I don't like guided fishing trips much. They feel canned. But for fish like the ones found in northwestern Colorado's Yampa Valley, exceptions must be made. The area is best known for the Steamboat Ski Resort, but in recent years it's also become a fly-fishing destination, especially in the fall, during the baetis and mahogany hatches. Thanks go to trout-habitat-restoration initiatives funded by both local ranch owners and the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers association. A guide is your mandatory access ticket: The best water here is private, Colorado law states that river bottoms aren't public, and local ranchers hold the Second Amendment dear. Take a day trip to the Milner section of the Yampa River, a wide, meandering ten-mile stretch where strong browns and rainbows sip from the surface (from $250; steamboatflyfisher.com). Catching more trees than trout? Splurge on a trip to Three Forks Ranch, a Kansas Citysize cattle ranch and fishing resort 40 miles north. The river is a little manicured, but there's 16 miles of restored private water. The fish are wise as mules, and nearly as fat. Plus your lunch picnic consists of tortellini prepared by a gourmet chef who, of course, used to be a competitive cage fighter (day trips, $600; threeforksranch.com).
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