THE TROUT NOMAD
HOME WATERS: RIVERS OF COLORADO AND CHILE PRIMARY TARGET: TROUT
Being in one place for too long drives David Burgher crazy. He’s the kind of guy who’s cool with living in a tent alongside a river for a month if the fishing’s good. At 30, he is the epitome of the dude who goes where opportunity and fishing take him, and his lack of roots has allowed him to immerse himself in trout scenes most people would kill to fish for a single day. Being a professional guide and full-time wanderer, however, is not exactly what Burgher’s conservative Texas family had in mind for him.
“I was studying architecture at the University of Arkansas in 2007. It was super stressful,” he says. “One day I had a flashback to flyfishing as a kid with a family friend and decided to pick it back up as a way to de-stress. That’s when everything changed.”
Burgher switched to a less taxing major and become fluent in the Arkansas streamer game, thanks to a mentor on the Little Red River. By his senior year, he was running guide trips all over the state. The day after graduation, he shocked his family by telling them he was leaving for the Catskill Mountains in New York.
“There weren’t great hatches in Arkansas, and I needed to learn about bugs,” Burgher says. “I had a buddy who was managing a lodge on the Delaware, and he asked me if I wanted to intern. He had me running around the river with a butterfly net catching bugs. I looked like a moron, but I learned entomology.”
Thanks to his connections, Burgher’s next move took him to Alaska. The only problem was that he felt the fishing was essentially too easy there. He was spending too much time standing on the bank with a net while the salmon often seemed to “hook themselves.” Wanting to get more proficient at nymphing and to be more engaged with guide clients, Burgher’s next jump took him to Colorado, where he worked on the Roaring Fork and Gunnison, among many other rivers. But it was during this time that his Alaska stint paid off.
“The days are so long in Alaska that to make it there, you can’t be allergic to work,” Burgher says. “I always wanted to guide in Chile, and the outfitters down there really like seeing Alaska on a résumé.”
In the winter of 2014, Burgher scored his dream gig. A friend that had been working in Chile couldn’t sign on for that season but recommended Burgher to the boss. It was his ticket to what he calls Disneyland for trout freaks.
He still guides in Chile every winter, spending the rest of his season in Colorado. If the mood strikes him, he may drift off with a tent for a while to another unexplored river. He says he’s not opposed to settling down for good but won’t consider it until he’s checked more places off his to-fish list. Aspiring guides hound Burgher for advice, and his best piece is simple.
“Fish your ass off and don’t ever stop learning,” he says. “If you’re catching fish on a fly, you know it works. Cut if off and try a different fly.”
Burgher mugs it up with a massive Argentine brown.