The Western Native Trout Challenge, launched this year, requires anglers to fish across the West, catching and photographing native species. There are three levels of the challenge. The Expert level requires you to catch six species in fours states; Advanced level requires 12 species across eight states; and the Master level requires 18 species in 12 states. As part of Orvis’s support of the challenge, the first male, female, and youth anglers to complete each level will receive a Helios 3 fly rod.
So far, we have introduced you to the first angler to hit the Expert Level, the first Advanced Caster, and the first female angler to hit the Expert (and probably Advanced) Level. Now we’ve got a our first under-18 fly fisher to achieve the Expert level–13-year-old Oliver Sheridan of Casa Grande, Arizona.
1. How long have you been fly fishing, and how did you get started?
I started fly fishing in 2015. My dad used to be a guide before moving to Arizona and was always asking if I wanted to learn. But what gave me the push was I actually won a complete setup at the annual banquet of the fly-fishing club our family was members of. My first fish was a Gila trout on that rod using one of the flies my dad had tied back in 2015.
2. What made you want to do the Western Native Trout Challenge?
When I turned 13, my dad and grandpa, who lives in Chicago, planned a trip to Montana and Wyoming to backpack and make memories as a boys’ trip. About that time, the Western Native Trout Initiative was announcing the challenge, so we all signed up. My dad and I were able to catch several species on that trip including the Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat.
3. How did you plan your trips to catch the most species?
Well the Montana and Wyoming trip was easy, since we were already going to be there. The other states–New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado–took a little more work. My dad had previously completed the challenge so had a good understanding of the water and best flies to use. We ended up taking a four-day road trip, where we put over 1700 miles on his truck and ate Pop-Tarts for basically every meal.
4. What was your favorite experience of the Challenge?
My favorite experience was catching the Colorado River cutthroat because the water was super clear, and I was able to catch them multiple ways. Plus it was the last species I needed, so completing the first stage of the challenge. As we were leaving, we stopped by the alpine slides to celebrate.
5. What advice would you give someone just starting out on the Challenge?
Catching native wild trout is very rewarding, but you have to be stealthy, patient, and know the creeks and fish can be small.