Joe Roope may very well be the best fly tier and fishing guide in the intermountain region. It’s taken him around the world but Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, remains home.
He tied his first fly as a grade school student, he had no idea it would lead to a life-long career. All those years have been devoted in various ways to creating fish flies and fishing itself. It’s a true fish story.
We recently talked and he reminded me I had a part in his introduction to fly fishing. The Presbyterian Church was offering various classes for young members, and I had volunteered to teach a father-and-son workshop on fly tying. Joe was one of the students. That’s how it began.
“Dad thought I’d try it and then be done with it, but I really enjoyed creating,” Roope said. “He would take me to a local outdoor store and give me money to get more stuff. I checked out every book I could get at the libraries about tying flies and read everything about three times.”
The North Idaho Flycatchers Organization was located in Coeur d’Alene. They didn’t have a youth membership, but Roope had the personality such that the members took him in and really taught him the art of fly fishing and fly tying. He was hooked before he reached his teens.
He even picked up whatever road kill he could use for tying flies and bought whatever local stores had in the way of fishing equipment.
He and his dad took trips to the Coeur d’Alene River, or to Fernan Lake, to hone his fishing abilities.
About that time, a local store committed to buying his flies.
“It was something like 49 flies but a real diverse variety. I walked in, and they paid me!” said Roope. “It was like WOW! I was 12 and had sold my first flies.”
Every summer, a big conclave of fly fishermen from around the world would meet in West Yellowstone to tie flies and talk fishing.
Roope had picked up a contract with Orvis, and he was also selling to local sporting goods stores.
That helped to get him invited to the conclave where he met notable fly tiers and learned new techniques. He was able to attend the conclave, year after year, improving his techniques and learning different types of patterns.
During his school years, he told his folks he wanted a fly shop. They agreed and erected a little building on a spare lot adjoining their home. Joey started selling flies, leaders, fly line, rods, and other fishing gear. People began showing up.
His dad helped, and it became a place where people would congregate to talk about fishing. “Everything just started expanding,” Roope said.
During high school he even taught a life sports class in fly tying and casting. He also started guiding.
He had been tying flies for Ray Killian, who owned a tackle shop in Ennis, Mont., on the Madison River. They developed a good relationship, and, at that time, you could be a guide at 17. Killian licensed Roope for guiding in Montana on the Clark Fork.
“It was a pretty great fishery,“ said Roope. “There were a lot of big fish and provided good dry fly fishing. I started making money with that.”
He wanted to be an Idaho outfitter, but Idaho was highly regulated.
“It was like pulling teeth,” he said, but eventually he got a permit for the St. Joe River, then later Hayden Lake, the Chain Lakes, and eventually the Coeur d’Alene River itself.
“It’s continued to build some great fisheries. It’s amazing. The Coeur d’Alene is an absolutely dynamic diverse fishery, and it’s just been getting better and better.”
Roope’s career continued to blossom and spread throughout the world. He got to know the folks from Loop, the fly rod company, and was their national sales manager for a spell. He spent “a bunch of time in Argentina with Loop.” He also spent time in Russia, running a brown trout program.
“I got to go just about anywhere around if there was good fishing,” he said. “I’ve been really fortunate.”
He also acquired a fishing resort on Christmas Island in the Pacific, guiding fishermen who would fly in from the states.
Life changed as his son, now 12, came into his life. Roope had a shop on Highway 95 and another at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. That followed with a building on 4th street in Coeur d’Alene. The town has changed greatly in recent years, causing Roope to concentrate more on guiding.
He spends winters tying flies.
“Summers are busy, busy, busy in the Coeur d’Alene area” he commented. He and his staff work the waters in the vicinity of Coeur d’Alene. He also has two guys who work in Washington and also has some guides in Montana who have worked for him a number of years.
He also has a small business next to the Snake Pit on the Coeur d’Alene River, the Castaway Fly Fishing Shop, where they sell some fishing gear as well as offer scenic trips and fishing trips.
But all this doesn’t keep Roope from fishing. He said he and his good friend, Mark Few, the basketball coach at Gonzaga, fish anywhere from 40 to 50 times a year together.
Roope’s life has been unique, proving that desire and self motivation can work wonders. MSN