What’s Happening on the Ranch?

There’s always something happening at Vista Verde Ranch. Foals are born, new recipes are created, or the wranglers are playing tricks on each other. Come here to read the latest news!

Fishing Report- July 15-22

Are you looking to come on a fishing trip to Colorado?  Well, even if you’re not staying at the ranch, here are some tips from our guides on how the waters around Vista Verde are fishing.

Flows: low and clear
Hatches: Caddis, PMD’s, Flavs, yellow sallies, midges, hoppers
Water temps: 55-65
Hot flies: pheasant tail nymphs, baetis nymphs, flash back midge, hares ears, elk hair caddis, parachute adams, Hoppers, amys ant, stimulators, copper johns, foam terrestrials
Fishing has been good, the main stem of the elk, in addition to its forks have been fishing well.

Stream Report July 1-8

Fishing report: July 1-8
Flows: Normal and very clear
Hatches: Caddis, Mahogany duns, Yellow sallies, tiny green stones, Golden stones, March browns
Water temps: 52-62
Hot flies: Pheasant tail, Hares ear, Baetis, Flashback midge, RS2, stimulators, Pats rubber legs, Elk hair caddis, Parachute adams, Foam hoppers,
Fishing is heating up here along with the temps. Flows are very normal and fish are being found throughout the river. Both nymphing deep in the bigger pools and a hopper dropper rig in the shallower water have been producing fish.

advice from your fly fishing guide

So, you loved your fly fishing vacation, and now you’re ready to shop for a rod?

If you’re looking to purchase your first fly rod, you’ll likely be met with a question very early on; What weight rod do you want? Answering something like “ I don’t know, a light one”, might earn you a few laughs from the guy behind the counter, but it won’t get you very far. Fly rods, like golf clubs, have a plethora of different sizes or “weights” that are all meant to do different jobs. Unfortunately, there’s no one rod that does it all, and if you’re looking to pursue more than one type of fish, or fish in a large variety of ways, you may be looking at buying a few different rods. But let’s focus on your first rod.

Fly rods care classified in sizes ranging from 0 to 15. Smaller weight means a thinner, more delicate rod, while something like a 15 weight may feel more like a broomstick than a precision instrument. All of these rods are designed perfectly for different jobs, unfortunately there is no one weight that’s perfect for everything (this is how we can justify buying that 27th rod that we need to have.) We can however, often get away with using one weight for a variety of different jobs.

In addition to each rod’s weight, it also has a specific type of action. The action of a fly rod is essentially how noodly or stiff that certain size is. It is measured on a scale of slow to fast. A slow action rod will feel very noodly and will bend very deeply into the rod while casting. A fast action rod will feel very stiff and only bend closer to the tip. While both of these actions of the same weight will have the same strength, they each have pros and cons. A slower action rod will be less accurate casting but is often less likely to break and will be more forgiving when playing a fish. Faster action rods are more accurate, have better feel, and can be easier to cast for some, but they are more likely to break and don’t absorb as much of the shock when fighting a fish. Despite these differences, rod action is ultimately a personal preference; there’s not a right or wrong answer. So, Isaac, just tell me what rod to buy is likely what you’re thinking right now!

The first thing to ask yourself is what type of fish you plan to spend the most time going after. Rod weights 0-3 are great for pan fish or very small trout, fish weighing up to a pound or two. Weights between 4 and 6 are very versatile; they could work well for trout, bass, walleye, carp, and fish weighing from one to 6 pounds. Weights 7-10 are great for bigger or stronger fish, redfish, pike/musky, bonefish, permit, salmon, pretty much anything between 5 and 20 lbs. if you are looking to pursue a fish that could probably eat a small child or the annoying neighbor’s pet, you’ll be looking at 10 weights and above. Fish size is your primary factor in choosing your fly rod’s weight, however, what type of flies your casting is important as well.

Fly consideration is really the fine-tuning in selecting your first rod. A smaller rod is going to have a hard time throwing a bigger fly. A bigger rod is going to present a small fly about as gracefully as a fishing guide doing the two-step (excluding Miller). If you plan on fishing small flies (one inch or less) for trout and bass, a 5 weight will probably be your best bet. If you plan on fishing flies bigger than an inch, for primarily bass and maybe some trout, you’ll probably want a 6 weight.

