A recent article in the Longmont Times-Call on this past year’s Flyathlon event. Not sure why he implies that craft beer gets me out of bed early… That happened like once.
by Cyril Vidergar
Many things get Andrew Todd out of bed early; two young daughters, the chance to catch a native Colorado trout species, and craft beer top his list though. Todd realized that as a parent re-balances time commitments and priorities, personal recreation often becoming a casualty. A consummate fly-fisher and father though, Todd found himself pursuing both; running to favorite back country Colorado fishing spots, fishing feverishly, then running home to still win his daughters’ hearts. Of course, he also understands the value of an apres craft beer to slake the angler’s thirst. Unbeknownst to Todd, he stood on the brink of the latest ultimate mutli-sport: flyathlon.
The event basics are simple: start at a trailhead with flyfishing gear disassembled and packed, run to the destination (forest lake or river course), catch a fish, document the catch on an identifiable scale, release the fish (no floaters), disassemble and pack gear, complete run (rest of lake shore or to turn around point), and return to trailhead. At which point the clock stops. The final stage is consumption of a fine craft beer, or two– savored, not timed.
With this format, Todd organized the 1st Annual Rocky Mountain Flyathlon along Middle Creek near Saguache, Colorado on August 15-17, 2014. Thirty three “flyathletes” competed in the sold out event. Kort Kirkeby took top honors on the 7-mile course with an adjusted time of 41:45, which included a 48 minute bonus for catching an 8-inch native Rio Grande Cutt-throat Trout (6 minutes/inch). Todd Parker, though finishing six minutes faster than Kirkeby, was runner up with an 8-inch Brown Trout due to the smaller bonus for that species.
This summer’s “official” event was sanctioned by the U.S. Forest Service and supported by a bevy craft breweries, including Elevation Beer (Poncha Springs, CO), Three Barrel Brewing (Del Norte, CO), Gunnison Brewing and San Luis Valley Brewing (Alamosa, CO). Todd and fifteen friends ran an inaugural event in 2013 around Monarch Lake, near Tabernash, Colorado, sans support or USFS permission, though well stocked with Oskar Blues brews.
Of this year’s event, Andrew Todd could not be more proud. “No one got hurt. Almost everyone caught a fish.” Todd said. Considering the final results included multiple eight-inch Brook trout, “it is highly probable some caught the same fish”, Todd added. The big surprise was that Todd’s efforts brought in over $6,600 for Colorado Trout Unlimited. According to David Nickum, CTU Executive Director, the race funds will go largely to habitat restoration in the San Luis Valley.
Out of the water, at the end of the trail, Todd is also proud of the bounty of craft beers provided by this year’s sponsors. “[A]ll beers from the weekend received votes, but the top beers with over one-third of the votes each were Elevation’s Lil’ Mo Porter and Three Barrel’s Thursday Special Coconut Brown [ale].” Todd said.
Todd does not compete in events he organizes, but he is hooked on the trail-run-fishing theme. So much so he has adopted a flyfishing version of photo-bombing: “fishslapping”. Todd executed the stunt during the annual Imogene Pass run on September 6, 2014, an epic 17-mile foot race from Ouray to Telluride with 5,000-plus feet of climbing.
Todd packed his fishing gear at the start line and stopped at mile five to fish Canyon Creek. A fat parachute hopper fly favored him with two Brook Trout in less than ten minutes. One would have been enough, but he did not land the first one. After a quick fish photo on his race bib, Todd was back on the trail for the toughest leg. The unofficial side trip did not cost too much time, nor a DQ. He staggered across the finish just over four hours after the start, fishing gear and all with quite the fish tale.
Todd realizes he did not invent the harried fishing trip with beer at the start and end. He is glad nevertheless to be finding brothers and sisters in arms as he plans the next Flyathlon and trail run fishslap. Sometimes, it is exactly like that bumper sticker: “The worst day running 17 miles, flyfishing, and drinking craft beer is better than the best day at work”.