Fly Fishing in Northwest Colorado
The New York Times recently published an article in its Travel section about the pleasures and perils of fishing in Colorado, mainly Northern Colorado. Please see Casting in Colorado, Away From The Crowds for the full article. As you may or may not know, Colorado has some of the most complex water laws in the nation as it applies to fishing. In many other western states, a fisherman is permitted to walk along a river’s waterline, even though the river may be located on private land. In contrast, private landowners in the state of Colorado have ownership rights to the shore, as well as the land underneath the river, too. This can make fishing on private land in Colorado pretty complicated.
Technically, while it is legal for a fisherman to float and fish a river in Colorado which runs through private land, it is illegal for that person to go ashore for any reason or to touch bottom. That means no wading and no stepping off the boat to heed nature’s call. And, on top of all the rules, Colorado landowners are permitted by law to aggressively enforce their rights. This can be dangerous, as well as a great big hassle.
To avoid these frustrations, there are a number of guiding services which can offer a person access to some of Colorado’s best fishing on rivers which happen to run through private land. Bucking Rainbow Outfitters in Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers half and full day guided fly-fishing excursions at both river and still water locations throughout northwest Colorado. Steamboat Flyfisher also has a full staff of professional guides and teachers to help make your day on the water exceptional. But, while hiring a professional guide can make for one heck of an amazing day, it can get pretty darn expensive.
The New York Times article highlighted a little known alternative to professional guiding services…angling clubs. The Rocky Mountain Angling Club has been offering access to fly fishing in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming since 1992. For the price of a one-time initiation fee ( which runs about $350), an annual membership fee of $120 and daily rod fees which average about $60, members are afforded fishing privileges at all of the club’s properties, as well as a property directory, newsletter, unlimited guests and private reservation/information line.
Although there are many out there who scoff at the idea of what essentially has become “pay to play” in the fishing world, I see it no differently than purchasing a season pass at the Steamboat Ski Resort for access to fantastic skiing and snowboarding on national forest land. Access to great fishing all the time without having to always be looking over your shoulder? Sounds like a plan to me!