Overall, I would suggest if you’re looking for a fly rod for trout, get a 9 foot, 5 weight, fast action rod. It will handle 90% of the trout fishing situations you encounter and will be terrific to learn on.

If you plan to primarily fly fish for bass, get a 9 foot, 6 weight, fast action rod.

If you’re looking for a more specialized fishing pursuit such as saltwater or very small freshwater fish, consult with a local fly shop for a local, expert opinion.

No matter what you are pursuing, don’t buy a high-end rod for your first, you’re likely to break it in your first few years, and its quality won’t be appreciated until you’re more experienced. The entry-level rods available today are incredible compared to what fly rods were only a decade ago, and they will more than serve your purpose.

Family Traveler – June 2018

Over at Family Traveler, they are busy sharing ideas for summer vacation for families as ’tis the season.  It’s always fun to be surprised by an article that we are included in, and that was the case for this article about 11 Ranches for Families to Horse-Around at this Summer.  Not only did they mention our summer dude ranch vacations, but they also gave a shout out to family vacations in the snow at Vista Verde.  So many options for fun at the ranch!  Read the article…..

Dude Ranch Staff- What are they up to now?

I recently heard something about one of our former staff that made me wonder about what amazing things our alum are up to these days.  After putting out the feelers, I’ve heard from a bunch of them and thought it would be fun to share what ventures they have going on with all of you.

Taylor Porter invites you to stop at Seedstack Brewery if you are coming through Denver on your way to the ranch to enjoy a pint of Czech or German brew.

Looking for something sweet in Austin, TX?  Erin Stanley manages a bakery and product evolution at Amy’s Ice Creams.

Need a laugh?  If you go through Indianapolis, IN, make a night at ComedySportz, but first check to make sure Ben Rockey will be on the roster!

For those of you with your own horse, Sam Papalimu has her own business now for saddle fit evaluations and sells a line of adjustable western saddles.  Happy horse, happy ride.

Passing through Holland, MI and need a snack.  Stop by Albert K’s Lakeside Cafe and say hi to Jackie Rowland.

Planning a retreat for your colleagues?  Check out WinShape Teams, where Rusty Chadwick is Assistant Director.

Maybe you’re planning a fishing trip up in Montana?  Then you need to call David Bower and schedule a guided trip through Bighorn Angler in Fort Smith and get out on the Bighorn River.

Redecorating?  Natalie Muir has her own interior design company in Utah called Vanderbilt Interiors.

Matt Moore was a wrangler back in the late-90’s, and continued his involvement with horses by becoming a very talented and successful farrier in Ohio.

Before you head to the comedy show in Indianapolis, go get your hair done at Bobby Cooper Salon and ask for Anna Mowery.

If you need a true athlete who understands aches and pains, then give massage therapist Amber Henline a visit at Performance Theraputics in Cedar Rapids, IA.

When you need a vet you can trust in Oregon, look up Crystalin Murray Christensen in McMinnville.

While not working his day job or chasing around his kids, Scot Keck has managed to find time to set up a boutique shop making really interesting items out of salvaged wood.  Check out his wares on Instagram.

Hungry while in Florida?  Definitely make the trip to Osprey Tacos in St. Augustine to say hi to Chef JT and Erica, and see how little Althea is growing up!

Finally, she created beautiful note cards while at the ranch, so no surprise that Beth Bundy has made that her profession.

So much of the mission of the ranch is to pay it forward by giving our young staff the skills they need to go out into the world and be successful leaders in whatever path they choose.  It’s fun to see what these folks are up to, and look forward to hearing stories of connections made following this post!

Stream Report June 15

For you avid anglers, we’re trying to keep you up to date on how the fishing conditions are each week at the ranch.

Flows: water is clearing up, Elk is lowering big time – still fast, but it is getting fishable very soon

Hatches: Blue Wing Olives, Stoneflies, Green Drake mayflies, Pale Morning Dun mayflies, Caddis flies

Water Temp: Morning – 45-55 degrees; afternoon – 55-65 degrees

Hot Flies: san juan worms, pats rubber legs stonefly, beadhead hares ear, pheasant tails, flashback midges, RS2 flies

See you on the river!

