Up in the high country, the very first signs of fall are in the air – mornings are cooler, aspens and cottonwoods are showing hints of fall color, and days are getting much shorter. My favorite time of year. On Tuesday, September 8, after spending a few hours touring the Hardscrabble Mountain Ranch with clients, I took the opportunity to enjoy some late summer fishing on Brush Creek before heading back home.
The ranch has almost every attribute that buyers are seeking – large acreage, trophy hunting, adjoining public land, water rights, agricultural production, privacy, and accessibility, but one of its most impressive features is the fishing. The ranch boasts over 2.5 miles of private fishing on Brush Creek, one of the most coveted and longest stretches of private water in the Vail Valley.
Brush Creek begins high in the northern Sawatch Range, as a series of small creeks in the White River National Forest located just south of the ranch. The creek builds momentum as it leaves the steep mountains and enters the flat meadows of the Brush Creek Valley, flowing north toward the town of Eagle and eventually emptying into the Eagle River. Because the ranch is located so close to Brush Creek’s source and above most irrigation diversion points, the flows are strong year round.
I had a little over an hour to spare, so I decided to fish a meandering 3/10 mile section of creek located between the northern property line and the ranch headquarters. It was a clear and breezy day, and I started fishing around 3PM, which was probably the warmest part of the afternoon. After deciding to leave my waders in the truck and go with just the wading boots, I tied on a mid-sized tan foam hopper and began to work my way upstream.
Within five minutes, a nicely colored 12-inch brown hit my hopper hard, almost completely swallowing it. The hook was so deep in his mouth that I had to use forceps to remove it, but fortunately both the fish and the fly seemed to be in good shape. With the fish revived and on his way, I continued making my way upstream with the same tan hopper, doing my best to methodically work the pools, riffles, and undercut banks.
Fifteen minutes later, another larger, even more deeply colored brown hammered the fly, once again almost completely swallowing it. I repeated the process– forceps, reviving, examining and keeping the hopper, and continuing upstream. Then I repeated it again 10 minutes later, again five minutes after that, and one more time 20 minutes after that. Four nice fish ranging from 12-15 inches and one smaller nine-incher, all on the same fly in just over one hour. Not bad for quick, unplanned outing.
I did my best to document the fish with my iPhone, allowing a brief exception to my strict, self-imposed “no selfie” rule. As you can see in the photos, the trout are hearty and strong, and have obviously benefited from the ranch’s healthy riparian habitat. The combination of undercut banks, dense willows, deep pools, consistent flows, and lack of fishing pressure have allowed the fish to flourish in this particular stretch of Brush Creek.
In my experience, Hardscrabble’s 2.5 miles of Brush Creek offers the full spectrum of mid-sized creek fishing. Abundant healthy browns ranging from 12-15 inches, with plenty of 17+ inchers hiding out and waiting for only the most skilled anglers. In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing a video that follows a professional guide as he fishes this stretch of Brush Creek, and the amazing fish that he was able to snag from one of the deep pools…. Stay tuned!
[UPDATE: We have released the video “Fly-Fishing on Brush Creek.” Hope you enjoy!]