A Day to Remember – Fly Fishing on the Dolores River
The Redburn Flying R Ranch – by Marty Campbell
A day fly fishing on the Dolores River and exploring the Redburn Flying R Ranch in Southwestern Colorado recalls to mind a quote by Michael Yelton: “A wise man told me once, ‘It’s not how many fish you catch, it’s where the fly-fishing takes you in life.’”
Our Experience Fly Fishing on the Dolores River
The Redburn Flying R Ranch is a genuine family-owned cattle ranch, and seventy calves bawling for their mothers greeted my wife and me when we drove onto the property located on the banks of the captivating Dolores River.
A tall, thin man looking every bit the rancher greeted us. His name is Danny, and his grandparents started the operation. Danny showed us where to park, directed us to the easiest river access, and wished us well.
The weather forecast hinted at a cold, drizzling day, but we found partly cloudy skies and comfortable temperatures. Golden Fall leaves parachuted to the ground in the soft breeze. The squishy damp soil under our boots and the earthy scent of decaying foliage were wonderfully pleasing, particularly for two Arizona desert rats more used to gravel trails and swirling dust.
Where the Dolores River runs through the Flying R Ranch, towering, tree-shrouded cliffs shade the undercut banks and shallow riffles. Nymphing for over an hour resulted in a single, feisty rainbow. But thanks to my wife, Patty, that was about to change.
Exploring and not fishing, Patty led me to a deep run where fish were rising for a hatch I couldn’t even see. I quickly tied on a #16 barbless PMD dry fly hoping that it might draw some attention. My first cast resulted in a fat, aggressive brown trout that smacked the tiny fly. Several casts later I netted a 14-inch rainbow. There were no offers at my fly for fifteen more minutes. I was ready to move on but dropped my fly on the surface one more time. The explosion was startling, but also exhilarating. To my delight, I netted and released a stunningly beautiful (and unexpected) cutthroat.
Yup, I continued to fish for over an hour hoping to catch a brook trout to complete a grand slam. Close, but not this time. Still, I was more than satisfied with the day’s results.
Before returning to our car, Patty and I sat on a log by the river and ate cheese sandwiches, drank hot coffee, and watched the mesmerizing river. Even after six decades of fly fishing, I cherish days like this.
Angling on seldom-fished waters like the Dolores River at Redburn Flying R Ranch is about quality fly fishing, of course. But there is more here. This is a state of being, a reconnection to the earth and water that I believe is an essential renewal. Maybe it is what we all need to make us whole.