Go Play: Beginner’s guide to fly-fishing in Colorado’s Grand Valley | PostIndependent.com

Go Play: Beginner’s guide to fly-fishing in Colorado’s Grand Valley

Brittany Markert
Matt James, Mark Johnson, and Jeff McKenna often fish Grand Valley rivers and lakes to learn and then share their expertise with visitors and shoppers at Western Angelers (413 Main St., Grand Junction).
Submitted photo |


WHAT: Western Anglers

WHERE: 413 Main St., Grand Junction

WHEN: Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

COST: $160-250 for beginner rod kit

INFO: http://www.westernanglers.com, or find them on Facebook

Jeff McKenna, Mark Johnson, and Matt James, all of Grand Junction, sit together at Western Anglers as James builds an intricate fly, focusing on the perfect wrap of peacock feather and beads.

Although tying flies is an art form in itself, McKenna said, knowledge works hand in hand with fly fishing. Plus, it’s a natural interest for those already involved in the sport.

“Having patience is key,” he noted.

Western Anglers opened 20 years ago in Mesa Mall. Then it moved to its current location at 413 Main St., in downtown Grand Junction, 10 years ago. There McKenna and his four-man crew serve fishermen and women — novice to expert. And they said the can set up a new hobbyist for less than $200.


According to McKenna, three types of fly-fishing are taught — streamer, dry fly, and nymphing.

Each type can be done in or out of the water. Wading means fishermen don’t have to cast as far and may be a better placement to where fish are eating.

“It immerses yourself in the experience,” James said.

Steamer casting describes when a fly is tied to imitate various species of large bait, which fish feed on later in the year. Dry fly describes when flies are cast and tap the surface of the water, encouraging the fish to break the surface.

“It’s visually awesome to see,” McKenna said.

And nymphing is when fish are feeding on bugs in nymph form.

“No matter what style of fishing you are doing though, presentation is key,” McKenna said.

Western Anglers hosts beginner-casting classes often, which helps interested folks try out different casting practices.

“It’s good to have knots down before heading out too,” James explained.

Then, after practicing, everyone is encouraged to head to a local lake to put new skills to the test.

“You can catch any fish on a fly rod,” McKenna added. “The visual of catching even a blue gill is cool to see.”


A starter kit ranges from $159-260 depending on brand and kit style. Redington’s basic kit includes the fly rod, reel, line, leader, hard case and a lifetime warranty.

“It is upgradeable as well when you are ready to,” McKenna said.

He added that it’s best to visit a local shop as experts will be able to explain current conditions and which flies to use.

For attire, good sun protection was the No. 1 suggestion from the group, including a buff, or face mask, base layers, a down jacket, a water-proof cover, waders (if planning to be in the water) and boots. Other equipment includes a net, sunglasses, and tackle box.

“Every day is so different,” McKenna concluded.


Top spots for fly-fishing in the Grand Junction area include the Connected Lakes State Park, Grand Mesa, plus Colorado and Gunnison rivers. A little farther out, the shop frequents Pa-co-chu-puk, often called “Paco” outside of Ridgway, and Glenwood Springs.

For more information, visit http://www.westernanglers.com.

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