4 Fly-Fishing Spots in Colorado
Destinations that offer the lure of the cast
Eleven-Mile Canyon, South Platte River
Maybe it’s the intricate arm and body, or the life-affirming pulse of the river, or being immersed in the surround sound of nature. It’s difficult to explain the transcendental magic of fly-fishing. The experience, long loved by men, is now one of the fastest-growing sports among highly educated women ages 45 to 60.
And what could be better than Colorado’s expansive stream, creek, and river habitats, partnered with luxurious food, libations, and accommodations from world-renowned outfitters? This makes the Centennial State the envy of many a fisherperson. It’s a trout paradise, where you can easily net an 18-inch native rainbow before returning to the lodge for a farm-to-table dinner and end the day engulfed in down and 400-thread-count sheets.
World-renowned fly-fishing instructor Char Bloom has echoed the women’s yearning and need for fly-fishing for over three decades. “I have always seen myself as more of an encourager or facilitator of women in the outdoors. As a conservationist, I have immense interest in studying the behavior of all things alive so I love walking the river banks or rowing my boat into an area where I can observe the fish, the bugs, the deer in the fields. Many of us have experienced what is known as River Time. This is much like, or is, a meditative state. It's magical,” she explains. Regardless of where Bloom fishes—typically in summit county on trips with clients and friends—she is at home in water and quiet luxury, along with a growing cadre of women fly-fishers (charbloom.com).
Photo courtesy of The Broadmoor
Photo courtesy of The Broadmoor
Photo courtesy of The Broadmoor
Luxurious River Retreat
THE BROADMOOR FISHING CAMP
The legendary Broadmoor opened up their Wilderness Experience in phases over the past two years, and their newest offering is the Fishing Camp. The meticulously landscaped river property boasts seven historic miners’ cabins that have been completely gutted and renovated in the resort’s style, and the narrow canyon along five miles of the Tarryall River is now home to some of the most pristine trout habitat in the state.
More than two years of reconstruction of critical habitat, including dam and bank dig-outs, has brought this stretch of Colorado water to optimum production. Native rainbows and cutthroats along with cutbows and massive browns all lurk in the eddies and pools perfectly supplied with food and protection. Guests, from novice to expert, are invited to fish all day with a private guide. Between pulling 20-inch brownies out of the crystal-clear waters, indulge in family-style dining in the Main Lodge—open bar included.
Photo by Isais Miciu Nicolaevici
Remote, Relaxing, and Raw
THE HIGH LONESOME RANCH
Located in DeBeque (pronounced “Da beck”), 40 minutes northeast of Grand Junction, the isolated High Lonesome Ranch hosts a maximum of 36 guests for overnight visits. Fish on the property reside in deep pools formed over the decades by the resident beaver population and the natural flow of water from high atop the North Dry Fork valley. Guests can wander off the property to try their luck on the freestone, White River at the “sister” ranch the K-T Ranch near Meeker. They boast over seven miles of private water that includes three spring creeks. After netting 18 to 20 inch browns and rainbows, extreme comfort awaits in Colorado-classic lodgings ranging from a remote 3 bedroom cabin to the 8 bedroom, 8 bath Guest House—all intricately decorated, and the views and settings are prime. A good night’s sleep follows spectacular meals served HLR ranch-style in the Cook House.
A huge perk of this Guest Ranch is that you can go for as little as one night or as many as you wish. You’ll need multiple nights to add a float trip on the lower Colorado River or the Roaring Fork. Locals, go in early spring or late fall. Fish are biting, crowds are at a minimum, and both seasons are packed with color and excitement.
Photo by Geoff Johnson
Orchards and “hogs”
GUNNISON RIVER FARMS
Off a dusty dirt road in Delta County, in the minuscule town of Austin, this century-old orchard set amid red sand cliffs that drop into the roaring Gunny far exceeds any fairy-tale setting. Gunnison River Farms is 1,400 acres, including three cabins moved from Telluride and three newer cabins of various sizes, all air-conditioned. The ones right along the river even include large screened-in porches with rocking chairs. Before throwing the line, take a dip in one of the farms’ ponds—giant rafts await your arrival.
For the legendary Gunny, with its narrow canyons and class III and IV rapids, guides are mandatory. Black Canyon Anglers will take you on a float downriver to have your cast and catch between sightings of bighorn sheep, deer, otters, eagles, and much more. “Hogs” (massive local fish) come out of this stretch of water, and hatch seasons are legend. For extra sustenance to keep you casting, apples, peaches, and pears from the farms’ biodynamic orchards as well as produce from their gardens are combined with local meats, poultry, and spirits.
Photo courtesy of South Park Fly Fishers
Private Water Day Trip
SOUTH PARK FLY FISHERS
Seven historic ranches make up South Park Fly Fishers, about 90 minutes southwest of metro Denver, and spots must be reserved in advance if you want to fish. These are a true mecca of privacy as only two to four anglers are allowed at each ranch per day. At rates of only $45 to $70 per fisher, these miles of private water are affordable and leave many fish unspooked and looking for an angler’s fly.
Flowing through the fields and ranches is the Tarryall Creek, known for big native trout and abundant big-fish habitat. These quiet ranches don’t offer many amenities or overnight stays, but rather extreme isolation and plenty of spring and fall availability. I must have pulled out nine or 10 good-size rainbows, cutbows, and browns in August with the help of owner/guide and trout hunter extraordinaire Tad Howard. My husband snagged two 20-plus-inch pike from heavy spring flows. It’s sheer excitement and roomy enough to really scream when a giant is landed. coloradotrouthunters.com
SaraBella 9-foot 5-weight rod in lavender with white thread
MADE FOR WOMEN
“I started fishing with my dad at 18 months old. But I really gained interest about 15 years ago with my husband on the Colorado River,” explains April Archer, CEO of SaraBella Fishing, the only woman-owned company in the region that makes an entire line of fly rods just for women and girls. In her inaugural year, Archer and team have sold their hand-built rods throughout Colorado, the US, and Canada.
SaraBella 9-foot 6-weight rod in lavender with teal thread. The rod sleeve is made with the help of local non-profit the Mile High Workshop.
“We offer so many choices of grips, weights, colors, custom messaging—this is what truly sets us apart,” notes Archer. You won’t find Archer on the Colorado Riverthese days, she developed a fondness for small creeks and high mountain lakes, ones that are off the beaten path, but there’s a SaraBella rod for that as well. (sarabellafishing.com)