Andrew Roth

Andy Roth is a fly angler and also a conservationist. His experience with fish and fly rod is international, but his concentration lies within the watersheds of the Midwest.

Go West! A Wyoming Dude Ranch

Posted by: Andrew Roth under Fishing, Family Fun, Trout Updated: August 26, 2009 - 12:20 PM

An experience I will never forget!  Set high in the Big Horn Mountains, Spear-O-Wigwam ranch is the place from which I explored the magnificent Wyoming landscape last week. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing or a combination of these activities was just out the front door in a setting that truly spoke to your spirit and left you with the understanding of how life was lived, in a time long past.
The adventure was nothing short of cosmic.
The 34 horses were driven from their corral each night by a set of wranglers. The horses destination, one of numerous high mountain pastures located within the Big Horn National Forest for an evening of grazing among the shadows of the lodge-pole pines and rocky outcroppings of the Big Horn Mountains. Each morning the wranglers returned to once again gather the horses and push them to the ranch corral, beginning another day's work of packing, training and trail riding. The wranglers, composed of both men and women, were living their dream. Riding, roping and residing in a place that has changed little from the time man's eyes first set upon its wild character. All of them, real people, upholding an ethic of hard work, honesty and a love of land and animal that sometimes escapes the understanding of many who live among the steel, blacktop and glass of the city. This simpler choice of existence, although dramatic at times, beckoned me to look back through a window in time to see the purity of a way of life that has mostly been substituted for by a short sighted thought process that does not include the land and the animals that survive upon it. It was a pleasure to see a group of people living in harmony with their surroundings instead of looking for ways to change it.
The entire ranch is powered by two massive generators. Each night, power to the ranch was turned off. In the morning, the generators were re-started and the wonders of light and power resumed. The absence of  power each night left me to ponder, once again, what it was like to live without these conveniences. The moon and stars shone brightly and fire provided the only additional light. Cell phone service at the ranch was not available, only a satellite phone for emergencies. Those who had flashlights used them to find their way. I preferred not to, only to fully appreciation a way of life that still exists, and in fact flourishes, with fewer modern conveniences. Granted,  just a flip of a switch and all the conveniences of home would be restored, but the thought of life without all the additional technology was somehow appealing.
The moose and mule deer, mountain lions and marmots, eagles and elk all made appearances during the week. In this National Forest, it seemed as though the animals interaction with man was that of curiosity and coexistence rather than fear. This was just an observation but in most of these encounters the subject would stand their ground and stare back instead of flee in terror. It was nice to observe the wildlife at a distance and I couldn't help but feel that somehow these animals felt the same way as I did.
Fishing each day took place in a different location and the variety of scenery was incredible.  Small hidden lakes with streams flowing in and out gave you the choice of fishing still water or moving water. High mountain reservoirs loaded with cutthroat trout, and meadow creeks flowing crystal clear with brook trout hiding in every plunge pool, And the grayling, oh the grayling. The fishing wasn't always easy, but the scenery was always grand and we did find our share of the "village idiot" fish that I often dream about when I go to new destinations.
Overall the trip was magical. The accommodations were perfect without being to fluffy. The food was fantastic and the company was delightful. The common thread that binds this wild country together is the horse. There would truly be something missing without it and Spear-O has incorporated this 4 legged as it should be. Thank you to Ken, Beth and their staff at Spear-O-Wigwam for showing me the paths forged by wild game and followed by man and horse, for taking the time to share your stories, and that of Spear-O-Wigwam in a manner that embraces all who wish to become part of its history, and thank you Mitch for making it all possible.

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