Fly fishing in Colorado: How to get started if you’re a beginner

Get the hang of the sport, even if you’re a fish out of water, at this camp.

Even if your only knowledge of fly fishing comes from the Brad Pitt movie “A River Runs Through It,” you can take a vacation that has you fishing like — or at least with — a total pro.

And while you may think of the sport as older dudes casting lines, women are making inroads, many drawn to its yoga-like meditative aspects.

Colorado has great rivers for newbies. Here’s one way to get fly fishing.

Going to camp

Flying into Denver, hop in a car for about a two-hour drive south to the Broadmoor Fly Fishing Camp (inclusive packages start at $825/night and include food, guides and equipment for two people; 20922 County Rd. 77, Lake George, Colorado, 855-634-7711, broadmoor.com). The historic property along the Tarryall River is now owned by the Broadmoor Resort, in Colorado Springs. About half the guests tack on a stay to a longer Broadmoor vacation, while others just come for a few days to fish.

The camp is a collection of 100-year-old rustic-chic refurbished log cabins and (modern) communal bathrooms, although a few have their own facilities. There’s about five miles of river on the property that wind through canyons and grassy meadows.

When not fishing, you can go horseback riding at an affiliated ranch down the street, or go for a hike in the mountains. Reading, napping and board games are also popular options. Family-style meals are made by the fishing guides — and guests are welcome to help out.

Learning the ropes

Scott Tarrant, the property manager and a fly fishing guide, says that beginners are his favorite — they don’t have bad habits and he gets to relive his fly fishing “firsts” by teaching others how to do it.

After suiting up in waders, boots and plenty of bug spray, Tarrant shows guests what type of lure to use — either a dry fly or larvae — by dipping a net into the water to see what trout are likely to be eating. The rod is super light, so the casting is more a series of controlled motions rather than a heavy workout.

Guides take guests out in several-hour periods to different spots on the property. There’s a different way to cast depending on a host of factors, from the topography to the weather. You’re also trying to figure out what the fish are going to go for to then imitate it with your rod. Guides like Tarrant have developed a preternatural ability to spot action below the surface and come up with a plan.

Once a fish is on the line, which can take a while for beginners, guides show guests how to reel them in and then help get them in a net and unhook them. Keeping the trout alive is key, as the camp wants to keep natural fish stocks healthy. So anyone who wants to hold one for a second learns to carefully let their hand go slack and cradle it before letting it swim away.

After a couple days of learning, many beginners find that it’s a lot of meditative focus, a little bit of knowing how to move the rod and a tiny bit of luck. Even if you don’t catch anything, standing in pristine Colorado mountain scenery isn’t a bad trade-off.

Getting set up

If there are any clothing basics you need, like long underwear for your waders, or polarized sunglasses to see the fish underneath the water’s surface, head to the REI flagship store (1416 Platte St., Denver, 303-765-3100, rei.com), which is a destination in itself in a refurbished railway building.

Gina Pace