A beginner’s guide to merging two sports that lead to beautiful adventures and peaceful solitude 

Both trail running and fly-fishing allow us to disconnect from the hustle of life and seek the opportunity to take in nature at its best. Enjoy the advantages of high country fishing in places many don’t go by running the trails that get you there.

runner durango colorado
Packed up with fishing gear, Heather Mobley runs along Junction Creek off the Colorado Trail to tap into prime fly fishing for trout.Marcus Garcia
Trail Running 101

Trail running is a sport that takes running to new levels. Instead of running on tracks or in gyms, you find yourself running in the mountains with uphill climbs and downhill glides, often alone in new quiet places and pushing your limits to new levels.

Steps to trail running:

1) Pick the right shoes. You want your shoes to be supportive and grippy, but thin enough to feel the new terrain you are running on.

2) Get the gear. See the attached list for items needed for each run. Do not feel you need to have running-specific items. You simply want clothing that will wick sweat away from your body and gear that will keep you safe and hydrated.

3) Pick a trail. Start by finding trails that are short (20-30 minutes) and relatively flat. As you get stronger, start to incorporate more uphill climbing and increase your distance by up to 10% each week. Trail running has more obstacles and challenges than other forms of running so it is important to take it slow and listen to your body.  When incorporating fly-fishing you simply need to look for trails that go along a river, creek or lake.

4) Look down. Remember to keep your eyes down looking 5 to 15 feet in front of you, scanning for obstacles. Keep good form by keeping good posture, keeping your chest open, shoulders relaxed and core engaged. Your strides will be shorter on trails. This allows for better balance and reaction time.

5) Stay hydrated. Bring either enough water to keep you hydrated for the duration of your trip or a Life Straw, tablets or purification system to replenish your supply as needed.

6) Prioritize safety. Tell someone where you are going, have identification, bring a map yourself or cellphone to keep you on track on hand.

7) Practice good trail etiquette. Yield to others on the trail, let people know you are passing or that you are behind them, keep 10 feet from other runners if you are in a group and, most importantly, be friendly.

8) Find a community. Check out your local running store for running groups. Sign up for local social media groups. Finding running companions is right at your fingertips and adventuring is so much fun with others.

fly fishing durango colorado
Starting with a trail run and landing in a stream far from the crowds, this is what it’s all about.Heather Mobley
Fly-Fishing 101

Fly-fishing is a sport where you get to take a more in-depth look at the ecosystem of your local rivers or lakes. You quietly walk upstream looking for fish among the rocks, while paying attention to the bugs that live in the river beds. There is a rhythm and timing to each cast that creates a calming energy.

Steps to fly-fishing:

1) Get a fishing license in your area. You can do this online or at a local store.

2) Gather required gear. See the list below for gear needed to get started.

3) Take a lesson from a local guiding company or ask a friend. Casting is a skill all its own. While it looks challenging, with the right guidance you will be casting well in no time. A guide or local shop can also help you understand the right flies to use in the areas you are going, as well as teach you the basics of putting your rod together and tying flies. These guys are very knowledgeable and eager to help so be inquisitive and ask questions. There are also many resources online to help with this process.

4) Choose a good fishing location. Find a quiet place away from other people. Look for areas that have boulders/debris that create pooling. Fish often hide under these areas for protection.

In the high country, get in the creek and work upstream; it will be harder for the fish to see you.

5) Practice. Keep in mind for the beginning fly angler, practice, patience, and perseverance are key.  You won’t become a fantastic caster overnight, just like you won’t do a 20=mile trail run your first day. 

6) Find a Community. Again, your local fly shop, can connect you with others. You can also start a chat on meetup.com or check out social media platforms to find other fly fishers.

Tying it together

When combining trail running with fly-fishing, simply find trails that run along or end at a river or creek. Spend time doing each of them consistently. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The people that do this regularly were once beginners. They will have tips and resources that will make your experience even better.

fly fishing gear
The gear you need for a day of trail running and fly-fishing.Heather Mobley

Here is what you need to get started.

Equipment for Trail Running:

1) Supportive footwear

2) Comfortable, weather appropriate clothing

Equipment for Fly-Fishing:

1) Lightweight rod: 6 weight is recommended for beginners

2) Reel with fly line and leader (the fly line must match the weight of the rod)

3) Selection of flies

4) Spool of tippet

5) Forceps/line cutter

6) Fly floatant

7) Fishing vest (optional)

8) Wading socks (optional)

9) Water shoes with increased grip (optional)

10) Polarized sunglasses

11) fly-fishing net

Equipment Used for Both

1) Comfortable backpack

2) Water or Life Straw

3) Snacks

4) First-aid kit

5) Sunscreen

6) Headlamp

7) Map or cell phone


 Any time you are doing something in the backcountry there are extra precautions that should be taken.

1) Always tell someone exactly where you are going and when you plan to be back. This way if you get hurt or something unpredictable happens, someone knows to come looking.

2) Pay attention to the weather. In the high country, storms move in fast and the weather changes. Be prepared for rain, lighting, cold and even the dark. If you are prepared, you can stay safe.

3) Pack a small emergency kit in case you get hurt or come across someone else that needs assistance. 

4) Bring lots of water. Trail running takes more out of you than other types of running. When you factor this with the sun and wind, your body will need more hydration. On this note, you can also bring a life straw in order to reduce weight while still having a source of water. Never drink unfiltered natural water.

5) When it comes to fly-fishing, remember to never underestimate the power of the moving water. Ensure you feel solid on your feet when wading. Don’t risk wading in high flowing rapids, instead walk around.

6) Do your research. The internet is filled with great information to guide you through getting out on the trail and don’t forget to stop by local running and fishing shops to tap into the vast knowledge. Knowledge is your key to safety and amazing new adventures.

Next Level

Once you get the hang of this sport, you can take it to the next level. Every August in Saguache, Colorado, the Running Rivers Flyathalon combines fly-fishing, trail running and beer and makes an event everyone can enjoy.

Have fun out there and remember: freedom is in the adventure and life is in the experience.

  • Dry Fly: Fly that floats on the surface of the water
  • Wet Fly: Fly that sinks
  • Streamer: A larger wet fly that looks like a baitfish or leech that larger fish prey on
  • Floatant: A powder or gel that keeps your dry fly from sinking
  • Fly Line: The thicker colored line that is used to weight the rod in order to cast, which attaches to the leader
  • Leader: A section of tapered monofilament that attaches to the end of the fly line
  • Tippet: A thin section of monofilament fly line that is tied to the end of the leader and then tied to the fly
  • Drag Free Drift: Drifting your fly down a river or creek to imitate a natural insect caught in the water. Drag Free means not allowing any tension on the fly that causes it to move unnaturally down, across, or up the current