Patrick Duke

Years Fishing?

Growing up in the foothills of Colorado, my Dad was quick to put a spinning rod in my hand as soon as I could hold one. I started fly fishing after watching my Dad at the age of 6. I won my first fly rod in a Ducks Unlimited banquet at 8 years old and started tying flies with my older brother around the same time. So 25years fly fishing and 12years guiding.

Who introduced you to fly fishing?

My Dad was the one who got me hooked and my Mom helped to stoke the flame anyway she could after that. I still remember him catching more fish than me everyday and how mad it made me. But thats what kept me getting out on the water and trying to figure it out. I knew I could catch fish cause I saw him doing it every time, he was my motivation.

Can you tell us a little about your home waters and the fish you pursue there?

I moved to Crested Butte for College in 2003 but the fishing is what has kept me here. We have one of the most challenging and rewarding tailwater sections in the state, the Taylor river and an endless amount of creeks and high country lakes. I make several pilgrimages to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison especially during the salmon fly hatch but the majority of my time is spent floating the headwaters of the Gunnison River.

What's the height of the season for you? What time of year is your personal favorite?

The height is July. At least that’s what books the quickest and when the most people are in the valley. I work everyday from mid June to the end of September. I took 32 trips out last July and still managed two days off. Running two guide trips in one day is insane but you gotta work as much as possible when the season is so short. Personal favorite? thats hard… I look forward to the Salmon Fly hatch like a kid looks forward to the last day of school. Early July is when the green drakes come off on the upper Gunnison and you can have 100+ fish days, not kidding. But fall is when I start to get out and fish again when no one is on the river. The leaves are changing, the salmon are running, our bald eagles return to the valley and the fishing is lights out.

What are your favorite travel destinations? What's on the bucket list?

I would still have to say Bolivia is the ultimate fly-fishing destinations by combining a trout like fishing scenario of wet wadding small and medium sized freestone rivers while sight casting with floating lines to a very salt water worthy predator fish, the Golden Dorado. I’ve been fortunate to travel to several great destinations and I would say it has become a serious addiction. The list is always growing and I will probably go broke before I check them all off but my top five would have to be Seychelles, New Zealand, South America for Payara, South Africa for Tiger fish and Mongolia.

What's your current go-to fly?

Right now it’s early spring and the midge hatch is in full swing. I tie a shucking midge that seems to be pretty hard to resist. I love watching big fish sipping tiny bugs.

Other than fly tackle, what piece of gear do you find indispensable?

Sunglasses. Fishing with your eyes is just as important as fishing with your fly rod and a good pair of polarized shades is crucial. I would also say a camera. The best part about fishing is all the peripheral things you get to see while on the water and its nice to have a good camera handy to capture the moment.

My favorite thing about guiding is:

Sharing such a unique challenge and experience with those excited about the sport. Also, over the years I’ve developed a list of clientele that return year after year. Having returning clientele is like catching up with old friends all summer long. Its made guiding extremely rewarding.

From the angler’s point of view, what do you see as the main value of going on a guided trip?

Experience and a huge acceleration in the learning curve no matter what your ability may be. With my 12+ years of guiding experience I’ve found it’s important to share as much with your clients as possible. As much as they can handle at least. And it’s not just the where and how to fish, its everything that’s surrounding what gets you out on the water. The history, the geography, the stories, the environment, and it’s the respect for all of these things that keeps it all in tact for the next angler to have the same quality of experience.

What can new fisherman expect to get out of a guided trip? My favorite thing to teach a client is ...

I think its important to teach people how to properly present a fly not just how to do the minimal that is required to catch a fish. I also cover the why behind it all. I like to explain to people what the fish are thinking and what the bugs are doing and why that’s important to the time of year and technique we happen to be using. My favorite thing to teach any level of client is how to not only connect with nature and the environment of the river but how to leave it in better condition than we found it. I always stress the health of the fish and teach anglers how properly care for and release their catch. This is important in sustaining the life of the fish, the health of the river and longevity of the sport. Anyone who can appreciate what goes into catching a fish can appreciate what goes into keeping a fish healthy.

What's your ideal lunch when on the water? What do you actually pack?

Ideal is a juicy cheeseburger grilled riverside served with avocado, pepper jack cheese and washed down with an ice cold ale. On guide trips I pick up sandwiches from this killer little deli called the Fire Brand. When its just me or I’m out with friends its hard to beat some form of PB&J that gets nice and smashed in the bottom of your bag and leaves your fingers sticky and your beard full of jelly and typically washed down with whatever beer was left in cooler from the last guide trip.. gotta love it though!

What fly fishing blogs/magazines do you read regularly?

The only magazine I avidly read cover to cover is THE DRAKE. It’s always a great balance of tackling important water issues and environmental concerns mixed with well told stories of struggle or success on and off the water and the photography is always well done. I also like the Fly Fishing Journal and the online magazine THIS IS FLY.

When I'm not fishing you'll find me:

Painting, tying flies, cleaning my boat or planning my next fishing trip… its a vicious cycle!

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Crested Butte, Colorado USA

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