Tips from a fly-fishing expert about technique and embellishment

Fly fishing, as we all know, is an art form that evolves with skills, precision and patience.

For anglers, either old-hands or first timers, there's nothing like the thrill of seeing a trout snatch a fly off the surface.  But catching on to the sport requires the right training and the right gear.

Fly fishing expert Randy Hicks has spent years giving fishing enthusiasts tips on how to catch trout as a manager at Rocky Mountain Anglers in downtown Boulder. He shared his secrets with

What would you say is the best advice you ever received regarding fly fishing?

Hicks: When in doubt, set. If you're in question about setting a hook, set it. Setting a hook is when there’s a fish on the hook and you raise the tip of your rod, which applies tension to the line. A lot of people lose a fish because they simply wait too long to make a move. I’d also recommend practicing your cast before you go fishing. When I was a kid, I’d practice in my backyard, just getting the technique down.

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What are the essential equipment a fly fisherman needs besides a fly rod?

Hicks: Rod is the most important and the reel and line. All you would need after that are flies. Wad


ers are helpful in the wintertime and if you need to get out into the stream, but they’re not essential. I’d definitely recommend getting a pair of polarized sunglasses because they help you deal with the sun and you can also see fish under the water a little clearer. A good pair can range from $30 to $230.

How important is the quality of the equipment?

Don't think you need to spend hundreds or thousands. But cheap is just that: cheap. A cheap rod doesn’t let you get a sense off the cast and that might lead to your line getting tangled in a bush, or simply not hitting your mark during a cast. I’d go with rods that come with a warranty. Those are usually in the $100 price range. Of course, it depends how much you’ll be using the rod, but you pay for what you get.

When is trout season in Denver?

Hicks: Right now (early October) is when I start to do my fishing. Because of these reservoir tail waters are warm enough to not freeze in the South Platte or the Blue River. I’d say the peak fishing season in Denver is June 15 to September 15. That’s Big Bug Season andf dry fly hatches that include stone flies May flies Caddis flies.

When is the best time of day to generally go fly fishing?

Hicks: Whenever I can fit it into my schedule. Summer mornings and evenings because heat of the day. Winter I tend to go in the late afternoon. So much of it is just the experience of being out there. You go when you can fit it in.

Why do you think fly fishing has a reputation of being almost poetic?

Hicks: It's been sort of glorified, a certain mystique an air of aloofness. Where we live in Colorado I think there's a spot of fly fishing in everybody's life. We’re all within a 15-20 minute drive or hike to where the trout are. Some of the most spectacular things I've seen in my life happened while fly fishing. I once saw two golden eagles hook up their talons and free fall right to the ground near a stream in Idaho. Fly fishing has a lot to do with storytelling. Embellishment, the one that got away. In one story the fish started out at 12 inches, the next the fish is 14 inches, the next 15. The embellishment is something I appreciate. Kind of fun to hear about spots we fish today and how they were 90 years ago. It’s almost like the cowboy theme of passing down of stories of secret fly fishing romances.

Should people just starting out pay for a guide, or can you be self-taught?

Hicks: Learning curve is slow. If you go once a month, you have a tendency to forget. So a class, an introduction to basic fly fishing, is certainly a leg up. It’s not mandatory for everyone, but for someone new to the area it's beneficial. When someone stops in my store, we're in a relationship now. If something’s not working out, we help each other.

If you're watching a person fly fish, what does he do that shows you he knows what he's doing?

Hicks: You can look at the person's cast and gauge how long they've been doing it. Is the fly smacking the water (bad thing) and making a lot of noise?  Other things come down to where they’re fishing your hole run section of river to car will tell you a lot about the fisherman they are.