Vail Fly Fishing School

In the past few weeks, we have seen several posts and comments from guides taking out students for our Vail Fly Fishing School’s second day: the on-the-water test.  It’s a little like taking that driver’s test and, generally, like heading out in that sports car with the top down after you get that first license.

The less glorious first day is more like driver’s ed: plenty of classroom, but plenty of real practice behind the wheel.  I have instructed most of this year’s classroom days in the Vail Valley, and it has been a pleasure.   So, what is it like to start your two-day odyssey at the Vail fly fishing school?

Vail Fly Fishing School: Morning Session

First, we meet at our main shop in the usually sleepy town of Minturn, just one exit down I-70 from Vail.  Our Saturday sessions occur during the Minturn (outdoor) Market, a bacchanalia of awesome food, shopping, and yes, farmer’s produce.  It makes for a great lunch stop.

We conduct the class largely in the Minturn Town Hall, where the first person in the room can gavel us in and out as “mayor for a day”.  We start with a Google Presentation that I provide to everyone in the class (see the sample slide).  Since there’s far too much to learn in one day, we address the highlights to help students navigate the details of this online “manual” on their own after the class.


Vail Valley Fly Fishing School
One slide from the presentation

Vail Fly Fishing School: Mid-day Session

After a morning session of classroom and casting work, we take a long break for lunch, after which we begin the practical learning.


Vail Fly Fishing School
Small Western Green Drake identified at Vail Fly Fishing School July 2014

We’re big proponents of the philosophy, “The river will teach you.”  Anyone who has tried an on-the-grass casting clinic then actually fished will tell you that the surface tension of water makes a big difference.  After a tour of the shop and trying out some equipment, we proceed to the river, where we turn over rocks and look for bugs.  For example, we identified this gnarly mayfly nymph in July, which gave us some great information for the next day’s fly selection.

Before we head back to the classroom, we “read” the water around Minturn and prepare a “plan of attack” as if we were going to fish it.  Sometimes, we do.

Vail Fly Fishing School: Afternoon Session

We turn to rigging, and tactics in the afternoon, taking time to practice the most important knots and rules of etiquette on the river.  Sometimes folks hang around for additional casting instruction after we break (around 3:00).  Others hit the river for a few hours in anticipation of the day on the water.  The goal of our Vail Fly Fishing School is to help anglers to be largely self-sufficient on the water.  After this class, a quick check-in with folks in the shop who fish 100 days a year is all you need to head out on the river any day of the year.   Based on the pictures I receive from guides and students on Day 2, we’re doing a pretty good job of getting folks their “driver’s license” on the beautiful mountain streams around the Vail Valley.


Vail Fly Fishing School
Brown Trout Tricked and Photographed by a Fly Fishing School Student

Before turning to fly fishing as a full-time occupation, Brian taught middle school for 14 years.  In comparison, teaching Fly Fishing School is a breeze.

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

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Justin Nolan

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