Summer Fly Fishing

By Jarrod Hollinger

Summer in Aspen is a beautiful thing to experience. The days are clear and warm and the evenings are perfectly cool. The trout know this, and as a result it is typical for the best fishing to take place as dusk descends, and the river activity starts in earnest. Mark and Sarah Gittelman, an enthusiastic 40-something couple from New York, were looking for an exciting way to spend the afternoon – after already hiking Aspen Mountain in the early morning.

The Gittelmans came to the Aspen Outfitting Company shop at around 4:30PM to meet with their expert guide, Natalie Markuson. After finishing the obligatory paperwork and getting fitted for modern Gore-tex waders and boots,

they headed to the famous Roaring Fork River.

A warm summer

evening on the Roaring Fork River

The scenic drive lasted only about 10 minutes, but Natalie used the time on the road to introduce the Gittlemans to several fly fishing concepts. Natalie is exceptionally knowledgeable about local history and geology, and as they rode along in the warm afternoon light, the conversation sparkled.  

Although it took only a couple of minutes to get the waders on and get the delicate fly rods rigged up, it was just after 5PM by the time Natalie and the Gittelmans stepped into the water. The breeze was cool and the light was golden, quaintly highlighting the line as Natalie demonstrated some basic casting. Natalie is one of best guides in Aspen; she fly fishes around the world to much acclaim, and she instructs skiing in Aspen in the winter. With many years of experience teaching beginners the art of flyfishing, it didn't take her long to help the Gittelmans get over their first-time jitters.

They began their new pursuit with 'nymphing' – the technique of drifting a simple fly under the water. Not surprisingly (the Roaring Fork is a "Gold Medal" Designated Stream), they got onto fish almost immediately. As the summer afternoon wore into evening, Natalie easily recognized the change of tempo on the river, and made adjustments where needed. When the time was right, she changed both Gittelmans over to dry fly fishing – the more complicated technique of drifting intricate flies on the water’s surface. The action started slowly, like the infrequent bubbles before water simmers. It wasn’t long before Mother Nature turned up the heat, and the excited Gittelmans saw the river seemingly boil with feeding trout. Needless to say, many trout were caught in the increasing darkness.

Back at the shop, upon returning from their first attempt at fly fishing, the Gittelmans were ecstatic. Mr. Gittelman was all smiles when he laughingly admitted that they didn't actually net the first few fish that they hooked. He asserted however, that it didn't take long for him to learn the importance of letting the fish run, keeping the rod vertical after hooking a fish. They were both very complimentary of Natalie, and she modestly nodded as the tales wore on. The highlight of the trip was a 20+ inch rainbow that Mr. Gittelman landed in a big silky pool above a picturesque swinging bridge. When he told me this, I gave him a firm handshake and a pat on the back - a 20 inch fish is quite a milestone. As he headed out the door to have dinner at one of Aspen’s famous restaurants, he assured me that on his next visit to Aspen he would fish with us at least two nights. You know what? I don't doubt that he will.

©2007 Jarrod Hollinger. This article may not be reproduced in any form without the author's written consent.