Natalie, The Gittelmans, and Big Trout

Natalie - One of AOC's Best

Just finished talking with Mr. Gittelman about his fishing trip with us yesterday. He came by just to let me know how much fun he had catching 20 inch trout with our guide Natalie on the Roaring Fork last night (he said that it was the highlight of his trip). The scenerio is pretty familiar to me, but I'll relate it for posterity...
The Gittelmans came to our shop at around 4:30PM, and after signing the waivers and getting fitted for Gore-tex waders and boots, they headed down valley. The drive lasted only about 15 minutes, and although it took only a couple of minutes to get the waders on and get rigged up, it was just after 5PM by the time they stepped into the water. Natalie is arguably our best guide, she fly fishes around the world to much acclaim, and it didn't take her long to help the Gittelmans get over their first-time jitters. She started them out nymphing (fishing sub-surface), and they got onto fish almost immediately. Mr. Gittelman was all smiles when he laughingly admitted that they didn't actually net the first few fish that they hooked. He continued to say that it didn't take long for him to understand the importance of letting the fish run, and keeping the rod vertical after hooking a fish. He was very complimentary of Natalie's netting skills, and he also mentioned how much he liked the actual net - which was handmade for Natalie by her boyfriend Matt.
As is typical this time of year on the upper Roaring Fork, the big fun came for the Gittelmans as dusk decended and the trout started to feed on dry flies. Natalie easily recognized the change of tempo on the river (this girl is a predator!), and she had both Gittelmans changed over to drys when the action started. Needless to say, many trout were caught in the increasing darkness, but the highlight was a 20+ inch rainbow that Mr. Gittelman landed in a big silky pool above the swinging bridge. When he told me this, I gave him a firm handshake and a pat on the back - a 20 inch fish is quite a milestone. As he headed out the door to hike Aspen Mountain, he assured me that on his next visit he would fish with us at least two nights. You know what? I don't doubt that he will.

New Website with copy by Gary Hubbell

One of Gary's Images from our new site

Wow, I've been really busy the last couple of days and I haven't had a chance to update the blog. One of the things that has been keeping me occupied since I last posted, is the new website. Gary Hubbell, an ex-guide and friend of ours, produced the copy and layout with help from my father and a web-designer named Roy Brandt. The new website is currently its own entity, but it will soon be linked to aspenoutfitting.com, and also have a link to this wonderful blog. The articles that Mr. Hubbell, a nationally renowned outdoor writer and photographer, have written include the creation of the Ugartechea AOC/SG, an explanation of balanced shotgun loads, the superiority of side by sides for upland bird hunting, and the virtues of a custom-fitted shotgun. He also put together information on our other boxlock and sidelock guns, the actual process of custom gun fitting, our pricing and current inventory (soon to be updated), information on our highly acclaimed shotgun instruction and clinics, and discriptions of our variety of guided upland bird hunts. I really like the look of the new site, and the content is fabulous, so here's hoping that you enjoy it too!


Floating The Roaring Fork River

This AIRE Super Puma with Downriver Gunnison frame is ideal for 'the fork'...

Starting near the top of Independance Pass on the western slope of the Continental Divide, the fabled Roaring Fork River runs for nearly 70 miles in a northwest direction. After passing through the town of Aspen, 'the fork' picks up volume from various tributaries such as Hunter, Castle, and Maroon Creeks, and continues on down the valley to be bolstered by the famous Frying Pan River and eventually to join the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Much of the Roaring Fork is designated as Gold Medal Water, and although there are several public access points to this top-notch trout habitat, much of the river is protected by private property. In the upper end of the valley, AOC has leased substantial stretches of private water for over 20 years. Once you get past the Woody Creek section of the river however, the average property size drops considerably and it becomes difficult to accumulate any useable amount of river footage.
Due to this situation, floating becomes the best way to access the choice spots on the middle and lower Roaring Fork. Although we are small in comparison to some of the larger generic fly-shops in the area, we have been incorporated since 1969 and we tend to employ the classiest and most successful float-guides in the area. Most float trips last all day (8 hours), and in addition to accessing a longer strech of the river, floating the river shows our guests a different and often superior perspective.

Logging some shop time...

The Lobby Entrance of The St. Regis Aspen
(AOC is through the doors and to your left...)