Leaving dude ranch life behind to fish the Green River

Set the hook” I heard Zach yell from upstream, “that’s a monster”. I looked up and saw Cholly tight on what was either a log floating downstream or a large green river rainbow trout. As it turned I saw that the latter was true. Zach stood just down stream from him, net in hand. You don’t land a fish like that without a friend. The look on Cholly’s face was pure focus. Any Angler knows that a big fish has a way of pulling a Houdini escape, given the slightest lapse of attention. As the fish came closer I could see the brilliant red, olive, and white coloration along its side. “I’m not going to try netting it until it’s completely tired” Zach said. Cholly did his best to steer the fish into the shallow slow water, despite the fish’s attempts to run out in the fast current. Finally the fish started to tire. The first chance he came close Zach scooped him up in one smooth motion. “Whoo!” cue the handshakes and high fives.

As I came up river to get a better look at the catch, I could see smiles from ear to ear on both their faces. Its not everyday you get to interact with a wild fish of this caliber and it has a way of making the rest of the world melt away. Even from a distance I could sense how special the moment was for Cholly. A busy work schedule and family life have a way of reducing time spent fishing, so each opportunity for him is that much more cherished. After a few quick pictures the fish slipped back into the turquoise depths of the pristine river. Despite being a fantastic chef (as many of you know) Cholly is also an avid conservationist, and would rather allow a fish to swim free for others to enjoy, than cook it for dinner. I couldn’t help but feeling content with my own day.

We had driven out the day before and despite the only directions being “turn left 5 miles from the Utah border” everyone had found the unmarked camp site. The group consisted of HR manager Zach, chefs Cholly and Jason (pictured here with me), adventure center manager Ben, former dining room manager Bubba, Steph’s husband Todd, Home Ranch chef Jonathan, and myself. The weekend was going to be one of our last chances to all camp and spend time together before the season picked up, and free-time no longer aligned. More importantly, it was our chance to celebrate Cholly and Todd’s birthdays. The campsite was one Cholly had been staying at for nearly 20 years and it was obviously special to him. The site was a hidden gem surrounded by cottonwoods right on the banks of the magnificent green river, an oasis in the middle of the Utah desert. Each night the cool river air carried the smell of sage through the valley. The soft sound of the river flowing by was occasionally disturbed by the honking of geese, searching for a mate. The setting sun lit the whole valley on fire as we cooked. Camping with three chefs guarantees camp food that could be served in a 5-star restaurant. Add in great fishing, perfect weather, and good friends–you can’t go wrong.

After each meal we sat around the crackling fire, watching the smoke rise into the dry desert air. We talked and laughed about our day on the water, recounting the fish that we had fooled and the ones that had gotten the better of us. After discussing our plans for the next day, the conversation usually shifted more philosophical (Put any passionate group of outdoorsmen around a fire and its bound to happen). We listened as Cholly told us some of his favorite memories from his 50 years on earth. They ranged from great meals to weeklong rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. Todd Wilson recounted his days as an Olympic ski jumper, travelling and competing. One common theme was that most of their stories involved time spent with family. Spending time with such incredible people has a way of putting things in perspective. As the flames receded into glowing coals I found myself trying to absorb as much of what they were saying as I could.

Leaving was hard. As we drove away I tried to remember as much as I could about every detail. All the jokes, the great meals, and the ultra selective green river trout. I thought about the upcoming season at the ranch and all the new staff members we were about to meet. I know that this core group is going to be there to lead and mentor them, I know as long as they’re at Vista Verde the community’s values are safe. I feel honored to be a part of that group. I know one thing for sure; we will all be back to fish the Green River again.

Fishing Report June 3-10, 2018

Spring fishing report: June 3-9
Flows: high and dirty in the rivers, receding quickly.
Hatches: blue wing olives, golden stones, green drakes, pale morning duns, grannom caddis, march browns
Water temps: 45-55
Hot flies: san juan worm, pats rubber legs, pheasant tail nymphs, baetis nymphs, flash back midge, large hares ears, elk hair caddis, parachute adams
Fishing has been good, small creeks are starting to fish well. The elk is still high but is dropping quickly; all of the lakes have been fishing well.

What Kind Of Fish Is That?!?!

When it comes to fish, there are a multitude of species that can be targeted with a fly rod. There are species all over the world that will readily and eagerly go after flies. In Colorado, many species of fish are available to target, however trout seem to be the most popular. People travel from around the world to fish in Colorado to take advantage of the incredible trout fishing and water spread throughout the state.

