Watch the full video below or read on for everything Ken Robak has to share on Littleton Colorado.
Jonathan: Alright! Ken, I think we made it.
Jonathan: Thanks everyone on facebook who’s joining us this afternoon/evening. We are here - live with Ken Robak, Ken's anglers out of Littleton Colorado. Thanks a lot Ken for being here, we're excited to discuss your trips.
Ken: Sure, my pleasure.
Jonathan: We can just start off by asking you to introduce yourself, full name, company name and what river do you operate out of.
Ken: Sure. I'm Ken Robak of Littleton Colorado. I've been doing this for over 30 years. I'm retired so this is my hobby - basically I worked for a bunch of different companies, mostly up in Breckenridge, Colorado. We do basically everything, will do the Colorado the Williamsport, we do basically the Dream Stream - we call it, the Platte, we do Clear Creek, Bear Creek and of course we have our private waters - basically a lot of those and part of the South Platte just come right outside of Denver. What’s unfortunate as a lot of the bookings we had are kind of on hold right now because of the virus situation - but moving forward, we have a lot of trips that I can go out to - that I have permits for.
Jonathan: That's awesome! Very cool! So where did you learn to fly fish? Who introduced you to the sport?
Ken: Basically here in Colorado. I'm retired from a little company called Lockheed Martin. Kind of gentleman there basically got me in fly fishing - he's in human resources. He was a fly fisherman - they tie a lot of flies so I got to get hold of him and he let me doctor it. I don’t tie flies, I don’t have patience in the eye to do that. So I guess I got all my stuff from overseas but he got me going into that and just one thing led to another - I've been to fly fishing school and had a lot of mentors during the way. Then just one day I just said “Before I retire, I'm going to start a business or my hobby” and I've been doing it here after I retired for almost 15 years.
Jonathan: Awesome, that was gonna be my next question. How long have you been guiding and what do you love most about it?
Ken: I think for me, it’s more the interaction with the people that I really enjoy. I teach fly-fishing in a place called the Colorado Mountain Club up in Golden. I just like the aspect of teaching and basically just helping people out.
Jonathan: Very cool! What's your favorite body of water to fish - place?
Ken: US or International?
Jonathan: We’ll go with both, we’ll dig the US first.
Ken: US first, I would say I had a couple of favorites. One will be the Flaming Gorge and then the other one, I would say pretty much close to home - would be a place called Eleven Mile Canyon, which is pretty cool. Overseas, I would say New Zealand.
Jonathan: Can you describe your trips in a little more detail? Are they drift boat trips? Are they strictly wading trips?
Ken: We can do that but I'm an older guy so I just do the Walk & Wade trip. I do basically 1 to 2 people, we do have groups of people - I’ve got 4 other guides that work with me. We basically take 2 up to 12 and we've done that over the years. We do have half days which is 4 hours - we have full days which is 8 hours. Recently I've done women only fly fishing trips - that's been a real success story for me. It's basically a couple of hours of sink tips fly fishing and they're pretty excited when they get done, they'd like to continue it. I did my job in terms of getting there and telling them what to do and then they enjoyed it. It worked out pretty well so basically all walk and wade on the river and stream here and Colorado.
Jonathan: That's awesome! That's what it's all about - getting people to come back, getting them introduced to the sport - very cool! Would you say that your full day trips your most popular or….?
Ken: No! Believe it or not, the most popular is the half day.
Ken: The half day starts basically at 7:30 or 8:00 to 12:00 or 12:30. I think because some of them are new I try not to upsell anything - I tried asking them if they want to do a lesson and they go “No, would rather do something to spend a little more time on the waters” - so we do four hours. But I would say I am 70% half days and 30% full days.
Jonathan: Can you tell us your standard rod and reel combos, what kind of flies you're using out there and techniques you're instructing people.
Ken: Primarily here in Colorado for me at least in my opinion it's basically nothing. We have 9ft - 5wt to 8ft - 4wt piece rods. 5 weights - I don't care where you are in the United States - 5 weights are great. In terms of flies it is based on the season - spring right now, no doubt - stoneflies. As you got later in the year depending on the season - you get to fish the spawn so you can beat some eight patterns. We do some dry flies that's usually between 11 to 12 o'clock or 1:00 maybe a little early evening like 3 to 4:00 for dry flies. No white pmds, pale morning duns, blooming algs, parachute adams and stuff like that. Metric setups, we basically do everything, like from stoneflies, emerger patterns - so basically it depends on the season. I guide basically starting April 1st through November, so you got stones, submit variations in the spring, summer’s gonna be midges and into the fall - midges and some dry fly.
Jonathan: If there's one aspect of your trips that you would say kind of differentiate you from other experiences on the water, what would it be?
