If you’ve been reading this column, you know skiing has been my world since the day A-Basin opened and I devoted every free second of my life to making turns. Consequently, I spent an inordinate amount of time crashing on buddies’ couches in Summit and Eagle counties. One blissful 80-degree morning in March, when it should’ve been dumping spring powder, one buddy proclaimed: “You’re stupid for going skiing today, it’s like 80 and sunny. I’m going floating.”
Wait. Floating? I thought I was going floating. On slush, albeit, but floating. Upon further inquiry, I discovered he was talking about fishing. When I think of fishing I think of a big dude with a beard standing in a river with overalls and waders, casting and reeling in…casting and reeling in…casting and (yawn) reeling in…and then going home to make chicken. My only actual fishing experience was with my father in Long Island and consisted of putting squid bait in a cage-like contraption, getting constantly shushed every time I tried to talk because God forbid we scare away the fish. We’d pull the traps up to yield a disgusting assortment of creepy looking crabs, one of which pinched my finger and wouldn’t let go until my dad managed to break its claw off. Fishing has always been second on my list of Things Allison Preemptively Hates Because They Require Patience and Quiet Reflection and Seem Pointless and Boring.
But I was intrigued by the term “floating.” My buddy, as it turns out, is quite the avid and knowledgeable fisherman. Not only does he partake for fun but works at a fly shop and as a guide. I decided to pick his brain to see if it might be an interesting new venture to explore while waiting for next winter.
“Floating” is fly fishing from a raft or a drift boat as—you guessed it—it floats down the river. What distinguishes this from a few laps in a tube on the lazy river ride at your local water park is that these rafts also float over rapids. He informed me that on guided trips such as the ones he runs in Summit County, you remain right next to the guide at all times.
Floating provides anglers opportunities to catch fish since they are able to cover more water more rapidly (pun intended) and there are more people actually fishing, upping the statistical chance of one actually biting. Floating is also a way to see Colorado’s landscape from a completely different perspective. I’ve seemed to take in the mountains on skis or on foot but never actually floating down a river.
Floating also reminded me of how enjoyable it is, and how rare, to find an activity that combines periods of relaxing and being able to just cruise with physical effort and adrenaline pumping exposure. It combines the Zen of fishing—looking, relaxing, taking in the world—and the excitement of using your body and feeling the exhilaration of rafting through rapids.
Spring is just the time to try floating. Rainbow trout spawn in spring. Summit County is a good place to book your adventure as both the Blue River and the Colorado River are accessible from multiple locations. Silverthorne and Frisco are good places to start, and the Parshall Area, which is 45 minutes from Summit County, is also a great place to get to if you can.
If you want to mix it up a little, brook and cutthroat trout can be found in creeks and high mountain lakes, which enable one to incorporate a little hiking into the mix. But the whole floating down the river and rafting through rapids while catching fish holds a certain allure and makes you sound like a badass to all your friends. If you haven’t caught on by now, I am a huge fan of anything that makes me sound like a badass to all my friends.
Banish all those images of the old man in a plaid shirt sitting on a dock for hours dangling a string in the water, or hours of inhuman silence and patience with only a sunburn and scorched retinas to show for it. Fishing, floating, floating and fishing or whatever you want to call it is dynamic, fun, social and demanding, and it is also an amazing way to experience a part of Colorado’s landscape that few people remember exists. If you’re looking for something new to do, buy the sexiest waders you can find (yes, you do still need waders) and get thee on the river.