A Colorado dude ranch family fishing experience

By J. A. Sturgeon

Dylan, my son, is fifteen and more interested in looking at the world on a computer screen than experiencing it in person. Most days, his father, Jim, and I aren’t much better. Today is different, though. Today, we are all standing in frigid clear Rocky Mountain water that swirls around our ankles, knees and thighs, seeming to suction from one side as it pushes on the other. Just standing firm against the current is more of a workout than I’ve had in months, but Dylan isn’t complaining. He’s as focused as Jim and I are, because today, we have a common foe.

Instantly hooked

There’s an abundance of activities on a Colorado Dude Ranch and I never expected Dylan to spend a second day on the river, especially after the way yesterday ended. Maybe a novice fisherman shouldn’t have jumped straight into fly-fishing, but that is what Dylan wanted to try, and I was happy to see that we had found an activity that interested all of us.

Yesterday started out perfectly. The expert guide from the ranch had shown us the basics and encouraged us to get out there and go for it. We had our rods in hand and were ready to jump in with our hip waders and broad brimmed hats, but there was one thing left to do. The assortment of lures looked like a burial ground for ugly bugs to me, but Jim was explaining to Dylan how the design of the fly affected what the fish saw in the water. The weight of the bead head would determine whether the lure hovered above the water or sunk below; the goose biots arrowed in this direction to simulate movement.

I couldn’t help smiling at Jim’s explanations as Dylan finally selected his lure and Jim showed him how to fix it on the end of the line. Jim probably hadn’t been on a river since he was Dylan’s age, but as I looked at their heads bent over the end of Dylan’s line, I realized this is one of those moments you never forget.

Minor tangles

Casting had not been my forte, and after my first two casts ended up catching nothing but nearby foliage, the guide gave me some pointers on time-honored methods for novices. Dylan was different, though.

As Jim and I half-heartedly waggled our own lines, we watched our son lift his into the air, the silver-thin line a curving streak of light against the cobalt Colorado sky. The end of the line plunked into the river, where the fast and slow waters met, and Dylan pulled the loose end of the line as we’d been taught. I glanced at Jim, and saw that he was grinning, clearly as impressed as I was. Dylan had made it look easy, but more than that, he had made it look like art. He was a natural, and he proved it with the next cast, and the next.

That’s when things became less . . . perfect. He got a bite, but Jim was helping me untangle my line from a moss-encrusted rock and events ensued that led to Dylan losing the fish and taking a prolonged dunk in the river.

Dylan had been a good sport, and we had all left the river laughing, but I still didn’t expect Dylan to be so eager to get back to the river. He couldn’t stop talking about our experience, and encouraged us to get through our dinner quickly so we could be up early for another fishing excursion. Our unexpectedly gourmet family-style meal turned out to be too good to rush. It featured grilled lamb and was accompanied by choice wine for Mom and Dad, but we did make it back to our rustic-chic room when we were ready.

Tackling it again

The next morning Dylan was up early wrangling me and Jim. He’d ride his horse later, he told us, and would save rafting for another day. It seemed our son had a score to settle with the fish and the river.

Dylan’s shoulders were outlined with determination as we made our way down the well-worn path to the river. His pace increased, and a moment later I heard the gurgle and whoosh of the runs and riffles. It wasn’t long before Dylan was back in the water, seeming once again to be in his element, and his father and I watched in admiration while he cast his fly line out as if he had done it a thousand times instead of a dozen.

My heart leapt when I saw Dylan’s arms strain and realized he had a bite. I’ll never forget the sound of my son’s voice, almost a man’s voice, as it called out, “Dad,” with a hint of a child’s uncertainty. Jim walked over and helped Dylan pull the fish from the water.

The guide handed me the landing net and I was ready when father and son hefted the vanquished foe, a gleaming trout with green skin that sparkled in the sun, from the river. Dylan’s enthusiasm for fly-fishing is probably a sign that he will catch a great many fish in his life, but on this cool Colorado morning, nothing could have made me happier than knowing that he caught his first fish with our family, here in this amazing spot. How thrilling to have this matchless experience at a Colorado Dude Ranch.

Play and go fish at a Colorado Dude Ranch!

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