To Prevail in the Mystery 4

Learning the Art of Nymphing with Roaring Fork Anglers

The mastery of fly fishing lies in nymphing. Beneath ‘the film’ is where most fly fishing occurs, after all, that glimmering quicksilver surface of melted sky, land, and water. Under most Colorado conditions, this undulating mirror hides it all: the darting, floating, and feeding of the rainbows, browns, brookies, and cutthroats we hope to experience. Nymphing demands knowledge, skill, persistence, and faith to prevail in the mystery.


Unlike drifting an elegantly visible blue wing or caddis, nymphing is like working the underbelly of your truck at dusk, versus standing up comfortably to tinker under the hood on a sunlit afternoon. Some things are best left to a mechanic, or in this case, a fly fishing guide.


Coleman Walker from Roaring Fork Anglers in Glenwood was our man. Fly fishing guide extraordinaire, Walker grew up summering at his grandfather’s Saskatchewan fishing lodge. For my friend Jeet and I, intent on learning to nymph one recent morning, that genetic memory made for a solid outing on the Roaring Fork. We learned both subtle and game-changing concepts around fish behavior, working the water, line management—and we hooked or landed breathtakingly luminous fish.


Crouching at the river’s edge, we watched bugs crawl on rocks or move through the water. We bounced yellow Sally stonefly nymphs along the bottom, mimicking their heavy-bodied tumble. We learned to better mend our lines to present more believable action. With guidance, we worked the water so we didn’t scatter nearby fish. Walker was so fast at rigging two- and three-nymphs leaders, our lines were wet more often than not.


Yup. It’s indescribable, the feeling of unseen pulsing life at the end of a gossamer thread. And who truly contributed to stolen moments on the river was our guide.


Bumbling around, wondering if you’re doing it right, can be dispiriting. The whole, ‘I just like being out here, I don’t mind not catching’ thing? Whatever. Landing is more fun. Between fish, with our guide, we knew we were practicing the right moves. His constant reassurance, support, suggestions, and assistance built confidence.


And confidence? It’s fly fishing mojo: attitude radiating down that line. An angler can always stand to grow. Hooking up with a guide from time to time is a guaranteed way to build your skill set and have a terrific time on the water.


Roaring Fork Anglers and partner company Alpine Angling in Carbondale are owned and managed by active guides, all in it to live it. Locals have trusted them for years to help buy gear and choose flies for the day. This month brings on the high-action green drake hatch, making its way up from South Canyon, into the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan rivers even as you sit here reading. The hatch cycle is complex. If you really want to master it this year—nymph, emerger, a dun or a spinner?—consider hiring a guide and making it the best dusk event ever.