Frequently Asked Questions
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service has specialized in proving exceptional, custom-tailored fly fishing adventures to our clients for over 20 years. Our professional guides are courteous instructors with years of experience, widely regarded as the best in the business. We offer premier access to several of Colorado’s most sought-after private waters, which boast some of the best fishing in the state and beyond. Our headquarters at the North Fork Ranch offer a comfortable setting and dining experience that is simply unmatched by any other outfitter. When you book a trip with North Fork Ranch Guide Service, you can rest assured that everyone on our staff will go above and beyond to make sure your trip is an unforgettable adventure!
A: The private waters that North Fork Ranch Guide Service offers are in extremely high demand, and peak season dates generally fill many months or in some cases years in advance. While we will always do our best to accommodate last-minute bookings, it is highly recommended that you reach out several months in advance of your trip to reserve your dates and locations. This is particularly important during the months of May-September, and even more so on weekend dates.
A: You can submit a trip request online at any time through our Contact page. Once you reach out, a staff member will get in touch with you to answer questions and confirm your booking.
A: From Orvis, “The Orvis endorsement ensures that you will encounter unparalleled service, respect for natural resources, and an experienced, professional staff. With Orvis as your guide, you can rest assured that your next fly-fishing or wing-shooting adventure will be one to remember.”
A: Your booking cost for a full day trip includes your guide trip for the day, the access fee (rod fee) for the private water you will be fishing on, all necessary equipment including rod, reel, waders, boots, terminal tackle, and flies, and lunch service. Booking cost for a half day trip includes all of the above except lunch service. Booking cost does not include a Colorado fishing license ($17.64/day or $33.53 for 5 days), or gratuity for your guide (~20%).
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service does not offer license sales, but a link to the State website for purchasing will be included in your trip confirmation email. Licenses can be easily purchased online at https://www.cpwshop.com/home.page , over the phone at 800-244-5613. Licenses can also be purchased in person- the closest place to do so from North Fork Ranch is at Platte River Outfitters in Bailey, about 10 minutes away. A current Colorado Fishing License is required on all guided trips for anyone ages 16+ and your guide will need to confirm all members of your party have a license prior to starting your trip.
A: While Colorado offers some of the world’s best public fly fishing opportunities, fly fishing private water with North Fork Ranch Guide Service offers several distinct benefits. The private waters we guide on are meticulously managed to create the best fly fishing possible, from extensive stream restoration and habitat improvement to regulating the number of anglers on each property and ensuring rest days throughout the season. Furthermore, booking a private water trip ensures you can avoid the crowds that frequent Colorado’s well-known public stretches, making for a more relaxing experience where you can focus solely on the fish.
A: We usually try to stick to 2 anglers per guide- this has proven to be the best maximum number in ensuring all members of a trip have the best possible experience. We can accommodate up to 3 anglers per guide so long as the clients are experienced or understand the guide will be taking on extra responsibility and may be more spread out throughout the day. 3 anglers per guide is the legal maximum mandated by the State of Colorado, and any group more than 3 anglers will require an additional guide.
A: A 50% deposit is required to secure your reservation. The balance is due the day of your trip. Deposits refunded less 10% up to 45 days prior to reservation. Deposits refunded less 50% between 45 and 30 days prior to reservation. No deposit refunded within 30 days of reservation. Rescheduled reservations prior to 30 days from original trip date will have full deposit applied to a new reservation.
Gear and Equipment Questions
A: Must-haves include polarized sunglasses, a hat, and warm socks. Please see our Packing List for more information on what clothing to bring for your trip. If you have any further questions regarding clothing for your specific trip, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
A: As an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge, North Fork Ranch Guide Service is pleased to offer high-end Orvis equipment on all guided trips. This includes a wide selection of waders and boots in men’s, women’s and youth sizing. This also includes rods and reels for both right and left handed anglers. Your guide will provide all flies and terminal tackle (leaders, tippet, weight, floatant, etc.). Orvis raincoats are also available for use should there be an afternoon shower. If you prefer to use your own equipment, that’s ok too, but please trust our guide’s judgment on whether it is appropriate for the water you’ll be fishing.