At Vista Verde, we have an opportunity to fish on the Elk River as well as other rivers around the area. In the Elk, you will find trout and a native fish to the area called Whitefish. Both of these species are extremely fun to catch.  A popular question that fishing guides are asked on the river is, “What kind of trout is that?” or “what kind of fish is that?” This blog post is here to clear up any confusion and is here to help those who would like to go out for a day of fishing and know what they’re catching.

Rainbow Trout: 
Rainbow trout are native to the cold water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in the United States and also parts of Northern Russia along the Pacific Ocean. These fish have been stocked in numerous countries around the globe. You can identify rainbow trout because of their red/pink stripe along the sides of their bodies. Other identifiers are red/pink gill plates, small black spots covering their bodies, and their silver body color. Rainbows are some of the most beautiful fish out there.

Cutthroat Trout:
Cutthroat trout are native to the cold water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Basin area of the United States. The reason they are called “Cutthroats” is because of the red/orange coloration under the lower jaw of their mouths. Other identifiers are reddish colored gill plates and lower body fins, green/yellowish colored bodies, and small black spots over their bodies–but most spots are
concentrated towards their tails. Colorado’s state fish is the Greenback Cutthroat which is endangered.

Cutbow Trout:
Cutbow trout are a hybrid trout containing rainbow and cutthroat genetics. This hybridization can occur naturally if there are rainbows and cutthroats in the same water system. Cutbows are hard to identify because they look extremely similar to rainbows, but they have red/orange coloration under their jaws just like cutthroats. Cutbow trout are immune to certain diseases that other trout aren’t so they are able to survive in prevalent numbers in many rivers.

Brown Trout:
Brown trout hail from Europe. They were stocked in the United States around the late 1800s. These stocking efforts used brown trout taken from Scotland and Germany. Many people will refer to brown trout as “German Browns” for this reason. You can identify brown trout by their dark yellowish/golden color, and red and small black spots on their bodies. Brown trout can be very aggressive when it comes to eating flies. They
can make for an extremely fun day of fishing on the river.

Brook Trout:
Brook trout are native to the Eastern United States and Canada. Today natives can be found along rivers in the Appalachian Mountains. You will often hear brook trout referred to as “brookies”, not to be mistaken with the cookie/brownie combo. They are identified by their dark green body, a lighter marbled pattern within the green, red spots all throughout their body, with blue halos around the spots. Their belly and lower fins are reddish in color with white edges on each fin. They are very eager to take well presented flies.

Whitefish are native to northern parts of the Northern Hemipshere. There is a good population size throughout the Yampa and Elk rivers in Steamboat and Clark.  They readily take flies and are very fun to fight and catch. They are identified by their silver/shiny bodies and extremely small mouths.

Let’s go catch some fish!

Exploring Steamboat Springs

It is pretty common for our guests to ask for advice on how to enjoy Steamboat Springs, as they tack on a day or two on either end of their Vista Verde Ranch vacation. Steamboat Springs is a down-to-earth resort town with a Western heritage. Our favorite part of Steamboat is that the locals and tourists all mix in with each other—it’s a real town, not a segmented off resort. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your time in Steamboat. Chances are you’ll bump into one of us out playing on a day off!

Mariposa B&B – A small, friendly B&B close to the heart of downtown Steamboat
Steamboat Grand – Your classic upscale ski resort hotel, with great views of the ski mountain
Holiday Inn – Basic, friendly, easy, you know what you’re getting
Breakfast: Creekside or Winona’s
Lunch: Freshies or Salt & Lime rooftop
Dinner: Carl’s Tavern or E3 Steakhouse
Happy Hour: Aurum
FM Lights – boots and hat and novel Western wear
Lyon’s Drug – Old-fashioned drugstore complete with a soda fountain and $1 ice cream cones
Ski Haus – Outdoor adventurers paradise!
Steamboat Art Company – Fun gifts and interesting variety
Off the Beaten Path – There aren’t many of these small, independent bookstores around anymore…. enjoy the ambiance and a cup of coffee here!
Steamboat Art Museum – Beautiful Western art in a beautiful setting
Ohana – Devyn’s go-to for special gifts with a Steamboat flair
Hot springs – Stay close to town at the Old Town Hot Springs or head up the mountain to the Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs. The soak is a remedy for all ailments!
Rodeo – You’re in a Western town, go see a great small town rodeo on a Friday or Saturday evening! Go early for some great BBQ
White water rafting or kayaking – Why lose a day at the ranch; hit the river before or after your visit!
Farmers market – Each Saturday morning local artisans and food vendors show up in downtown Steamboat–great for people watching, eating, and shopping at the same time!
Gondola ride and brunch – Even though there isn’t any snow, you can still take a ride up the Gondola for amazing views and a family-friendly hike.
First Friday art walk – Art lovers will enjoy this mix of culture and small town charm on the first Friday of every month. Check the local paper for more information.