Ken: Actually, when I ask them “Where do you want to go?”, a lot of people say “I want to go to Decker’s”. Those areas are really crowded so I just tried to give them the experience where there’s less people - like we’re only ones on the water, either a small creek or stream. Don't get the idea that when you say “fly fishing” there's a thousand people. So I tried to take them to a place thats opened up, nothing too tremendously hard to cast, roll cast or otherwise. I'm a polish guy so I tell them a lot of Polish jokes, so I think they enjoy the company.
Jonathan: Good stuff! There you go! It’s a great color! What's it like for you when you put somebody on their first fish?
Ken: I think I'm more excited and they are, they’re like “Oh, I never expected to catch a fish,” so I guess I'm doing my job; get them out to fish, get the fish in, take a little picture and put the fish right back. We never keep anything, it's always catch and release for me here. I never keep a fish, I always tell people that in terms of good practices “Hey we have other people come here to Colorado like to fly fish. Hopefully you would just have the same idea, catch them, take a picture and put them back. Let somebody else have the opportunity to catch them at some point any time like we do.”
Jonathan: Definitely, that's fantastic! You do it day in and day out, so what gets you up in the morning as a guide?
Ken: I think for me, it’s just more experience with the people that I get to meet and I've met some really wonderful people. It's just outstanding that people have been great, they’ve listened, they want to learn, even some of the experienced fisherman - I've had some experts out there - I might have a couple of little tactics that they don't know about, it's just the idea of maybe teaching one or two things, they get one thing from the day - I'm totally happy with that regardless of if they say they’re not.
Jonathan: That's awesome, especially since a lot of those trips are half days like you said.
Ken: No pressure, I’ll just take them where to catch a fish and they’re the ones to catch them.
Jonathan: Very cool! Are there any individual memories that stand out or some kind of favorite that you had?
Ken: I have to say there's a couple of memories - one it's basically more of the conversations when you’re on the trips. I used to go to this place called La Garita Ranch, out in Creede Colorado - it's a private area. Real quick story. This gentleman was out to see me and he wants to go fly fishing in Creede Colorado. We’re on the water - two half days, I said “What are you here for?”, he said “I own some railroad tracks” then I said “That’s interesting? So what are you here for?”. The guy said “I’m here to talk to the Northern Burlington Train Lines”. Long story-short the guy just leases them the tracks to the tune of 13,000 cars at 4$ a day. I’ll never forget that. It’s just some of the interesting stories when you’re in the water, some people will just open up to you.
Jonathan: So why do you think guiding is important?
Ken: I think just a couple of things. Safety - people go out there not concerned with how fast the water - how high the water is. So I think one is personal safety, I'm here for their safety regardless if we catch a fish or not - that's my number one priority. I think the other one is kind of giving them some ideas of where to fish, where to look for fish, some of the techniques, how to cast but the number one is safety. I never lost anybody in the entire years I've been guiding, nobody went down the river.
Jonathan: That's a win! That's a winner’s bell! How do you feel about the future of fly fishing?
Ken: I think it's pretty damn good, I used to do a bunch of statistics. They have this site out of the United States and it tells you how many people are interested in fishing then they try to categorize them. Over the years I've seen a big progression in fishing in terms of becoming more and more popular with a lot of people. I don't care what age you are, I have young people coming out with me at 7 years old learning how to fly fish. So in terms of just the activity, the sport itself is growing - at least I see it here in Colorado. People tell me all the time that it's expensive, I just tell them “It's expensive if you want it to be. I don't think fly fishing is expensive at all - you can buy gear on eBay or Craigslist. You can buy some used gear or used rods but if you can’t come to me and I’ll be more glad to help you out. It's grown quite a bit even with the women that I take out that come back, they're always asking where do I get rods, boots, waders and so on. It's grown here in Colorado.
Jonathan: Yeah! That’s amazing! I've seen some of those same numbers - we might have to do a blog post about it - both conventional and fly fishing. Next one is, this is actually my favorite question to ask. If you had one more task in your life, what would you throw and where would it be?
Ken: I’d be in New Zealand with a big hopper. Of course I’d be in New Zealand, the big hopper pattern on these really wonderful crystal clear waters you would never believe. The place where you have to be really stealthy, you may be casting 70 to 80 fish. You see the fish, you got to cast them, you scoop that fish, you’ll be walking for miles to see another one. It's the challenge that really excites me.
Jonathan: That’s amazing... very cool! I wanted to ask you about your recent Utah trips, can you talk about the waters that you fish up there?
Ken: Yeah! I just got back. Went up to the Provo, which is great. I stayed lower and the fishing was great so just tailwaters - lots of fish and it's one of those great days. Next I went to a place called Beaver River which is pretty awesome, that's out of place called Minersville - for where we were staying, going there was about an hour and a half. What’s interesting is, it's all private property but you have to get a permit to walk on. That was literally all nymphs, Provo was all nymphs, Beaver is all nymphs and Lees Ferry - there’s nymph there also and that’s basically in Arizona. It was very good! Tailwaters - we love them. I wasn't doing that, I was on the stocked pond in St. George which is kind of interesting. My daughter and granddaughter - we went there to the ponds and catch some fish for ourselves, it was a lot of fun.
