Mountain Connection, March 26, 2024

By: Jed Donnel

Picture this: You’re walking up the middle of a deep, narrow stream that nobody else knows about, accompanied by a few of your closest friends. You’re knee-deep in the water, and it’s a warm fall afternoon. There’s a caddis hatch on the banks, and the atmosphere is charged with a subtle electricity that you can sense in your ears and on the ends of your fingers. The trout that you know are all around your feet are not used to artificial flies, so they’ll bite at nearly anything you throw at them. In the moment, before you even make your first cast, and regardless of the outcome, you realize that the experience isn’t really about how many fish you may catch but the fun of the moment. Returning this year after a brief hiatus, the SMS Fly Fishing Club strives to bring such experiences to the proverbial surface more readily. As sophomore Julian states, “I enjoy the feeling that you get the second a fish hits your fly, and you feel every one of its muscles fighting through your own hands. I also love being out on the river, wading with my best friends, and I hope to have many more members join our club so we can all start hitting the river together.”

The goals of the club are to plan several fly fishing trips – including (hopefully) an excursion in Utah during Desert Week next fall – to grow the size of the club within the school community, and to share their collective love for fly fishing with whoever will listen. As Lachlan states, “Overall, I would say that we just want to help students discover this amazing sport that they have access to in Steamboat.” As needed, therefore, weekly meetings consist of a lot of planning. So far, they’ve hosted a guest speaker and a professional fly tyer, reached out to local organizations such as Trout Unlimited and the CPW, planned weekend trips, and are currently in the process of designing what they hope will become a full Desert Week. Much like fishing itself, trip planning involves accounting for numerous logistics and careful consideration of the future. The beauty is in the details. You need to know what to bring, how to read the water (which takes considerable practice), and how to react to setbacks. The club is hoping that, as it grows, they’ll likewise attract at least eight other students whose sheer number will make a Desert Week trip viable, likely in a quaint, secluded tributary of the Green River, full of hungry rainbows.

Moreover, prior experience with fly fishing is not a requirement for new members, as the club aims to inform interested students of all ranges of ability. The club also has gear available to loan to students learning the sport. Lachlan summarizes, “What I enjoy most about fly fishing is the connection you have with the water and the environment around you. There is something really special about standing in the same water that you’re fishing, and the difficulty of fly fishing makes it very engaging. You may go a few days without catching a fish, but the second you get one, the time in between pays off.” Julian adds, “An ideal fishing day for me is on a drift boat, fishing for steelhead or monster browns. I love early morning floats, with lunch on the bank, lots of laughs, and fun conversations.” Sounds like heaven to me. If you’re similarly tempted, speak with any of the student club members – or with Alice Tesar, the faculty club advisor – and they’ll be sure to set you up with a rig and plenty of good times.