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Fly fishing opportunities in Colorado are seemingly endless. I guess that’s why I love living here so much. Let’s be honest though, we all seem to overfish our local spots and our ability to go out and try new waters is limited.
There are plenty of epic drainages out there if we are willing to put in the time to both research and explore them.
Well…I’ve done some of the research for you and created a list of three awesome fly fishing lodges in Colorado. Each one is unique and offers a different fly fishing experience.
What they all have in common is their ability to make you yearn for more.
Best Fly Fishing Lodges in Colorado
North Fork Ranch
A Colorado fly fishing related list would not be complete without mention of the South Platte River. This Gold Medal trout river begins in the high reaches of South Park as meandering creeks, chalk full of brookies. After passing through seven dams and countless acres of private land, the South Platte finally makes its way to Denver.
North Fork Ranch sits on 520 acres of land along the North Fork of the South Platte River. With an easy (under an hour) drive from Denver, this is the most accessible ranch on our list. But don’t let its proximity to a major metropolitan area scare you away. You will feel as if you jumped into a de Havilland Beaver and landed in wilderness seclusion.
The world’s best fly fishing destinations all have one thing in common; access. Like they say in the real estate industry, “it’s all about location”. A stay at North Fork Ranch provides a multitude of fly fishing opportunities at exclusive private water ranches like Long Meadow Ranch and the famed Boxwood Gulch where you can catch trout the size of a mature dachshund, and not one of the designer lap versions.
Think about that for a minute. You’re standing in thigh deep, gin clear water high in the Colorado Rockies. You’ve got your trusty 5-weight in hand, casting a #16 beadhead pheasant tail trailed by a #20 sparkle-wing RS2.
It’s morning. The air is crisp but the coffee in your belly is keeping you warm. A cool breeze comes down the canyon and you’re grateful because it forces you to refocus. Your strike indicator seems to twitch but not enough to cause a set.
Then it takes a full-on dive. You set. You feel the opposing force in your forearm as your rod bends to a full arch. You must be snagged on something. Then it moves. You lift your rod tip high and pull back in protest. It barely budges but now he’s pissed. He starts making a run. Then, after taking you through a deep riffle near the far bank, he jumps out of the water heading upstream. You get a clear look. It’s a wiener dog.
Let me be perfectly honest with you, trout of this size are caught frequently on this stretch of the North Fork. However, they are less frequently landed. That’s a good thing for you though as you probably don’t have any dog treats in your wading vest.
Whether you fish the waters on North Fork Ranch property or take advantage of the private-water partnerships the ranch offers, you won’t be bored. Oh, and let’s not forget the easy access to other epic Colorado fishing destinations like Cheesman Canyon, Deckers, the Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon. These are all world renown, public fishing locations that will keep you busy for weeks.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Dry fly fishing at Long Meadow. If you’re the purest of the pure (like my father), you don’t want to miss casting classic patterns like Royall Wulffs, Royal Coachmen, and Stimulators to the fat bows and powerful brookies in the two miles of backwater and ultra-fishy channels just upstream of North Fork Ranch.
Most Family Friendly
Three Rivers Resort
I became fascinated with brook trout when I was just a young boy, about the age of 8. Up until that time, we spent most of our fishing days trolling for rainbows, lakers, and the occasional walleye. I loved the beautiful colors, the aggressiveness, and the fight even a hand-sized brookie could put up. To this day, I love chasing brook trout in the high mountain streams throughout Colorado.
Some of the best brook trout fishing in Colorado can be found on the doorsteps of Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO. The upper Taylor River originates from some of the highest peaks in all the state and flows into Taylor Park Reservoir. Along the way, as the flows quicken and grow with tributary help, the creek turns into stream and the stream gives way to river.
Through the high country, the water stays icy cold while twisting and bending through steep canyons and long high-altitude meadows. The river is dotted with beaver ponds all along the way creating slow moving, nearly standing water. Here the bugs are thick, and the brook trout are fat and happy.
Back down the canyon at 8,000 feet, Three Rivers Resort sits as a mountain oasis on the banks of the Taylor River. Three Rivers Resort is the family-friendliest destination on our list. Activities such as rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, mountain biking, four-wheel drive tours, and even zip lining can keep the family busy while you’re pursuing a Colorado Grand Slam (catching a brown, rainbow, brook and cutthroat, all in one day).
Accommodations at Three Rivers include RV sites, lodge rooms, cabins and even vacation-style homes for larger groups. Book early enough and you’ll practically be fishing off your back porch. The property includes a general store, a fly shop, playgrounds, fire pits, and even a fishing pond for the flycaster-to-be. Once you’re done playing for the day, take your crew to Three Rivers Smokehouse for a rack of ribs and a side of the truffle fries. Did I mention you can get a to-go bottle of wine? Well, you can.
