“The fish in the river have a hard life,” says Shane Birdsey. “The flows drop down in December, we throw a coat of ice on top of them and hit them with runoff. Then, they feed them.”
Birdsey has been fishing the high elevation waters of the Rio Grande for decades. Since 1976, he’s been teaching other anglers how to do the same.
Creede, Colorado’s Ramble House is a legendary, 60-year-old tackle store that also hosts Birdsey’s Creede Guide & Outfitters business. “They named it the Ramble House,” his wife Susan adds, “because they wanted people to walk into the store and ramble.”
Ramble House is a hidden gem in a remote Colorado town that’s been mostly overlooked by time. Creede’s heyday ended before the turn of the 20th century, when the plethora of silver mines in the mountains around town started to peter out. Now, it mostly survives as a creative hideaway for playwrights, restauranteurs and adventurous trout anglers. Surrounded by government land on all sides, there’s not much room for modern Creede to grow. “It’s definitely a destination,” Susan says. “You don’t happen onto Creede. You have to come here on purpose.”
Customers have been doing just that at Ramble House for over six decades, perusing a combination fly and conventional tackle store that’s as real as they come: no fluff and snub-nosing here. Everyone is welcome at the Ramble House. It’s one of the least intimidating fly shops I’ve ever entered, and it’s one of the most welcoming conventional stores as well. “We basically turn into a coffee shop in the winter,” Shane says.
But it’s not winter yet.
Even at 8,100 feet, where the Ramble House sits perched on the old mining town’s main drag, it’s still relatively warm outside. In late August, we’re not too far removed from the Rio Grande’s legendary summer stone fly hatch—the real boom time for Ramble House.
“Generations upon generations have been coming here every year around the 15th of June,” Susan says. “We keep an eye on the hatch. People plan their vacations around the stone flies. You just cast them up on the bank and let them sink. The trout go crazy for it.”
Shane started working at Ramble House at age 13, back in ’76, when the original owners—Alton and Virginia Cole—hired him to run stock. True to small town form, Mrs. Cole served double duty as Birdsey’s english teacher. Mr. Cole was superintendent of the schools. “They had the summers off,” Birdsey adds. “So they started this store. Back then it was year round like it is now.”
The Cole’s store came to life in the husk of an old auto shop. The oil-change pit still lies hidden beneath the Ramble House floor. This store, literally and figuratively, has deep roots. The Cole’s became family to the Birdseys, and in the ’90s, the 13-year old kid who started stocking the aisles became part owner of the business that raised him.
“I came into the store in 1976,” Shane recalls. “Mr. Cole asked me why I wanted to work here, and I told him, ‘because I want to learn everything about fishing.’ He told me to come in at 9:00 the next day, and I’ve been here ever since.”