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The High Lonesome Ranch is an immense property with its headquarters and “cookhouse” located about 40 minutes northeast of Grand Junction, Colorado. The airport there is served by a variety of airlines with direct flights from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Denver. The ranch provides shuttle service to and from the airport.

At approximately 500 square miles of private and permitted property, the ranch sprawls over much of the Roan Plateau, an area noted for its population of big game. The ranch property rises from 4,200 to more than 9,000 feet in elevation. The changes in elevation on the ranch encompass ecological zones ranging from sagebrush to mixed oak and pine forests to open alpine vistas.

From the fly fisher’s point of view, the main attractions are the spring-fed beaver and man-made ponds of the North Dry Fork spring creek. These stillwater fisheries range from pothole size to several acres. There are more than 20 ponds and all but the lowest harbor a variety of trout species, some of truly trophy size. The very lowest ponds are stocked with warm-water species, including largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegills. Angling for trout is limited to fly fishing; spin- and baitcasting rigs are permitted in the lowest ponds for the warm-water species.

The cold-water ponds contain Snake River cutthroats, rainbows, brook trout, brown trout, and cutbows. In many of the waters, there are good sight-fishing opportunities for large cruisers. Fish of more than 25 inches have been caught. In fact, Paul Vahldiek’s wife, Lyssa, a self-described novice, landed a 14-pound rainbow from one of the ponds.

An additional attraction for the fly fisher is the ranch’s sister property, the K Bar T, located on the White River near Meeker, Colorado. The angling opportunities there are discussed later in this article.

Until two years ago the ranch was primarily limited to fly fishing, wingshooting, and big game hunting activities. However, in the last two years, the ranch has added a summer-season “dude ranch” component offering a range of activities, including equestrian activities for all levels of experience. The ranch prides itself on designing programs that meet the individual goals of its guests. Through the ranch’s sales and reservations office, a prospective guest can discuss activity alternatives that are of interest to non-angling companions. As a test drive, my own late- August visit to the ranch encompassed a variety of activities for me and my nonangling companions.

My expectation for our three-night stay at the ranch was to experience the fly fishing, and the women were looking forward to equestrian activities, mountain biking, an afternoon cooking class, and a bit of shooting on the ranch’s sporting clays course. What we found during our stay was much more than we expected.

For starters, we were not expecting to have our own three-bedroom, three-bath “ranch house” with a stocked kitchen, locally produced wines, and mountain bikes and helmets waiting for us. We also had not expected gourmet meals at the cookhouse featuring ranch-raised beef and produce elegantly served in dishes that rival the finest offerings of big-city restaurants. We were also surprised by the ranch’s environmental mission statement that is being implemented through robust scientific studies and restoration programs between the ranch and various public and nongovernmental organizations. We also did not expect the level of detailed hospitality that we received from everyone from the housekeeper to the headquarters staff to the warmth of owners Paul and Lyssa Vahldiek, who regularly dined with us and other guests in the evenings.

So, what does the ranch offer in the way of activities? Here is a rundown.

Fishing on the Main Ranch. As noted above, the main ranch offers still-water fishing in a variety of ponds. I personally fished the ranch ponds one day in the company of knowledgeable res

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