Angling at Elktrout

Angling at Elktrout

In Colorado, an unmatched variety of private angling experiences

  • By: Paul Guernsey
I ran into the editor of another fly-fishing magazine one day last September, and the second thing out of my mouth after "hello" was a brief account of my recent stay--my second within the past few years--at Colorado's Elktrout Lodge. This guy has done quite a bit of traveling, and as soon as I had finished talking, I braced myself for the inevitable one-upping. I was sure my colleague would begin to brag about Iceland or Australia or some such place.

Instead, his eyes widened slightly and he said, "Elktrout? Wow. In my opinion, that's the best lodge in the Lower 48."

Now, there are a lot of really fine fishing lodges in the country, and I would hate to have to rate them. But my fellow editor's claim does have some merit, especially if you enjoy catching, or trying to catch, large brown trout and rainbows and you don't mind, or you even prefer, fishing for them on private water.

The guides at Elktrout, located in Kremmling, about an hour and a half west of Denver, certainly can put you within a 30-foot cast of some 20-plus-inch fish. In fact, the lodge has a cute custom I've never seen anywhere else: At dinner each night, one of the guides awards a trout-shape pin to each lodge guest who caught a trout of 21 inches or longer that day. Every night I've spent there, at least one person has earned a pin; in fact, a perusal of Elktrout's Web site reveals that over 300 pins were awarded to lodge guests during the 2005 season alone. The Club list includes each person's name, along with the species and exact length of the fish for which he or she won a pin, as well as the name of the fly--which, could be anything from a midge larva to a San Juan Worm, with quite a few attractor and general-pattern dry flies in the mix.

Pins are also awarded to anglers who achieve a "grand slam" by catching a brown, a rainbow, a cutthroat and a brookie during the course of a fishing day.

But my favorite thing about this place is that it offers a variety of water that may well be unmatched by any other lodge in the country. They've got 10 miles of moving water in the form of two rivers--the Colorado and the Blue--as well as the delightful Troublesome Creek. Troublesome provides small-water fishing at its finest, and if you hit it right you're in for a real treat, because there are some trout in there that exceed all expectations for a stream of that size. Both times I've visited Elktrout, I've fished hoppers in Troublesome and, wow, it was fun.

Both the Blue and the Colorado in this area are easily wadable, medium-size freestone rivers, and they teem with monster trout. In addition, the section of the Colorado that lies closest to the lodge itself is flat and slow-moving, with a spring-creek-like character; it will remind a lot of anglers of a miniature Henry's Fork.

And for anglers who feel like doing some stillwater fishing, Elktrout owns, or has exclusive access to, 18 spring-fed ponds. Although I was fishing in very late summer, there were still a few Callibaetis hatching on those ponds, and some very big fish were breaking the surface as they cruised for them.

During a typical day at Elktrout, you meet your guide after breakfast and head out somewhere: to one of the rivers, to Troublesome Creek, or to a pond. Following a shore lunch, they drag you away, kicking and screaming, to someplace new--someplace you invariably end up liking so much that there is further kicking and screaming when it comes time to go back to the lodge for dinner.

During my three days there, I caught plenty of fish from 18 to 20 inches, among them several beautiful, pure cutthroats from the Colorado; it did not bother me in the slightest that I didn't get a trout over 21 inches. In fact, the best time I had was flicking a cranefly imitation into the narrow upper reaches of Troublesome Creek and watching 14-inch brown trout rocket from the shadows to attack it.

On the other hand, Tim, my angling partner, entered the 21 Club not once, but twice, both times with big rainbows.

What more can I say about this place? The food, of course, is great, and the accommodations are both immaculate and comfortable without being flagrantly fancy. Also, both guides Tim and I fished with, Luke Bever and head-guide Marty Cecil, were top-notch, tireless, and great company to boot.

And, speaking of great company, Elktrout's owners, Andy and Mardi Shepard, are passionate anglers themselves; if you visit the lodge, don't be surprised if they greet you personally and then join you for dinner.

For further information, contact Elktrout Lodge at 800-722-3343; www.elktrout.com, e-mail