Over breakfast the other day, Earl Hecker, our newest guide at Angler’s Covey, interwove three words into our conversation that revealed how he approaches this adventure called fly fishing: intuitive, instinctual, and innovative. This soft-spoken 33-year old guide, husband and father, and veteran of the Iraq war is a life-long learner in this sport.
Earl and his family have been in Colorado for five years. To say he is “family-oriented” would be an understatement. He and his 12-year old son had been down to the Pueblo tailwaters for a few hours just the day before we chatted. Mention of his other kids, a 10-year old son whose attention to fly fishing rises and falls and his 2-year old daughter who hasn’t yet discovered the adventure, surface throughout our conversation. And Earl says that his wife, his high school sweetheart, has given him the support to pursue his guide work here in Colorado. “Behind every successful man is a woman, right? She’s been a ton of support for me to pursue this.”
His fly fishing goes back 21 years, beginning in the high mountain lakes of California and Nevada. Then, when stationed in Germany, Earl fished in the Rod and Gun clubs of Luxembourg, France, and Germany. “The most technical water I’ve fished is Gerolstein, in Germany. The crystal clear clarity of the water made every cast a technical challenge.”
After moving to Colorado Springs, Earl made it a goal to become familiar with the waters near his new home. He fished Elevenmile Canyon, Deckers, the Pueblo tailwaters. In 2014, he set out to fish beyond the Pikes Peak region and racked up miles on his car fishing the Taylor, the Gunnison, the Eagle, and the Roaring Fork. He wanted new challenges on new waters.
And that’s where the three i’s come in. New waters mean new situations and new challenges. Earl continually comes back to the idea that you have to hone your technique. As a guide, he calls this “maintain currency” — you need to continually be learning as a fly fisher and, especially, as a guide. When you have a foundation of skills and technique, you begin to rely on your intuition and instincts. And you can begin to innovate — changing your cast up a little bit to reach a difficult seam, switching to a #24 dry fly to “pay tribute to the dry fly gods,” matching wits with trout. You have to make a “conscious decision” to try something new, placing yourself in a new situation to call on different skills at different times.
This theme wove its wave through our conversation — Earl’s self-directed drive, his motivation to keep learning and honing technique, his reliance on intuition and innovation when he is on the water.
When I asked Earl what he hopes that his clients leave with at the end of the day, what their take-aways are when the guide trip is over, he takes a minute to think about his response. “They should have a 6-hour vacation from the day-to-day grind.” Different folks want different things — guiding a newcomer to the sport is a different guiding experience than being on the water with a seasoned veteran. “My job as a guide is to be flexible and respond to the client.”
Above all, though, Earl says that “fishing is a kind of therapy. We can’t take it for granted. I choose to live life lightly. I choose to live it with gratitude.”
If you would like to schedule a fly fishing trip with Earl, call the shop at 719-471-2984.
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside