Boulder’s Noah Shapiro, left, and Max Logan pose with the fish they caught. The two teens were part of the six-member U.S. team that won a gold medal in July at the annual Cortlandt World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (image courtesy)
Boulder’s Max Logan, 17, and Noah Shapiro, 19, began fly fishing in Boulder Creek while in grade school, and have gone on to become competitive teenage anglers.
They were part of the six-member American team that won the gold medal at the annual Cortlandt Youth World Fly Fishing Championships in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In all, 66 teens from 13 countries competed in July in angling in rivers and lakes. The US team caught 397 fish in the five-day competition.
“We were trying to do the math (of the results) in our heads and we thought we’d won,” Logan said. “We were all in disbelief and shock until we saw the final result. We were so excited. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Logan and Shapiro were selected to compete in Bosnia among the 16 members of the United States Youth Fly Fishing Team, which competes in fly fishing nationally and internationally.
They also won a Colorado-based fly fishing tournament called Mile High 25 in June after competing against 50 all-age teams, while Logan won a Vail Valley GoPro Games youth fly-casting competition that same month.
For the global competition, the US team traveled to Bosnia two weeks ahead of schedule to train with local mentors. Once the competition started, they worked until the early hours of the morning, tying hundreds of flies and exchanging ideas.
Staying mentally strong is the most challenging part of competitions, Logan said.
“If you lose a fish or get a bad piece of water, you still have to get out there and do to the best of your ability,” he said.
Both spent months preparing for the competition. Shapiro, who graduated from Boulder High School and took a year off to focus on fishing, said balancing schoolwork and hunting practice has been challenging.
He said he was spending an average of 40 hours a week on training, including tying flies, researching fly fishing, and visiting clinics. Before graduation, he would take his gear to school and fish in Boulder Creek during his lunch hour at Boulder High School.
“It became a bit of a grind,” he said. “But we knew, hopefully, that one day it would pay off.”
Logan, a senior at Niwot High, switched to the online Boulder Universal program this past school year so he had more flexibility to prepare for the competition.
“I used to study 15 hours a day for two days, and then go fishing the other five days of the week,” he said.
He said he liked the intricacy of fly fishing, and found that while he struggled to focus on most things, “the only thing I could do for about 12 hours was fish.”
For serious practice, they fish in a variety of rivers, although their favorite is the Colorado River in the mountains.
“We fish all over the place,” said Logan. “You want to expose yourself to as many different scenarios as possible. Always hunt with people who are better than you and they’ll put you in your shoes. You can always learn from others.”
Shapiro added that every day presents a new experience and challenge, even if it is in the same fishing spot.
“Every time you fish, you enter a new puzzle,” he said.
Shapiro plans to continue competing in adult fly fishing competitions and enroll at the University of Waikato in New Zealand starting in February. Logan hopes to participate in the world championship competition next summer in the Czech Republic. Both also serve as guides with Galvin Guiding.
“It’s a beautiful sport with many levels of complexity,” Shapiro said. “We can learn continually over the next 65 years, but we will never come close to knowing everything.”