On the fly: Photos urge anglers to look deeper

There’s nothing quite as impressive as a colorful brown trout caught from the crystalline waters of the West’s rivers. Photographer and angler Mark Lance will share some of his images this weekend during the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Having a four-legged Sherpa carrying your equipment on a high-country fishing trip opens new vistas to wandering anglers. Photographer Mark Lance caught this moment in the Colorado Rockies when his wife Sharon tops a pass with a lake below.

Angler and photographer Mark Lance encourages fly fishers to “look past the nose” of the fish to the landscapes around them.

Photographer Mark Lance strives to capture the spirit of the beautiful places trout live in, such as the broad landscapes of the Madison River valley in Montana. Lance is the featured speaker Saturday at the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition.

A winter’s float trip can be filled with beauty as well as solitude. Photographer Mark Lance will share other images of the landscapes of fly fishing during his slide show Saturday at the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition.

There’s no agreement about who first said trout don’t live in ugly places.

But there aren’t any arguments about the statement being true.

Pore through the images Mark Lance has made of the places trout and other sport fish live and you’ll be understand why, as Henry David Thoreau once said, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

Lance, 58, an angling photographer, author and owner of River Light Images in Centennial, will be the featured guest Friday and Saturday at the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition.

IF YOU GO: Flyfishing expo includes seminars, tiers, demos and more

Among the images he will show and speak about at Saturday night’s banquet are the expansive landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park, Montana’s Madison River and Patagonia as well as seascapes with billfish leaping out of the sapphire-blue waters near Costa Rica.

Marveling at his work, you’ll wonder why you ever spend time in the city.

Being an angler himself and married to Sharon Lance, an avid and well-known angler in her own right and former president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, Mark Lance has the insight to focus his camera on the people who search out those places, as much for the fish as for the beauty of the land and sea.

Of course, there are images of the fish themselves, ostensibly the reason why anglers collectively spend millions of dollars each year for something called “catch and release.”

It makes you wonder who is being caught.

“I often think of that quote that trout don’t live in ugly places because so many places you find trout are such beautiful places,” Lance said during a recent conversation. “I don’t know if it’s happenstance, but I think it’s because they all go together — all the flora and fauna and the trout — they all are part of those places.”

It’s bringing all those facets together, showing how they are related and even umbilically connected that pushes Lance to record what he sees.

“Part of my slide show will be making the important connection between the landscape, the rivers and the fish we are drawn to,” he said. “As fly fishers we tend to pick a stream and go fish our brains out, having a great time but never looking past the nose of the trout.”

Lance is not shy about being a conservationist and supporting the causes espoused by Trout Unlimited’s simple philosophy: Take care of the fish and the fishing will take care of itself.

And it runs in the family. Sharon Lance, a member of the Trout Unlimited board of trustees, in 2010 was awarded Trout Unlimited’s highest volunteer award for her efforts toward conserving cold-water fisheries.

“I try to tie the story about trout needing a healthy environment and landscape and the many values of that landscape back into Trout Unlimited’s mission of ‘conserving, protecting and restoring’ cold water fisheries,” Mark Lance said.

His venture in outdoor photography began years ago as a hobby “that soon got out of hand,” he said with a laugh.

“I started goofing off with photography after my grandfather brought me a used Nikon camera from one of his trips overseas,” Lance said. “I started shooting every chance I could when I was going to school at Western State College” in Gunnison, from which he graduated with a degree in geology.

“Personally, I’m attracted to the landscape because I’m still a geologist in my work-a-day life,” Lance said. “And as a photographer I’m drawn to landscapes’ beauty in an artistic sense.”

“I had a great interest in photography for many years, and when my wife and I married, fly fishing became the catalyst for us to travel and do thing together,” he said. “Fly fishing has really brought us together.”

Fly fishing has taken the Lances around the world, which adds to the dilemma when Mark Lance is asked to pick one or two special places.

After much hemming and hawing, more than a few minutes of head scratching, a “gee whiz” or two and general stalling, he admitted there might not be just one or two but several dozen.

“That’s really a tough one,” he said.

“I would probably have more time to fish if I stayed in Colorado, it has the most spectacular landscapes we’ve seen anywhere, but if resources were unlimited I’d probably hop on a plane to Patagonia.

“I really enjoy the culture and people there. Plus they have this giant salmonid called a taimen.”

And the wine, too.

“Oh yeah, the malbec is icing on the cake, for sure,” Lance laughed. “But I do love the Andes and the fantastic fisheries and the spirit of the people we visited.”

Lance said it’s that spirit that drives anglers to “look past the nose” of the fish to the landscapes around us.

“Fly fishing can get us to those places,” he said. “The journey can be that much richer if we stop for just a little while to protect that other part of the journey.”

Lance will attend the expo Friday and Saturday and is scheduled to speak and display his photos during the banquet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.


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