Check out Team Flylords full angler story from the weekend, learn more about the 25 On The Fly Team Challenges, and the full interview with Davis James and Blake Katchur, the organizers of the event below!
As soon as Zane and I figured out we were competing in this year’s 8th annual Mile High 25 On the Fly presented by Orvis Fly Fishing, we were fired up and ready to tackle catching various species all over Colorado. We were very fortunate to drive around the Orvis Fly Fishing truck all over the state with an NRS (Northwest River Supplies) Slipstream Raft strapped on the top.
Little did we know 25 different fish species can be targeted in the Colorado high country, the eastern plains, and the Colorado front range. The competition involved a lot of planning, precisely our route and how we could get from point A to point B the easiest. Our biggest challenge while planning this competition was where to start. Zane and I call ourselves trout fishermen, so planning our locations to fish in Denver and the eastern plains required a bit of research and intel from warm-water fishermen. Not only did this involve some searching on the web, but the OnWater app helped our experience in terms of local fly shops, saving our locations, and giving us directions to the sites we were trying to fish.
The competition was greeted with the Captain’s Meeting located at Anglers All in Littleton, Colorado. We chatted with a few other teams, enjoyed some Barbecue, and drank a few cold beers. The event was full of motivated minds and support from Anglers All; teams could get 15% off anything in the fly shop. Each employee of Angler’s All was ready to help, communicate some intel, and were very friendly in deciding which gear to grab before the guns fired off at 6 am on Saturday. Not only was the support from Anglers All a great way to help all the teams. Additionally, Riversmith rented out their signature River Quivers for teams to use during the competition. Riversmith helped teams mount River Quivers onto their cars at the Captain’s Meeting at Anglers All and supported the crew they sent off, Rick Mikesell and Aj Mcguire. Big shoutout to Jeff Perry, Delaney Chapman, and Jimmy Juliana for their unconditional help through this process at Anglers All!
Our tactics for this event were to first start with the cold water species. Zane and I primarily fish in the high country, so we decided to target trout first and rank up some points in the cold water. This process required a catch-video-release method with the forefront mission to keep fish wet using the Cinebody app, involving a control bracelet that needed to be captured on video to gain points for our team. The rules: you can fish anywhere in Colorado, with no private water, and only using flies and fly rods. The points you accumulate for the event are based on ease of species; for example, a tiger musky was worth 500 points total, and a trout or bass was worth 100. Pick the water you want to fish; some locations with harder-to-target species might work out if you spend more time and get lucky! Some veteran teams only fished for more challenging species worth more significant points. Zane and I posted our videos of our caught species and competed in some of the team challenges (check them out below)! Be sure to check out the complete list of rules by clicking HERE.
As we caught a variety of trout all over the high country of Colorado, we quickly learned that picking one area with the most trout species would have been a better tactic. On the first day, we drove around 500 miles in the Orvis truck. Little did we know, this bad*** rig had massage chairs for the driver and the passenger, giving us maximum recovery time while driving to other locations. Once we ventured higher in elevation on Saturday, we were greeted with heavy rain that turned into wet and heavy snow near timberline, which was quite the experience for Father’s Day weekend.
On the first day, we caught cutthroat trout, golden and cutthroat trout hybrids, tiger trout, brook trout, and brown trout. Unfortunately, our mission to catch the golden trout did not count because it was a strain of cutthroat, which was a bit problematic with our timeframe. We did get pretty unlucky with some of the higher point-based species, lake trout, whitefish, and suckers, for our first day.
As soon as we got closer to the front range after the day concluded and ran out of time to post video submissions of our catches on Saturday, we got a bite to eat and recovered moving into Sunday. Our minds were refreshed from the little sleep we managed to get, and our inspiration was to try to catch a few of the more prominent species higher up on the points list. This involved targeting pike, carp, and other warmer-water species like walleye, carp, and wipers. The result: no pike, no carp, and the phrase most fisherman use; “that’s what we call fishing.” It was great to run into other teams around the state and see how they were doing, which gave Zane and me a little room for a breather and try adding a few more species to the board.
After the competition concluded on Sunday at 3 pm, we commenced at Odell Brewing at Sloan’s Lake in Denver. Gratefully, Zane, myself, and the other teams enjoyed the first beers on the house while we waited for all the results to come in. We ate pizza, talked to other teams and their experiences, and had a great time reminiscing on the weekend.