We hope you enjoy extending your vacation to spend some time in Steamboat Springs!

Lonely Planet – April 2018

In this article, the folks at Lonely Planet gathered ideas from some of the top family travel experts in the US, and Vista Verde Ranch made the list!  If you weren’t already inspired to plan a family vacation this summer, check out this article and it’s a good chance you’ll start dreaming of adventures with your family.  Read the article….

Dude Ranch Life: A thank you for thank you’s

As I was opening the mail recently, there were two nicely handwritten envelopes, which stand out among the bills as I’m sure you all can imagine.  Upon opening them, I was floored that there were two thank you notes from guests who were here during our last week of the winter season.  How many times have you written a thank you note to a vacation destination?  I know I have never done that!

Actually, this happens here more often than you would imagine.  It’s pretty humbling, and always a highlight of our day to get a note from guests who enjoyed their stay at the ranch.  These two notes were from guests who were both here during our final week of the winter season.  One was a family with older children who we enjoyed getting to know as much as we enjoyed watching them share special moments together–fleeting as the kids head to college next year.  The other note was from a couple who were here on their honeymoon.  Both very important events to commemorate with a special vacation, and we were thrilled to be their destination of choice!

So, this is a thank you to all of you who send thank you’s to us!  You have no idea how much that means to all of us, and how unexpected it is for us to receive these notes.  We work hard to make everyone’s experience at Vista Verde really special, and when we get a note, or someone writes a review on Tripadvisor or other sites to help promote the ranch, it means all our hard work made a difference for our guests.

We are lucky to have wonderful guests spend time with us when they choose VVR for their ranch vacation!  We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones this summer.

Dude Ranch Life: Off-Season Shenanigans

It’s that time of year when the ranch is pretty empty, and much of our crew is off exploring the world, visiting family, and taking some time to recharge.  It’s always fun to take a look at where folks have scattered to while we are closed down, waiting for the snow to melt and the mud to dry out.

You know that Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere?”  Start humming that song in your head, and here we go:

Ethan is visiting family and checking out colleges in Boston, MA, Chol just got back from Boise, ID where he was a celebrity chef at a field to table fundraising dinner for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Shannon, Hailey, and Rachel are backpacking around Slovenia, Italy, and England, Miller is in South and North Carolina visiting family and spending most of his time, guess what?  Fishing!  Mackenzie and Natalie are hiking and touring through Iceland and Norway, Maritza and Melody took a huge road trip all around the USA on their way back to PA, Morgan and his family are road-tripping and he’ll be seeing Missouri, Iowa, and then a stop in Florida for some time at Disneyworld, Cat is floating around on a houseboat between UT and AZ on Lake Powell, BYH is Salsa dancing and hanging with his grandma and family in Minneapolis, MN, Hannah is on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, and Terence is figuring out what he is going to do with his life in Philadelphia, PA.  As for those of us with a little shorter vacation window Charlie is hanging out sipping coffee and reading the paper, and watching the snow melt, Zach has been fitting in as much fishing as possible, Devyn has some long weekends planed for staycations, Ben and Addie are baby-mooning in CA, Mary is meeting her family for some Disney time, and Ben is trying to get his house finished so they can finally move in before summertime.  Phew, and that’s just some of our staff!

You all typically give us a hard time about taking vacation when we live in a place where everyone else comes for their vacation.  But, there is something pretty special about getting away to see other sights and be around special people, and then we all come back thankful for where we live and ready to take care of others on their vacations!

spring fly fishing in Colorado

The Fly: Spring Fly Fishing in Northwest Colorado

“Miller! Miller! I need a hand with this one,” I yelled. My rod was doubled over. I knew I had the fish hooked on a size 12 San Juan worm, a good sized hook. Still its funny how a large fish in fast water tends to make you question the strength of your line or how well you tied your knots. Better play this one safe. I started following the brute downstream. I could feel the fish shaking his head to get the fly out. He ran for a submerged bush across the river. I put tension sideways to pull him away. Just then, Miller came busting through the willows. “Whatchya got man?” he asked. “Not sure yet, I think a big rainbow” I replied. All of a sudden all 18” of brilliantly colored red and olive fury went airborne and gave us the middle fin as he spit the hook. I saw him splash down and felt my line go slack. I picked my jaw up off the ground and looked at Miller… whhhaaat? As I reeled my line up, Miller said something along the lines of “Sorry bud, you’ll get the next one”.

