For Richard Munoz of Delta, Colo., “There is nothing quite like the thrill of catching big trout in high mountain lakes. It’s a rush to hike in and find pockets of water where those fish have been hiding for a time. To be able to sneak up on some Colorado River Cutthroats is a thrill, especially when you hook one that is up to 20-inches long. But,” adds this lifelong resident and avid outdoorsman, “the experience of landing something on a fly that you’ve tied yourself adds a whole new feeling to the game.”
Fly fishing and fly tying are two of the greatest loves of Richard’s life — this, of course, after his wife of 16 years, Annette, who enjoys going along whenever he heads for the water. “My dad, Richard B. Munoz, taught me how to fish when I was a very small boy and I picked up my first fly rod around the age of 10, learning how to ‘roll cast’ (meaning that your line rolls on top of the water) while we were on the Gunnison River. I thought it was amazing to watch the line shoot out, floating with the flies. It was pure enjoyment. To try and imitate the food source of the fish was better than using worms or any other bait that I could put on a hook.” By 12, young Richard had gotten so hooked, himself, that he started tying flies of his own — this after losing so many that he began doing extra work around the family farm to help support the habit. (“They’d just raised the price of each to a $1.00 in the bait shops”, he reminisced.) That money also helped him to buy his first Jackson Cardinal Fly Tying Kit along with a Jack Dennis Western Trout Fly Tying Manual, both of which not only “turned on a light” in him but also brought out a creative side that he’d never known before.
It took some time, but practicing with the kit and book helped Richard to catch his first fish on a fly that he’d made himself. “The feeling of landing it was so great that it was better than any hunting I had ever done,” he exclaims. (“You put your flies in their environment while you are on the outside, and cannot even look in to see how they are moving. I’ve had to take the time and training to learn water currents, and how to move the fly line to get the drag-free drift.”) The skill was honed more when, as a teen, Richard was taken to the Grand Mesa by his Uncle Ray one fall for some night fly fishing. “It has over 300 lakes, and it was awesome to hike back into some of them and learn how to cast in the dark.”
But it was a man named Roy Maudlin — a commercial tier with over 40 years of experience — who REALLY helped get things off the ground for the young sportsman. Then 16, Richard met him at a yard sale where he was selling off some of his fly tying materials. “I bought a lot of stuff that day and he told me to come watch him tie sometime. It was amazing how fast he went! We spent some valuable time together and he really honed my skills as well as getting me started on dreams of making flies out of the new materials that were coming out each year.” At that time, the most popular ones in use were made of rabbit fur, fox fur and barnyard chicken feathers, but these days fishermen also have access to synthetics and genetic feathers that are brightly colored.
Richard “loves all the new materials to tie with” and has been experimenting with different designs now for 28 years. In the spring of 2002, after meeting feather expert Tom Whiting at a fly fishing expo in Grand Junction, Colo., he created his own Ultra Spey Leech by using some of those. (He now works as Tom’s Sales Coordinator on Whiting Farms, which breeds exotic roosters for their feathers.) “Over the years, the original design has been refined after being tested on the Colorado, the Gunnison, the Green and the San Juan Rivers. It has also been tested in Pyramid Reservoir in Nevada by my friends Mike Allen and Scott Poteet. I’ve caught many different types of trout on this fly, including some in the 24- to 26-inch size range in the Black Canyon National Park ... fish go for the movement of it.” They also seem strongly attracted by the colors, which range from magenta to black to olive, as well as the “flash” in the tail and the shiny finish that is added to each fly’s head. Finally, in order to allow the fly to sink evenly, a weight is added in the middle of the hook shank which prevents the nose from going down.
Currently, Richard is working with another friend in Alaska “on some different color combinations for Salmon. I hope to know more once they are field tested,” but of course, that will first mean a trip to the ultimate sportsman’s paradise. In the meantime, he keeps in practice by holding tying seminars for local fly fishing shops, plus he does demonstrations at local fly fishing shows. As for the upcoming, warmer weekends, chances are good that you might find him wading around somewhere up on Grand Mesa or along a local river. ❖