On The Fly: The chance I took was well worth the risk
On The Fly
I first came to the Roaring Fork Valley back in the 1990s. While growing up along the sand-dune beaches of Lake Michigan, I had never seen real mountains before.
Sure, we had hills — some of them were even a few hundred feet above sea level — but they didn’t even come close to the mountains that awaited me in Colorado.
When I turned 16 and moved west, I put the rubber to the road and drove my Ford Ranger pickup all over God’s creation bumming around for trout. My searching eventually led me to the Fryingpan River; Colorado’s most famed slice of trout-fishing heaven. No other river in the state is written about, talked about or as heralded and famed as the Fryingpan.
This was a pilgrimage; a search as much about trout as it was for my soul, though I didn’t realize it yet at that time.
I remember driving west past the towering walls of Glenwood Canyon and the mighty Colorado River, turning up Highway 82 towards Carbondale and seeing Mt. Sopris looming over the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers, all of which were absolutely breathtaking. Eventually, I found my way to Basalt, driving along Two Rivers Road paralleling the Roaring Fork. This was the first official “trout town” I’ve seen in Colorado, and it vaguely reminded me of Ennis, Montana.
Fly anglers casually walked the streets around town donning waders and wading boots, where no one even looked twice at their regalia. While stopping in for breakfast at Two Rivers Cafe, a cash-only operation with good old-fashioned heavy breakfasts fit for a rancher, the waitress casually asked me how the fishing was. This was no fancy Aspen bistro or hipster coffee joint, this was a place where the community gathered to discuss family, faith and fishing.
Basalt is unique in the fact that two world-famous rivers converge right in the heart of downtown, with fishing literally within walking distance of inexpensive fishing themed motels, beautiful fly shops and even a bar on the banks of the Fryingpan. All three are important factors for tourist anglers and certainly a large part of the charm of Basalt.
I loved Basalt so much, that after barely graduating high school, I packed up my truck and made the move to the place that I fell so much in love with. I quite literally had $100 in my bank account, along with a pregnant wife and dog in tow, and despite our lack of income met wonderful, newfound friends who let us couch surf until we had our feet on the ground. I snagged the coveted job of being counter-boy at one of the fly shops in town, and despite the initial economic shock of living expenses in the Roaring Fork Valley, I made ends meet.
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to live here.
I may reside in a trailer and live paycheck to paycheck still, but I am fortunate enough to live on the banks of the Roaring Fork River in Colorado’s best fishing town: Basalt.
Further reading can be found in Bob Mallard’s forthcoming book: “25 Best Trout Towns.”
This column is provided weekly by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4370, or on the Web at http://www.taylorcreek.com.
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Born in New Castle, Alice McKennis Duran learned to ski at 2 at Sunlight Mountain with her father and older sister, Kendra. She also had a brief stint training with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club prior to joining the national team.