Tom Ross: Catching trout with caffeinated flies |

Tom Ross: Catching trout with caffeinated flies

Keith Hale mans the Steamboat Flyfisher booth at The Fly Fishing Show in Denver on Sunday.

— Can you catch a monster rainbow trout on a coffee bean? Joel King, of Kingfisher Flies, swears it's not only possible, it's a good bet. He's got pictures, taken right across the Park Range from Steamboat in North Park, to prove he's not just telling a fish story.

King was at the Fly Fishing Show at the Denver Merchandise Mart during the weekend. His fly patterns are sold through the prestigious Rainy's catalog, but the fly he ties by gluing a coffee bean to the shank of a hook will never make the cut.

King, a consummate designer of killer trout flies, doesn't mind. He says the big fish that lurk in the North Park lakes are eager to snack on the little caffeine bombs. He swears the fish mistake the coffee bean for a water beetle.

I think it's more likely the fish are fooled into thinking the bean is a snail suspended in the water column.

I didn't have the nerve to ask King in front of his audience if high-test beans work better than decaf. But you can bet I'm going to use some cowboy espresso beans from Steamboat Coffee Roasters on those big cutthroats over at Delaney Buttes in the spring. Heck, I'd try almost anything to catch a 24-inch trout.

Steamboat Springs was well represented at the big show in Denver during the weekend.

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Steamboat Flyfisher's Tim Kirkpatrick, Brian Bavosi, Jed Collins and Keith Hale were manning a booth.

After the show, Hale and Kirkpatrick were getting ready for a monthlong angling adventure. But it's not what you think.

Instead of jetting off to the Florida Keys or Patagonia to escape winter in Steamboat, they're off to glamorous fishing destinations like Marlborough, Mass., Somerset, N.J., and Charlotte, N.C. It'd be a surprise if they even wetted a fly line during this fish-less angling odyssey.

Instead, the two men will schmooze with thousands of eager eastern anglers cruising The Flyfishing Shows in all three cities. They just wrapped up the three-day show in Denver and quickly packed up their mobile shop for the long drive to New England. The hope is that they can plant the idea of a summer trip to Steamboat Springs in the minds of East Coast anglers.

"We'll get more eyes (on their merchandise and services) than we could at our shop in Steamboat in January, February and March combined," Kirkpatrick said. "It's a gamble, but it's worth it."

Kirkpatrick said he touts Steamboat as a family destination where the trout fisher in the family can sneak off for some quality fishing without anyone really noticing the fisher is away.

Kirkpatrick's gamble can be found in the cost of renting exhibit booths form the organizers of The Fly Fishing Show. He said he took three booths in Denver at a combined $3,300. Customers from across the Front Range stopped by Steamboat Flyfisher's booths to shop for high-end waders and handmade reels.

Of course, the lure that reels in thousands of attendees at the Denver show is the promise that snow eventually will melt and summer will return.

We indulged in a little trout schmoozing of our own during the weekend, taking in a slide show by Richard Dudginski, of Black Canyon Anglers, about floating the deep gorge of the Gunnison River upstream from Montrose. The Gunny is famous for salmon flies as big as your thumb. Trout look at them and see turkey drumsticks or T-bone steaks — not sure which one.

Our daydreams drifted north to a horsepacking trip into the Cloud Peak Wilderness in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains with Rusty Bogers, of Flatiron Troutfitters.

Later, the immensely entertaining Bill Edrington, of Royal Gorge Anglers, told us the right way and the wrong way to fish his beloved Arkansas River.

Between priceless nuggets of trout lore, Edrington paused several times to urge us not to forget that this still is the Rocky Mountains. And although we don't need to worry much about bears in our campsites along the Arkansas, Edrington said, we ought to carry a sidearm to protect ourselves from lions.

I think I'll head on down Cañon City's way this spring and pester Edrington more. I might even bring a small bag of cowboy espresso beans.