David Caraghar developed a motto when he first started fly fishing some 60 years ago: “I’m not leaving the river today until I figure it out.” The motto came about when he was fishing in Cheesman Canyon, a section of river that could “humble you more than any other stretch of the South Platte.” He'd stick around until he had hooked up with a fish, even just one, and figured out that day's challenge. Seems like he lives by that motto still today: looking for new challenges and always “figuring out” the best approaches as a guide and a fly fisherman.
With 60 years experience in this adventure, David has seen huge changes in fly fishing. Of course, there have been changes in gear. The rods have evolved from cane, to fiberglass, to graphite and now with even higher tech in their design. Likewise, the changes in flies and fly tying materials have been incredible. David would tie up “the String Thing. White thread wrapped around the hook and then black thread to form the head” when he was younger. “And I caught a lot of fish with that pattern!”
|Every year on his birthday, David heads to "the birthday hole" with his friend Dave Herber.|
One of his best memories takes him back a few years to when he was 16 years old. He was fishing the Trico hatch and put on an Adams pattern that he had tied himself. He had a perfect upstream cast. The fly had a nice drift, up against a rock, and then drifted to the down-stream side of the rock. Bang. “I’ll always remember that feeling of a fish taking the fly that I tied.”
Born in Denver, David learned fly fishing from trips with his dad. They’d hike up through Waterton Canyon. On some days, they would run into another lone angler – which was somewhat of a rare occurrence back in the day. “If we saw even one other fly fisherman, my dad would say ‘Too crowded. Let’s go home.’” So, yeah, times have changed. David is enthusiastic about people taking up this adventure of fly fishing but also sees that it adds pressure to our fisheries.
David began guiding for Angler’s Covey about ten years ago. When he goes out with newcomers to the sport, he has one goal for them to achieve by the end of the day: did you fool the fish? “You don’t have to bring them in. You don’t have to hold the fish in your hand. But did you fool the fish?” Why this goal? “A good cast. A good drift. And having the right fly on your line. If you have those three things, you fool the fish. The rest will come.”
“It’s the magician, not the wand.”
Fly fishing guides grow and learn as they work with clients. Clients, particularly people new to the sport, have to learn so much that an experienced fly fisher may take for granted. It’s not automatic for the newcomer – so it forces the guide to consider new approaches to teaching somebody how to cast when it’s windy, or fish in high water, or sometimes fish are just suffering from “lock jaw” and not biting anything. David says that working with clients reminds the experienced angler what it is like to learn. “It has to be personal and individual each time out. Different anglers have different goals and different strengths.”
At the end of the day, David wants to know if his client had fun. Was it a good time? Did the client meet his or her goal for the day? If the fish are suffering from “lock jaw,” he nudges his clients to look around, enjoy both the scenery and the time on the river. “If you can’t have fun when you’re not catching fish, maybe it’s not the right sport.”
David said it’s important for people to define what fly fishing is all about for them. “What does it mean to you: recreation? A sport? Artistry?”
I think that’s why even though David has over 60 years of experience with fly fishing, it seems so fresh when you talk with him. He’s defining and redefining fly fishing in his life – as an angler and as a guide. He’s still living his motto: no leaving the river today until I figure this out. And have fun in the process.
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside