EAGLE — Ken Hoeve’s always been a trailblazer.
The Eagle Valley local invented the 8-ball and Steep Creek kayak challenges, was an initial investor in the now-successful Bonfire Brewery and was using a Drift Innovations camera before action cameras were strapped to everyone’s heads.
These days, Hoeve’s a stand-up paddleboarder. And an angler. And a hiker and backpacker.
Actually, he’s all three — combined.
Hoeve’s new passion is stand-up paddleboard fly fishing, merging several of his favorite sports into one amazing outdoor overload of activity.
Athletic, yet relaxing; action packed, yet boring at times — stand-up paddleboard fly fishing is like doing everything you can do outdoors at once, perforated by moments of doing nothing at all.
“The trick is to drift in really quiet ... sneak up on them,” Hoeve said in a whisper on Friday morning while out on Sylvan Lake.
Surfing, canoeing, fly fishing and trying to quietly hover over his prey, Hoeve was the lone mammal on the snowy lake, displying just how far the mountain man of today has taken his love of outdoor life and sport. And at that moment, he was doing nothing more than standing absolutely still.
‘THE PERFECT FISHING MACHINE’
Recently, Hoeve has enjoyed stand-up paddleboard fly fishing from remote wilderness locations, such as backcountry lakes in Alaska, where anglers often arrive by aircraft. In Hoeve’s case, though, he hiked to those lakes, carrying a pack on his back. In it, his inflatable stand-up paddleboard was rolled up for easy transport.
“People were paying $800 to have a bush plane take them to the locations we were going,” said Hoeve. “We just parked at the trailhead, hiked an hour and we were at the same lake, cruising around with ease. The other fishermen were amazed.”
A pioneer in what he sees as a potentially huge activity, Hoeve stumbled upon stand-up paddleboard fly fishing several years ago while looking for something to make his regular activity more exciting.
“I’d go out paddleboarding with people who wanted to try it; we’d be doing an easy stretch of the Colorado, so I’d bring my fly fishing pole out of boredom,” Hoeve said. “Then I realized all the advantages there were to bringing an SUP board out fishing.”
Flash forward a year, and Hoeve is hard at work designing a angler-friendly standup paddleboard with Jackson Kayaks, a leader in the industry. Now complete, it’s called the SUPerFISHal, and it’s extra stable, can scrape against jagged rocks without issue and has specialized mounts, so you can quickly access or put away your paddle and fishing poles. And to be true to the sport of fishing as well as stand-up paddleboarding, it also has a designated space and strapping system for your cooler.
James McBeath with Jackson Kayaks said they wanted to build a perfect vessel for anglers, and the fact that it happened to be an stand-up paddleboard was nothing more than natural selection.
“It isn’t so much that Jackson Kayak wanted to crack into the SUP market, it was more like the SUP was perfect for our customers,” he said. “With more and more folks fly fishing, especially sight fishing, having both a standing platform and a clear deck to strip on to had us looking at a SUP as one of our next projects. We sell the SUPerFISHal like the perfect fishing machine, one that allows you to see fish, catch fish, handle fish and move on any kind of water.”
Surrounded by snow, Eagle County’s Sylvan Lake looked to be only a few weeks away from beign completely frozen on Friday morning. Hoeve’s pickup truck was the lone vehicle on the premises.
The lake was active with fish, but those fish were actively avoiding Hoeve’s flies.
Nonetheless, “I was still getting a workout and activating my core the whole time,” Hoeve said following an hour-long session on the water. “If you don’t catch anything, you still went stand up paddleboarding that day.”
Hoeve says while it’s a low-intensity workout, it’s still a great way to get in shape.
“I lost 60 pounds stand-up paddleboarding,” he said.
And he doesn’t intend to stop the evolution with fly fishing.
“In two weeks I’m going to start SUP duck hunting,” he said.
“People were paying $800 to have a bush plane take them to the locations we were going. We just parked at the trailhead, hiked an hour and we were at the same lake, cruising around with ease.”
Eagle Valley local who invented SUP fly fishing