I looked out across the lush, green meadow. A cool breeze blew by my face. In the background stood magnificent Hahn’s peak, still tipped in white snow. Birds chirped as they searched the moist ground for insects and worms; the fresh smell of spring filled my lungs as the warm sun brought everything to life. Zach, Miller, and myself had been planning and tying flies for this all week, well, actually; we had been talking about these conditions all winter. When the smaller no name creeks come back to life all the townies mope and drink beer while the bigger rivers are blown out from snow melt. For us however, this is as good as it gets. The murky water hides large, hungry trout ready to eat anything that looks remotely like food. Getting them to eat is one thing, landing them is another story. Despite missing the big one I couldn’t be mad. It’s all part of the experience.

Spring is one of my favorite times to fish in Colorado. Maybe because I’ve spent the entire winter going slowly crazy as the rivers are iced over but I want to believe it’s for other reasons as well. Spring can offer a diversity of fishing experiences. In addition to the unique smaller creek fishing, this time of year can be some of the best stillwater fishing. After the ice melts on the lake, fish move towards the shallows to feed. Typically a roll cast of no more than 15’ is required and the fish are willing to try any type of fly that comes their way. Add in some vibrant post spawning colors and you’d be hard pressed to have a bad time. Spring stillwater lake fishing is a great opportunity for beginning anglers who want to experience some success without the challenges of fishing moving water. Whether you are a total novice who wants to learn the ropes or an advanced angler who has fished all over the globe, spring offers something for everyone.

best gf cookies at the ranch

Chef’s Corner: Gluten Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

As the last days of the season wound down, these cookies were particularly tempting.  I had stayed away from the cookies most of the season, but there is just something about knowing they won’t be there much longer to tempt that creates a sense of urgency.  Nonetheless, when I finally buckled and went to get one, they were all gone.  Karma.

1/2 C. Vegetable Oil
2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 C. Cocoa Powder – I use a very dark, 22% fat cocoa powder
4 Eggs
2 T. Half and Half (or coconut milk, almond milk, etc.)
2 1/2 C. Superfine Rice Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Guar or Xanthan Gum
Powdered Sugar, reserved

*This dough is prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. Don’t skip this step.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and either lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
Combine all of the ingredients, except the eggs and the powdered sugar, and mix with an electric mixer until crumbly.
Add all four eggs and mix until fully incorporated. The dough will be very, very sticky.
After being in the fridge overnight, roll the dough into evenly sized balls and coat in the reserved powdered sugar. Space each ball of cookie dough evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake.

summer dude ranch news

Dude Ranch Life: Big plans and exciting changes for 2018!

The last couple weeks we have spent some time surveying many of our return guests about what direction they would like to see us go with the ranch in the coming years.  There were some big ideas, and crazy ideas, and just out-of-the-box ideas that we floated their way to get a sense of whether we are on the right course, or not.  Through this process we have learned that although everyone has a different opinion there were definitely some trends that we noticed.  Based on those trends there are some new plans that we’re excited to implement starting this summer.

There was a strong consensus to continue investing in keeping up on the quality of the accommodations.  Following the many suggestions along those lines, and assessing how we can best accomplish this task we are proud to announce that we will be remodeling all the cabins throughout the coming summer months.  As you can imagine, there is a limited window of opportunity given the amount of snow we get each winter, so we have to take advantage of the good summer weather for construction.  We are sure that our guests will enjoy the open air feel of their cabins as we replace windows, and we have even devised a plan where Bill will build new furniture right in the cabins so the guests can enjoy watching him in his artistic zone and learn more about the art of woodworking, all while they are getting ready for the day or relaxing with a good book in the afternoon.  We are recommending that guests bring slippers with them, as when we are replacing flooring, they might prefer the protection from the nails and splinters.  Porta potties will be placed near each cabin for our guests’ convenience during the bathroom remodel phase, and we will allow a one time variance to the “please don’t shower your children by putting them in the hot tub” rule for this summer only.  This is an exciting undertaking, and we are looking forward to having all the remodels finished by next winter!

