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Exclusive Interview with April Archer of Colorado-Based SaraBella Fishing

April Archer

SaraBella Fishing is a female-focused fly rod company in Colorado that aims to create a smart-beautiful fishing experience, and it does just that.

Over the past year, SaraBella Fishing has gained traction with fly fishing community for its brand of ‘smart-beautiful fishing’ directed to the female fly fisher. Featured on ABC 7 Denver in October, April spoke to her rise as a leading female figure in the fly fishing community and how she hopes to change the notions of women in the sport.

In addition, SaraBella Fishing was featured in Forbes’ recent “Small Business Can Do Well By Doing Good” article that spoke to SaraBella’s personal touch of local manufacturing that utilizes skilled manual labor in their highly customizable, beautifully crafted fly fishing rods.

With the buzz circulating around the brilliant company, it’s clear that 2016 will be an even larger year for SaraBella Fishing’s reputation and growth. I had the opportunity to talk with CEO April Archer to discuss what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated sport, and how she is using her mission at SaraBella Fishing to create a better fishing environment for her daughters.

April Archer
April Archer

WOS: Fly fishing is a sport that takes a lifetime to learn. How much practice would you say you’ve had? Do you have any encouraging words for newcomers to the sport, or those anglers who are sometimes frustrated?

April Archer: I began fishing when I was a toddler. Fly fishing came into my life about 15 years ago. I had finished college when my boyfriend (now husband) and I began fly fishing. We bought all the necessary gear and hired guides a few times. We wanted to learn how to fly fish, so we asked a lot of questions, learned as much as we could, and ventured out on our own. We read books, practiced knots, practiced casting, and fell in in love with the sport.

For newcomers, I commend you! Welcome to the sport of fly fishing! Find a buddy – a friend, significant other, a fishing club, etc. You might be able to carpool, ask questions, trade flies, and have fun with other anglers. You can learn a lot if you’re willing to reach out! Remember to breathe, learn, have fun. The privilege to fly-fish is spectacular. If you approach each day with gratitude and joy, I promise you’ll have more fun.

WOS: What was one of your best days/favorite memories on the stream so far? It could be the time you took your girls fishing for the first time, or you caught 12 trout by yourself, or anything.

AA: I have had so many wonderful moments! I cherish the memory of the first fish I caught with all 3 of my daughters alongside. My youngest had just turned 1, and we were camping near Crested Butte. This was spectactular – as a Mom and as an angler.

We have a special place in Wyoming where our late dog, Carver, loved to fish. We call this particular stretch of water, “Heaven”, since we catch fish there every time we visit. It’s truly amazing.

April Archer's daughter out on the streams.
April Archer’s daughter out on the streams.

WOS: What was the most frustrating moment you’ve experienced as a female angler in a male-directed sport?  

AA: One time I handed a business card to a man, and he said, “YOU’RE the CEO of SaraBella Fishing? I have never met a woman who builds fly rods!” Although that comment was honest, it wasn’t frustrating. It reminded me that breaking down some barriers and taking the time to meet people is critical to this journey. This man has been very supportive of our business and our mission to support female anglers.

My most frustrating moments have been in countless fly shops when the staff pay more attention to my husband (as if I’m not a legitimate customer) or steer me to the small section of pink items that they carry (they’re pink so he thinks I’ll like them). I shouldn’t have to puff up my tail feathers to march in with confidence. I shouldn’t have to write out my list of questions to not feel intimidated. Thanks to the shops who hire female anglers as guides and on the sales floor. Cheers to companies who are working to make great products for women (Patagonia, Maven Fly, Simms). We’ve got a long way to go, and intelligent shops will begin to respect females as customers, anglers, and humans will improve these experiences.

WOS: I noticed that on your About Me, you’ve fished everywhere from Colorado to Mexico to Chile. What has been your favorite spot to fish?

AA: Yes, I’ve been blessed with some amazing adventures! I caught a marlin while 7 months pregnant with our first child, so that was incredible. I fished with my Dad for sea run brown trout in Southern Chile. Chilean hospitality, scenery, and stunning water is absolutely amazing. Fishing the 8 River Rodeo in Colorado was a blast. Fishing on date nights at Bear Creek or Clear Creek near Denver is so much fun.

Watching our daughters fish and helping them with rigging, netting, and detangling is truly precious. Fly fishing for warm-water species is a blast – carp, bass, bluegill, crappie, etc. To catch a large-mouthed bass on a fly is awesome!! I also enjoy fishing new waters and meeting other anglers. I love to travel to new places….and I also love fishing close to home.

SaraBella rods ready to fish in Colorado.
SaraBella rods ready to fish in Colorado.

WOS: What are some life lessons you’ve learned, as a woman, from fly fishing? Both from the sport, and the act of being a woman in the male-geared market.

AA: Fly fishing is like life in so many ways. You’re going to get tangled, but how you get untangled (and knowing when to clip the line) makes all the difference!

