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The rarely fished and highly flow-dependent upper Piedra on Lindner’s Notch Ranch. Photo: Ken Morrish

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Too Good to be True Colorado’s Ultimate Private Water Experience Page 38

by Charles Gehr


The tastefully restored cabin accommodations at El Rancho Pinoso. Photo Ken Morrish

T

he setting is this: you are completely alone standing knee deep in the tailout of a perfect trout pool high in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado. The particular fish you’re targeting is rising in rhythm to rafts of mayfly duns floating downstream. You’re trying hard to remain calm while threading 5X tippet onto a crippled mayfly pattern. The sound of elk bugling in close proximity stirs you from your reverie and causes you to pause, look up and soak in your surroundings. Craggy 12,000 foot tall granite peaks ring your valley in all directions while mule deer graze silently in the valley floor. As the scene unfolds you take a deep breath, tighten your now-finished knot and sigh, saying to yourself “I can’t believe this is all mine!” This is El Rancho Pinoso and, yes, it is all yours. This experience is repeated by guests on a weekly basis at El Rancho Pinoso, one of the finest and most fairly priced private water venues in the American West.

The Lindner Legacy Robert D. Lindner first visited Colorado on a family camping trip in 1969. A successful businessman from Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Lindner was immediately struck by the region’s immense beauty and abundant natural resources. Two years later Mr. Lindner returned to the Rockies to purchase his first Colorado ranch, starting a journey of land acquisition and conservation that he would follow for the next 30 years. The Lindner Ranches now consist of 15,000 acres spread between seven Colorado ranches. The properties with the greatest concentration of recreational opportunities, including El Rancho Pinoso and the Weminuche Valley Ranch, have been placed under conservation easement ensuring their protection in perpetuity. In Lindner’s words: “These Colorado ranches…are my Rembrandts. Some people collect pieces of artwork because of their beauty and value. I can see no greater beauty — and truly no higher value — than these ranches in Colorado…My dream is to

“These Colorado ranches…are my Rembrandts.”

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From top left, clockwise: The author works one of many runs on the Weminuche. The barn at El Rancho Pinoso. A handsome Weminuche brown. June on the Rio Blanco. The

Page 40 El Rancho’s Log Cabin. A Rio Blanco rainbow. Photos: Ken Morrish and Charles Gehr view from


Too Good

to be True

preserve these lands and maintain their integrity for decades to come.” days’ fishing. After a few minutes of organizing gear and practice cast Pastoralism of this nature has become increasingly rare in this day ing on the lawn, anglers ride with Damon 200 yards or less to their first and age. Too few are the people who work tirelessly for a future they will pool of the day. Three miles of the meandering Rio Blanco wind through not witness. Robert Lindner takes conservation of his the property and guests will generally fish most, if not ranches very seriously. All the properties have a lion’s all, of the pools in a day. Fishing techniques will share of beauty and resources, but if you probe Mr. change throughout the day according to condiLindner on his favorite there is no hesitation. It tions. A typical day on the Rio Blanco may involve is El Rancho Pinoso, his gem along the Rio two or three cycles of nymphing, dry/dropper and Blanco, tucked away at the end of a long dirt dry fly fishing. Although many anglers don’t associroad outside of Pagosa Springs. ate small waters with streamer fishing, Damon and his guides Morrish Hopper are always willing to run a big leech or sculpin through the Better Than Nature Intended pool before moving on. When fishing the home waters of the Rio Blanco When the Lindner family first purchased the land that became El Ranlunches are taken back at your cabin. This is your ranch, your cabin and cho Pinoso its centerpiece stream, the Rio Blanco, ran swift and shallow your river today so it’s up to you if you’d like to head straight back to the through its short drainage carrying a heavy sediment load. The river was river after lunch or take in an afternoon siesta. not a single channel but a never-ending series of shallow braids over gravel The fishing program at El Rancho Pinoso actually encompasses three bars. Past years of mining and logging caused the Blanco to carry more distinct systems, the Rio Blanco at El Rancho Pinoso, the Weminuche sand and gravel than it was capable of while maintaining a single channel. River at Weminuche Valley Ranch and the Piedra River at the Notch The decision was made to enhance the fishing potential while at the same Ranch. All of the waters are 100% private and remarkably productive. time returning the Blanco to its’ historical channel. When staying at El Rancho Pinoso you will also be guided on the Noted stream hydrologist Dave Rosgen was enlisted to design a sysWeminuche Valley Ranch, a satellite property 50 miles away that also tem that would allow the Rio Blanco to slow down, form deeper pools falls under the Lindner Ranches umbrella. The Weminuche River features and reduce sediment load and erosion. Through Dave’s efforts riverbanks seven miles of private water, some of which has been restored similarly have been shored, plunge pools formed and an ingenious gravel collection to the Rio Blanco. Where the Rio Blanco tends to feel like a swift, tumsystem put in place. All of this work ensures that the Rio Blanco supports bling rainbow trout stream the Weminuche is the archetypal meandering healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout, many of which reach meadow stream. For most of us this water just begs to be fished with a impressive size. big grasshopper imitation. Big brown trout live in the Weminuche and Damon and his guides are hyper-dialed on catching them. Fishing Program The upper Piedra River is the third venue and is located near the Weminuche on the Notch Ranch. A small, forested freestone river, the Fishing days at El Rancho Pinoso are reminiscent of what we all picture Piedra hosts healthy populations of wild rainbows, browns and brook as the perfect trout fishing day. Head Guide and Ranch Manager, Damon trout. Fishing the Piedra feels like you’ve taken a long hike into the wilScott, arrives at your cabin in the morning with a definite strategy for the

