Before just a few days ago, I had yet to wade in a river with the intention of casting a fly or hooking a trout. I had yet to experience the serene and exhilarating sport of fly fishing. Eager anticipation filled the afternoon hours that led up to my angler adventure on the Roaring Fork River with my best friend and fellow fly fishing rookie, Kenzie.
Thankfully, my friend and neighbor, Brady, happens to be a guide for Elk Mountain Expeditions and he graciously agreed to take us on a fishing trip to show us the ropes. After living in this town for four years, some would consider it sacrilegious to have never experienced the thrill of trekking in the river and feeling the tug of a fish pulling on your line and wriggling in your net. So, I decided it was time to give it a try.
We load up Brady’s truck, double check that Kenzie and I have the necessary gear and hit the road downvalley towards Snowmass Canyon where the Roaring Fork River flows with an abundance of crystal-clear runoff. I begin to ask questions about fishing and Brady’s eyes light up with passion. He answers with enthusiasm and I continue to prod. The drive goes by fast and I get eager to try my hand at something foreign.
Kenzie and I awkwardly maneuver into our waders while Brady secures the rods. We scramble down a steep hillside that spits us out right next to the river. To start, Brady gave us a very informative tutorial that involved a lot of fishing terms I wasn’t familiar with. Just as he started to explain how to “set” a fish when you spot the bobber sink under the surface, he passed me the rod and yelled, “Fish on!” I was frazzled to say the least. “But you didn’t finish the tutorial yet!” I started to scream as he ran for the net.
“Keep the rod bent, keep the rod bent,” he shouted. The fish and I danced back and forth for a while before it got close enough to secure in the net. We hadn’t even been on the river for ten minutes and we had already caught a beautiful rainbow trout. Once Brady explained that it was all catch-and-release, I leaned over with a grin and dreadfully informed Kenzie that we would need to make other arrangements for dinner.
The two of us rookies were celebrating to have even caught a fish but apparently, Brady was celebrating for his own reasons. Tradition has it, if a guide goes out with a group and they get skunked (overwhelmingly defeated by not catching any fish all day), the guide is required to drink a beer out of his wet boot that he had been wearing all day. Luckily, that wasn’t the case for our group, as that was the first of many fish we ended up catching.
It was about 6 pm on a Wednesday and my adrenaline was rushing. Now that we had already caught one, I felt a strong desire to catch several more. We were each handed our own rod and then designated to different parts of the river. “Women always catch more fish,” Brady admitted as we scurried off in different directions. “They listen better.” Fortunately, we were the only anglers on the river, and we had the whole section to ourselves. I felt at ease.
Brady patiently ran back and forth tying our flies and working with us on our casting techniques. I learned that caddis nymphs, pheasant tails, and midges were just a few of the flies we used throughout our trip. Although we spent a majority of the time standing in the water and admiring the scenery, Kenzie and I both had the opportunity to feel the exhilaration of a fish pulling on our line and squirming in our hands once we felt brave enough to pick it up.
Eventually, once we both started to get the hang of it, Brady turned to us and asked if we felt comfortable crossing the river. Kenzie and I shrugged our shoulders and simultaneously agreed. It didn’t look that hard. Without hesitation, the three of us linked arms and started traversing across the rushing rapids with absolute confidence.
We started out by using nymphs, but when the sun started to dip, we transitioned to dry flies and that’s when the real fun started. It felt vastly more exciting to see the fish rise and eat off the surface. They started biting much more frequently as the sun began to set and I even lost count of how many fish we ended up catching. It was invigorating and addicting all at the same time. We fished through dusk until it was near impossible to see the flies. Alas, if only dusk could last forever.