New anglers read water in Alpine County |

New anglers read water in Alpine County

by Barbara Barton
Special to The R-C

Since she was 4 years old, Judy Wickwire has been fishing the lakes and streams of Alpine County. For the past 45 years she has shared her love of fly fishing with others through Horse Feathers Fly Fishing School.

Judy’s fishing philosophy is simple — “preserve the resource.” She has been committed to this for many years: using responsible fishing practices, teaching conservation and restoration, and working with environmental groups that protect the rivers, lakes, and streams of Alpine County. These include The Alpine Watershed Group and the Friends of Hope Valley, sponsors of the Alpine Aspen Festival.

Judy’s goal is for people to learn a new skill that is fun and makes them feel good. She is now teaching the third generation of people she has taught to fly fish – something that gives her enormous satisfaction. Her classes include cancer survivors (men, women and children) and veterans. She also conducts classes for disabled people at special platforms in Hope Valley. “Anyone can learn to fly fish,” she said.

Horse Feather classes can be two, three or four hours and include from one to six people. Each session consist of three steps:

1) Handling the rod. Judy brings five or six rods (slow to fast) that participants try out to see which “fits” them best.

2) Students do repetitive exercises in a meadow until they are comfortable performing six or seven types of casts. Judy also discusses insects and fly selection.

3) On to the water, where students are taught to “read the water” — which involves assessing and solving problems. Then it’s time to try out all the casts they have learned.

Fly fishing need not be expensive. Judy said she is not a “gear hound” and is amused by how many people show up for her classes with all the latest gear. “Not necessary,” she says. For a minimal investment, one can have a lifetime of enjoyment. Most important, of course, is a good rod. But it doesn’t have to be expensive; it just needs to feel right.

You can join Judy for a semi-private lesson at the Alpine Aspen Festival this weekend in Hope Valley. To reserve a spot with her, and to see all the activities available with other outdoor experts (horseback riding, guided hikes, and much more), visit Also check out the free activities, which include nature hikes, music, and environmental exhibits.