Anglers’ paradise | AspenTimes.com

Anglers’ paradise

Dear Editor:

When you dream, dream big. If you don’t, you may never know the joy of living in the Roaring Fork Valley.

My story starts as a fourth-generation Texan choosing to vacation every year in Colorado, as most good Texans do. Growing up proclaiming year after year that “Someday I’ll live up there in that Rocky Mountain High – mark my words.” Growing up in the flat, treeless panhandle of Texas for the first 18 years of my life only steeled my resolve. “Someday I’ll have mountain waters running outside of my home, and the chipmunks and trout will be my neighbors. Someday I’ll wake and go angle a rainbow or climb a peak at whim. Someday.” That day was realized in June of this year.

We grew up fishing for trout in the typical vacationer’s fashion: sporting our Folgers coffee can of worms and glistening jar of salmon eggs. Granddad taught me how to catch my limit in any circumstance, but Daddy liked to elevate any effort with style and grace, so he used one of those strange rods with a reel that didn’t have a thumb-release. Then in 1992, this art was depicted to me on the big screen a la Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It.” My fate was sealed.

Fast forward 10 years to my first visit to the Fryingpan. On this fateful day, the sun was bright, the waters were clear, and we could see our targets holding effortlessly in the flats of crystal waters. I was instructed to tie on a big, fluffy “dry fly” and to cast upstream and let the bug float naturally over the fish’s head. Suddenly time slowed down.

My trout was as big as a football with flashes of pink and white. I saw it see my bug. I saw my bug float right past its mouth. I saw it turn and consider the take. I saw it … BAM! My line went guitar-string tight, and all I could hear was someone yelling, “Rod tip up!” It was a righteous fight of give and take, but we got the trout to the net. I put my hands on it, I looked it in the eye, I kissed it on the nose, I took my time – and then I let it slip back into its azure nest to bring someone else a little taste of paradise another day. I was, as they say, hooked.

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Since then, I’ve invested a small fortune in gear, started a website to introduce more women to fly-fishing, fished with some of the finest, most learned anglers on the planet, caught an assortment of game on a fly rod including bass, carp, mackerel and drum fish, and decided that the time to start living one’s dream should be sooner than later.

My dream started small with weekends in the Roaring Fork Valley in the back of my SUV, “in a van down by the river.” I soon decided that a shower was a prerequisite to dining in most Aspen restaurants, and I started investing in a hotel room, which quickly ate up my entire recreational budget. I considered a six-month apartment lease in the heart of Basalt, but when I ran the numbers, I became discouraged at “throwing away” money when I could be investing. It finally occurred to me that the market was right to dream big and go for a home right smack dab on the river. Why not?

RecentIy knocked off early to go talk to a truck full of anglers I saw pull up near my driveway to begin their approach to the Roaring Fork. My decision resulted in a quick conversation with a local legend, Sandy Moore. He took the time to show me what he was tying on for his guests and I was even more thrilled to learn that he guided out of the Taylor Creek Fly Shop with Gifford Maytham, otherwise known as “the Golden Boy” – my friend and the first guide to show me how to really work the Roaring Fork waters.

I immediately rigged up my own 5 weight, pink, Elkhorn fly rod with the suggested pattern and got two big brown trout to the net in a matter of a half hour. Then I went in to my little riverside home to enjoy a cold beer and thank God that I never limited my dreams to coffee-cans and vans. When you dream, dream big.

Sabrina Stratford

Woody Creek

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