Not only were teams trying to catch all 25 different species, but there were also team challenges presented by sponsors of the event. For example, we had six different team challenges to complete that counted as points. Check out some of the challenges that were on the table:
Fulling Mill 2 Fly Challenge – Once we got to the Captain’s Meeting at Anglers All on Thursday, we got our team Swag Bags. Each swag bag contained a fly cup with a streamer and a dry fly from Fulling Mill. The team with the most Fulling Mill 2 Fly Catches will win a pair of loaded fly boxes and hats. The first video submitted was worth 15 points, which Zane caught a nice cutthroat trout on and gave us a few additional points.
After Zane and I’s weekend competing against 37 different teams, we were able to catch up with Davis James and Blake Katchur that talked to us a little more about 25 On The Fly, how it all started, efforts for conservation, and the upcoming event in Texas, the Lonestar 25 On The Fly! Check out the interview below!
Flylords: Tell us a little more about 25 On the Fly and how it came to fruition.
Blake & Davis: The event came about over a happy hour conversation between staff and customers at Anglers All Fly Shop. The idea was to create an event to bridge the gap between pre and post runoff. The goal was to create a tournament which would challenge anglers to step outside of the trout focused comfort zone; thus, the Mile High 25 was born. Over the years, it’s evolved and grown beyond the doors of Anglers All, and now in its 8th year, has morphed into a fly fishing scavenger hunt designed for anglers of all types to enjoy.
Flylords: The challenge itself is tough, two days to try and catch-video-release 25 different species on the fly. What is the best part of the event?
Blake & Davis: Without a doubt, the best part of the event is engaging with the participants before, during, and after the event. It’s the community of fly fishing obsessed anglers that keeps us hosting this event. For many, this is a gathering to look forward to all year. The planning, pre-fishing, and event itself has been etched in stone on the calendar for many as an opportunity to spend a long weekend road tripping around Colorado with their best fishing buddy, fly rods in tow! That first cold beer though…comes in a close second! Shoutout to Anglers All for kickstarting the event, and Odell Brewing for wrapping it up!
Flylords: There were a variety of veteran teams that returned back to this year’s 8th Annual Mile High 25 on the fly, what’s so special about the teams that return and why do you think they come back?
Blake & Davis: It’s an even blend of camaraderie and the challenge of the event itself. One team told me this year that this event has become a way to celebrate their friendship and spend time together after one team-mate had a previous medical condition that nearly took his life. Honestly, thinking about that still brings goosebumps up and down my spine.
Flylords: This year, a portion of the entry fees goes back to Denver Trout Unlimited. What are they doing with this money?
Blake & Davis: Denver Trout Unlimited is working around the clock to improve the water quality and access to Denver’s South Platte River. From water quality assessments, fighting for mandatory water release days, and implementing future use and design plans, DTU is working for us all to ensure that our Home Water in Denver has a future. In September, they are hosting the Carp Slam, which is their primary funding initiative for their efforts. Learn more here: https://carpslam.org/
Flylords: 25 On the Fly isn’t all about raking points up per species. There are a lot of team challenges that don’t involve catching fish; what was the importance of these team challenges?
Blake & Davis: These team challenges are a fun way to engage in the event for anglers of all skill levels. We like to think it levels the playing field a little and showcases how fun fly fishing for cold AND warm-water species can be! Our favorite is the “Pack it out” challenge, where we award points to teams that take a little time away from fishing to pack out trash found on the banks, beaches, and watersheds across Colorado.
Flylords: Later this fall is the Lonestar 25 On the Fly event in Texas. Tell us a little more about this event and how people can sign up.
Blake & Davis: This event will be nearly identical aside from the actual species list. Hosted by the Dallas area Orvis stores, the species list will be a mix-up of fresh and saltwater species and we anticipate a strong turnout from the Texas fly fishing community. To learn more and sign up, and visit: 25onthefly.com
Flylords: Will 25 on the Fly return to the Mile High City in 2024, or will there be other events around the nation?
Blake & Davis: We are turning the page to the planning stage for the 2024 Mile High 25 On the Fly! For 2023 the Lone Star 25 On The Fly in Texas will wrap up our season but we have a few ideas in the think tank that we will share soon! Keep an eye on upcoming events and announcements via IG @25onthefly.
Big thanks to Davis James and Blake Katchur for the time for the interview, alongside Orvis Fly Fishing and Anglers All for their support to kick off the 8th Annual Mile High 25 On The Fly. Shoutout to all the sponsors of the event for making it happen and giving out incredible prizes for the leaders, and the teams that worked hard to complete their team challenges: @denvertroutunlimited @flylords @nrsfishing @odellbrewingsloans @riversmith @gopro @fulling_mill @onwaterapp. Photos by Davis James @davisjameslens.