I love learning about the science and the grace of the sport. In school, I did fine in science, but it wasn’t my passion. Now, I love to learn about science – physics, entomology, biology, meteorology, kinetic energy, physiology, etc. Women are smart, so I always encourage them to learn the science of fly fishing (and catch more fish)! I’ve also learned about perseverance, patience, blood pressure – and how the mind affects the body. I’ve learned about taking risks, asking for help/advice, enjoying the moment, and celebrating success. I’ve made great friends and share memories with so many joys. As a woman, I’ve learned to be confident for who I am and humble for what I continue to learn. Women have stories, talent, desires, and goals…and I’ve learned that fly-fishing is a great way outlet for stress and life’s challenges. The water keeps flowing….

WOS: What other hobbies do you enjoy besides fly fishing?

AA: I also enjoy photography, hiking, skiing, yoga, community activism, and participating in our church. I coach my daughter’s soccer team and also love to travel. I also enjoy singing karaoke, cooking, and playing piano.

WOS: I’ve seen that the rods are hand-built in the SaraBella shop. Can you describe that process?

AA: Sure! We have a few different locations for our production process. We build fly rods at our facility in Lafayette, Colorado and at the Mile High Workshop in Denver. At SaraBella, building fly rods is so much more than the components and parts. It is about excellent labor standards and environmental sustainability. It’s about collaborating with Veterans through Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing on our rod-making team. By employing local workforce, we not only make an excellent product, but we can also support a positive opportunity. From start to finish, each fly rod is built with local hands, local wood (for reel seat), and lots of love. The artistic techniques and attention to details allow for an exceptional finished product and an impacting human connection.

SaraBella 9' 6 weight rod with sleeve.
SaraBella 9′ 6 weight rod with sleeve.

WOS: In that same vein, what inspired the customization factor in SaraBella Fishing?

AA: To really understand what women want, we believe that CHOICE is a critical factor. At this point, women have not had much choice for products in the sport of fly-fishing. By offering choices & customization, we empower women to ask, to try, and to decide what feels best for their needs – for performance, comfort, and style. At SaraBella, women can choose from 3-12 weights, with 3 grip options, various colors, woods, and even a custom message. By customizing a rod, the product becomes more than a number. It has meaning, it is part of the memories, and it makes a profound connection with the angler’s fishing experience. She can even choose how she wants to shop – by appointment, over the phone, online, and at retail locations. By offering choices, women can decide what best meets their needs and desires.

WOS: Do you have a favorite rod weight? SaraBella color combo? Do you have a favorite/lucky fly?

AA: Honestly, the luckiest rod in the stash is our daughter’s 5 weight. This was our first official SaraBella rod, and it has magical powers. It has caught a LOT of fish…many in challenging situations.

Our team is working on a new 5 weight for me, which is very exciting. I have access to lots of rods, but for this one, I picked the colors (and my family will pick the message). It’s a white rod with teal and lavender wraps, and a beautiful juniper reel seat. It will have a gold custom message. I can’t wait!

I love to fish green drakes in the Summer in Wyoming and blue winged olives in the Fall in Colorado. Those hatches are a blast.

WOS: Do you tie your own flies? Did you find that having delicate female fingers worked to your advantage? 

AA: I spend most of my time working with fly rods, so I rely on other people to tie my flies. Our daughters are learning to tie flies, so I’m hopeful I can start requesting new flies from them! I enjoy doing the “alignment dots”, which require a steady hand, calm breath, and a one-shot chance to make it perfect. I used to take the penalty shots in soccer….pure adrenaline and focus.

WOS: I noticed, too, that SaraBella Fishing held a yoga retreat not so long ago. Are there any exciting plans for SaraBella Fishing similar to that coming in the foreseeable future?

AA: Yes, we had our first yoga fly fishing retreat last fall. The ladies had a blast and most weren’t ready for it to end. I teamed up with a long-time friend and yoga instructor. We focused on mindfulness, presence, gratitude as we practiced yoga and fly-fishing. In 2016, we plan to host more educational and fun events. We may do an overnight yoga/FF retreat and we’re open to ideas and suggestions. Please let us know if you’re interested.

SaraBella & Tadasana Mountain Yoga at the women's fly fishing yoga retreat in October 2015.
SaraBella & Tadasana Mountain Yoga at the women’s fly fishing yoga retreat in October 2015.

WOS: Do you have any advice to female anglers, both beginners and those who have stayed with the sport because they love it?

AA: My advice is to fish YOUR story and celebrate smart, beautiful fishing! Follow your dreams, listen to your heart, stand tall, ask questions, take risks, love yourself and those around you, breathe, pray, give back, learn, relax, and enjoy the adventure. This is your life, now go fish your story!

All images provided by April Archer


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Exclusive Interview with April Archer of Colorado-Based SaraBella Fishing