Colorado West Elk Expedition

Big Mountains, Big Fish, and Big Adventure

The snow capped 14,000 foot mountains and high alpine valleys of the West Elk Mountains surround the tiny mountain town of Crested Butte, CO providing the backdrop for the fly fishing adventure of a lifetime. After three days of fly fishing school at our front country campsite we will head into the backcountry high alpine lakes and streams of the Gunnison River Drainage.  With their abundance of brilliantly colored, big and wild cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout this area is a favorite of Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions for good reason. After leaving the backcountry we will volunteer with the stewardship team of the Crested Butte Land Trust to help them conserve this pristine paradise. Using our finely honed skills the final day will be spent fishing the famous Arkansas River from drift boats for trophy trout. Whether this is your first time fishing and camping or you are an experienced angler and backpacker this trip will create memories that will last a lifetime.

2016 Trip Details

Dates: 7/21-8/7 Duration: 18 Days Tuition: $3,895 Arrive/Depart: Denver, CO Grades: Entering 10th- Entering Freshman Year of College Community Service Hours: 20

West Elk Highlights

•Fly Fishing school on a trout filled private stream and spring fed pond
•Backpack & fish mountain lakes and streams
•Explore the backcountry with the support of pack horses
•Volunteer with Crested Butte Land Trust
•Fish and raft the famous Arkansas River
•Climb a 14,000 ft mountain
•Make memories to last a lifetime
•Catch a fish on a fly you tied

Days 1-4: After arriving in Denver we head to a front country campsite on a lake and creek for three days of fly fishing school. Participants will learn everything they need to know about fly fishing from selecting the right fly and tying knots to casting and landing fish. At night we will learn to tie flies around the campfire. Whether it is your first time fly fishing or you are a seasoned angler your guides will work with you to take your fly fishing to the next level.

Days 5-8: Armed with our new fishing skills we will head into the wilderness in search of beautiful native cutthroat trout on the first of our two backcountry expeditions.

Days 10-13: Building on the fishing skills we have learned so far as well as the backpacking and leadership skills we learned on our first backpacking trip we will set out on our second backcountry expedition. This time using the help of horses to lighten our packs, we will travel high into the West Elk Wilderness to set up a base camp on a high alpine lake in a fly-fishers paradise. From our base camp we will use our maps, compass and all we have learned about safe wilderness travel to explore the multiple lakes and rivers separated by scenic mountain vistas.

Days 14-15: After heading out of the wilderness for our last time we will volunteer with the Crested Butte Land Trust Stewardship Team to help conserve these remarkable areas that we had the pleasure of calling home throughout our trip.

Day 17: The final day will be the ultimate reward for all of our work. We will spend the day fishing the Gunnison River from drift boats with expert guides from the Crested Butte Angler. The Gunnison River is famous for its large wild rainbow and brown trout. With all we have learned and the help of our guides we will have the awesome opportunity  of catching 20 inch plus trout. After a full day on the river we will spend our last night together enjoying our banquet at a local restaurant while reminiscing about the awesome memories we have made.

Are you ready to enroll? Click on the Enroll Now tab at the top right of the page or give us a call to get started.

Do you have more questions? Give us a call at (828) 577- 8204, or send us an email at and we will be happy to answer all your questions. If you are looking for more information click on the Request Information tab at the top right of our homepage and we will give you a call and  email you some more info.

Do I need to have fly fishing experience? 

No experience necessary. No matter your skill level your guides will work with you to make you a skilled fly fisherman or woman.

 Do I need my own fishing equipment?

Students are responsible for their own fly rod, reel, line, and a few other personal fishing items. Please contact us for a full packing list. Don’t have your own? Not a problem. We have top quality Orvis rods and reels available to rent.

What other equipment will I need?

We will send you a full packing list if you are interested in signing up for one of our Adventure Academies. Group gear like tents, stoves, etc are all provided by LFFE. Personal gear such as sleeping bags and backpacks are all available to rent.


We have put together a list of all that you will need for a successful and comfortable expedition. We offer a rental program for most of the big ticket items like fly rods, reels, sleeping bags, etc..

Here is a link to download the complete Packing List Colorado West Elk Expedition. If you are interested in renting some or all of the big ticket items on the packing list click here to download the Equipment Rental Form.

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What is Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions?

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions specializes in teen fly fishing summer camps. Our teen fly fishing summer camps are not an ordinary lodge based kids fly fishing camps. At Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions we combine a teen adventure camp, youth fly fishing school, service learning, and community service to create our unique Teen Fly Fishing Adventure Academies. Our kids and teen fly fishing camps travel to the premier wilderness fly fishing and backcountry fly fishing locations throughout North America. Join us on an adventure of a lifetime. Become an experienced fly fisherman or woman while hiking, camping and fishing at our North Carolina Teen Fly Fishing Academy in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains. Or explore Rocky Mountain fly fishing opportunities on one of our Colorado or Wyoming fly fishing expeditions. If you are looking for an ordinary teen summer tour, teen summer camp, or teen adventure you have come to the wrong place. If you are looking to learn new skills while on the adventure of a lifetime, try one of our youth/teen fly fishing summer camps or allow us to design a  custom adventure for your family, group, or school.