Vail Valley Anglers, a fly shop and outfitter located in the High Rockies of Colorado, is offering an “E-Bike and Fly Fish Guided Trip.” The guided trip involves using electric e-bikes to access a variety of different water that may be tougher for other anglers to access. Flylords caught up with one of the “e-bike guides” Eric Phannenstiel to discuss what this trip offering is all about.
Flylords: Where did the idea come from?
Eric: The first I heard about the idea was from our General Manager John Cochran. He tapped me to lead the implementation of the idea since I am an avid cyclist. I have ridden “Ride the Rockies”, a week-long cycling event in Colorado as well as some of the longer single-day ride events that are available in Colorado and New Mexico.
Flylords: What’s the advantage of using a bike?
Eric: There are several. Most notably is that we can access parts of our rivers where parking for motor vehicles is not readily available. In addition, we can be more selective about where we fish since we can view much more of the river from our paths which follow the river system. Also, since we use e-bikes, we can cover a lot of river in a day. Lastly, you get to exercise in a sport that is not typically known for its workout benefits!
Flylords: What types of electric bikes do you use?
Eric: The bikes are from a company named Sondors. When we started the program, there were very few affordable bikes available, but these seemed to fit our needs nicely.
Flylords: How do you transport the fly rods and other gear?
Eric: We have two-piece rod cases that attach to the bike frames with bungee balls and we use spacers between the case and the frame to ensure that the cases don’t interfere with the bikes in any way. On the guide’s bike, we have a set of panniers to stow the guide’s equipment pack and other items that are necessary for the trip. There is also space on top of the guide’s bike rack for a large landing net. We typically go wet wading (wading boots and neoprene socks) since riding a bike in waders and boots is not very practical.
Flylords: Have you had any issue with clients crashing or equipment problems?
Eric: During the test phase of this program we had initially envisioned a trailer behind the guide’s bike to carry all of the necessary gear. On one of the test drives, a wheel fell off the trailer which led to a catastrophic crash that broke multiple fly rods. It was not pretty… I am not aware of any client crashes. The bikes are very sturdy and are well balanced. They have 4 inch wide tires on them too, which helps with the stability. In fact, I have had a 72 year old man on a guided trip where we were riding on single-track trails. It was awesome!
Flylords: What rivers do you mainly fish?
Eric: We typically fish the Eagle River in the Vail Valley. It is a freestone river that has a wonderful history of legendary fish during pioneer days, then an unfortunate period where the river was subjected to heavy metals contamination from the mining industry.
The Eagle River is now a very productive, healthy fishery that offers primarily Brown and Rainbow trout, some Cutthroats, and the occasional Brook trout.
Flylords: Do you think this concept will trend amongst other anglers?
Eric: I think that this mode of travel is a great opportunity for our guests to check multiple things off their list of things to do in a single activity. It is a fun way to experience fishing and see parts of our valley from a bike that would otherwise not be practical.
I have been riding my bike and fishing since I was a young boy, but I have yet to see many fishermen doing this yet. Perhaps with the growing popularity of e-bikes, this will allow more fishermen to experience this activity mashup.
Article and interview made possible by Eric Phannenstiel at Vail Valley Anglers, if you are interested in contacting Eric or the fly shop, check them out online at vailvalleyanglers.com.
Photos courtesy of Nolan Dahlberg, Marketing/Media Lead at Vail Valley Anglers. Be sure to check them out on Instagram @vailvalleyanglers.