Another strong recommendation we received was that although improved bandwidth is helpful for those who need to work while on vacation, most of our guests really like the lack of connectivity and the resulting connection they find with their family.  Since so many people enjoy this, we have decided to collect cell phones, iPads, and laptops at check in.  Now, for those who just have to work, with an advance note from their boss, we will release their devices during limited hours.  Please do know that these notes need to be notarized and on company letterhead.  And, if you would like to post anything on social media, as long as you use the hashtag #vistaverderanch and have a following of at least 1,000 people, Devyn will temporarily allow you access to your device.

Lastly, we have tweaked our kids program based on the feedback we received from our guests.  Apparently everyone is frustrated that kids don’t have discipline anymore these days, so we are going to take things into our own hands and help shape the next generation.  It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a ranch to shift their paradigm.  Fire engine rides with ice cream and horseback riding to pan for gold will be awarded only to the kids who can show that they can make a proper hospital corner on their beds each morning, polish their silverware prior to breakfast, clean the grease trap in the kitchen, scoop out the cow pen, and massage the guides feet after long hikes.  It’s really going to be an amazing program, and Mandy is already lining up the schedule to include a 6am wake-up to feed the chickens and clean the coop.

You can imagine how excited we are to get the ball rolling on moving forward on our plans!  Of course, we may have to wait until after April Fool’s Day to do our final review and rubber stamp these ideas…..or not?


Vacation Idea – March 2018

If you’re looking for an adventure vacation, look no further than this article from Vacation Idea about 25 Perfect Adventure Vacations.  Vista Verde was included as their pick for a Western dude ranch vacation.  We got a chuckle from the photo used for the ranch–there’s a chance it’s changed since I posted this, but take a look and see if you can figure out what’s funny about the photo (not from VVR).  Read the article….

Flightnetwork – March 2018

We’ve seen an uptick in guests coming from Canada for a Colorado vacation the past two years.  So, this article in Flightnetwork, the largest Canadian-based online travel company, was pretty timely.  Whether you are traveling from Canada or not, this article makes the idea of a Colorado vacation pretty enticing!  And, they even include a shout out to stay at a top-quality dude ranch while you’re in Colorado.  Oh look, it’s Vista Verde they suggest!  Read the article…..

snowmobile guide learning about avalanche safety

Dude Ranch Life: Safety First

This winter has been the winter of safety training.  More specifically avalanche safety training.  It really is more of opportunities for training arising than anything, but it has led to a lot of interesting conversations around the dinner table (ok, breakfast and lunch too as we do take gathering to eat seriously here).  The course opportunities started in January when Devyn took an avalanche safety class from the local community college, which has an outstanding outdoor education component.  Following that, Ben (guide) and Michael headed off to Estes Park for a level 1 course with the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education.  Both discovered in that course that they did know a lot more than they gave themselves credit for prior to the course, but the hands on, backcountry classroom experience was the most valuable portion of the course.  Just days later, Charlie had the opportunity to join some local park rangers for a Level 1 class for snowmobile riders with Tyler’s Backcountry Awareness.

We have always taken safety as a high priority, as we carry a lot of responsibility every time we take our guests out into the backcountry–whether on foot, horseback, skis, bikes, or snowmobiles.  And, winter weather adds a whole new element of safety issues into that equation.  It’s really nice to be armed with this knowledge and experience to continue to work towards providing all of you compelling experiences that are also safe experiences!  It’s truly a line we walk every single time we take guests out, and we’re thankful to have so many amazing pro-guides to help steer the course of those daily decisions.


colorado fly fishing news

So, you fish for flies?

We have a new guest blogger!  Isaac Ness, who runs our fly fishing program has agreed to pick up the reins of the category of our blog dedicated to anglers.  I say dedicated, but it’s been a bit quiet for a while, so we’re excited to start getting some fly fishing content up again.  For those of you who have been to the ranch in the past several years, you know Isaac is a bit single minded and has the ability to turn every conversation to revolve around fishing.  I guess that means he’s in the correct role here at the ranch.  With no further ado, I give you Isaac’s intro to fly fishing….more to come soon with tidbits for the novice angler to those who dream of big trout!

