When one thinks of the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, visions of five-star accommodations, elegant dining, and exceptionally attentive service come to mind, but the Broadmoor has a simpler side. Located an hour and a half from the hotel is what I would argue the Broadmoor’s hidden crown jewel—its Orvis endorsed, Fly Fishing Camp.
High up in the Rocky’s, at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, sits a sleepy little retreat perfect for deeper relaxation and a true mountain experience. The same attentiveness to its guests remains, but it is a genuine care as pure as the mountain air that leaves you feeling like you are at home with family. There are no white gloves here, no bowties and black slacks, no “Good day Sirs,” but rather firm hand shakes that pull you in for a hug, cracked beers before you finish your last, and meaningful conversations. This was the “elegance” I was searching for, and like a flash in a gold miner’s pan, I found it.
The camp—complete with rustic lodging though modern amenities, wood burning fireplaces, seasoned staff, and a dog named Blue—embodies the soul of the mountains. It has history, vistas that will take your breath away, and a fishery that will have you catching fish within an hour of arriving. Its cool mountain air is a welcomed reprieve from the heat of the South. As a matter of fact, it is unseasonably cold when I arrive, greeting me with a dusting of snow and light flurries from time to time.
“It was a calming experience, a time to listen to the rush
of ice cold mountain water babbling through the mountains, a time to let the
crisp mountain air carry away my thoughts of work, and a time to gaze in awe of
the rock formations and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance.”
Before the ranchers and miners arrived to the area in the 1850s, native Utes fished these same waters, and in 1921, George W. Wheeler and his wife first inhabited the camp. They planted potatoes, barley, oats, and vegetables and tried to survive as homesteaders. When Wheeler died in 1931, the site was developed as a resort. The resort became known as the Ute Trail River Ranch. In 2015, the Broadmoor purchased the property, improved the infrastructure, and added its exemplary service, making the camp a premier retreat for guests.
This was the perfect setting for my wife Natalie and I to escape the summer heat of our home in Dallas, Texas. When we arrive, we are greeted by Scott Tarrant the camp’s manager, Adam Bradley Compton, Blake Brenner, and our fishing guide, Steve Gossage. With true grit, this group of mountain men serve as our guides, instructors, cooks, servers, and any other accommodation we need during our time at camp. I can’t say enough about their service, but to be truthful, all I need is a fishing pole and a cold beer in my hand, oh… and a lesson or two.
“I love this opportunity to share my passion with others. At some point many years ago, I became worried that I would injure a fish. I am here for the sport; the fish is fighting for life or death.” – Scott Tarrant
This is my first experience fly fishing. I have watched the rhythmic casting of fly fisherman and dreamed of one day learning how to do it myself. Steve Gossage, who all refer to as “OG,” is the man for the job and with over 50 years of fly fishing experience, 30 of which were guiding others, has me knee deep in the mountain stream perfectly “nymphing” or drifting submerged flies in no time.
It is a calming experience, a time to listen to the rush of ice cold mountain water babbling through the mountains, a time to let the crisp mountain air carry away my thoughts of work, and a time to gaze in awe at the rock formations and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. With each drift of the fly, I decompress further and further, watching the worries of life float by and slipping into a calm I haven’t felt for a while. That calm is suddenly interrupted by a tug on my line and a plunging strike indicator. I just hooked my first fish on a fly line.
Pole raised and fish on, a delicately balanced dance of give-and-take on the line is taking place. The fish pulls the line, and I let it. When it tires, I begin to reel in the slack. It takes just a few minutes to reel in the fish and with that, Steve is there, net ready, to scoop up my first Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout. I couldn’t be prouder until I hear an exclamation from up stream. My wife Natalie too had hooked her first trout, and she is experiencing the same joy I just did. It is a surreal moment, a moment that brings me happiness well beyond the fish I just caught. To watch my wife, up stream, with the rays of light piercing through the snow-dusted pines surrounding her, warms my heart deep in the frosty Rockies. Steve rushes back to her and nets her catch as well. This continues for a few more hours until the shadows of the surrounding peaks begin to creep in. Darkness is coming, and a warm meal will soon be on the table, so we decide to head back to the lodge. That evening Scott is recounting fish tales and expounding on his love for fly fishing when he drops a bombshell on the table. “That’s why I don’t fish with hooks and haven’t for a decade or more,” he says. Like coming face to face with a bull moose, his statement stops me hard in my tracks. He continues: “It’s an opportunity to give the experience to others without the fear of harming what could be someone else’s first fish. I’ve had that blessing my entire life, catching these fish, but now when a guest catches their first trout, I get to relive my first catch. Also, as a guide, the one thing I have worked so hard for my entire life,, and what provides my paycheck, are the fish. The fish give me everything I have, and I see no need to endanger them. It’s that simple. There’s a lot more than catching a fish going on for me,” he explains.
I am still shocked. Scott is a life long fly fisherman with over 40 years on the water. To think that he has spent 10 of those years fishing without a hook, makes me think that maybe Scott has been enjoying more of that Colorado Kool-Aid than I was aware of…
He continues, “I love this opportunity to share my passion with others. At some point many years ago, I became worried that I would injure a fish. I am here for the sport; the fish is fighting for life or death. So, I figured I’d level the playing field a bit for the trout that bring me so much joy. That being said, I am not some hippie just yet—if I was in need of food, I would tie on a hook. Otherwise, I find accomplishment in just fooling the fish to strike on a fly without a hook. I hope that someday, a hundred years from now, someone will say, ‘I think that guy was on to something…,’” he jests.
The next morning brings even cooler temperatures— the low 20s— and a fresh dusting of snow. On this morning, Steve has me set up on a streamer line. With this sort of setup, it is necessary to learn the quintessential pushing and pulling or as it called, “false casting” of the line in the air as the fly whips to and fro before the true cast. It doesn’t take long, with Steve’s patient coaching, to get the feel of loading the rod and getting that perfect whipping motion. Soon, I am strategically casting the fly into the perfect eddy and catching trout once again. I am overcome with accomplishment, and Steve is too. He has just passed on a lifetime of knowledge of a sport that has defined him.