The drive from Bozeman, MT to the Frying Pan River, CO was a long yet scenic journey. Mountains rose into the air on the horizon and changing features of the landscape caught my eye as my trek took me South to “colorful” Colorado. This would be my third consecutive year attending the Trout Unlimited-Costa 5 Rivers Rendezvous for the Western Region. Collegiate fly fishing clubs from all over the Western US attend the event annual, which was now in its sixth year.
The Rendezvous is an opportunity for college anglers from all over to interact, network, collaborate, socialize, and fish together. Fly fishing has a rich tradition of bringing like-minded people together under their common passion for fishing and the outdoors. This event is built on that concept. The breathtaking scenery of the Frying Pan River and the surrounding area offered all of us the perfect location for this congregation.
I arrived at Diamond-J Ranch on Friday evening, eager to have a hot meal after long hours spent on the road. I walked into the dining room of the main building to join everyone for dinner. This year the attendance was lower than previous years due to conflicts with multiple schools’ finals schedules. In my mind, this made for a personable experience because it encouraged cross-club interaction. It didn’t take long for anglers to interact with those from other clubs sharing fishing stories and to make fishing plans for the following days on the Pan. Diamond-J buzzed with the activity of young fly anglers and local flora and fauna that had been awakened by Spring. It was evident that this was going to be a weekend to remember.
The Ranch next to the quaint little town of Meredith and upstream of Ruedi Revivor. The road up was laden with ups and downs as well as winding and narrow roads. The surrounding pine and aspen trees that covered the mountainsides combined with the vibrant colors of the red rock formations created unparalleled beauty. A place that can truly be enjoyed solely for its view. The miles of fishable water on River was a bonus to the gorgeous landscape we resided in for the weekend.
Post-dinner on Friday evening was filled with fishing time until dark and a bonfire to share a cold beer and past fishing adventures with friends. We retired to the homely cabins of the Ranch to rest up for what was sure to be a full day. Saturday is the busiest day of the event. After breakfast, we rallied in the parking lot in preparation to participate in “Get Trashed” put on by the Pig Farm team. “Get Trashed” combines a river cleanup with a scavenger hunt, of sorts. While fishing, participants are required to also pick-up trash, find items to use as fly-tying material, teach first-time fly fishers, and fulfill other various tasks laid out on the scorecard. The result is a cleaner river smiles on everyone’s faces, endless laughs, and few pictures of excited college students cheesing with a trout. What could be better?
The early afternoon offered more free fishing time—I spent this time throwing streamers off of large boulders and into tight windows on the section of the stream the ran through the Ranch. A mix of brown and brook trout filled my quarry for the afternoon. Before releasing each brown trout I was able to net, I couldn’t help but admire the buttery brown colors every brown in this river seemed to have. Frying Pan River brown trout have the more pronounced colors than any other river I had previously fished.
The most memorable experience of the weekend, for me, was the leadership meeting conducted by program leader Andrew Loffredo, Jay Johnson and Pig Farm Inc., Matt Moskal with Colorado TU, and Cody Rubner from Costa’s marketing team. The rest of us attending were club presidents, club leaders, and others who have an interest in one day being leaders. We all shared and discussed the states of our clubs, goals for the future of the program, and how we can help each other grow and improve the functionality of our clubs. It presented a unique opportunity for separate clubs from varying locations to help each other work together to reach common goals. The goals of promoting the sport of fly fishing, conservation, and community call back the premise of collaborating with like-minded people. The leaders of these clubs represent the hard work and dedication of fly anglers to create something bigger than themselves. Their love for fishing creates the foundation that everything within the clubs and the 5 Rivers program is built on.
It was Saturday evening, which meant it was time to start the “Iron Fly” event (put on by Pig Farm, Inc.) as well as raffling door prizes. But first, we all tried our luck at a casting competition. The angler who could set off a mouse trap by casting a fly in the fewest casts would win. Easier said than done. Most would try their luck only to fail in setting off the trap. One lucky contestant set off the trap within a few casts winning himself a pair of Costa Sunglasses. However, the raffle combined with a few giveaways landed everyone with some sort of prize that night.
The “Iron Fly” offered fly tying challenges for beginner and experienced tiers alike. I participated in tying a fly pattern blind folded along with five others. It was a blast and by the end of evening, everyone had smiles on their face. At the bonfire that followed couldn’t help but feel poetic over the whole event. An event like this should only exist in my wildest dreams, yet here I was. Sharing this whole experience with people that are driven by the same passion that I am.
As a group of us rallied around the fire to share in stories and until the light died out there was a feeling of unity. We were united in a common love for our Nation’s fisheries as well as protecting them for future generations. A program that started with thirty clubs is now over 100 and counting. This event continues to illustrate success from Trout Unlimited and Costa and their investments into this program. The 5 Rivers Rendezvous 2019 was now in the books, and it was a great one.