Investors and property owners interested in owning a fly fishing ranch in Colorado must understand that a property’s fish are just part of the equation. This is particularly true if you’re interested in using a fishery on your property to generate revenue, or even if you just want to use a fishery on your Colorado property for personal recreation. Certainly, while the fish are important, that’s just one issue to consider.
Get to know the fishery
First, assuming the Colorado property being considered for purchase has a viable fishery, prospective owners should do their best to learn about it. They should know if the fishery is wild or if it’s supported by hatchery plantings. They should know what species are present, and learn about each one. And they should know about Colorado’s native cutthroat trout, just to ensure that any fisheries activity on the prospective property wouldn’t pose any challenges to these sensitive populations of trout.
For instance, they should know that, in most cases, stocked brook trout quickly outcompete native cutthroat trout, or that non-native brown trout are predatory and can be tough on other fish present. They should also know that there are many different strains of rainbow trout, and that rainbows can mingle with cutthroats on the spawning beds and eventually hybridize native populations. They should also know if the fishery can support itself. In other words, is there a natural food base? Can the habitat support reproduction? Does the water stay cold all summer long? Is the water source dependable?
How about riparian habitat? Are there streamside willows present that shade the water at least of the day? Is the river or stream in its natural course, or has it been manipulated over the years?
There are lots of boxes to check before a Colorado fly fishing ranch can be a viable fishing property, either as a source of income, or as a simple recreation property.
If the property isn’t a great fishery when it’s purchased, but it has potential to become great, investors need to know how to make it happen. This can be done by hiring an outside fisheries consultant–usually a fisheries biologist who specializes in private water fisheries–who can gauge the quality of the fishery and recommend improvements, if needed.
It won’t be a cheap fix, so factor this potential expense into the purchase price before making an offer,. If you already own the land, understand that improving a fishery on your land is an investment.
Improvements that make a Colorado ranch a fly fishing ranch
And, as noted, it’s not just about the fish. A good Colorado fly fishing ranch doesn’t just have a solid fishery. A ranch that boasts fly fishing among its assets also features improvements that make fishing more enjoyable.
For instance, a fly fishing ranch might feature a separate fishing lodge for anglers, or possibly a cabin or a cabin complex available to anglers. These separate buildings will, in turn, be improved to be used by anglers. For instance, they’ll have fly rod holders outside the building, and a place where anglers can take off their waders and boots. They might also have a “mud room” or a changing room so anglers don’t have to wear their fishing attire inside. The mud room might have a low-output heater to dry boots and waders overnight.
Inside the lodge or the cabins, a serious fly fishing ranch will have a good kitchen for crafting quality meals. It might also have a bar (and perhaps, for income-generating ranches, it might have a liquor or a beer-and-wine license). It’ll have good places to gather, so anglers can swap fishing stories over cocktail in front of a fire.
Better fly fishing properties might also maintain trails along the river or stream on the property. This is so anglers can better access the water without having to bushwhack through the brush to go fishing. Respectively, larger fly fishing ranches may want to leave the ranch’s rivers, streams and ponds in as natural a state as possible, particularly if the habitat is in good shape. A larger Colorado fly fishing ranch might have a small fleet of ATVs for anglers to use on any maintained trails in order to reach the water faster.
The bottom line on fly fishing property in Colorado
While a Colorado fly fishing ranch should have a healthy and productive fishery within its borders, investors have to consider a lot of factors before committing to purchase a ranch with fishing assets. These factors include everything from the health of the habitat to the potential for its improvement. Prospective buyers must also gauge the state of the ranch’s improvements and determine if they are enough to serve either visiting anglers or just those the ranch owner allows on the land to fish.
Just like fly fishing itself, owning a fly fishing ranch isn’t just about the fish. It’s about the pursuit of fly fishing as a whole. A quality fishing ranch will have a great fishery, and the improvements to the land that allow for access to the water. It will also feature improvements that make the fly fishing experience more complete, like a well-appointed lodge or cozy cabins for anglers to enjoy when they’re not on the water.
A good Colorado fly fishing ranch will take on the unique Western culture of the state, and it will offer its owner and their guests more than just fishing. Fly fishing in Colorado is an experience. And a good Colorado fly fishing ranch should enhance that experience.