When you think of fly fishing, you probably envision a guy standing knee deep in a pristine trout stream set against a breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped mountains, rhythmically casting a fly rod in time with nature. While it is true that trout inhabit such inspiring places, limiting your fly fishing to trout is like limiting your beer drinking to lager.
A nearby brewpub or at least a local brewery is mandatory for a great fly-fishing destination.
Fortunately for beer lovers and fly fishers, lots of options exist for both passions. The most fortunate thing of all is that drinking beer and fly fishing naturally go together. After all, any fly fisher knows that you can’t always count on the fish to cooperate, but you can always count on a good beer when the day is done.
“We all know it is a theoretical impossibility to catch fish without beer,” says John “JB” Shireman of the New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, CO. “At the very least,” Shireman continues, “it’s poor form. Fishing and beer drinking are two endeavors in any sporting gent’s life that evolve over time. While a cooler of cheap domestics and a worm tub once sufficed, no one worthy of the title, Fly Fisherman, would defile a Mackenzie [drift] boat with anything less than a hand-crafted ale in one hand and a nice fly rod in the other.”
I would have to agree. In fact, I will even go one step farther and say that fly fishing makes beer taste better. By far the best tasting beer I ever had was a cheap macrobrew consumed after my brother and I spent five days in the Bridger Wilderness Area of Wyoming chasing cutthroat trout. Or maybe the best-tasting beer was the one I shared with my Padre fishing buddies celebrating my first “tailing” redfish caught on the fly. Or maybe it was the beer my dad and I shared after a Father’s Day spent catching dozens of red-breasted sunfish. Or…well, you get the idea.
Then, again, maybe the real connection between beer and fly fishing is the nostalgia of sharing a day on the water with someone important to you.
Cindy Burchfield, marketing director at Alaskan Brewing Co., treasures wedding anniversaries spent fishing with her husband. “I can’t think of a more romantic way to celebrate: working together, the thrill of the reel, fighting a 15 pound silver salmon. We keep beer on board the boat, but just for good luck: we drink it later. Beer and fishing both bring people together.”
“I brew beer, and I fish. In fact, I brew to fish,” says Dean Schemenauer of Leinenkugel’s Tenth Street Brewery in Milwaukee. “A good beer is the proper finish to a day of fishing with my brothers. When you’re done, you can say the fishing was great, the catching was lousy, and the beer was cold.”
For Greg Owsley, also with New Belgium Brewing Co., the hook was the many great summer days spent fly fishing the Conejos River in southern Colorado with his grandfather, dad and uncles. His grandparents’ cabin was too far away to walk for a beer, so they would stash some behind a certain boulder in the water. Greg recalls that, “When I was too young to admit, Papa and I beat the others back to the beer hole one evening. He opened a beer, handed it over, opened another, clinked mine and winked at me. Before doubt muddied the waters, I seized the clear opportunity I had been graciously cast and guzzled all 12 ounces.”