“Where the Rio Blanco tends to feel like a swift, tumbling rainbow trout stream the Weminuche is the archetypal meandering meadow stream.” Page 41


Too Good derness to find the crown jewel of headwaters fishing. Depending on snowpack, the Piedra will drop into “too low to fish” shape at some point in the season. On an average year the Piedra will be closed to fishing by early August and may re-open mid-September. Although many returning guests have not been able to fish the Piedra during their stay, the anglers who do get to visit often consider the Piedra the most intimate, if not the best of the three properties.

Not Really A Lodge

to be True non-catered context, the nearby Weminuche Valley Ranch has recently opened two remarkable new venues. The first is the four bedroom Ludwig Cabin. It too is a beautifully restored structure that seems all too good for the vacation rental market. For larger groups and gatherings, the up-valley Weminuche Lodge is also available and sleeps up to 14 comfortably. Both facilities back up against the forests and gaze out across a sweeping 180 degree view of the sublime Weminuche valley. All guests also enjoy unlimited fishing access to over three miles of designated private water on the Weminuche.

As a matter of principal, all original structures on Lindner Ranches Beyond The Blanco are left in place. In Mr. Lindner’s eyes the cultural history of his holdings are as important as their While El Rancho Pinoso and the Weminuche properties natural features. Consequently, guests at El Ranare among the finest fishing venues in Colorado, this cho Pinoso stay in original log structures dating experience and area offers equally rich non-angling back 50-80 years or more. The “historical experience” opportunities. On the ranches, wranglers and horses ends there, though. Inside, the cabins have all the modare always ready. Likewise there are miles of wilderern amenities and comforts anyone could ask for including ness hiking trails nearby. For those who prefer a taste washers/dryers, internet access and all the amenities expected. Morrish Dirty Bird of town, Pagosa Springs is only 30 minutes away with golf, Interiors have been completely renovated to make your stay shopping and numerous spas showcasing the town’s renowned as pleasant and relaxing as Mr. Lindner himself likes it during his month natural hot springs. For those that want more, the mountain tourist mecca in the same accommodation. No part of the El Rancho Pinoso experience of Durango offers endless options, including the famous Durango-Silfeels like a lodge, but rather like a deluxe vacation rental. The cabins are verton narrow gauge railroad, great stores, historic motels and access to all yours as well as all you can see of the valley floor. Sitting on the deck of nearby anasazi sites. the cabin the entire viewshed is your ranch. At meal times the cook staff When we first visited El Rancho Pinoso we were awestruck that such will prepare as much as possible beforehand in order to minimize their a special undiscovered place like this actually existed. The setting, facility kitchen time. When the meal is done, they clean up and are off. For those and fishing seemed surreal. Moreover, the fact than an established landwith special dietary needs, or a taste for something special, menus can be owner would actually open up a property like this to the public was somecompletely customized to suit. All and all, El Rancho Pinoso is truly the what inconceivable to us, and without precedent. We have worked with ultimate full service, private waters Rocky Mountain retreat. El Rancho Pinoso for a number of years now and our initial impressions still ring true: this is the single finest and most fairly priced private water Ludwig & The Lodge venue in the American west and when the skies are blue and the fish are For families and groups that prefer preparing their own meals in a rising, it really seems too good to be true!

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“All and all, El Rancho Pinoso is truly the ultimate full service, private waters Rocky Mountain retreat.”


How to Get There

Most of our guest can reach the Ranch in less than one day. After landing in Durango, Albuquerque or Denver you’ll need to rent a car and drive to the ranch. Most visitors elect to fly into Durango the day before, overnight and then make the leisurely 1.5 hour drive in the early afternoon. Check in is anytime after 3pm. Private planes can land in Pagosa Springs where they will be picked up by the ranch manager.

Tackle & Techniques You can do all of your fishing at El Rancho Pinoso with a single 4 or 5-weight fly rod and floating line. Long casts are not required nor are sink tips. If you want to break it down further you can bring three rods. A 3-weight rod with a floating line for fishing single dries. A 4 or 5-weight “do-all” rod that could be strung up with nymphs and split shot, or a dry/ dropper rig, and the least essential, a 6-weight, could be rigged for a final pass with a big streamer. On the terminal end bring 9’-12’ tapered leaders. Although the rivers are small, Damon likes to ensure a stealthy presentation, especially when fishing dries. Spools of tippet 3X-6X will ensure that you’re ready for any fishing scenario.

Lodge Facts Season: June 20 – October 1 Capacity: El Rancho – Up to 18 fully catered guests (8 anglers) with exclusive use for four or more anglers. Ludwig Cabin – Perfect for groups of 5-7 that want a private un-catered experience Weminuche Lodge – The ultimate hub for un-catered groups of 6-14

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Profile for Fly Water Travel

Too Good to be True  

Colorado's Ultimate Private Water Experience

Too Good to be True  

Colorado's Ultimate Private Water Experience