BEYOND PASSION: Art + Advocacy

In December 2018, Magazine by Jennifer --Leave a Comment

As an angler, the sights we see getting to the river, along the river, in the film of the water and hidden within, are all so compelling, most of us ache for a way to capture it- that very human ‘thing’ of wanting to ‘hang on.’ This plucky duo below, Jenn and Max, seek not only to land fish and enjoy sublime days in our watershed but also hope to spread conservation education.  Their own attempts at ‘hanging on’ result in stunning interpretations (have YOU ever tried to paint a fish?!) and original graphics, polar ends of the art spectrum capturing and honoring the species and waterways they love– Editor

TroutBandits Max & Jenn

K E E P   T H E   F O R K   R O A R I N G

The Roaring Fork River is a freestone and free-flowing river. It begins as gathering trickles atop Independence Pass. Making its way down, the Fork connects communities through its waters. Roaring through the valley, shifting, shaping, scouring and depositing, the Roaring Fork River and all its tributaries revitalize the land every spring.
While there is no direct threat to the river as we know it, (aside from appropriation, of course) we would like to think that “KEEP THE FORK ROARING” is exactly what it sounds like: keeping our watershed healthy and thriving for future generations through education and conservation.
Our rivers are an ‘alive’ habitat for trout and other species. We believe education plays a huge part in their conservation. Many of the outdoor activities we enjoy in this valley depend on this very watershed.
 As residents and anglers of the valley, we believe in giving back to what gives us the most–  our water. Climate change is very real to us, so we firmly believe that what we do as anglers and residents of this valley can be a solution– even if it’s little things, like shoving the leftover fly line pieces in our pockets versus dropping them on the river banks or in the water. We can throw them out later. We pick up trash every time we find it in the river, leading by example– we’ve even hauled tarps out of the backcountry. It all matters.

Conservation Art Series: Keep the Fork Roaring

“Stroke,” from the KEEP THE FORK ROARING SERIES. Black-line on white emphasizes the colorful nature to be discovered in the gills of various species of trout.

This piece captures sections of the upper Roaring Fork most do not see. It’s defined by steep canyon walls and the huge boulders it sheds which land midriver, forming what’s called “holding water.” In these secret, cold places lie fish beautiful beyond words.

A distinctive memory comes to mind from a couple of winters ago:

the water so clear you can see into it with the naked eye. A handful of trout hovering in the current. So clear you could see their gentle fins pulsing in order to stay in the right flow. In the time passing, chunks and pieces of ice float downriver on the surface, covering them from sight for a second– to be revealed through clear water once again.
The way they glide from current to current, the natural and effortless, water shaping to them. It is truly mesmerizing… so much so, that I would rather watch than fish.


We, Jenn & Max, go by Trout Bandits. The name elicits images of outlaws, smoking guns, and the wild west. While we don’t rob banks, we do love to fish the largest heist: simply being out there, fly fishing, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Max does a lot of the fishing while I, Jenn, do a lot of the picture taking and designing.

Brown trout are pretty neat; every single one has such a different color tone, from a pumpkin caramel color, silver-greenish, to a dirty, dark buttery gold. Lately, our fishing has produced some nice browns and we wanted to make artwork with this lucky one. Inside the brown, there is a picture of one of our favorite places to fish, the Gunnison gorge where there is no shortage of buttery browns. Artist, Jenn Balmes.

Trout Bandits artwork is a form of creativity that expresses the love for the ‘tug drug,’ conservation of the land where we fish, the enjoyment of being outside, and most importantly, the experiences and memories fly fishing has given us.
When we fish, we try our best to take photos and with those photos make artwork of the overall experience. However, some artwork comes by simply observing our surroundings and illustrating that idea. We have regular 8-5 jobs but make the most of the weekends and free time to get out and fish. Every piece of artwork is a new adventure.

The King of the Stream. We love brook trout, a fine specimen with beautiful patterns, blue halos, and orange to red bellies. We spotted this guy on a small stream and knew we had to get a closer look. After snapping a quick photograph, we knew we had to turn this into artwork. Artist, Jenn Balmes.

The power of fly fishing is not always the catch,

but the place we go to achieve that catch!

Written by Jennifer Balmes of Trout Bandits
Featured Image, “Tail”– In the 1800s, the only species of trout in Colorado were these beauties. Fast forward many years, we are now conscious of how fragile, and in some cases imperative, protecting their survival has become. What we love most about them is a given– the ‘bleeding’ red in their bellies, appearing as a flash of crimson in the water– the pitch dark freckles that make each one so unique.