Buffs on the Ark - Fly Fishing Upper Arkansas River with Ark Anglers & CU Coaches

By: Nick Clement

Over the years three of my former coaches at CU always seem to be asking me when I am taking them fishing. As we have launched our mobile app that helps you explore Colorado's outdoors based on the activities you love I thought of no better spokesmen than the three guys who have always mentioned to me they want to me to take them fishing: EB (Eric Bienemy - offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs) VJ (Vance Joseph - coach of the Denver Broncos) and Darian Hagan (running backs coach for the Buffs). While we tried to make it work, as having these CU legends on the water would be simply an incredible site to see. We worked with Coach Hagan and he invited a couple great stand-ins. We partnered with Ark Anglers and took Coaches Daniel DaPrato (director of quality control for the Buffs), Jim Jeffcoat (former defensive line coach for the Buffs) and Coach Hagan fly-fishing on the Arkansas River.

Early summer after runoff settles is prime time to fish the Arkansas Headwaters

Early summer after runoff settles is prime time to fish the Arkansas Headwaters

A few years back when I worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife I had the privilege to work with a gentleman named Greg Felt. Greg helped us film the governor at the time, Bill Ritter, who is a big fly fisherman, on the Arkansas river above Salida.

Greg put Governor Ritter on some fish to say the least. It helped immensely that the governor is a good fly fisherman. Either way Greg Felt is the go-to guy when it comes to the Arkansas River, Chaffee County and an all-around steward for the land and people of the Upper Arkansas River Valley. The best thing about Greg is that he is just one of those salt-of-the-earth kinds of people so when it comes to standing up natural resource conservation it comes naturally for him. I know if I lived in the Arkansas River Valley I would be glad that Greg Felt was my County Commissioner.


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When it came to deciding on where to take Coach Hagan and the others fishing there was no better option than Greg Felt and the guides at Ark Anglers. The Upper Arkansas River, or also known as Arkansas Headwaters is an incredible place to fly fish. Especially between Buena Vista and Leadville at the right time of the year. We were able to fish it when the flows were still a bit high from runoff but the river was clear so the fishing was pretty hot. All the coaches got into some fish.

Learning to fly fish is no easy task, the guides from Ark Anglers had the coaches coached-up after about 20 minutes. The coaches were immediately catching fish. This was in a small lake outside of Leadville, fly fishing in stillwater is much more simple than fly fishing in moving water. In the afternoon we headed to the Arkansas River river below Leadville. This stretch of River is incredible. Classic S-shaped river that meanders through the high mountain valley. The coaches caught on quick and were able to land some fish in the swiftly moving water. Overall, the day on the water with the coaches was a success. We were able to talk Buffs football, experience one of Colorado’s best rivers and most importantly have fun catching fish!

Arkansas River Headwaters holds healthy populations of wild Brown trout

Arkansas River Headwaters holds healthy populations of wild Brown trout

The day on the water with the coaches was both nostalgic and challenging. It’s always a special thing to be on the water and to be around other Buffs. There’s a special bond when you shed blood, sweat, and tears with a group of individuals all dedicated to a common mission. When you meet new Buffs in person you immediately know they endured through the same experience and a unique connection is inevitable. This same concept applies to connecting to nature. There is a special connection to the natural world that humans have and when one realizes that relationship exists through an immersive outdoor recreational activity like fly fishing, their point of view tends to shift, and awareness for wild spaces and their importance becomes evident. This is the goal of LocaWild allowing easy access to nature-driven, human-powered outdoor recreational information, so any outdoor adventure is at your fingertips. We still plan to get EB, VJ, and Hagan on the water … maybe we can get Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett out there to do play by play and Color? I heard they love catching huge fish too.

The pride and tradition of the Colorado Buffaloes will not be entrusted into the timid or weak. Thanks to all past, present, and future Buff coaches, players, staff, fans, and students for bleeding black and gold. #Buffs4life

Thanks to those past, present, and future working towards the future thrivability of the natural world. You know who you are. Thanks for your hard work.

If you love getting outdoors and want to get more involved check out the LocaWild Brand Ambassador Program. The program is designed to help outdoor enthusiasts build their personal brand while simply doing what they love.

Nick Clement