Steamboat Springs The $19.4 million sale of the More Family Ranch on the Yampa River late last year has brought the equivalent of a trout fishing country club to Routt County.
"That's pretty much the business model, it's pretty much like a golf club," Steamboat Springs businessman Jarett Duty said. "There will be nonequity members and annual dues."
He and his brother, John, own Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, an Orvis-affiliated shop in Steamboat. They have become equity partners in the Alpine River Ranch fishing club with a Pennsylvania man, Donny Beavers. The three men solicited the investment of existing club members to become equity partners and facilitate the multi-million dollar purchase.
Bucking Rainbow remains an independent business owned by Jarett and John Duty.
As of March 15, even members of the public who have several hundred dollars to spend on a guided fishing trip no longer have access to Tailwaters Preserve. It's open to club members only.
Take me to the river
Members at Tailwaters Preserve, part of Alpine River Ranch, will pay an initial fee of $85,000 and annual dues currently set at $7,700. The majority of the members also can be expected to pay for a fishing guide to accompany them and members of their family on angling outings. The Duty brothers say they can be expected to help keep members of Steamboat's guiding profession well employed.
Beavers established Alpine River Ranch in the Vail Valley in 2007. He already had established the successful Spring Ridge Club near College Station, Pa., an area that contains his home waters.
Beavers also acquired the well-established, Vail-area guide service, Gorsuch Outfitters and six miles of private access trout streams last year. He began attracting founding members in the Alpine River Club from among Gorsuch clients.
Alpine River Club is a separate business from Spring Ridge Club, John Duty said. But members of both clubs will enjoy reciprocal access. A 2004 article in The New York Times described members of Spring Ridge Club who value it because it is only a four-hour drive from Manhattan.
Steamboat fly shops have been sending guides and clients to the trout-rich waters below Lake Catamount on the More Family Ranch for years under the terms of a lease. Naturally reproducing trout there put on pounds year-round because the water coming out of Stagecoach Dam is cold enough in summer, and warm enough in winter, to spur metabolism of the fish.
Ski vacationers frequently have mixed in a day of guided fishing on the More Ranch and left with pictures of themselves holding a trophy that was promptly returned to the water.
The 1.75 miles of the Yampa on the ranch produced an 11-pound rainbow this past winter, and 26-inch fish are not rare.
"John and I think it's one of the top five fishing destinations in the states," Jarett said. "And it's just seven miles from a major ski area."
There is natural reproduction of rainbow trout in the river, Duty said. Other fish migrate to the rich feeding grounds below the dam in winter. They do not plant trophy trout in the river, he said.
"We don't stock trout there, and we will never stock trout there," Duty said.
When they learned that Beavers was looking at purchasing More Family Ranch, they approached him about joining the club for their own use.
Instead, the men became partners.
"The idea is to preserve these fishing waters. We typically don't want to develop," the land, John said.
However, the brothers said they can't rule out a limited housing development on the preserve in the future to help offset the purchase price.
They also are actively pursuing land purchases or long-term leases that would bring more miles of streams and rivers into Alpine River Ranch. But they're trying to do that with an eye to balance their own need for private water on which to guide private clients of their own, as well as the needs of the other fly shops.
"The ranchers who previously) said 'never' are opening their minds to the idea of leasing to a single club on a long-term basis," Jarett said. "We added two significant pieces, two seven-mile stretches in the last month that are within an hour of town. But we're trying to be very careful about stepping on toes and other peoples' leases."
Beavers was embroiled in a controversy in Pennsylvania when he sought to bar public boaters from a stretch of the Little Juniata River that runs through club property. He was unsuccessful in that effort.
John Duty, who has spoken out about protecting the right of commercial floaters to use rivers in Routt County, said they told their new partner they were on opposite sides of the debate and would not be a party to barring floaters from rivers here.
Beavers has engaged his club members in Pennsylvania in stream conservation, and the Duty brothers say that will be a big part of the Alpine River Ranch's efforts here. They also intend to contract for hay production on the ranch.
As Beavers has done in Pennsylvania at the Spring Ridge Club, the Duty brothers said they look forward to a couple of occasions annually when local anglers will be invited to put their names in a hat for some fishing access at Tailwaters Preserve. Beyond that, membership in the club is the only option.
The brothers intend to join Beavers in expanding the model of Alpine River Ranch across the Rocky Mountain West to destinations such as Telluride and Jackson Hole, Wyo.