro area. The primary target for winter anglers is the Provo River. Both the Middle Provo and the Lower Provo are tailwater fisheries with loads of fish that eat year-round. I’ve fished with two different fly shops in the area and I highly recommend both. Western Rivers Flyfisher (800-545-4312; is just south of downtown Salt Lake City. Owner Steve Schmidt and his guides were heavily involved in the restoration of the Middle Provo and have developed some of the most deadly flies on the river. The second shop is Trout Bum 2 (877-878-2862; located in Park City about 20 minutes from some of the best water on the Middle Provo. I’ve fished the Provo in late winter with head guide Harley Jackson and enjoyed myself immensely.

Idaho: In Idaho, Sun Valley ( is one of America’s most venerable ski resorts. There’s also a wealth of fishing nearby, including the Big Wood River that runs right past the base of the ski area. Scott Schnebly of Lost River Outfitters 208-726-1706; www.lostriveroutfitters .com) tells me he’s been running winter trout-fishing trips for 30 years on the Big Wood, Little Wood and Big Lost rivers, and on Silver Creek and Niagara Springs. Most of the streams and rivers here close April 1 to protect spawning rainbow trout. Another Sun Valley operation is Silver Creek Outfitters (800-732-5687;

Northwestern Idaho has a number of ski resorts and some flyfishing as well. The main destination ski resorts are Silver Mountain ( outside Coeur d’Alene and Schweitzer Mountain ( near Sandpoint. The entire area offers winter fishing, and the relatively low elevations of the river valleys help moderate temperatures during winter. ROW Adventures (208-771-0867; in Coeur d’Alene offers afternoon or all-day trips, typically to the St. Joe or Coeur d’Alene rivers.

Montana: The Montana ski resorts of Big Sky (, Moonlight Basin (www.moon and Bridger Bowl ( are all near Bozeman. A particularly attractive winter fishing option for anglers here are the famed spring creeks of the Yellowstone outside Livingston, a relatively short drive from Bozeman. The Bozeman Angler (800-886-9111; has been offering a “Rubber-Leg Special” to skiers for years. I had always assumed the “Rubber-Leg” meant trout flies, but it’s a reference to the tired legs skiers experience after two or three days of hard skiing.

Wyoming: Last but not least is my home state of Wyoming. I’m not biased, of course, but the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ( is on practically everyone’s short list of great ski resorts. We’re equally famous as a summer/fall fishing destination, but less well known is the excellent fishing during February, March and April. The Snake River runs right through Jackson Hole and midge hatches can really bring up the cutthroats. Westbank Anglers (800-922-3474; can tailor a fishing trip to whatever the skiing angler might like.

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