Rubbing elbows with fly-fishing legends
Ryan Summerlin May 8, 2014
It’s not often that I’m awestruck while in the company of the rich and famous.
The Roaring Fork Valley’s incredible fishing and proximity to Aspen has blessed me with the opportunity to mingle with many well-known personalities.
I don’t ask them for autographs, talk business or take selfies with them and upload them to Instagram.
I treat them like normal human beings and just go about doing my job; no special treatment, just good, honest fishing advice.
It’s always worked out well for me and has given me no reason to change.
While growing up, I was big into sports.
I played football, basketball, wrestling, track and gymnastics among others.
But despite my excellence in competitive sports, I was always a fisherman first and foremost.
Instead of Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan posters hanging in my room, I had a library of John Gierach and Gary LaFontaine books lying on my nightstand.
During the summer of my fifth grade, my father took on a new job in Colorado.
We left my backyard of water along Lake Michigan where I spin-fished and moved to the Front Range of Colorado.
It was here that I immersed myself into the world of fly fishing.
I remember going to my new elementary school library that fall, where I browsed the fishing section (799 in the Dewey Decimal System — I still remember) and happened to check out a brand new book titled “Where All The Trout Are As Long As Your Leg,” by John Gierach.
That particular book forever made an impression on me, and I came to embody his writing through my own walk of life in the world of fly fishing and life in general.
John has since gone on to become the best-selling fly-fishing author of all time, with such great works as “Trout Bum” and “Sex, Death and Fly-Fishing.”
He wrote often of Basalt, the Fryingpan River, and of local fishing icons Tim Heng and Roy Palm, now both great friends and mentors of mine.
Every year, John continues to make a journey or two back to Basalt to fish and hunt, where I’ve met him on several occasions over the years.
His usual Fryingpan posse consists of himself, Doug Powell, Vince Zounek and Ed Engle, all of whom are talented anglers in their own right, and each highly respected in the fly-fishing industry.
Doug runs the Fly Fishing Film Tour, Vince is a fly-casting instructor and Ed is an authority on tailwaters and small flies, with several books on the subject to his credit.
Being around these fly-fishing luminaries, especially Gierach, is one of the pinnacles in my angling career.
Shooting the breeze about fishing, hatches and flies with these low-key and humble ambassadors of our niche sport is thrilling for me.
I continue to feel like a 12-year-old kid meeting Bo Jackson, tongue twisted and unable to speak, awestruck that I’m hanging out and talking fishing with one of my idols.
It’s pretty damn cool to say the least.
Maybe next time I’ll have the courage to tell John what a profound influence he’s had on me.
Then again, I’d rather talk fishing.
— This column is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.