A: For North Fork Valley properties, a 5-6 weight rod and a reel equipped with a good drag system are best. For South Park properties, as 4-5 weight rod is appropriate.. Please see our Packing List for more information on what gear to bring for your trip. If you have any further questions regarding gear for your specific trip, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
A: The North Fork Ranch Guide Shed is stocked with ample extra equipment should you forget anything, The Trading Post at North Fork Ranch also offers a wide variety of gear for sale including logo-wear, jackets, fishing shirts, hats, neck gaiters, and other equipment. If needed, the town of Bailey is only 10 minutes away and offers several small shops and stores.
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service offers priority drop-shipping through Orvis and can help you purchase any gear you may need, be it before, during, or after your trip. If you find something you like, in many cases you can have it waiting at your doorstep upon your arrival home! Please speak with your guide or contact us if you’d like to know more about the drop-ship program.
Guided Fly Fishing Questions
A: Most trips meet at 8:30am at the North Fork Ranch Guide Service shed, located at North Fork Ranch. This is where you’ll be outfitted with equipment before heading to the water. If it’s more convenient for you to meet at another location nearer the property you’ll be fishing (for example, you’re staying in Breckenridge and fishing one of our South Park properties) that can be arranged as well. Please let us know in advance if you would like to schedule an off-property meeting location.
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service offers access to several of Colorado’s best private waters, as well as many world-renowned public stretches. These properties include _North Fork Ranch, Shawnee Meadow_s, and Rawhide Fly Fishers in the North Fork Valley, as well as Santa Maria Ranch, Tarryall Land and Cattle Ranch, and Abell River Ranch in the South Park Valley. In addition, we offer guided trips on several famed public water sections of the South Platte River.
A: While fly fishing is a lifelong skill, there is no better place to start your fly fishing journey than with North Fork Ranch Guide Service. Our team of expert guides specialize in teaching new anglers and getting them proficient quickly. There are few greater joys for our guides than watching a new angler catch their very first fish!
A: It depends on the river, the time of year, the time of day, and many other factors! On our North Fork Valley properties we generally fish nymphs, dry-dropper rigs, and streamers. On our South Park Valley properties, we love throwing dry flies and dry-dropper rigs as well as streamers. For more information, check out our Fishing Calendar.
A: Depending on the property you fish, you may encounter Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout, hybrid Cut-bow trout, and Tiger Trout. On our Tarryall Land and Cattle property, you may also occasionally see an invasive Northern Pike.
A: We are lucky to have access to some of Colorado’s most premier private waters that are home to some of the biggest trout around.
In the North Fork Valley, fish average 14-18 inches, and fish 20-25 inches and 4-7 pounds are not uncommon. Hooking even larger fish in that 26-30+ inch and 10+ pound class is not uncommon either, but landing them is another story!
In the South Park Valley, fish size varies between properties but averages 8-13 inches with fish up to 17-18 inches being fairly common. Occasionally anglers will stumble into larger resident fish of 20+ inches at Abell River Ranch. During the Summer and Fall months at Santa Maria Ranch, migratory Brown Trout from Spinney Mountain Reservoir mean that Browns 18-25+ inches are never out of the question!
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service specializes in fly fishing, and that is all we do! We encourage you to give fly fishing a shot- it’s a ton of fun, and our professional guides are experts at making sure first-timers can learn quickly and become proficient. While we don’t do any conventional fishing on our guided trips, fishing with conventional tackle is allowed on the pond at North Fork Ranch only.
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service practices catch-and-release on all guided trips; keeping fish is not allowed. Clients will be educated on best fish handling practices to ensure the fish live to fight another day!
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service specializes in large group trips and events, and has over 20 years of experience hosting these types of groups. Lodging at North Fork Ranch accommodates 30-36 people depending on beds. Groups up to 12 can often all fish on the same property- larger groups may need to be split between two or three properties, but can all start the day, meet for lunch, and finish the day back at North Fork Ranch. The larger your group, the earlier you will need to book to ensure adequate lodging and private water access. Please see our Group Trips page for more information.
