By April Archer
Rodeos awaken the senses and boost adrenaline. They require dedication, persistence, toughness, and a stroke of luck (and faith). The Rodeo involves a wild combination of humans and animals – guaranteed to be wild, fun, frustrating at times, and exhilarating at others.
The 8 River Rodeo is a Colorado fishing competition where each team, consisting of 2 people, must individually catch and release a fish in each of the 8 rivers in just 2 days. Day 1 included the Colorado, Roaring Fork, Frying Pan and Crystal rivers. Day 2 rivers were the Gunnison, East, Taylor and Spring Creek. Teams can fish from 30 minutes before sunup to 30 minutes after sundown.
Kellie Keenan-Heatherly and I teamed up to create Team Fighting Butts (a “fighting butt” is the end section of a fly rod used to catch really large fish). We were one of only two all-female teams for the competition! Kellie is a professional guide, and she is a fabulous angler. This was her 6th 8 River Rodeo competition! I am rod-builder and long-time fly-fisher, but new to this rodeo experience.
We had a stellar first day. We hit the Colorado at 6am and logged our first 2 fish before 7am. We were off to a great start. We had the same good fortune on the Fork and the Pan. The Crystal was a little trickier, but we landed nice fish and were done with Day 1 by 2:30. I would have liked to return to the Frying Pan to fish the beautiful red canyons and deep pocket water. However, we had a long drive (in the rain) over McClure and Kebler passes to get to Almont. Four rivers and a couple hundred miles of driving made for an arduous but fabulous first day.
Our second day began with a long, challenging morning on the Gunnison. Kellie logged her adorable fish, and after 5 hours, I was still skunked. We moved on to the East and fished all afternoon. Again, Kellie caught her fish and I didn’t. The low point of the day was when we fumbled my 3-inch rainbow on the shore and it flopped back in the river before we could measure it. I was frustrated for myself and for my teammate. She was busting her tail to help me out and I just couldn’t land a fish! I finally caught my East river fish under the bridge near Almont while she took a short break. When we realized we weren’t going to finish the Rodeo, we headed to Spring Creek to dry fly fish at dusk. As the bats chased my caddis fly at 9:15 pm, I decided to call it a day. We fished hard, and I was disappointed. Kellie was a great teammate and she never gave up.
The next day, we went to the awards lunch and headed home. As I reflect on this event, I am grateful to have had 2 amazing days on Colorado’s beautiful rivers. As we headed home, I wanted to try it again. Most importantly, I am thankful to be a part of this sport and these waters. Competition can be fun at times, and I still love to “just fish” all the other days of the year.
Proceeds from the 8 River Rodeo go to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and Trout Unlimited. This year, at least 8 women participated in the 8RR, which is more than ever! SaraBella Fishing was glad to contribute to the event, and I was glad to participate in this year’s 8 River Rodeo. Although we were bucked off, it was still a great rodeo. www.8riverrodeo.com