Jonathan: It's always good spending time with the family, great! Just a few rapid-fire questions to close out. What's your favorite body of water to fish?
Ken: Here in Colorado, I would say the 11 Mile Canyon. It's a beautiful place!
Jonathan: If you had to be doing something different other than fishing, what would you be doing?
Ken: I'd be knitting something right now or maybe hiking.
Jonathan: Do you have a nickname - if so, how did you get it?
Ken: In school, like I said, I'm polish. There was this company called Sears when I was growing up and Roebuck - I ended up being called Sears. My last name in Polish means “Worm”, I get the so-called “Worm” very often.
Jonathan: Do you have a favorite song or band right now?
Ken: Believe it or not there's this group out of I think it's Australia or New Zealand - it’s called the “KONGOS”. They have a bunch of songs and for me they're pretty good - pretty current. I also like “Dua Lipa” - ever heard of her? She got this pretty song and it's pretty neat. Those are the two right now. I’m not really into techno but I also like Jazz.
Jonathan: No! But I’m making notes and I’ll check them out! How about a favorite movie right now?
Ken: The one about the guy who was running Fox News, I just watched it recently - I forgot!
Jonathan: I really need to work on my pop culture!
Ken: I’m old pop culture but I do have some kind of up-to-date ideas. Do you like watching Homeland?
Jonathan: Yeah, I liked watching that! That’s pretty cool!
Ken: Yeah, that’s a nice show.
Jonathan: Do you have a favorite food?
Ken: I'm not a big fan of Mexican food, I like a lot of soups - Debbie, my wife's downstairs making some soup right now. So I would say soups are pretty high in the list and I like super burgers!
Jonathan: Do you have a favorite drink of choice?
Ken: Believe it or not don't laugh, Diet Mountain Dew.
Jonathan: That's fair enough, how about favorite sports team? Are you a Denver guy or...
Ken: No, not really… Being born and raised in Chicago - I kind of like some of the Chicago teams. I think the Bears - I'm not a big fan but the Bears always kinda see them.
Jonathan: If you can have one superpower, what would it be?
Ken: It's nice to read minds I guess but I would say… I'd like to be invisible. I'm kind of a loner type of a guy, so being invisible is kind of convenient when I want to distance myself in such crowded places.
Jonathan: That's actually a good one! Next one is… What was your last Halloween costume?
Ken: Wow it's been a while that's when I was a kid… I think there was a sheet over my head - wanted to be Casper the ghost.
Jonathan: There you go, perfect! What do you want for Christmas this year?
Ken: I always ask for AMC gift cards, we'd like to go to the theaters. I always ask for that or Dad’s cologne - mint cologne.
Jonathan: That's nice! Just get a big jug of popcorn and a Diet Mountain Dew and you get your movies. That’s awesome! Can you name any of the Seven Dwarfs?
Ken: Oh boy you're really testing me! Dopey that’s the name that I kind of come to mind.
Jonathan: Yeah, Dopey for sure! That one is funny, it always kind of stamps the guide for whatever reason.
Ken: It's actually a good question that brings you to your childhood.
Jonathan: How many pull-ups can you do in a row?
Ken: Oh wow! Right now, I would say maybe one and a half or two.
Jonathan: I can't say you're above average but right at the average.
Ken: That's a kind of thing that I don't normally do - we go to the gym, we work out and stuff. We go up to Red Rocks, we do the stairs. My daughter does that quite a bit.
Jonathan: So you're more of the lower body part guy.
Ken: No… we can just say there’s no specific part of the body but we do work out on a daily basis.
Jonathan: Is LeBron or Michael Jordan the best basketball player ever?
Ken: Of course being Chicago boys - it’s Michael Jordan.
Jonathan: What's the biggest fish you ever caught?
Ken: I would say in Talkeetna Alaska - a king salmon about 80 pounds.
Jonathan: Wow! That's an enormous king salmon! We might have to ask for some pictures on that one.
Ken: Sure! I think I just kinda pulled it out somewhere.
Jonathan: Thanks! Send them my way and we’ll follow up on this. Just to wrap things up, do you want to give a shout out to the troops?
Ken: Yeah! Sure! I'm always supportive of the military, I'm part of Project Healing Waters. I've got a couple of clients who are Vietnam vets - a really good friend of mine but I take them out. I'm a big proponent of the military and what we're doing - being an ex-military guy.
Jonathan: Thanks man! That's really good! We're trying to get as involved as we can with those programs like Project Healing Waters and do things with Captain Experiences - in any way we can help, please just let us know. Thanks for your service Ken.
Ken: I appreciate that!
Jonathan: That kinda wraps it up, anything else do you think we need to be touching on?
Ken: No, I think we’re good.
Jonathan: We really appreciate it Ken, thank you! Keep safe!
Thank you for visiting us here on Captain Experiences with Captain Ken. Here are some pictures from Captain Ken's Littleton Colorado fishing trips.