Well, there’s no doubt that spring is here at Vista Verde; the snow is making its rapid retreat, green grass is beginning to emerge and birds’ songs are punctuating the warming air. Yes, aside from the random spring snow squall, all signs point toward the end of winter. For me, however, nothing marks spring’s arrival like the disappearance of ice on the Elk River and trout feeding hungrily on emerging flies.
For those of you whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting this past season, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Brandon Martin and I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to serve as manager of the fly fishing program here at Vista Verde Ranch. Some of you coming this summer may be looking for a bit of variety during your dude ranch vacation, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming season and the opportunity to spend time on the water with you!
I jumped on the chance to take the afternoon on Monday to get a little fishing in now that the Elk River is running freely and the water level has not yet risen from the inevitable snow melt that will occur high in the Zirkel Range in the upcoming weeks. It may be true that I still have some tackle orders to complete, some flies to tie and some projects to finish up around the ranch but the sun was shining, the water was running clear and my opportunistic spirit bet on the fish being hungry. I justified and rationalized this as a “scouting trip” to get a jump on the springtime fishing; you know, part of the job that somebody has to do.
The afternoon started just across the road from the ranch where the Elk River parallels Seedhouse Road. Access only required a short trudge through some remnant snow before stepping into the cold rushing water. There’s always a moment of calming relief after entering 37-degree water and realizing that your waders haven’t formed any leaks since their last use. I spent several minutes first doing a little in-stream investigation to determine what the fish might be dining on now that their metabolic rates are on the rise with the warming temps. After examining some rocks from beneath the current it was clear to see that small stonefly nymphs were abundant and were likely on the trout’s menu. This is great news for both the feeding trout and the angler attempting to fool them. However, when I put myself in the stoneflies’ shoes it seems altogether like bad news. But alas, I’m here to fish and stoneflies don’t wear shoes, anyway. Earlier I had tied up some imitations that I hoped would be passable and made my first casts into tight pockets where I presumed trout would be holding in the slower water behind some of the large rocks that give the Elk its wild and tumbling character. An up-close and tight line technique proved to be just the trick as my first two fish came to the net within ten minutes, or so.
The first, a small rainbow still sporting adolescent par marks and the second a healthy cutthroat that put up a surprisingly sporty fight for having just recently shaken off the winter blues. While the rate of success didn’t quite hold up throughout the afternoon, I did manage to land a couple more – both rainbows – before getting off the river under the threat of an advancing storm. Before making my way up the bank and back to my truck I stopped to clip off my flies – the true unsung heroes of any successful outing – and took a minute to take in my surroundings. The low and static roar of the tumbling water, the faint smell of pine, the majestic view of white mountains heaving skyward and the way that energy courses through the air as the land awakens from its winter slumber all served to remind me of my fortune in where I call home and what I call “my job”.
So here’s to new beginnings and what I know will be a season full of good times and lasting memories made with some of the finest folks we’re honored to call “our guests”. Until next time, take care and come see us soon, or check out our fly fishing information as you dream of your next vacation.