FFO Guide Amber leach
Amber Leach

River Guide

My name is Amber Leach and I’m starting my 3rd year with Fly Fishing Outfitters. I am a River Guide and professional writer who loves to write about fly fishing, outdoor recreation, and topics in leadership, across all niches.

I was introduced to this incredible sport by a personal friend who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. After the injury, fly fishing was the only thing that brought him true peace, relief, and comfort. I watched in amazement as he was ‘healed’ by nature, one cast at a time. I then knew that the possibilities were endless for other folks who were also walking through their own trials and wanted to help them make a similar and meaningful connection.

I grew up in West Virginia and love to go to my home waters and fish for the native brookies there. They’re some of the most colored-up fish I have ever seen and the fight in them, compared to their size, is unbelievable. There’s something almost sacred about fishing a species that’s been around since the dawn of time. The Vail Valley makes fly fishing available to all anglers of all levels, whether they’re wading or floating. If you’re new to the sport, you’ll find water that will teach, encourage, and inspire you to continue your journey. If you’re a seasoned angler, you’ll find technical water that will challenge you to be better than you were the day before. There’s truly something for everyone at every level.

I recommend the Vail Valley to someone who hasn’t fly fished before because of the endless diversity of the opportunities to fish there. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it right here. You can float all day to a remote section of water that’s otherwise difficult to access or fish a local park just to get a feel for the sport. Whatever your goals are as a novice angler, you’ll always find someone close by who’s willing to help you on your journey.

The best part of sharing my knowledge and experience with others is how humbling it always is to share anything with someone who comes seeking information, knowledge, or wisdom.  I have become a better angler and guide with each opportunity to do so. As a result of the trust that others place in my abilities, I feel able to encourage and inspire folks that might not otherwise find the confidence to pursue something like fly fishing, thus making their lives richer and more robust.

My undergraduate degree is in education and my graduate degree is in communication. Being a river guide marries those two fields and gives me the opportunity to engage with folks that are always eager to learn. Personally, my role as the Southeastern Assistant Regional Director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and my role as Lead Mentor for The Mayfly Project keep me connected on multiple levels to this industry. Conservation, responsible angling, clean water, and access for all are common topics of conversation, no matter the client.

New fishermen on guided trips come to the river with preconceived notions about fly fishing, their own abilities, or what to expect. It’s important to me that I learn where each angler is in their journey, what their concerns are, and what THEY hope to learn (as opposed to what I hope to teach). Listening is just as important as talking on a guided trip. If we’re not on the same page, their day won’t be enjoyable. I like to emphasize that anyone can become an angler; there are no magic formulas or secrets to overnight success. Therefore, my ideal client is anyone with a teachable spirit and a desire to learn, from 8-80. I don’t know everything, but I do know some things that can help everyone.

My advice to a struggling fly fisherman is that we all have our own journey and success doesn’t happen without failing first. We ALL struggle, no matter how much time we have on the water (guides included). It’s part of the growth process. Comparing your experiences to ANYTHING on social media will only set you up for disappointment, so be mindful of who and what you’re looking to for advice or encouragement.

Most clients wish to develop skills such as tying knots or choosing a fly. I have discovered that such skills are developed over time and build on each preceding experience. I can introduce those things, but that type of knowledge is compounding and something that takes time to master. The best thing I can do for clients on the water is offer encouragement, provide opportunities to develop confidence in their own abilities, and lead by example. If someone leaves the river excited about their day and motivated to pursue their next experience, I’ve done my job.