Sharon Lance

Sharon Lance

The heroine of Colorado's Cheesman Canyon

  • By: Jack Sayers
She's only been at the fly-fishing game since 1994, when her husband Mark, then her boyfriend, invited her to join him on a late fall trip to Montana's Bighorn River. However, that trip was enough to securely hook her on the sport. Averaging, in those early days, 70 days on the water each year, Sharon has covered most of the major lakes and streams in the Rockies, has made two raft trips in Alaska, and undertaken four blue-water adventures to Costa Rica for sailfish on a fly, three to Mexico's east coast for bonefish and permit, as well as trips to Chile and the Bahamas. She's so proficient at handling a drift boat, LaMoyne Hyde, owner of Hyde Driftboats says, "She can row for me anytime."

Sharon became my fly-fishing heroine back in February of 2001 when, after a 45 minute sweat-stained struggle with a world-record sailfish, she preferred a simple snapshot of her catch to a mounted trophy and bragging rights. She told me, "Jack, I can't kill the fish." This was just one of nine large sails she landed in four days of fishing.

Her passion for the environment has matched, in intensity, her time on the water. She immediately joined Mark's Trout Unlimited chapter and signed up for duty as treasurer. A few years later she assumed the presidency of the Cutthroat Chapter in Denver, Colorado, and was quite successful in obtaining grant money for specific stream projects. Denny Bohon, a Colorado Forest Service fishieries biologist, approached Sharon 1999 about the need for a Cheesman Canyon restoration project. She asked Sharon to arrange for the funding and to recruit the many volunteers necessary to rebuild the trail system in the canyon.

Work commenced in 1997 but was disrupted for a year because of the devastating Hayman fire that scorched the area. Work on this project is still ongoing but nearing completion. Over $300,000 in lottery and grant funds has been raised to date. The Budweiser beer folks, who nominated her as one of their four environmentalists of the year in 2003, were impressed with her dedication to this project.

In 2002, she became a vice president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, a consortium of some 18 chapters, and became president in April 2004. One of her first projects was to establish some youth education camps on the front range. She began a fall conservation camp in conjunction with the Boy Scouts, teens and parents from Colorado Youth Outdoors and the help of volunteers from nearby chapters of TU. She was instrumental in holding a three-day workshop in October that covered stream etiquette, catch-and-release, beginning casting, elementary entomology and environmental ethics. She's hopeful CTU can hold a similar camp on the western end of the state next year and run a number of these programs each year.

"Eventually," she says, "The teens would be staff members and the teachers of the future. My vision is to take this national." Knowing her determination to get things done, I wouldn't bet against it. And, did I mention she is a financial advisor by profession and has been battling breast cancer since 2001?

Would you like to publish an article about your own fly fishing hero? Send your manuscript-no longer than the one above-along with a couple of good color slides or prints to Fly Rod&Reel Magazine, Ford Presents: River Keepers, PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843. If we use it in this space, we'll pay you $200; otherwise, we'll do our best to publish it online at www.flyrodreel.com, with your byline.