Today is a Saturday, which is traditionally kind of slow. I've been in the shop since 7:30AM, we had a shooting trip go out at 8:00AM, and we have several fishing trips thisafternoon/evening. But at the east end of the St. Regis lobby right now, things are kind of quiet and slow. In the interest of keeping sane, and also in an attempt to draw any wandering guests into the shop, I am playing a fly-fishing classic on one of the video monitors... That's right folks, we are watching the Gary Borger South Island Sampler. Mr. Borger, a perennial favorite with the Wrangler Jeans wearing, hankerchief-around-the-neck, Slouchy hat and Poloroid Glasses old-school fishing club, is viciously assaulting some Sea-run Rainbows on the South Island of New Zealand. Awesomeness ensues...
WOW, I am getting kind of bored. I guess that its time to bring my vest and rods into the shop and do some reorganizing and rigging for my trip thisafternoon. I am wicked excited about each and every trip at this time of year because the Roaring Fork has been fishing extremely well, and I am looking forward to getting my net around a couple of big browns. The Green Drakes have finally made it to the upper part of the river, and evening trips have been having huge success with H&L Variants, Royal and White Wulffs, and pretty much anything else that is big and fluffy and floats.
Due to the pace of the day, you may hear from me again later thisafternoon, but I will definitely give an update when I get back after dark...


Another Awesome Shooting Trip

We had another awesome shooting trip today. This time of year we are putting out lots of trips each day, and although all of them showcase our passion for service excellence, some are exceptionally successful and just too enjoyable not to talk about. Today's trip was an especially good example of how successful our teaching technique is. Over thirty years, Jon Hollinger (co-owner and chief shooting instructor-and my father) has developed a knack for introducing people to shotgun shooting. He begins the lesson with a short safety and general shotgun information session, and then starts the client out at a stationary target. While in front of the stationary target (called a 'patterning plate') Jon works on the mechanics of gun-mount, and reinforces the importance of stance an balance. Interestingly enough, properly mounting a shotgun takes some practice. From the stationary target, Jon moves the client to simple moving targets. "Incomers", as he calls the slow and level incoming clay targets, are Jon's favorite target to start novice shotgun shooters at. Once they start hitting the easy shots or "dusting" them as we say, Jon moves on to harder shots, and eventually a round of Skeet. It makes for an exciting half-day.
The clients yesterday were a charming couple from Hoboken, New Jersey. Sanford and Jan had done some shooting when they were younger, but estimated that they hadn't held a shotgun in over twenty years. Jon went right to work, and in no time they were breaking even the toughest targets. It made for a very enjoyable afternoon, and as Sanford and Jan have just recently purchased some property in the area, I am sure that we will see them again very soon.

Cloudveil Makes Fantastic Gear

This year, before I arrived back in beautiful Colorado from Eastern Canada, my father scored a Cloudveil Angling Apparel dealership for the AOC shop (the only one in Aspen-woo hoo!). The gear is well designed, engineered, and made. Also, the people involved in the company are awesome to deal with. Needless to say, we have been selling lots of the product (...completely sold out in some cases), and we are extremely pleased. One of my first chores upon my arrival was to get a uniform together for our guides. I chose the Cloudveil Ripple Shirt in Tourmaline (dark blue), got it embroidered with our logo, and the guides love it. It looks really sharp and is utterly functional. The fabric that Cloudveil uses for their fishing shirts is UPF45+, and sheds light moisture with a surface DWR. All in all, this is one of my favorite pieces of gear...
Just picture 'Aspen Outfitting Company' on the left chest... I LOVE this shirt!!!


Fishing on Private Water

Just got back from a PM fishing trip to some of our private water on the illustrious upper Roaring Fork River. We fished at the Phillip's family property, a lease that we have maintained for almost 20 years, and it was spectacular. I was fishing with Dana Winkler, who is an accomplished fisherman and a first- time client for AOC, and we netted 10 good sized trout. The fishing started a little late, probably becoming really active around 7PM. With the exception of two rainbows, all the fish were beautiful healthy browns. My father's favorite fly (sorry, not telling...) was working really well, and the sunset was a beautiful addition to the evening. I worked really hard on this trip (and the one with Dana and his wonderful wife Susan last night) to provide the 'bespoke' service that the St. Regis is striving to make a key part of its brand. The Winklers seemed to be really happy with their experience, and I am looking forward to seeing them again in the future. Now home for a quick dinner and an early bedtime.

The Fly Fishing Bible (Fully Illustrated)

The Curtis Creek Manifesto is quite possibly the best book on flyfishing ever written. That's saying a lot seeing that The Mainfesto weighs in at under 50 pages and is written like a comic book with a roomy layout. Sheridan Andreas Mulholland Anderson is the hippyesque author and illustrator of The Manifesto, and both his surprising fishing acumen and his rebellious world-view are evident on every page. The drawings are entertaining and the wisdom is priceless and as a bonus, Anderson used words like Froofaraw in section titles...
One of my favorite techniques is the 'Curtis Creek Sneak'...

An Act of Small Rebellion

I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once and endless source of delight and an act of small rellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to wast the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solititude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and finally not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant - and not nearly so much fun.
-Robert Traver