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What You Need To Know About Fly Fishing at Smith Fork Ranch

Fly Fishing at Smith Fork Ranch is phenomenal, with three private miles of the Smith Fork of the Gunnison River, six trout ponds, and a fresh, mountain stream, not to mention many backcountry angling opportunities. Whether you’re a newcomer or an expert, you’re going to find fly fishing heaven right here.

Before the fun begins, here’s what you need to know.

Know Your Trout

Get familiar with the types of fish you’ll be hooking. The Smith Fork River of the Gunnison is home to four species of trout:

  • fishing-smith-fork-ranchBrown Trout – Typically ranging from 7 to 14 inches, the brass-colored, speckled Brown Trout is one of the wiliest, toughest-to-catch fish in North America – and because of that they’re the pinnacle species for fly fishing enthusiasts.
  • Brook Trout – Also known among anglers as “native trout” or “natives,” “brookie,” Brook Trout like cold, pristine waters of 53 Fahrenheit or lower, so spring is usually the best time to hook ‘em.
  • Rainbow Trout – The Rainbow is aptly named, with lovely multihued scales that shimmer in the sunlight. You can also identify them by their unforked tails. These trout can grow big in Colorado – up to 26 inches!
  • Cutthroat Trout – Named for the red/orange coloration under their jaws, Cutthroats rarely get any bigger than 12 inches. But they’re beloved by mountain men because they fit perfectly in a pan.

If you catch all four during a single visit to Smith Fork Ranch? That’s called the Smith Fork Grand Slam – an angling achievement that earns you lifetime bragging rights.

Know How To Relax


Fly fishing can be exciting, of course, but it’s also one of the most Zen experiences you can have in this modern world. Listen to the gentle roll of the river, wind in the trees, birds singing in the sun … sound good? It’s even better in real life.

Know Your Fishing Terminology

Learn the lingo! Here are a few basics, so you don’t seem like a complete newbie.

  • Catch and Release: Fish are a vital part of a natural ecosystem, and “catch and release” fishing improves native fish populations by allowing more fish to remain and reproduce.
  • Riffle: A shallow, fast-moving section of water where fish gather to feed – AKA where you want to be.
  • Matching The Hatch: The practice of using artificial flies that mimic the color, size, shape and behavior of natural insects that fish are feeding during that particular time of year.
  • Grip: The cork handle of a fly rod.
  • Foam Is Home: Look for the foam! Foaminess in the water tells you where currents are moving and where food gathers. So that’s where the fish are most likely to be.

fishing-smith-fork ranch

Know When To Ask Questions

Even if you know the lingo, don’t be afraid to ask your Smith Fork Ranch fly fishing experts questions for tips and guidance during your experience. They know these waters better than anyone, and will have you landing the big one before long.

Know How To Get Immersed

Want to get really into fly fishing? Take an all day fishing trip on horseback with guides and a pack animal up into the Little Elk Basin of the Gunnison National Forest. You’ll end up fly fishing in a remote mountain stream, where few other humans go each year, trying to land the rare A-strain of Colorado Cutthroat. This small-but-beautiful fish can only be found in this mountain drainage and only one other location in Colorado. Catch and release only, of course. Email info@smithforkranch.com or call 970-921-3454 for more info.

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