So you think you want to try fly fishing? That’s that thing from “A River Runs Through It” right? Sure, we’ve all seen the movie but what really is fly fishing? What makes it different from fishing with a “normal” (conventional) fishing rod? Honestly, probably not as much as you think. I’ve heard the definition of fishing as a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other. This definitely applies to fly fishing as well as conventional fishing. What really sets it apart is the type of line and the lures or flies used.

When you break it down, line is the biggest difference. With a conventional rod, the lure or bait on the end has weight to it. When it’s casted, that weight pulls the nearly weightless line off the reel. This is a great way to be able to whip your lure nearly half way across the lake. The down side is that we need a lure that has enough weight to pull our line off, meaning that when it lands there’s going to be a splash like a fat kid cannonballing off a diving board. We might not get too many bites after that. It also means we can’t cast anything that’s small or light enough to float on the surface.

With fly fishing, we’re generally trying to imitate the food trout eat. Which often is bugs so small you must squint with your reading glasses on to see them at all. Realistic imitations of these bugs would be hard to throw on a conventional rod because they wouldn’t have enough weight to pull out your line. Fly fishing solves this problem by using a weighted line that pulls your weightless lure or fly out to where the fish are. This system accounts for the different cast you saw brad pit doing in “A River Runs Through It” where the line goes back and forth through the air like he’s Harry Potter trying to cast a spell. While this method doesn’t get our flies or lures out quite as far, it results in a more delicate presentation and more accurate cast (once the technique is mastered). But where does the “fly” part come in?

The other part to this story, and one of the hallmarks of fly fishing, is the use of artificial lures called flies. The name comes from traditional anglers imitating an insect called a mayfly that lives in and around streams. Today flies can be any artificial imitation of a fish’s diet that is tied with thread onto a hook. Most of them are imitations of various bugs that trout eat, but they could represent anything. I’ve even seen a fly tied like a cigarette butt. The fish that take that bait obviously haven’t read the surgeon general’s warnings! Some people have even tied flies that don’t end up looking like anything besides a hunk of fur on a hook despite their best efforts (we all have a few flies that match that description). One key feature to all flies is that they’re light enough to be cast by our weighted line. Because flies are so light they can be presented very delicately and quietly to fish. The down side to a lighter fly however, is a heck of a time trying to get them to go down deep in the water. Ever try diving with a lifejacket on? Parallels could be drawn. These Factors make fly fishing very effective for targeting shallow water fish.

Ultimately fly fishing is just another way to present your lure to a fish. Lots of people have gotten caught up in this purist mentality that they’re somehow better than the guy throwing a night crawler under a bobber. Everyone must decide for themselves how they want to fish. If you’re trying to catch bottom feeding fish in 200 feet of water, fly fishing may not be for you. If you want to catch a skittish trout in a crystal-clear mountain stream, fly fishing is probably your best chance. But just remember, however we choose to fish, we’re all just a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other.

luxury ranch resort horse care

Dude Ranch Life: Drunk Ponies

They were drunk.  Or something was going on.  Why else would there be horses scattered around the arena with their heads hanging low while they swayed back and forth as if on a boat?  Rounding the corner, the mystery was solved.  It was dental day at Vista Verde!  Dr. Courtney and Dr. Sarah had their power drills going and the horses were sleepy from sedation.  What does dental care mean for horses?  Typically we try to annually have our horses teeth examined, and floated as needed.  What’s that?  Here is a little info on what that all means, and why it’s important for equine health care.  Our horses are important to us, as just like our staff if we take care of them then they will take good care of you while you’re here on vacation!

It was a assembly line of horses in the indoor arena.  Sedation first, then as they got sleepy they were brought into the stalls where the vets were set up.  Examine the horse’s mouth, assess their status, float the teeth as needed, turn out into the arena to slowly wake up, get the next horse.  Oh, and then there was Zen Ben waiting with gloved hands for the boy horses to have their annual sheath cleaning.  Because why not take care of that dirty business while they are a bit knocked out?  We’ll leave those details for you to explore on your own.  Not the most fun part of horse ownership, but someone’s gotta do it!

Mystery solved.  Nope, the horses hadn’t gone on a bender in the wine room.  But, I bet they are enjoying their hay a little more today than the day before.  It’s a great think when your chompers work like they should!