Editors Note: I was reflecting back on the year that was 2022 and realized that one of my favorite pieces we've helped to produce hadn't made it to the blog quite yet. I hope you enjoy this interview with our good friend and Colorado Rockies CF Charlie "Chuck Nazty" Blackmon. In addition, take a gander at this all-time illustration by our friend Paul Puckett.
Interview by Kirk Deeter
Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, and former National League batting champion. He holds the MLB record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter and most hits in a four-game series.
He’s also wildly passionate about fly fishing. TROUT Magazine editor Kirk Deeter spoke with Charlie about what gets a professional athlete at the top of his game fired up about chasing fish with flies, where those two worlds intersect, and what sits atop the “to-do” list.
Kirk Deeter (KD): I used to fish with ball players who would come to Denver on a getaway day, then have a day off before a series with the Rockies. A lot of them were into fishing and they shared places to go to fish near the ballpark. Is that still going on?
Charlie Blackmon (CB): Really? I don’t know about that… I only know a handful of guys (players) who are really interested in fly fishing. We don’t have a secret society or a “little black book” of places to go—but they do have that for golf courses. I think some of that has to do with the fact that we have spring training in Arizona. There’s a little more fishing going on among the players who have spring training in Florida.
KD: So how did you get into fly fishing after you started playing in Denver?
CB: I think Instagram was really the key. I just wanted to find the fishiest dudes I could find. I grew up fishing for bass on small farm ponds in the South, and I wondered at first if I really wanted to take something I like and make it hard by using a fly rod. But I eventually wound up with some buddies at Trouts. And we’ve fished all over Colorado, even traveled some. Fly fishing has become something I really enjoy on a number of levels.
KD: So now, honestly, do you ever get fired up, or feel the nerves in a fishing situation? I mean, you step up to the plate under the bright lights all the time with 30,000 people watching you… but do you ever see a trout rising or a fish tailing on the flats, and feel the butterflies in your stomach?
CB: (Laughs) Well… it’s funny… as a professional athlete, I’m supposed to deal with nerves. That’s a huge part of the game of baseball. But yeah, when I see a permit tailing in front of me, I have noticed my heart rate going up a bit. And that’s strange because I’ve spent years training myself to not let myself feel the pressure in big moments. But that’s hard sometimes! And I’m not trained to be a great fisherman, so many situations like that are new and exciting. One of my favorite things about fly fishing is that it is so immersive, my senses are totally filled and I can’t be worried about other things.
KD: In that light, do you find similarities in fishing and baseball, or is fly fishing a total escape from all that? Are they philosophically related in any way, or are they two completely different worlds, and that’s the real appeal of fishing for you?
CB: The thing about fly fishing is that there are so many different variables. When I’m out there, I’m thinking about things like the current, and the weather conditions, my tippet, my fly and all these factors that matter. I’m always learning something new about all these variables. And the reason why baseball is such a super-hard sport to be successful at is also because it’s a game where so many factors and so many variables matter. Is my body in shape? Is my swing good? Have I scouted as well as I should have? The best part is that fishing fills my mind with all those other variables and takes me to a place that’s different from my baseball world.
KD: Okay, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but have you ever been standing in the outfield at Coors Field, maybe between innings or whatever, and had even little tiny thoughts of fly fishing creep into your mind?
CB: Oh yeah. Especially in center field, with the fountain and the water right behind the fence. We’re actually not too far from the South Platte River (at the stadium) and I’ve actually had things happen like a little size #18 blue-winged olive land on my arm in the middle of a game, and I think, “wow, how’d this guy get here?” It’s one of the cool things about playing here.
KD: As a professional ball player, you obviously put a lot of thought into the gear you use, like your bats, your gloves, and all that. Do you have the same level of detail when it comes to your fishing setup?
CB: To be honest, I’m really not much of a gear guy at all when it comes to fishing. I just find the bare minimum I need to function and be effective. Eagle Claw sent me a rod when I was just getting into it, and that was great as I was getting the hang of this fishing thing. I eventually got a nice Orvis rod which I love, but long ago I conceded that my ability might never get to the point where I’d be better than my gear.
KD: What piece or pieces of gear do you find most interesting?
CB: Flies. I buy way too many flies, and I have more flies than I’ll ever be able to fish, but I’m not super-organized with them, and not a lot of the guys I fish with are either. I’m the kind who will hang them on my hat, put them loose back in the box and all that. But with the limited amount of time I get to go fishing, I’m more excited about getting that fly in the water as often as I can.
KD: What’s your bucket-list fish or fishing trip? What’s the one place you want to go most, or the one fish you want to catch?
CB: I’m really intrigued and interested in everything I’ve heard about New Zealand and chasing those big brown trout. But right now, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I have not landed a permit yet, and I have spent a number of days trying. I hooked one once… got another to eat I think, and had some chases. But that’s become a big thing for me. And I wonder if, after I do catch one, how I will feel. Will I say, “do I really want to put myself through that again?” Or will I want to move on, have a beer, and go chase bonefish or tarpon or something else? I’d like to chase permit and tarpon—and trout—more in the summer, but I play baseball in the summer.
KD: Oh, I have a feeling, Charlie you’ll catch plenty of permit. And no, I doubt you’ll ever move on from that completely.
CB: Think so? You may be right… we’ll see what happens down the road.