The Flylords team was lucky enough to catch up with John Spriggs @jahspriggs, probably the tallest professional skier in the world, avid fly angler and an all around good guy. He talks about his love for skiing and fly fishing and recently how fly fishing has been a great outlet on his path to sobriety.
Who is John Spriggs? Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a skier, fly fisherman, rockclimber, and lover of life from Colorado! I’ve been skiing since I was 4 years old and it is my passion and first true love!
What’s it like to be a professional skier?
It’s amazing and also very hard at the same time. The good parts are getting to do what you love while getting paid for it. Also, traveling to amazing locations and meeting amazing like minded people. The bad parts are the injuries, and the lack of money in the industry to keep the “dream” alive. But in the end, it is totally worth all the bad when you put together something you worked so hard on and get to see the finished project!
Being a professional skier most of your life, when did you first pick up a fly rod?
I’ve literally been addicted to fishing since I was old enough to pick up a rod, but I’ve been fly fishing since I was 10 and its right up there with the enjoyments I get from skiing! My family and I actually went out to a free casting clinic together and from there, I was hooked….no pun intended haha!
Do you see any parallels between the two sports, do you hang up the fly rod in the winter?
I do see a lot of parallels between the two, The thing that got me so stoked on skiing was how much you had to be in the moment, and everything else inside your head just kinda dissolved away. That is the same with fly fishing. You are very much in the NOW! Also, just the beauty that surrounds you with both sports is awe inspiring. Skiing can be very crazy and extreme at times and other times quite peaceful and beautiful. Just like fly fishing, You can be by yourself at some high mountain lake just taking in the views, or on the river with your buddies, fighting the biggest fish of your life!!! Both sports are just so epic!
In the spring of 2017, you faced one of the toughest challenges of your life, what exactly happened and how did life lead up to this event?
I’m not really going to go into detail, but it revolved around partying and drinking way too much. Turning pro at 16 in skiing kinda threw me right into the party scene and after a decade plus of it, It can cause some substance abuse problems. Also, I was dealing with some emotional stuff that I just didn’t know how to properly deal with… so I was just turning towards the substances to cope.
Can you talk a little bit about your road to sobriety?
Well, unfortunately for me I had to get to a pretty low point to find sobriety, but it was definitely a blessing in disguise. I spent some time in rehab, working on myself and learning how to cope with life without any substances. I really got to learn so much that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t reached that low point. It was such an amazing experience and I can really say life is way better right now!
Have you used fly fishing as an outlet in the road to recovery?
Yes definitely. Like I said, Fishing puts you in the “moment” and clears your head which is really good for my sobriety. Its such a great outlet for me to use in a positive way!
Have you had any role models or mentors in fly fishing?
I definitely have friends that have taught me a lot, as well as helped me to get into different aspects of fly fishing. Guys like Trent Jones @tct_hustle, Cael Jones @muthafishin_jones, and Darcy Bacha @darcybacha and others have helped me a lot! Also, I have met some old-timers at the river that definitely inspire me with their stoke on the sport.
Where are you based these days?
I am based in Frisco, Colorado. My home river is the Blue River or the Colorado River… my real home river is a secret and a bit of a drive so I don’t know if that counts… haha
Streamer or dry fly? (and why)
That’s kinda tough, streamers bring out some big fish, but nothing compares to a dry fly eat…especially when the fish is big…so Dry Fly
Brown Trout or Rainbow Trout?
That’s easy… Brown trout, 100.
Go to fly pattern?
hmm…. a purple haze is always nice, can’t go wrong with an elk hair caddis either.
Describe a “powder day” on the river?
A powder day on the river to me is when the hatch is going off, you are with a couple of your good buddies and the big fish are looking up. The excitement is Tangible!
I am going to continue to pursue skiing, I have a ski film “Here After” that I shot with Tanner Hall dropping in November on the web, so keep an eye out for that! As for fly fishing, I have some bucket list trips planned with some friends, and I am hoping to get my foot in the water next summer with some guiding. Overall, just looking to have some great experiences with some good people and…. some FUN!
You can find Spriggs at @jahspriggs on Instagram