A: Absolutely. North Fork Ranch offers many additional activities, including horseback trail rides, alpine hikes, trap shooting, and more. We also partner with area outfits to help organize rafting trips, zipline tours, and other activities. For those that would rather just relax and spend some time in nature, there’s no better place to do it than North Fork Ranch. Cozy up in the library, on the covered back porch of the lodge, or on one of several benches lining the river to read a book, have a glass of wine, or just listen to the river roll by.
A: Generally yes, as long as you let us know they’re coming in advance. Some private waters may charge an access fee (rod fee) for non-anglers to visit the property- this is solely up to the landowner’s discretion.
A: If you are fishing exclusively at North Fork Ranch, you do not need a vehicle. For all other properties you will be following the guide to the property, so a vehicle is required.
A: Getting young anglers “hooked” on fishing is one of our specialties; with that said, the rivers we fish are often deep, fast, and slick. As such, children under 10 years old are not allowed on trips to our river properties. If you have a child under 10 that would like to fish, we may be able to set up a lesson on the pond at North Fork Ranch.
A: We strive to ensure that everyone who wants to learn to fly fish can, regardless of their mobility- however, the rivers we fish are often fast-moving and slick, and in many cases wading is required. Please let us know when booking your trip if anyone in your group has mobility issues so that we can plan accordingly and ensure a safe, enjoyable trip.
A: You’d be hard pressed to find a guide who doesn’t enjoy an ice-cold beer while on the river. However, the safety of our guests and our guides is our highest priority. The consumption of alcohol, the use of marijuana and the use of other recreational drugs are NOT permitted when fishing with the North Fork Ranch Guide Service. For lodging guests, alcohol is allowed and available as soon as you are done fishing for the day.
A: No- if you book a guided trip, the only people on that trip will be your party and your guide(s).
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service limits angler and group numbers as much as possible to create a true private water experience. When you book a private water beat, that beat is reserved for your group. With that said, many of our properties are comprised of multiple beats, and other groups may be fishing the beat upstream/downstream of yours. In rare instances you may see these other anglers at a distance or walking to/from vehicles, but will never be fishing around anglers outside of your party.
A: You are welcome to request a particular stretch- if you know the stretch you’d like to fish, please plan to book extra early as most stretches book months or even over a year in advance. You are also welcome to request a guide- it’s a high compliment! Again, please reach out early as many of our senior guides book out months in advance.
A: Lodging accommodations are booked through Haley at North Fork Ranch. You can reach out by phone at 303-838-9873, or online at https://www.northforkranch.com/contact .
A: NO. Because some of our anglers do not lodge, fishing and lodging are booked separately. Don’t wait to secure lodging accommodations after booking your fishing days, as North Fork Ranch often books many months in advance. Lodging reservations can be made by calling 303-838-9873, or online at https://www.northforkranch.com/contact .
A: Please visit https://www.northforkranch.com for more lodging information.
A: North Fork Ranch Guide Service is pleased to offer guided fly fishing trips to lodging guests and day anglers alike; you do not need to be lodging at North Fork Ranch to fish with us. With that said, we highly recommend and implore that anyone visiting to fish with us stay at North Fork Ranch. Not only does it make for a convenient fishing day, but lodging at North Fork Ranch is an unforgettable 5-star experience!
A: In order to ensure all anglers have an enjoyable and safe experience, protect our spectacular resource at North Fork Ranch, and effectively manage pressure on the fishery to ensure the highest quality fishery possible, all guests must be accompanied by a guide to fish at North Fork Ranch. If you would like to fish at North Fork Ranch during your stay, be sure to specify this when booking and plan to book ahead of time as the North Fork Ranch stretch books out the furthest in advance.
A: Lunch is included at no additional charge on all full-day guided trips. Lunch is not included on ½ day guided trips, but can be added for an additional charge. Please note when booking if you’d like to include lunch on your ½ day trip.
A: North Fork Ranch lunches are a client favorite, a highlight of the day, and a huge perk of fishing with North Fork Ranch Guide Service. Lunches vary day to day, but generally include the following:
All clients fishing on North Fork Valley properties will head back to North Fork Ranch for lunch at 12:30. Lunch is served buffet style and generally includes various soups, salads, and sandwiches as well as chips and drinks. On certain days we may have alternate meals such as burgers and brats, fried chicken, or a make-your-own taco bar. Homemade dessert is served tableside and changes daily!
