Standing boot-deep on the shores of the Big Thompson River, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as the ice cold water surges around you, making it difficult to plant your feet on the slippery rocks. Doubly so if you’re trying to balance that with the careful, precise art of fly fishing. But for Angles Sports co-owner Matt Burditt, the focus required is exactly what makes the sport worth trying out this summer.
“It’s about trying to match what’s in the environment,” he says, referring to the diligent, yet rewarding art of fly fishing.
A Colorado resident for the last 20 years, Burditt has found success as a business owner and outdoor enthusiast, operating a sports store in Steamboat Springs, and, later, opening Angles in Longmont in 2015. Both shops have seen massive success thanks to the outdoor-hungry population of Colorado, but Burditt has relished the opportunity to branch out and go all-in on this summer sport, both in terms of gear offered and the shop’s community programming.
Burditt’s shop received its outfitter license in the summer of 2021, perfect timing for the second year of a pandemic that offered the opportunity for many burgeoning fishermen to try the sport out for the first time. Now, it’s not an uncommon sight to see Burditt leading a group of fishermen, both young and old, on the various rivers and streams around the Longmont area, or hosting a fly fishing class at any of Boulder County’s many breweries.
“We’ve got trips almost every day and classes are filling up,” he says, “We’re probably going to figure out how to have more classes.”
So, where does the community’s interest in fly fishing come from?
The sport requires a degree of patience and strategy, but also a deep appreciation of the outdoors and the natural world. A big component of fly fishing, Burditt says, has nothing to do with the coveted rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout that act as rewards for a long day spent casting and wading in the river. Instead, it’s all about the multitudes of carefully crafted, colorful flies that a fly fisherman puts to use, all of which are made to mimic a huge variety of different insects.
“The general idea is that these trout, they’re pretty smart,” Burditt explains. “They’re not going to go eat something that’s not in their world. Let’s say you’re out fishing with a salmon fly, which maybe only hatches for about two weeks a year in certain areas. So, towards the end of that hatch, all of a sudden, if you’re fishing with this thing that looks like (a salmon fly), you’re gonna be catching fish all day long. You try with that same one before that hatch happens, or even two months after it’s gone, you’re not going to catch a fish to save your life.”
Because of that, Burditt prioritizes entomology in his fly fishing excursions above almost all else, making sure the clients he takes out on excursions gain a deeper understanding of how to craft and implement artificial flies, resembling multitudes of insects that live on the rivers. At its core, fly fishing is a battle of wits between fisherman and fish—all centered around insects.
“The entomology part is fascinating,” Burditt says. “So let’s say you’re hiking and you notice grasshoppers. Chances are good the fish in the river are looking for grasshoppers, and are typically even more specific with it. They’re looking for a particular color.”
However, it goes deeper than amateur insect-watching. For Burditt, the level of observation required for a successful day on the river is a special way to stay connected to the outdoors.
“To me, taking people out and showing them the beauties we have all around us is so important,” he says, of the degree of stewardship he feels through his job. “I also like being able to share the conservation aspect: teaching people to leave no trace, and how to handle the fish when you’re catching and releasing them. It’s about how to treat the world around us, because there’s certainly not less people coming here every day.”
Through the repetitive, meditative process of making the trek out to the woods, taking the time to document the bugs around you, constantly adjusting and re-adjusting your lure in the water, all culminating in the rewarding catch and release of that shimmering trout, there’s no wonder fly fishing has so many outdoor enthusiasts hooked.
“You get to put what you’ve learned into practice,” Burditt says. “You think you know a ton about (fly fishing) and next thing you know, someone throws you something new. It keeps your brain working.”