They call it Three Rivers because the Taylor River comes together with the East River just downstream from the resort to form the Gunnison River. Yes, you can fish three epic Colorado rivers in a single trip. And yes, you can walk to all of them from your cabin at Three Rivers.
No one knows these waters better than Willowfly Anglers. If you’re lucky enough to spend the day with Willowfly guide Jake Alpert, tell him I said hello. Jake is the outdoorsman version of a snowbird; spending his summers on the water in Colorado and his winters cooking up 5-star meals in Tucson, AZ. I met Jake in guide school, and I’ve wanted to be him ever since.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Fishing the tailwater section just below the Taylor Dam. Some call this the Hog Trough because of the monster rainbows gorging on the mysis shrimp that flow from the reservoir through the bottom release tube. When the water is high, string up your 6-weight with a #18 Sand’s Epoxy Mysis on a long leader and hold on for fun ride.
Best Overall Experience
High Lonesome Ranch
De Beque is a tiny little town along Interstate 70 in Colorado located somewhere between Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. It’s one of those little towns that you’ll miss if you blink too long. Just through town and after a few miles of dusty country road, you find yourself in High Lonesome Ranch territory.
This is the point in the journey where your sportsman heart starts to beat a little faster with the anticipation of all things fur, feathers, and fins. Although technically High Lonesome Ranch is a working ranch, simply calling it a ranch doesn’t do it justice from an outdoorsman perspective.
It’s more like a Disneyland for adults that enjoy shooting sports and epic fly fishing.
Just writing this article has my mind spinning thinking about all the possible ways to spend a long weekend at High Lonesome Ranch. To keep this article on track, however, let’s focus on how three days of fly fishing might look.
There are a handful of Colorado River tributaries running through High Lonesome Ranch property. Along their path, they meet up with natural springs which create an ideal aquatic habitat for large trout of all kinds. Extreme care goes into making sure these waters provide the best possible living conditions for fish, and the best possible fishing conditions for guests. With a strict catch and release policy at the ranch, it’s a win-win for the pursuer and the pursued.
High Lonesome Ranch also owns property to the northwest called K-T Ranch (pronounced kay-bar-tee for you tenderfoot), near the town of Meeker, CO and the White River. It’s a bit of a drive but guess what, the ranch has a shuttle to take you and your pals to and from. This private 4-mile stretch of the White River sees very little pressure which makes a day trip to K-T extremely rewarding.
Our favorite time to fish the White is in late summer when the adjacent fields are full of fat grasshoppers. If you’ve never fly fished with a hopper-dropper rig, get ready for a whirlwind of fun.
I’m partial to a #12 Chubby Chernobyl which can act as a giant ant, a Cicada, grasshopper, salmonfly or even an adult stone. They float high on the water, are easy to see, and can hold up a larger beadhead dropper. K-T Ranch is the perfect wading addition to your stay at High Lonesome Ranch.
By utilizing the ranch’s Fly Fishing Expeditions, your weekend can also consist of a float trip down the Lower Colorado River or the Roaring Fork. High Lonesome Ranch teams up with Glenwood Springs-based guides in case a float trip down the Colorado River sounds appealing. If hiking and wading are more your thing, why not hit the legendary Frying Pan. Remember the shuttle? Yeah, getting there is as easy as calling down to headquarters.
Speaking of headquarters, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you about the dining options at High Lonesome Ranch. Talk about farm-to-table! From the herbs on the potatoes to the ribeye roasting over the fire pit outside, nearly everything on your plate is sourced either directly from High Lonesome or one of the neighboring ranches. With three squares a day plus a cocktail hour in the evening with hors d’oeuvres and local wines, your stomach and taste buds will never be left wanting.
And just in case you’re not completely convinced, the High Lonesome Ranch is an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge. The instructors and guides at the ranch are all Orvis certified. Orvis knows fly fishing so you can trust that endorsement.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Landing one of the lunkers hiding in the weeds in the spring-fed ponds. If it’s big enough, you just might score a custom pin commemorating the feat. Welcome to the 25” Club!
Colorado has some of the best trout waters and best fly fishing lodges on the entire planet.
Whether you are looking to catch monster cutthroats on dries or prefer a secluded high elevation brook stream, there is something out there for every type of angler.
The best Colorado fly fishing lodges are largely determined simply by what kind of trip you’re looking to have. Our lineup is sure to satisfy even the most scrupulous of fly fishing travelers.
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