Gary “Karbo” Karbousky, one of our newest guides, has lived a life rich with adventure. Prior to 1968, he spent his childhood in the woods of Connecticut trapping and fishing, hanging out with his brother, learning with his buddies what nature has to offer. In 1968, he served in the United States Air Force in Vietnam. These experiences built friendships and a sense of camaraderie that others who haven’t shared won’t understand.
Following his stint in Vietnam, Karbo continued to serve in the Air Force (and those stories are worthy of a blog or two themselves!). He has fished and hunted in Germany, Italy, the Yukon, and Northern Canada. He’s run Rod and Gun clubs in a handful of countries. For 30 years, Gary built a resume of professional experiences that included teaching at the Air Force Academy, designing curriculum and courses, and always with themes of hunting and fishing running as threads in his life.
Then he had the phone call at 8:30 p.m. from his doctor, a family friend, on Sunday, October 17, 1999. “There are those moments in your life,” Gary says, “that you remember so clearly. Your first kiss. The day your children were born. The day your doctor says you have prostate cancer.”
Gary laughs a little now when he tells this story, “My doctor said ‘Don’t worry about it tonight and come to my office tomorrow.’” The cancer diagnosis was a life changing event. “I reached an all-time low.”
But it was not just life changing in terms of Gary’s physical life. Having cancer changes the way you look at life, especially “people who are sick. You’re now on that side of the street.” There’s that camaraderie thing again.
“The diagnosis changed my mental life, my thought life. And for that reason, it became the greatest day of my life.” In just a few minutes of conversation, you’ll hear the gratitude Gary has for the people and experiences in his life. “I have a blessed life, really.”
After the surgery and treatment, Gary’s cancer remained in remission for the next 13 years. And then, in the Fall of 2013, he was told again that some of his lymph nodes were cancerous. For the last three months, Gary has been undergoing treatment again.
And, now, with all his experience in the outdoors and with his teaching, Karbo is ready to guide. He wants men to discover what he has come to know: “your sickness does not have to be a limiting factor.” His goal is to guide those who may have wanted to learn to fly fish for a long time — and now feel they have missed their chance. “I want to be a conduit to the fly fishing experience for the man who didn’t think, for whatever reason, he could.”
Gary has fished Elevenmile Canyon, the Pueblo tailwaters, and fly fished Spinney Reservoir. He wants to share those adventures with others. “We can use the belly boats and fish Spinney Reservoir, or if they can walk down from the parking lot to the Flag Hole on the tailwaters, I can get them to the fish.”
Fly fishing brings hope with every cast. Gary wants his clients to know the anticipation of the rise and then the fish striking the fly. It brings with it attention to detail and the need to focus on the smaller things: the knot you tie, the drag-free drift. The focus on the small things forces you to be right in the moment.
And when you are living in the moment, “you can’t be thinking about being ‘sick.’ Sometimes you are 100% consumed with those thoughts. Fly fishing is a drug that clears your head of cancer.”
If you’re interested in booking a trip with Gary, call the shop at (719) 471-2984.
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside