We as Coloradans are beyond spoiled to have quick access to so many great wild places to disappear into… But this privilege comes with responsibility. Our spectacular trails and waters need to be protected, maintained, and in some cases, reclaimed. Further, we must invest meaningfully in our local mountain towns and communities if we want them to remain viable launching points for our wild-ass adventures. Here are some of the ways that the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon seeks to inspire responsible outdoor participation and work towards building stronger local communities:
Giving Back: A significant percentage of funds raised through each Rocky Mountain Flyathlon event is specifically targeted towards river and trail improvement projects within the watershed in which the individual event itself is held. For example, in 2014 we partnered with Colorado Trout Unlimited, and more than half of the $6,600 raised through the 2014 Flyathlon event has been spent on projects near the town of Saguache, including a trail restoration project to move the trail away from the creek to accommodate expanded beaver activity, and the development of educational signage for local trailheads of trails leading to waters containing a state fish species of special concern, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The other half of the money raised was used by Colorado Trout Unlimited to advance coldwater conservation statewide. By re-investing the dollars that we raise through events into projects to maintain and enhance the trails and creeks that the events are held on, we are ensuring that our activity will be sustainable into the future.
During 2015 and 2016 Rocky Mountain Flyathlon events, we partnered with Colorado Trout Unlimited and the Western Native Trout Initiative and raised more than $50,000. We are currently in the process of identifying projects that will benefit our cutthroat trout streams and your ability to access them.
Looking forward to 2017 and beyond, we created an independent 501(c)(3) organization to operate the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon and other river-based recreation and restoration programs. At Running Rivers, our motto is “Conservation through Recreation”, and our goal is to get people investing their time and money towards enjoying and preserving our public lands. Please consider donating to Running Rivers so we can grow our impact in the coming years.
Inclusivity: The Rocky Mountain Flyathlon is designed to be largely inclusive as opposed to truly competitive, with traditional race awards for top male and female competitors, but also awards for the biggest and smallest fish caught and for the top two fundraisers. Further, our courses are selected to maximize the probability of individual fishing success, as an encouragement to those new to fishing. In fact, in 2014, all but one of our Flyathletes caught and released a trout during the event. Around the post-race campfire, one race participant shared that his fish was the first fish he had caught on the fly since moving to Colorado years prior. And the one flyathlete that did not catch a fish indicated that she would be back in 2015, largely because several race participants had stopped near the end of the race to try and help her succeed. She did return, and proudly crossed the 2015 finish line with a picture of a Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
The ideal flyathlete is anyone who wants to get outside of their regular routine to participate in a unique outdoors event. To the newbie, both the sports of trail running and fly fishing (and even craft beer, for that matter) can seem very exclusive and even pretentious, requiring a lot of gear and/or experience to be enjoyable. This perception limits their desire to engage in these outdoor activities. The Flyathlon seeks to break down those barriers through accessible events that create positive and fishy outdoor experiences and memories. It is our hope that through this type of exposure, we can create new outdoor advocates, new river warriors.
Community Involvement: The Rocky Mountain Flyathlon actively seeks out local community involvement in our events, and explicitly encourages race participants to spend additional time and money in the host region after each event. For example, in 2014, our inaugural event was held in the San Luis Valley, a rural, largely agricultural region of Colorado approximately 4 hours from Denver. At the after-race celebration, beers from four small, local craft breweries were showcased, and other local artisans, including a local goat cheese maker, were also included in the event. The Saguache County sheriff was planning on showing up as well, but his son was getting married the same day…
Responsible Recreation: The Rocky Mountain Flyathlon is designed specifically to promote responsible fishing practices and trail habits. On the fishing side of the event, all events are 100% catch-and-release fishing using only fishing methods approved for that specific area, with a requirement for participants to present a valid fishing license at the registration table the morning of the event. Further, the race rules are designed to highlight the importance of native fish, with an additional time bonus awarded for catching (and releasing) a resident native fish. On the trail running side of the event, race rules explicitly highlight proper trail etiquette (e.g. no short-cutting, Leave No Trace principles), with a potential DQ for not adhering to these rules.
In summary, the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon seeks to make our mountain watersheds and communities better places through our activities so that they may thrive well into the future.
run. fish. beer. (and do it all responsibly)