Whatever you do, don’t call April Archer a flyfisherman. “I prefer flyfisher or female angler,” says the co-founder of SaraBellaFishing, a Denver-based company that specializes in women-specific custom fly rods. As a Colorado native, Archer grew up fly fishing on Colorado’s waterways with her dad and brother, then later with her husband. As the former director of the Wellness Living and Learning Community at the University of Denver, she was inspired by the willingness of young people to learn how to balance their lives by taking care of their mental and physical well-being. “Fly fishing is a great way to do that,” says Archer. After becoming a mom to three daughters—and, no surprise, introducing them to fishing—she started paying attention to women in the sport and the lack of suitable equipment for them. Archer now builds custom fly rods, teaches fly fishing classes for women and girls and serves on the board of Colorado Women Flyfishers, a non-profit women’s fly fishing club. We caught up with her between casts to ask her about the growth of SaraBellaFishing and her love of the sport.
What “hooked” you on fly fishing as a kid?
It was amazing getting time with my dad and being outdoors. I learned how to look for bugs and tie knots, and about the science of nature and life, since my dad is an engineer with a curious mind. I was always learning and asking questions. Those are some of my best memories.
You’re a mother of three girls. Do your daughters aLSO fly fish?
They do and they love it. It’s not just about the fly fishing for them. They love the adventure. They love being outside chasing butterflies, building forts and catching bugs so they can identify which ones to use. They’ve even started to learn how to tie flies.
Fly fishing traditionalLy is a male-dominated sport. How are you helping to change that? Why are you passionate about helping women?
Women are smart, beautiful and deserve to have equal opportunities in equipment and in life. That’s my underlying passion. Women shouldn’t have to settle for something that’s sub par. I’ve heard so many stories about women who were frustrated with their fly-fishing experience because of the way they were treated or because they did not have the right gear. It’s more effective to do something than to complain about it, so I was inspired to build a company that empowers and meets the needs of women.
How did you start SaraBellaFishing?
The idea started on fishing trips and late-night fireside conversations while I was camping with my husband, JT, and a friend. Also while watching our three daughters fish and thinking about their future. We started looking at the fly rod as the most essential element—the basic structure in catching fish. Through a lot of research and product testing, we learned to build fly rods and got the product to the point where we felt women would like it.
What makes your rods unique?
We use carbon-fiber graphite rods. We paint them and hand wrap the guides (the loops that hold the line). We build our own cork grips and use repurposed Colorado hardwood for the reel seat. Each custom rod usually takes 8-10 hours to build over four weeks because of the drying process.
What is it that makes the rods women-specific?
Instead of SaraBella saying here’s the rod, choice is the answer. We offer rod sizes from 3 weights up to 12 weights (some come in different lengths) because performance is all about size. The other performance piece is the grip, so we offer three different grip options since women’s hands come in all different sizes. We also offer aesthetic options, including color, wood and custom messages. Finally, it’s about shopping. Women can go into a retail shop, make a phone call or order online and get exactly what they want.
What’s your favorite place to fly fish?
Anywhere I have the option, I will fish. I’m a Colorado girl, so I love Colorado waters, whether it’s big rivers or small mountain creeks and lakes or even urban ponds. I learned on the Colorado River, so that’s a special place. I also love South Park and Crested Butte.
What advice do you have for young women who are interested in fly fishing?
Good for you for getting outdoors and finding the sport. It’s something you can do for the rest of your life. Get out of your comfort zone, explore, have fun and learn to tie knots.
For more information or to order a custom rod, go to SaraBellaFishing.com or call 303-908-1933.