The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fly-Fishing

One of the joys of living in the West, and Colorado in particular, is having access to thousands of miles of rivers and streams where you can fly fish for cutthroat, rainbows, brown and brook trout.  

Like entrepreneurship, fly fishing has its own lingo and you’d be surprised how often the two overlap:

Break Off: When your line snaps unexpectedly, allowing the fish to get away- Like having a lead and converting them into a prospect but you just can’t convert them to a customer.

Catch And Release: A conservation practice in which fishermen try to fight fish quickly, land them gently, and rapidly release them back into the water-like donating profits to a worthy cause or engaging in philanthropreneurship

False Cast: A type of cast that uses multiple backward and forward casts without letting the line hit the water or ground; the cast is generally used to lengthen the amount of line and/or to change the line’s direction-like analyzing a problem or business model to death without actually throwing the hook in the water.

Foam Is Home: Foam lines or bubbles in a river or stream show where currents are moving and where food collects; anglers often say these foamy areas are where the fish are-like doing a careful market segmentation analysis to find where the hungriest customers are.

Hatch: The stage in an insect’s life cycle when it matures and leaves the water to mate. This can happen in an intense burst of activity when many insects hatch at once. This attracts predators like trout (which, in turn, attract anglers)-like a product life cycle or parts of a product offering that attract or discourage customers depending on their stage of evolution 

Headwater: The upper reaches of rivers—near where the waterways begin—before major tributaries join them; headwaters are usually narrow-er with less flow, which may make fishing more difficult- like a startup that needs more flow to get the ideas downstream.

Match The Hatch: An angler’s attempt to select the artificial fly that mimics the natural food fish are feeding on. During a hatch, fish often become picky eaters, only wanting to eat what is hatching at that moment-like trying to identify the right product-market mix.

Mend: A fly-fisherman’s goal is to make an artificial fly imitate a real insect; part of that is making sure the fly rides the current in a natural way. If the fly line is dragging the fly downstream, fishermen rearrange, or mend, the line while it’s drifting to eliminate the unwanted pull-like presenting your idea to investors in just the right way so they’ll bite.

Pool: A pocket of slower moving, deeper water where fish often reside in an attempt to hide from predators or rest from swimming-like finding untapped market segments

Riffle: A shallow, quickly moving section of water where fish can congregate to feed-like a fast moving, rapidly changing industry.

Rising: Trout generally feed underwater, but on the rare occasion they decide something on top of the water looks tasty, they may ascend to the surface—fly-fishermen call this “rising,” as in, “the fish are rising.”-like surprising, serendipious things you didn’t expect to happen

Roll Cast: A short cast—created by a quick, forceful flick of the wrist—used to deliver a fly when an angler doesn’t have room for a full overhead cast-like having to improvise when the situation calls for it

Seam: An area in a river or stream where two currents—one slower, one faster—merge. Fish will hole up in the slower water and dart into the faster current for food-like the space between interface technologies e.g medicine and media.

Stripping Line: This phrase describes the action of retrieving line by pulling it in using your fingers as opposed to using the reel-like having the experience to be more hands on when required

Tailwater: The section of river below a dam; these waters are often ideal trout habitat because water temperatures stay more consistently cool-like a reliable,, stable market.

There is nothing like a bright sunny day in the high country matching wits with your prey. Most do it for the joy of it, some take the limit and others just pass the profits forward for someone else to enjoy. Entrepreneurs often wade waist deep into turbulent waters and come out empty. But, they seem to get the same joy from the experience even if they come home with an empty creel.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and a contributor to