Full Day South Park Valley trips include a riverside lunch. Guides will provide a table and chairs and lunch will be kept fresh in an iced cooler. Lunch includes sandwiches (ham, turkey, or roast beef), as well as fruit, chips, drinks, and a dessert.
A: Yes, we are happy to accommodate reasonable dietary restrictions. Please note any dietary restrictions when booking your trip so we can be sure to be prepared when you arrive.
A: Breakfast and dinner are included for lodging guests in the cost of lodging. Breakfast and dinner are not included for day anglers, but can be added for an additional charge. Please let us know when booking your trip if you would like breakfast and/or dinner included on your day trip.
Clinic/ Classes Questions
A: Clinic and class guests should plan to meet their instructor at North Fork Ranch. Once you arrive, a guide or staff member will be happy to direct you to your clinic instructor.
A: The Beginner’s clinic is a half-day class designed to help new anglers get a basic understanding of the fundamentals of fly fishing before heading out to the water. It is a phenomenal class for those who haven’t fly-fished before, or those who have gone a handful of times but would like to become more self-sufficient. Many North Fork Ranch guests choose to do a Beginner’s Clinic the day before their guided fly fishing trip to help steepen the learning curve and get more out of their guided trip.
The 301 Clinic is a full-day class geared towards going in-depth on various fly fishing skillsets including casting techniques, rigging various setups, reading water, etymology, and more. This is a perfect class for intermediate anglers hoping to hone their skills and take their fly fishing game to the next level, or new anglers who want to “dive in” and really tackle the intricacies of fly fishing from the get-go.
A: Both the Beginner’s and 301 Clinics are taught in a hybrid classroom/on-water setting. Beginner’s Clinic students will practice their newfound knowledge on the North Fork Ranch pond, while 301 Clinic students will hone their skills on the pond before heading to the river for 1-2 hours of on-water instruction to complete the day
A: All classes are either taught by lead instructor Ralph Merrill or by one of North Fork Ranch Guide Service’s senior fly fishing guides.
A: You do not need to take any clinics or classes before taking a guided trip- our professional guides are expert instructors with extensive experience teaching first-time anglers. With that said, taking a class is a great way to sharpen the learning curve and get an understanding of the basics of fly fishing before going on a guided trip. Really there is no wrong answer here, and whether you start your fly fishing journey with a North Fork Ranch Guide Service guided trip or class, you are sure to have the experience of a lifetime!
Weather, Altitude, and More
A: A little weather has never kept us off the water! Generally, we will fish rain, snow, or shine. If a thunderstorm rolls in, we may take a lightning delay- those generally last 15-45 minutes before we can resume fishing. In very rare instances runoff, weather, or snowy roads may force us to postpone or cancel a trip. A full refund will be issued if the guide service cancels a reservation due to severe weather, unsafe road conditions, or river conditions.
A: North Fork Valley Properties:
Click to view North Fork Valley Properties weather conditions
Tarryall Land and Cattle Ranch:
Click to view Tarryall Land and Cattle Ranch weather conditions
Santa Maria Ranch:
Click to view Santa Maria Ranch weather conditions
Abell River Ranch:
Click to view Abell River Ranch weather conditions
A: Staying hydrated and well-rested are the keys to preventing and mitigating the symptoms of altitude sickness at elevation. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your trip, especially on travel days. Be sure to get plenty of rest at nights and take breaks on the water as needed. Once at elevation, avoid alcohol for the first 48 hours. If needed, consider over-the-counter medicines such as Diamox (acetazolamide). Sources: CDC, Healthline
A: Prevalence of mosquitos and flies depends on the time of year- most of the year, they are negligible. Mosquitos are most present during and after runoff (June-July) when high water floods areas of the bank. Mosquitos and flies are much more present on our South Park Properties versus those in the North Fork Valley.
All North Fork Ranch Guide Service guides will be equipped with bug spray to use at your leisure. In addition, we recommend wearing a long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirt to prevent bug bites as well as a Buff or other type of face shield.