Colbert: Finally learning to fly (fish) |

Colbert: Finally learning to fly (fish)

Austin Colbert fly fishing on the Roaring Fork River with guide Brandon Soucie in a Boulder Boatworks drift boat on May 3.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

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, which is when the madness begins.

Growing up in Kansas, I’ve spent many a day trying to catch those underwater inhabitants, but mostly of the bass and catfish variety (plus a few snapping turtles along the way). 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. It started with a text from Anna Stonehouse, our staff photographer, who thought I’d be the best person to write a fly fishing story for our Summer in Aspen magazine. Little did she (or I) know, I’m somewhat of a fly fishing phenom.

Anna and I were joined by local guide Brandon Soucie on the Roaring Fork River about a week ago. We happened to pick the one recent day where it was cold and snowy. Summer is only a mirage in the mountains most of the time.

We were connected with Soucie through Boulder Boat Works, which late last year moved its headquarters to Carbondale. We were given a tour of its facility before getting on the water. They claim to make “the world’s finest drift boats,” and I have no reason to argue that. Soucie took us out in one of those boats, and they are pretty magnificent and built specifically for (wealthy) fishermen.

But back to the fishing. Our float trip took us down a portion of the Roaring Fork River somewhere between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, Mount Sopris often hanging out over our shoulders when it wasn’t hidden behind the January-esque storm clouds blanketing the upper valley.

Before Soucie handed it to me that day, I had seriously never touched a fly rod 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 starting to pen my resignation letter so I could turn pro in fly fishing.

I backed off the idea a little bit as I went through a dry spell somewhere along the journey, but I blame that on a poor guide and bad luck. We’ve already established my incredible skill, so that can’t have been the problem.

For a time I let Stonehouse take the lead, and she bagged a few fish of her own. 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.

The unfortunate part about my successful fishing trip is that I’m now addicted to the sport and I have none of the gear and unfortunately can’t afford to bring Soucie with me every time (who, in all honesty, was a fantastic guide and I highly recommend). This means I have some shopping to do (how much does a fly rod even cost?) and some things to learn. I wonder if fly fishing will be as fun when I have to tie my own flies and won’t have one of Boulder Boat Works’ rides?

I’m sure reality will hit me next time I go out when I don’t catch anything. Which is probably for the best, as I’m not sure I should be giving up my day job anytime soon. I could just quit while I’m ahead and forever believe in my undeniable skills with a fly rod, or I’ll gladly let someone take me out and put me in my place. Either way, I’m sure it will be a good time.

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