The number one piece of advice I have repetitively heard from any experienced angler is to take a guided trip, even after you THINK you know what you are doing. The reason I find most of us love fly fishing is because there are so many variables that are constantly changing and challenging us. The ebb & flow of these variables interacting creates an infinite knowledge pool for us to dive into. Guided trips aren’t always in the budget for everyone, but if you can find a deal during off season, or find a day to treat yourself, I personally recommend it. Spending a day with a guide is a guaranteed way to gain new information and improve your skills; however new or old they may be.

For this week’s #FlyGalFriday, I went out with Courtney Despos of 5280 Angler with the goal of presenting to you what you can expect on a guided day on the water. I had help from a wonderful & talented photographer Robert Knight. 

Courtney rolled into the parking lot right on time to meet me for a day of fishing. We elected to go to the ‘Dream Stream’ as I had never fished it previously. She arrived with her rods ready to rock & roll (in part thanks to her Denver Outfitters Rod Vault – yes…shameless plug!) and even had extra hats and gloves since it was chilly! After we prepped, Courtney shared with me some basic info about the water we were about to hit and our overall plan for the day before we headed to the stream.

On our walk down, we reviewed my goals for the day. Specifically, I wanted to improve my mending skills. Going into the trip, I felt like I was having trouble distinguishing when to mend and how to do so seamlessly without complete disruption of my drift. Courtney was completely attentive to this goal throughout the trip – with each cast she would let me know if my mend was needed/on time and provide adjustments as needed. In addition to mending, we also focused on my drift. She taught me about optimizing a drag-less drift and maximizing the end of the drift allowing the fly to swing and rise. As a somewhat new angler, I didn’t totally understand the swing, and the advantages to it.

Throughout the day, we hooked into quite a few fish and Courtney was actively able to give me tips on fighting and landing fish. I was never taught how to fight a fish – all I knew was that you were supposed to keep your rod tip up and keep tension on the line. She explained that to play the fish, I should be moving my rod tip opposite of where the fish was running, instead of just straight up and down, in an effort to lead the fish resulting in a quicker landing. Learning through real time experience with a guide is priceless.

After a few hours we took a break for lunch. It was easily the best riverside lunch I have ever had. Courtney went all out with an entire sandwich bar set up on the back of her 4runner. She brought fresh fruit, veggies, snacks, and yes…even cookies for dessert! Oh, and not to mention a cooler full of chilled refreshments! It was a really nice touch that added to the full experience.

Since Courtney is extremely familiar with the water she guides and is well informed on the weather and general conditions before her trips, she let us know that the weather would be deteriorating as the day continued. In light of my second goal for the day, to work on my cast, she thought it would be better to move locations to a more ideal setting. Following lunch, we moved from the ‘Dream Stream’ to Deckers. Much to my delight, she was right and this was a more optimal setting with improved conditions.

Although having someone constantly watching you can make you feel somewhat insecure as an angler, it is incredible what it will also bring to light. For example, Courtney noticed that before I cast, I would move my rod tip back and forth slightly before my line left the water. This was decreasing my tension and negatively impacting the effective completion of my cast. I must have picked up this habit somewhere along the way without noticing, but she made me realize when I did that, my flies were tangling in the water. No WONDER I always ended up with knotted up flies/line! Had I not gone with a guide (and a detail oriented one like Courtney), I probably would have never known this was a habit I needed to break. Just having someone next to you observing you fishing during the day can bring constructive criticism to the table that equates to positive change and vast improvements.

Overall, being guided was a great and necessary experience, I now understand the consistent suggestion that had been given to me. The amount of knowledge I was able to gain in a day was more than worthwhile. Ultimately, everyone can benefit from a guided trip, your fishing skills will thank you!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you to the incredible Robert Knight Photography for capturing or day on the water to create this visually enticing photo journal.

To book a day on the water with Courtney, she can be contacted any of the following ways:

Instagram: @Desposca

5280 Angler: 720.450.7291


Or visit her at Anglers All

About The Author

Jill Kana

Jill is in charge of a great deal of our web content here at Denver Outfitters and is always looking for potential blog contributors, content, and #FlyGalFridays. If you have any desire to say hello or have an idea, please touch base with her at

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