How I Hit the Fly Shop Lottery :: Cutthroat Anglers

I purchased Cutthroat Anglers just over a year ago and I've had serious writer's block trying to put together the words to summarize my journey with this amazing group.  This blog is my best shot at telling a condensed story of purchasing Cutthroat Anglers and why I believe this is one of the premier shops in the greater Rocky Mountains. 


Please go VOTE in Summit Daily's Best of Summit awards.  We are nominated for Best Fly Fishing Outfitter and we have 7 of the 12 Best Guide nominations. 


 Let me prefice this with a couple of things.  I did not start Cutthroat Anglers nor build the team that is here today.  I did not contribute to our permitted water nor the growth in our guide operation.  I purchased the shop as a standing/established business and am lucky enough to be in a position that entails selling our products and continuing to build the brand that is Cuthroat Anglers.  I am likely undeserving but here we are.  All that being said, I will tell you why there is no other fly shop like Cutthroat Anglers..



Photographer Doug Hensel


I wanted to buy a fly fishing shop for a couple of reasons.  I really love fishing and providing a product that makes people happy has always been the end goal.  I worked in health care for 10 years and the job was to outsource hospital billing work to shared service centers, 75% of which was in India.  Let's just say I wasn't making too many people happy.  Fly fishing to me is something very pure that will never get old.  I believe fishing can heal things medicine cannot and it changes people's perspective on life.  Anglers will protect the world more, care less about materialistic things, learn to slow life down a bit and appreciate the little things. 


Having learned to fly fish in Colorado only a few short years ago, I went through all the standard speed bumps beginner anglers must navigate out here.  Colorado is a difficult place as a first timer and there is an overwhleming amount of information to digest.  Fly shops are a primary source of information and most anglers out there have witnessed some typle of resistance to newcomers in the sport.  Eventually, I saw this as an opportunity and wanted to find and/or help build a culture welcoming to all anglers..


Truth by told, I never got to meet the Cutthroat Anglers team prior to buying the shop.  Jim Buckler and I kept the due diligence process as quiet as possible in the hopes we would not disrupt the business.  I spent 3 days in the shop counting inventory as an "independent consultant" and that was my only interaction with the shop team.  Zero interaction with the guides but I was told they were talented by non-biased individuals in the industry.  


Overall, I've been blown away by the fly fishing talent in Summit County .  People are obsessed and very good at what they do out here.  But somehow, Jim Buckler passed the torch and helped me purchase the shop.  Little did I know, I hit the fly shop lottery and here is why..


300+ Miles of Water Access 


Photographer Doug Hensel


One of the first projects Reed Ryan (Head Guide) and I worked on was mapping out all of our water access in a cheat sheet.  Where the water was, type of river, type of permit and how many miles each stretch is.  The result was +300 miles of permitted rivers, reservoirs, creeks and private water.  Cutthroat Anglers can guide more water than most Colorado fly fishing outfitters.  While this is still a theory, I'd argue we have the most permitted water in the Rocky Mountains including THE Colorado River, Blue River, Eagle River, Arkansas, Roaring Fork, Tenmile Creek, Muddy Creek, Swan, South Platte, Elevenmile Res, Spinney Res, Antero Res, Williams Fork.  The list goes on and our water access provides our guides and our clients a plethora of options to choose from..


207,000 Flies


Photographer Doug Hensel


It took us 6 weeks to count the 207,000 flies we had in inventory as of December, 2019.  Our fly selection has been eye opening and is a solid reminder how much I still have to learn.  This fly selection has been dialed over 20 years via guide and shop staff R&D.  We test flies on the water and our custom fly selection provides our guides the secret sauce that is part of our recipe for success.  I was most surprised when I started seeing fly fishing guides from all the Summit County and Vail Valley shops coming here to shop for flies.  "You guys have it all" is often the quote.


Shop Staff 


Photographer Doug Hensel


Kory Lewis, Jacob Lutz, Chris Refakis, Harlan Kimball, and Jared Hawn are a one of a kind full time shop crew.  So much experience (+70 years combined) and still such a strong love for fishing within the group.  My favorite part about this crew is everyone has unique talents.  From art, to fly tying, to year round tailwater hunting, this crew lives fly fishing and does it 365 days a year.  I learn something from our shop team every day and try to digest every strategy/location these guys discuss.  We get to spend a fare amount of time on the water outside of the shop and I consider this group family.


Head Guide



I took a trip down to Rio Epic Outfitters to fish with Will Blanchard on the Rio for a couple of days earlier this year.  Will is good friends with our Head Guide, Reed Ryan, and started his own outfitting operation.  Reed came up as we were chatting shop and I'll never forget Will's comments.  Something along the lines of "You have no idea how lucky you are to have Reed Ryan as your Head Guide.  He is the best in the business".  This coming from a guy that helped develop a world class outfitting operation means a lot.  Reed is constantly exploring new fisheries and looking to grow our guide trip offering.  He is equally focused on providing world class experiences for our clients while taking care of our fishing guides.    


Guide Team 


Photographer Doug Hensel

Where to start on this one.  Holy cow this crew is good.  Our guide roster consists of 16 guides that work full time.  Culture trickles down from leadership and Mitch Melichar, Reed Ryan, Brandon Omahen, Jimi Omori and Adam Morgan make up the best top 5 guides you will find in Colorado.  Hard to argue with 115 years of combined experience between 5 guys.   But it doesn't stop with them.  I have a high level of confidence in every single person on our roster.  We are solid from top to bottom and our seasoned veterans share information with our younger guides and vise versa.  Our guide pool talent is the most unknown strength of our business, especially in areas like Denver.  Hoping to change that! 


At the end of the day, I feel very fortunate to be a part of Cutthroat Anglers and am extremely proud of our team this year.  We are extremely grateful for our clients that have been fishing with us for years and those that come to us for advice as newcomers.  It is our job to provide good information and a world class fishing experience and we will keep busting our butts to continually improve.


If you agree with anything I just said, please go VOTE in Summit Daily's Best of Summit awards.  We are nominated for Best Fly Fishing Outfitter and we have 7 of the 12 Best Guide nominations.  Cutthroat Anglers has won this award the last 7 years and I would like to keep the trend going.  Thank you for your support!


Thanks for reading, 

Ben McCormick

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