Once They Bite, You’re Bitten | AspenTimes.com

Once They Bite, You’re Bitten

Taking up fly fishing for the first time guarantees you’ll be back for more

by Austin Colbert photos by Anna Stonehouse

Fly fishing has a tranquility to it that so few sports can match. That is, until you see the slight movement on the indicator floating in the water and the madness begins.

Bias aside, the Roaring Fork Valley is home to some of the best fly fishing in the United States. Its namesake river originates on Independence Pass as a mere trickle before it becomes one with the mighty Colorado River near Glenwood Springs. Along the way it picks up the popular Fryingpan and Crystal rivers. Throw in a myriad of pristine alpine lakes, and we have fishing nirvana.

I experienced this for the first time in the spring with local guide Brandon Soucie. Growing up in Kansas, I've spent many a day trying to catch those underwater inhabitants, but mostly of the bass and catfish variety. A trout was a mythical creature I'd only seen in fishing magazines, and fly fishing looked like a good way to get painfully barbed in a place I'd rather not get barbed.

But with three winters in the mountains behind me — two in Aspen — I figured it was time to finally give fly fishing a try. Joined by staff photographer Anna Stonehouse, we were connected with Soucie through Boulder Boat Works, which late last year moved its headquarters to Carbondale and its easy access to the Roaring Fork River. Soucie took us out on one of their boats, which they claim are "the world's finest drift boats" and there is little reason to disagree. Fishing is certainly more enjoyable when you have the Rolls-Royce of fishing vessels to cast from.

Our float trip took us down a portion of the Roaring Fork River somewhere between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, which is littered with prime pockets for trout. Before Soucie handed me a fly rod that day, I never had touched one in my life. Maybe 10 minutes later I had my first fish on the line. I'm going to credit it to extraordinary skill, as opposed to having an expert guide and good luck on my side.

For the next few hours we drifted down the Fork, Stonehouse taking pictures from the back of the boat, Soucie constantly saying, "Mend, mend," from the center seat, and me up front bagging fish after fish. In my mind, I was already penning my resignation letter so I could turn pro in fly fishing.

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For a time I let Stonehouse take the lead, and she bagged a few fish as well — the first one hardly counted as it was the size of my pinkie, but she was happy about it so we'll let it slide. My favorite catch came right at the finish line when I bagged a nice rainbow below a small waterfall on the far bank. It was like hitting the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

What came of this trip was an instant addiction. You'll see fishermen along the Fork all year long, but until you experience it you will never understand. Considering the amount of equipment and knowledge needed to fly fish, getting started can be daunting. However, the valley is home to dozens of shops, guides and outfitters who can make it easy.

As much of a natural as I may be, I probably wouldn't have caught many fish that day without Soucie's expert guidance. Checking with your favorite local fly shop before going out is the best way to ensure success.

Bias aside, the Roaring Fork Valley is home to some of the best fly fishing in the United States. Its namesake river originates on Independence Pass as a mere trickle before it becomes one with the mighty Colorado River near Glenwood Springs. Along the way it picks up the popular Fryingpan and Crystal rivers. Throw in a myriad of pristine alpine lakes, and we have fishing nirvana.

In my mind, I was already penning my resignation letter so I could turn pro in fly fishing.

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