I first fell in love with Brad Pitt…oops I mean fly fishing, in 1992, during Pitt’s performance in “A River Runs Through It.” Let’s face it, the guy made fly-fishing sexy. Casting a silky line into a glistening brook became every young angler’s dream. It was a desire for this cinematic sublime that first drew me to the sport. Many years later in an abandoned mining town, I would learn that the reality of making the cast, achieving a natural drift and setting the hook wasn’t as easy as it looked.
I found myself at Dunton Hot Springs Resort, a ghost town turned high-end hideaway just an hour’s drive outside of Telluride, Colorado. An exclusive resort of just twelve restored cabins, Dunton dates back to the Rockies gold rush of the late 1880s. Legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Kid took refuge there after robbing a bank in Telluride. Cassidy’s name is even carved in the saloon bar. With fancy amenities, decadent dining, private massage services, original LaChapelle art and natural hot springs, Dunton Hot Springs Resort serves up the luxury ranch experience with a twist of authentic Americana and rich Wild West history. This place is absolutely amazing and remains one of my favorite spots I’ve been to. If you’re into the wild, rustic vibe with touches of luxury, impeccable design, service and food, Dunton Hot Springs Resort will not disappoint.
The Resort also offers fly fishing in the West Fork of the Dolores River, across nine miles of private water. In this freestone fishery with a catch and release policy, anglers can sight fish for all four species of trout (brown, rainbow, brook and cut throat trout) from April through December. This region is said to have some of the best fly fishing in North America.
I met up with my guide Poncho Winter, an Oklahoma-born fly fisherman who’s been guiding for the past decade. He outfitted me in oversized khaki waders and big boots. “You’re dressed like a real fisherman, now you’ll learn to fish like one!” he said handing me a rod. I grabbed the gear and awkwardly waddled behind him as we made our way from the hotel property to a bend in the river known as the Honey Hole. “This is a special spot where the casting is easy and the bite is on,” he told me. This stream had some deep pockets, a log overhang and some fast moving white water, making it a haven for passing ‘poissons’.
“When choosing a fly, it’s important to imitate what’s naturally happening in the ecosystem,” explained Poncho. Just then, an amber colored aquatic insect called a Golden Stone landed on his shirt. “When a golden stone lands on you, you know it’s gonna be a good day of fishing!” he said excitedly, opening up a box of delicate feather flies and nimbly tying one on.
Next was a tutorial on casting. True my first few casts were a wee bit clumsy. I snagged my line on some logs, rocks and even my own waders at one point. I repeatedly cast the line upstream when suddenly I felt a nibble. I pulled back on the line. The trout swam full speed towards an outcrop of sticks on a mad dash for shady asylum. Thus began the give and take of reeling in the Moby Dick sized trout. It was quite the fight, but I finally netted the monster rainbow trout (probably a one-pounder), handled its slimy body for a photo op and then gently released it back into the wild.
Part lesson in hand-eye coordination, part education in Entomology, there is something quite cerebral about fly fishing. With a little patience and practice, one could be up to Brad Pitt par in no time.
For more information about fly fishing at Dunton Hot Springs Resort in Colorado, check out http://www.duntonhotsprings.com/