Several Harper-recommended hotels in Colorado provide exceptional guided fly-fishing. Some are dedicated fishing lodges, while others are larger resorts with an extensive menu of activities, which includes fishing. The five properties below all offer days spent beside rushing mountain streams, surrounded by epic mountain scenery.
The famous Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs, now runs three satellite “Wilderness Experience” camps. The Broadmoor Fly Fishing Camp is an Orvis-endorsed property, situated 75 minutes west of the main resort, along a 5-mile stretch of private water on the Tarryall River. The chalet-style Main Lodge features pine plank floors, Southwestern rugs, Navajo wall hangings, beamed ceilings and a wraparound deck. The seven guest cabins date from the 1920s and, consequently, only three offer en suite baths. (There is a convenient and well-appointed Bath House.) Social hours with “mountain-inspired” hors d’oeuvres and drinks are hosted nightly, and family-style dinners are served at a long wooden table.
The camp is open from late April to the end of October. At an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, the weather in spring and fall can vary widely in temperature. In summer, there are more prolific insect hatches, with the dry fly season getting underway in July. Fall, when the water is usually low and clear, is the season for sight fishing for the largest fish.
Fly-tying instructional lessons can be arranged. In addition, horseback riding, guided hikes and bird-watching tours are all available within the adjacent 120,000-acre Lost Creek Wilderness area.
Dunton River Camp is situated on Cresto Ranch, a 500-acre cattle spread dating to the late 1800s. Some cattle still roam the land, in a part of southwest Colorado that the owners deemed “perfectly suited to a summer-only tented camp.” There are a total of eight luxurious safari-style tents, each sitting on a 640-square-foot wooden platform anchored to bedrock. Four tents are located along the West Fork of the Dolores River, while four mountain tents are nestled above in an alpine forest, with views of the San Juan Mountains. The canvas tents come with king-size beds, cowhide rugs, gas stoves and soaking tubs.
The property also comprises a spa tent, riverside sauna and the farmhouse, the latter of which is a cozy, cabinlike building that has stood on the land since the 1800s. Mornings start with fresh coffee or tea delivered to your tent, but all meals are taken family-style in the farmhouse.
For fishermen, the best time of year for a visit is between mid-June and late October, when the hatches are most plentiful. The Dolores holds a good population of rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout in the 12- to 16-inch range, with some fish over 20 inches. At Dunton River Camp, the West Fork of the Dolores is a midsize freestone river, which combines tranquil meadow oxbows with more turbulent pocket water. Much of the river’s appeal derives from its setting in a remote and exquisitely beautiful valley. The fishing itself is accessible for anglers of all experience and ability levels.
Located a 35-minute drive from Crested Butte, Taylor River Lodge is an exceptionally warm and welcoming property. A high-end fishing camp set on an 8-acre estate, it has six one-bedroom log cabins, each of which is named after a famous trout fly (Parachute Adams and Golden Stone to cite but two) and two larger homes (dubbed Green Drake and Royal Wulff) with kitchens and fireplaces. Cabins typically possess the feel of an old yet elegant trapper’s shack, with queen-size beds, fluffy down comforters and upholstered headboards. Baths are small but well equipped. Idiosyncratic details include wrought-iron door handles forged in the shape of fishtails by an area blacksmith.
An atmospheric central lounge houses a horseshoe-shaped bar, and the indoor-outdoor restaurant offers multicourse menus that showcase regionally sourced ingredients. The property also has a bathhouse with a saltwater pool, steam room, sauna and hot tub, plus a small spa facility.
Fishing instruction takes place on a stocked casting pond. The lodge’s semiprivate mile of the Taylor River — named after an early prospector in the Crested Butte area — is a short walk away. The lightly fished river cuts through a rocky canyon that is also home to deer, elk and bighorn sheep. It is considered among the top spots in Colorado for trophy rainbows, browns and cutthroats, as well as the occasional kokanee salmon, which is a landlocked, freshwater version of the sockeye. Trout up to 22 inches in length are not uncommon. Float trips on the nearby Gunnison River can also be arranged. The lodge is open from late May through mid-October.
Although The Little Nell is one of the country’s premier ski hotels, it also has a separate summer personality — as does the whole town of Aspen. Situated at the base of Aspen Mountain, the property has 92 guest lodgings. Premium Mountain Side Rooms, particularly those on the fourth floor, feature gabled balconies that look out onto the mountainside.
Element 47 serves seasonal contemporary American cuisine backed by a 20,000-bottle wine cellar, while the Ajax Tavern offers innovative bistro dishes in a recently renovated dining room or on a redesigned patio. The hotel also features a wine bar, a small spa and a heated courtyard pool and Jacuzzi.
Summer guests consult the Adventure Center to arrange activities that range from off-road 4x4 driving trips to mountaintop stargazing. Customized fly-fishing excursions take place on the Roaring Fork River in the company of experienced guides, as well as on other stretches of private water throughout the valley. Float trips down the Roaring Fork River can be arranged along with gourmet picnics and Champagne.
The Roaring Fork is a swift, deep river with clear water. It is navigable by small craft throughout most of its length to its confluence with the Colorado. Designated wild trout waters run from Hallum Lake (in Aspen) all the way downriver to Upper Woody Creek Bridge. The Roaring Fork is officially classified as a Gold Medal trout stream, which reflects both the large numbers of fish and the proportion of them greater than 14 inches in length. Both the rainbow and brown trout average from 12 to 18 inches, with no shortage of larger fish.
Telluride is likewise best known as one of America’s top ski resorts. However, the town is bustling in summertime, with hikers, climbers, off-road enthusiasts, paragliders — and anglers. The adventure guides at The Madeline can book private excursions on several stretches of the Dolores River, as well as the Uncompahgre River, but for those with limited time, the South Fork San Miguel River is a convenient option, as productive stretches are little more than a 20-minute drive from the hotel.
The newly refurbished resort offers comfortable accommodations, exceptionally stylish public areas, two excellent restaurants, a spa and an outdoor pool with stunning panoramic mountain views.
The South Fork San Miguel changes with the seasons. In late summer, it is a pretty stream with fast-flowing riffles, interspersed with deeper runs and pools. However, a wide network of dry rocky channels supply evidence of the river’s much larger size during the season of melting snows. The trout are plentiful, though 12 inches is about the average length. Fish of up to 18 inches are not unusual. As well as browns and rainbows, the river holds cutthroat trout that rise freely to a dry fly. Peak fishing conditions run from June to October due to the abundance of stoneflies.