June 19th & 20th of 2021 will mark the 6th Annual Mile High 25 Fly Fishing Tournament where two angler teams attempt to catch 25 identified species on the fly, on public water, all across Colorado, in just 2 days. Sounds like a wild idea right? And a challenging endeavor? You are right about that, in 5 years of competition not a single team has completed the list. That's 450 anglers, and 49,500 hours of fishing, and no perfect scores.
So, how did it all begin? Back in 2015 a small group of anglers and friends huddled around the fly bins at Anglers All bemoaning the yearly early summer runoff, and how all of their favorite trout streams were nearly unfishable. The conversation turned to other species found on the front range that may be unaffected by dirty high water. Species like Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Blue Gill, Carp, Pike, Catfish.... you can catch Catfish on the fly? And so, in that moment, the idea behind a multi species fly fishing tournament was born.
The next year, in June of 2016 after months of planning a group of anglers gathered at Anglers All on a Friday evening to officially launch the Mile High 25. “Nothing had been done like this before, a fishing tournament about species, not size," says Doug Garvey, who was integral in putting on the first tournament. “There was a lot of friendly banter between teams, and the mood was high and full of energy”. Rules were discussed, strategies were taking shape and the shop was buzzing with excitement. The next morning these brave anglers scattered across the state in pairs seeking public water that they hoped would hold one of more of the 25 identified species on the tournament list. Those anglers caught, photographed and released their catches while racking up points for each new species caught. Size didn't matter, nor did quantity. A 10th Brook Trout caught while trying to find a Cutthroat didn't better your score.
As that Sunday afternoon in 2016 came to a close, weary and exhausted anglers filtered back into Littleton Colorado eager to hear how their efforts stacked up against their friends and fellow competitors. That first year the winning team somehow found, caught, and released 12 species. As the top three teams were announced many of those involved not only learned a lot, but had a great deal of fun. Whispers started rumbling immediately, as strategies for next year were already underway.
Ryan, recaps that first year of jumping into the unknown perfectly. “The first year we participated in the Mile High 25, my teammate an I jumped in with a half-baked plan and a truck full of snacks and caffeine. We managed to land 9 different species of fish on the fly in two days. We drove more then 550 miles, saw places in Colorado I might never have otherwise seen and certainly caught fish we otherwise wouldn’t have. We learned a lot and had a crazy amount of fun.”
As Anglers All enters into their 6th year hosting the Mile High 25, a few things have changed, but the challenge and the fun have not!
Team Ruffneck Fly Guys
Tournament Veteran Brittany sums it up here "The tournament has become a gauge of sorts as to how well rounded an angler I am. You plan, research, and practice hoping it all comes together. If you're gonna have your weaknesses exposed, might as well do it with a chance to win!". She went on to add, "Nothing makes you feel like you got caught with your pants around your ankles when you can't catch a damn Crappie!"
There is no doubt, you will get challenged more as an angler in those two days than you probably ever have before. All the planning you do a head of time still can't save you from freak June snowstorms, flat tires, filled waders and the elusive Crappie!
John, another tournament veteran tells his side of the story, "I think the Mile High 25 is more than just a two day tournament. It's more of a multi-week tactical endeavor scoping water, chasing species and strategizing a plan of attack which inevitably is thrown out the window. The planning culminates in a two day adventure that is easily the highlight of the summer and something we look forward to every year. Some of the best memories are meeting up with buddies afterwards and swapping tails of triumphs, failures and everything in between!"
After hosting 5 of these tournaments, we have seen all sorts of strategies get played out. One thing is for sure though, those who route plan and find their species spots in the weeks before the tournament see their species counts climb. But don’t think you can’t just have a great time too, and challenge yourself as an angler. If you have not felt the line peeling off your reel as a Common Carp runs away with your fly, you should. We have many teams that use this planned fishy weekend as an excuse to fish like they haven’t before, sleep in the dirt and smile so much it hurts.
As we count down the days until June 19th & 20th to properly kick off the 6th annual Mile High 25, we thank all those anglers who have competed in the past and those signed up for 2021! We put this event on each year for you! If you are returning for another year, you will see many of those same tournament veterans signed up again this year, many for the 6th time.
This year as in the past two, photos of fish will be replaced with short video clips powered by a custom tailored app called Cinebody. The top three teams will be chasing down cash, and you will see excellent prize packs offered to anglers competing not only in the species shootout but some fun planned side categories as well. Our sponsors: Sage Fly Rods, Simms, Umpqua Feather Merchants, Smith Optics, Fishpond, Rep Your Water and Lid Rig help make this event possible. Another special thank you to the team at 25 On The Fly for helping us put this event on. We are crossing our fingers as we continue to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, that we will be able to gather in a like-minded group again and enjoy each other’s company, talk a little smack and swap stories.
Team Rep Your Water
For those who have competed at the top level in the past, we are now offering a Pro Division for a $500 entry fee per team. The intermediate division, which we recommend to new comers, goes for just $250 per team. Tournament check in and swag bag pick up will be at the Anglers All Fly Shop the week of the tournament, and we will all be here to answer any questions you have.
To learn more or to sign up, CLICK HERE, or call or stop by the shop any time.
As I finish writing this blog, we are just 45 days away from that sunrise start on Saturday, and I know that somewhere there is an angler on the water in this moment practicing for the 2021 Mile High 25.