Stories From Afield • Updated Thu, Jun 1, 2023
Alec Lucas grew up in North Carolina and started fishing when he learned how to walk. His parents, both avid outdoorsmen, frequently took their family on excursions to inland waterways, as well as the occasional trip to the Carolina lowcountry.
c/o Alec Lucas
Fly fishing was almost always a part of Alec’s angling repertoire. “I picked up a fly rod when I was around 7 years old,” he remembers. “Immediately, I fell in love with it.” Since then, that passion has stuck with Alec through adulthood and certainly transcended the bounds of a simple hobby. Fly fishing has given him a career, fostered meaningful relationships with people across the globe as an international guide, and inspired a lifelong passion for the outdoors. “It’s always felt like I could go anywhere in the world and have a friend through fly fishing.”
That default sense of familiarity when meeting a fellow angler is a special feeling — even more so in settings where you least expect it. A small dose of angling anecdotes and fishy lingo can quickly make close friends of complete strangers — regardless of backgrounds, creeds, or politics. This camaraderie played a large role in Alec’s pursuit of guiding after he moved to Colorado on a whim. “I started sweeping floors and sleeping on a couch at Minturn Anglers in Minturn, Colorado,” Alec remembers. “I had no money, but Joe Halovanic and Dave Budniakiewicz gave me the opportunity to prove myself — to introduce others to my passion for fly fishing. At the time, I wasn’t in a great place and was a little lost, but guiding gave me a purpose. My job creates moments that I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world. Sharing special experiences with people on the water is what made me want to become a guide. I hope that by taking people out to catch trout, marlin, and everything in between, they get to see something that could ultimately change their lives.”
Since his move to Colorado from North Carolina, Alec has guided there for 7 years. “It’s been an amazing journey and presented a lot of opportunities,” he admits. “I’ve been inspired by others and pushed myself further than I thought possible.” After working for a handful of operations, Alec started Southern Roots Outfitters LLC 2 years ago in New Castle, Colorado. “My intention was to keep it small,” Alec notes, “and to offer a genuine experience, rather than getting people in and out of the boat as quickly as possible.” Establishing his business was no small task, but once Alec realized he could do it, there was nothing stopping him in his mind. “I wanted to run my trips how I wanted, and I definitely had a lot of people challenge my vision for starting a business at such a young age.” Alec was only 25 at the time. “It truly gave me a new perspective. People that were previously so supportive of me suddenly wanted to hold me back. I learned the key to true friendship is to treat those around you with respect, and if they are genuine people they will reciprocate. The best approach to a contentious situation is to remain cordial, ask questions, and listen. This ideology really helped me accomplish what I envisioned for the business during that time.”
Business politics aside, Southern Roots has endured a number of environmental challenges, especially over the past few years. “Our resource was severely impacted by the Glenwood Canyon Fires in 2020,” Alec explains. “We had mudslides, low, hot water and a lot of fish kills and habitat damage. It seems like this type of occurrence is going to become even more common, so my responsibility as an outfitter is incredibly important to the fishery. Yes, we’re a business, but at the same time we have to keep in mind the effect that we as guides have on the rivers.” This resource-first mentality is central to Alec’s decisions as he scales his business. “I don’t want to be another corporate fly shop pumping 60 trips a day through the same stretch of river,” he explains. “Sure, I have some room for growth, but right now I am perfectly content with the success of my company the way it is.” Alec has abstained from fishing trout in late Summer, when he strongly believes that the water temperatures aren’t typically sustainable for the fishery in Colorado. Instead, he’s taken that time to explore elsewhere — mainly in Mexico, where he works at Los Locos Mag Bay in Baja. Los Locos is an operation run by George VanDercook and Rudy Babikian, specializing in sight casting to striped marlin on mackerel and sardine bait balls with fly gear. Alec feels that the Los Locos team has built one of the most unique fly fishing experiences on the planet. “I truly feel appreciative to be a part of that project,” he says. “I know that we as a team still have so much to accomplish there.”
While environmental challenges on his home waters afford Alec the opportunity to travel as a silver lining, guiding internationally comes along with its own host of challenges. “The biggest challenge is finding stability,” Alec admits. “It’s constant travel, and separation from friends and family. When you travel this much, it’s hard to maintain a home. I ultimately value what I do more than being tied to one place, so it is a blessing and curse. But I wouldn’t trade this life for all the money in the world.” Alec believes that his choices are crucial to a life well-lived, and envisions spending the heart of his adulthood exploring new places, experiencing new cultures, and making friends in far-flung places. Still, Alec acknowledges that it will always remain difficult to be apart from family and close friends. “This lifestyle is very demanding of our time, and when we have a moment to breathe we usually find ourselves jumping back on a plane. When we do get home, though, those moments often feel a whole lot sweeter.”
Alec’s guiding straddles two very disparate worlds, so he has found AnyCreek tremendously helpful for managing his two lives in concert. “AnyCreek helps me streamline my outfitter business. Now, I can stay organized with my bookings, deposits, and marketing — even when I’m abroad.” The transition from brown trout in drift boats to marlin in pangas certainly presents a number of stark contrasts, but Alec welcomes the change of pace. Plus, he finds his favorite quarry draws him back south season after season. “My favorite species to guide people on is roosterfish,” Alec explains. “There is nothing like chasing marlin or big brown trout on streamers, but ultimately a rooster on the fly gets my blood pumping like nothing else. When I tease in a hot fish for a client, comb out of the water, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. They are the most badass and mysterious fish in my mind. We know relatively little about the species collectively. They can be similar to permit in their selectiveness, but they heavily out-punch permit in their ferocity when they decide to commit to your fly. Roosters are the best.”
As much as Alec loves to fish himself, his love for guiding transcends the catch. “I could catch all the fish on the planet but without sharing that experience with others, it wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling,” he explains. “Plus, now when I do get the time to fish myself, it feels so special.” In those rare moments when Alec’s calendar is open, he likes to allow wanderlust to take him off the beaten path. “There are fish to hunt in places most others aren’t even thinking about, and I’m here to see it all,” he states. Alec tries to share his thirst for adventure with all of his clients. “I want to show them what it's like to just be in the scene, because through my eyes, it’s quite the spectacle. I want them to feel challenged on the hunt and engaged with something they haven’t experienced before. I want them to feel that they are going on an adventure, and if they have a mission, let’s chase it! I don’t want them to feel like they just booked another tourist attraction for 4-8 hours. I want them to see what I see.”
Even with all of his fishing travels, Alec feels he will always look to Colorado as home for family and his business. “I have a great partner in Pierce Klingbiel, who guides with me at home and as we grow together, I hope to add a couple more like-minded guides to the Southern Roots Outfitters roster.” With the help of AnyCreek’s tools, Alec feels confident that he is well on the way to growing his business back home without compromising his travel abroad.
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