While 2020’s “story of the year” is certainly the Coronavirus, some of our guides share the stories within the story. From the philosophical to the spiritual, the lessons learned and the challenges faced, they reflect on a year unlike anything that we have seen before. Here is our “year in review.”
Sharon Wright: Changing the Pace
I have lived 2020 at a much slower pace, not necessarily by my choosing. However, I have found that a silver lining that has come out of this year has allowed me the space to consider the blessings for the people and things in life that are most meaningful, and look to 2021 with a refocused sense of priorities. A constant throughout has been the good fortune to spend time on the river, and the sense of peace that it provides. Meet Sharon Wright.
Greg Blessing: Working Outdoors
2020. Wow, what a year. We went from no work to a lot of work. It was hard to grasp the reality of this pandemic, and then somebody close to you dies from it! You bury yourself in work — and yes we call at work but what a great job! Finally, jobs working outside pays off! Everybody is in a good mood! Thank you to David, Rachel, and Jon for keeping the store going. You guys really went all out. Let’s hope and pray the 2021 is better and we get back to some kind of normalcy. See you on the water. Meet Greg Blessing.
Dave Herber: Finding Solitude
2020 saw a great influx of people chose the outdoors for their “social distancing”. We saw increasing numbers of fly fishermen on our local trout waters. Deckers had the most fly fishermen I have seen in 25 years. My offerings to clients this year were less crowded waters. The majority of the guided trips I provided were to the private waters of Rainbow Falls Mountain Trout or the public waters at Badger Basin. Most of the time the clients were fly fishing with no one else around. Meet Dave Herber.
Anthony Surage: Contemplating Stewardship
Covid caused 2020 to be a confusing guiding year.
At first we were concerned that we might not have a guide season. Was there really a deadly virus out there? Yes, Somewhere but ironically, not “OUT THERE”.
When word got out that folks were safer outside, people flocked to Colorado. Many to fly fish. Then the concern (or at least for me) was that we had too many people on our river.
Regardless of the reasons, I often get antsy when there are too many people on my home river. It’s like having too many guests over the house for dinner. Or like there are too many people walking around my living room with dirty shoes or being loud, or, in the case of our river, harassing the fish.
Therefore, perhaps the bigger question the pandemic brought out for me, is questioning how I feel about more and more people lined up in our favorite runs and holes on our home river? This is not a new problem, it was only intensified during corona. The river is difficult to share; it’s difficult to play nice.
Perhaps every fly fisher, guide, and fly shop needs to ask what we are doing to help or hurt the situation.
Can we continue to catch fish after fish even though we toss them back? How many times can we catch and release a fish before it dies?
How many people can be on a river before it is too crowded and the distances between us are too short for proper soul reflection? Meet Anthony Surage.
Kenny Romero: Attitude is Everything
Guiding in 2020 was much more than a just a job for me: it was probably the most important thing I did. Guiding provided me with purpose, motivation, joy and peace and became the best mental health activity I could have done. I didn’t just survive in 2020, I thrived.
I fed off the expectations and energy of my clients, which provided me with a profound sense of purpose, and enthusiasm!
They were looking to me for expertise, guidance, and a special experience on the water. They were looking for an escape from 2020 where they could be in the great Colorado outdoors and immerse themselves in nature, relive stress, and capture some sense of normalcy. I think they found what they were seeking.
My positive attitude during the guide season helped me so much in my personal life. It allowed me to be there in a very positive way for my family and friends and to not drop out but to go all in, in every way! I am very thankful for the blessings guiding gave me in 2020. Meet Kenny Romero.
Jeff Collins: Growing as a Guide
Yes, 2020 was a year of challenges. What’s interesting though was the form that some of those challenges took. For example, how do you effectively teach someone the finer points of casting or playing a fish using tactics born before the age of face masks and social distancing? For me, the lack of “real” human contact made the whole process so much more awkward and challenging. We as guides had to adapt and work harder at establishing a connection with our clients even though we were always a rod’s length away. It wasn’t easy but in the end it made us better. Now that’s a gift we can all use. Meet Jeff Collins.
Rick Bayley: The Future Anglers
Despite COVID, this has been a special year guiding. Virtually all of my clients have been new to fly fishing. Many of them had to adjust their summer plans due to the pandemic and, rather than flying some place more exotic, they drove to Colorado and decided to try fly fishing – where we could socialize from a distance and be in beautiful places.
I had some wonderful experiences with young people.
I guided one family at North Catamount where the dad had fly fished once but no one else had. I showed the 10 year old how to cast a fly rod. Guided him through a couple of practice casts and left him alone. His casting continued to improve and he finally hooked and landed his first trout, all on his own.
I got to guide three generations where the grandfather was the experienced fly fisherman, but the 12 year old grandson, who had never fly fished, was in the right place at the right time and had a dozen hook ups in very high water.
Another 10 year old with his family fished during the high water at Deckers. They had never fly fished. He didn’t have a hook up, but that kid never complained. He fished hard and got better and better with his casting and drifts. He’ll be back.
Fly fishing was a wonderful bright spot for so many people in this difficult year. I was so glad to be a part of that. Meet Rick Bayley.
Gary Karbo: Plenty of Beauty Out There
Most of us love to compete at some level, and while fly fishing isn’t classified as a competitive sport (for the most part), I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had my clients say to each other, “OK, $5 on the biggest fish and $5 on the most fish.” Even some guides will quietly gloat a little if “their” clients caught more fish than another guide who is fishing nearby.
Since the COVID descended upon us, though, fishing has become a very different act for me. It’s a scene from a play or a movie that I can step back from and enjoy more just by being an observer. No competition, no trying to get to the best water, no hurry in setting up my rig. Let’s sleep in, get on the water a little later, walk the river bank and see what’s new in our favorite fishing hole.
I have an old friend that frequently said during a sporting event that we should be having fun. And he always added that he spells fun: W-I-N.
I think COVID is bringing he and I back to a vastly different and simpler way of looking at fishing and life.
There’s always been plenty of beauty out there; we just had our priorities a bit scrambled.
So, thank you COVID for showing me the beauty of a golden aspen leaf floating down a slow moving river, the merganser family being led downstream by a beautiful red headed drake, or a cormorant sitting in a giant cottonwood tree with his wings drying in the sunshine.
So many things to see and the realization that going fishing has very little to do with catching. Meet Gary Karbousky.
Jon Easdon: The Paradox of Connection While Social Distancing
For me, in March everything seemed very apocalyptic. The mass hysteria and confusion of Covid 19 made us all uneasy. It was a strange spot to occupy.
There was no way to plan anything. Not with personal lives, work, or anything. Everything was up in the air. Live one day at a time. That practice certainly came into effect this year with so much uncertainty and anxiety.
I have lived in the area my entire life and have never seen it that busy in the outdoors. All of a sudden it was apparent that getting outside was the perfect medicine for the ailments of the world. I was quite surprised to see the massive influx of people recreating this year.
I immediately saw how the people that were fishing with us were desperate to have some solace and serenity in their lives. Fly fishing was a perfect way to achieve this.
One thing was common with all of the folks I fished with this year. They were just happy to be there. And so was I.
This year has made us all slow down and look at what really matters in life. Something as simple and pure as sharing the river with great people became more valuable than anything else. It was a chance to connect and just be in the moment.
It seems the only thing we hear about this past year are horror stories, but I felt more connected to nature and other human beings than ever before. Meet Jon Easdon.