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Destinations Rocky Mountains Trout

Colorado Fishing Motherwell Ranch

by Ross Purnell, Editor   |  October 19th, 2015 1

Dream Lake on the Motherwell Ranch (above) holds surface-feeding trout that range from 18 to 24 inches long. Photo: Ross Purnell

The part of Motherwell Ranch you see from County Road 53 is like any other Colorado cattle operation. Past the stone-and-wrought-iron gateway you can see some pickup trucks and heavy equipment, a big house you might imagine holds a bunch of kids, and a suspiciously good-looking creek running past the bullpen. If you’re there to fish the trout lakes on the Motherwell Ranch, you might scratch your head, survey the nearby watering hole for rises, and say to yourself: “Certainly that’s not it!”

It’s not.

Atop the mountainous terrain that forms the horizon sits one of the country’s most luxurious fishing lodges. Right out its front door—at an altitude of 8,400 feet—is one of two superb trout lakes, the crown jewels of the 6,500-acre Motherwell Ranch. The ranch also has other smaller lakes and beaver ponds, and a 31/2-mile section of the Williams Fork of the Yampa River.

Dream Lake on the Motherwell Ranch holds surface-feeding trout that range from 18 to 24 inches long. Photo: Ross Purnell

Dream Lake (near the lodge front door) is a 20-acre lake stocked with brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout ranging from 18 to 24 inches. These thick trout eat adult damselflies in July, traveling sedges in August, and Callibaetis and midges on most ice-free afternoons. In late summer they cruise the grassy north and east shorelines looking for errant grasshoppers.

With so much food at or near the surface, these fish are extremely surface-oriented. Even when nothing appears to be going on, a Parachute Adams, Dave’s Hopper, or small Stimulator will pick up fish regularly. When the hatches are heavy, the normally calm surface of the lake boils with fish, and a more exact hatch-matching pattern can bring a strike on almost every cast.

The real brutes of Motherwell Ranch are less than a mile away in the 30-acre East Lake. While drys will take fish at East Lake, most of the big fish are taken with subsurface patterns. This lake is filled with minnows and olive scuds, and obese rainbow trout weighing over five pounds are a common daily catch. Eight-pound trout will hardly raise an eyebrow. Woolly Buggers, Clouser Minnows, and olive scuds are the preferred patterns, and every boat is stocked with them.

While you can wade the shorelines at Motherwell Ranch and cast to rising fish, most of the fishing is done from 12-foot prams with electric trolling motors. Guides give on-the-water casting lessons to those who need them, as well as operate the boats, tie on flies, and direct your casts.

The fishing is not difficult on the lakes, and even novice anglers can succeed with short casts and attractor drys, or by trolling a Woolly Bugger. It’s a good place to learn fly fishing, and the lodge has quality tackle to outfit guests.

The Williams Fork of the Yampa River is a small stream (about 30 feet across) that flows through the ranch and has rainbows and Colorado River cutthroats from 14 to 22 inches long that ambush an Elk-hair Caddis or Turk’s Tarantula in river corners and riffles. The stream fishing is more difficult, but the fish are just as willing. The best time to fish the stream is after July 4, when snowmelt runoff subsides.

While the Motherwell Ranch has excellent trout fishing, what sets it apart from other destinations is the service and accommodations. The ranch is one of many owned by Las Vegas construction tycoon Wes Adams—one of the biggest landowners in the West—and he spared no expense in building the ranch’s log cabins.

The million-dollar log-and-stone lodge has a great room, three deluxe suites, complete wet bar, dining area, game room, and TV area. While outside is a wild, sportsman’s paradise, the inside is almost too posh to be called a lodge. The daily cuisine is prepared by an experienced chef. The Grand Suite has a 50-square-foot shower built withimported Italian marble, a cast-iron bath, and two private balconies. The cabins have views of 100 miles to the north and east, and no lights can be seen after dark.

For nonfishing guests, there is horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and sporting clays. More than 1,000 elk gather in the meadows below the lodge. In the fall, the ranch offers trophy elk hunts.

Rates are $500 per person per day for lodging and activities. Lodging without activities is $250 per day. Motherwell Lodge is 15 miles from the Yampa Valley Airport in Hayden Valley, Colorado. Commercial flights are available, and the lodge has a private jet available to accommodate special itineraries. For more information, call (877) 878-3555 or visit www.ws-outdoors.com.

Colorado Fishing Motherwell Ranch

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