Scouting Mission Accomplished

When I plan our fishing adventures I want to feel absolutely confident that they provide the best possible experience for LFFE participants. That means the locations I choose must have great fishing, backpacking, and scenery. I  also have to consider, among many other things; unpredictable fishing conditions that make planning trips months in advance very difficult, time spent driving in the van, and the availability of diverse fishing options suitable for a variety of skill levels. A Wyoming trip in June may be a great seller, but I am more concerned that the fishing will more likely than not be slow from high spring runoff. With all of this in mind, I spent the end of last summer and early fall searching for the perfect location to base our new trip for 2013. Here is a little recap of how the scouting mission shaped up.

When you think western fly fishing adventure, Utah may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there is a reason that I have returned to Utah every year for the last 4 years. With thousands of trout per mile, Utah’s Flaming Gorge section of the Green River could very well be one of the most productive trout fisheries in the country. So, when our Colorado trip came to an end, my co-leader, Charlie, and I set out for the small town of Dutch John, UT to explore the possibility of a Utah Adventure Academy. A few days later we sat and contemplated the trip. The list of pros was long and included; breathtaking canyon scenery and seeing more fish in 3 days of fishing than some fishermen see in a lifetime.

The crystal clear water of flaming gorge makes seeing trout like this easy, catching them is another story

The cons are that difficult access means long car rides, thousands of fish mean hundreds of other anglers, and hundreds of other anglers means extremely difficult fishing. So while we put Utah’s Green River on our list of future possibilities, we set out to find something for 2013.

While spending two years leading fly fishing trips for Wilderness Ventures I only experienced a fraction of what the area surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming had to offer. Catching hundreds of 6 inch brook and cutthroat trout was fun, but that’s not why Jackson Hole has become a fly fishing mecca.  I enlisted the help of my friends who now call Jackson Hole home. With a list of their favorite fly fishing and backpacking locations I set out into the high alpine lakes of the Wind River Range, fished throughout the Bridger Teton National Forest, and crossed the border into Montana’s Bear-tooth Mountains.

One of the fat cutthroats Wyoming is famous for" />

The places I scouted in just over two weeks of non-stop hiking and fishing moved Jackson Hole to the top of the list of new locations for 2013. Fishing, scenery, and great backpacking — the Jackson Hole area has it all. The only drawback I could think of was the unpredictability of the Teton’s winter snow fall that could leave most of the rivers un-fishable and dangerous through the end of July (two summers ago) or low and warm by early July (last summer).

After meeting up with LFFE office staff Kim Lawson in Jackson, we hopped in her car and drove east to NJ. Still undecided on where to plan another trip I headed up to Maine with good friend and Marmot sales rep Nick. Nick’s family has owned a cabin in western Maine for generations. With access to private water, Maine’s reputation as the best place to catch trophy native brook trout, and the added bonus of landlocked salmon, Western Maine has everything we look for in our fishing adventures.

Nick with an average brook trout by Maine standards." />

Furthermore, Maine is easily accessible to our strong base of students in the Northeast, and planning trips months in advance is much easier with the more predictable conditions of the Northeast. This looked like a perfect option.

Still undecided, I headed west for one last scouting trip. After picking up my truck in Jackson Hole, I drove south to meet back up with LFFE trip leader Charlie Parr in Rocky Mountain National Park. Despite spending my summers growing up at a camp in Colorado, and living in CO for over three years, I had never visited this iconic National Park. Charlie and I met at the park entrance and went to work doing some research. We examined every little blue line on our topographic maps, talked with rangers, and ultimately set out on what would be a grueling 4 day march through Rocky Mountain National Park’s wilderness. Hiking over 10 miles a day we fished two separate drainages, climbed over a mountain pass with full packs, hiked to high alpine lakes, and of course stopped along the way to test the fishing options. With four days of fishing and backpacking behind us it was clear that this was the location I had been looking for.

The park is perfectly located within easy driving distance from Denver International Airport. Divided in half by the Continental Divide, the park consists of two diverse fly fishing experiences within a short drive of each other. The fish are plentiful, strong, wild, and include both the native Colorado River Cutthroat Trout, Colorado’s state fish, the rare Greenback Cutthroat as well as brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Combine all of this with an overnight fly fishing/rafting trip on the nearby Colorado River and you get the perfect addition to our 2013 lineup. (Click here to read more about our Rocky Mountain Explorer trip)

As LFFE continues to grow, I look forward to leading adventures in Wyoming, Montana, Maine, Utah, and many other of North America’s greatest fly fishing locations. For now, we are extremely excited about the trips we have planned for 2013. We have added float fishing for smallmouth bass to our North Carolina Blue Ridge trip. The Colorado West Elk Adventure now includes two days of world class private water fishing, and an additional service project.  Combine these with our new Rocky Mountain National Park trip and our new Parent/Child trip and we have an unmatched schedule of fly fishing trips for teens.

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions was started in 2010 as a graduate thesis for my Master's Degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU. The operating premise was simple - by coupling amazing wilderness fly fishing camps for teens with environmental education and service learning we can help inspire future generations of fly fishing conservationists. We have been growing our unique list of trips and experiences ever since.

When it comes to choosing a summer program for your teen the options are endless. For the teen who loves to fish, be outside, and has a strong sense of adventure we have made the choice easy. We are the leader in teen fly fishing adventures and are dedicated to providing the best backcountry fly fishing experience with opportunities for teens to engage in leadership training, community service, and backcountry camping.


Will Lillard signature

Will Lillard, Founder/Director/Guide

Contact Us

[email protected]

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions
2540 King Road
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

(828) 577-8204