Here’s to the obsessed, the irreverent, the unknown and undiscovered. When living in an area that churns out professional athletes with Spartan efficiency, it’s easy to get lost in the hype. It’s easy to follow the big names and cover every move of Tahoe’s most talented, which is perfectly fine. They deserve it. But what about the scene out of the spotlight; indifferent to films, medals, and sponsorships, where individuals pursue their passions not for fame or money, but for fun, for fun’s sake?

In this upcoming series, we are launching a celebration of passion by profiling locals who personify this pursuit, and investigating the fire that drives folks to bike beyond the twilight hours, run to the point of puking, balance work and play on a knife’s edge, and fish when it’s so cold the fly line freezes in its guides.



Meet Finn Loper, who likes to fish. Scratch that — has to fish. No one simply likes fishing, it’s an acquired taste that either cultivates fanaticism or complete and utter boredom. In Loper’s case, it is the former, beginning when he hooked into a healthy Truckee River brown trout on a well presented dry fly about three years ago at age 12.

Loper is relatively new to the fly-fishing addiction, which is not surprising considering he’s only 15. A freshman at Truckee High School, his primary hobbies of football and fly-fishing might seem an odd pair, until he mentions one of his favorite parts about fishing: the fight.

“When you catch that fish that actually fights … It takes a while to get it in, and that fight; I think that fight is what gets me, and has always gotten me,” Loper said, adding that he also loves the unknown, box-of-chocolates aspect to fishing. You never know what you’re going to get. “You could get a 30-inch brown today, or you could get skunked, or you could catch 15 tiny rainbows,” he said.

After that first brown trout on the Truckee, Loper did what many outdoor enthusiasts before him have done, and turned his attention straight to gear. While rooting through flies at Mountain Hardware & Sports he noticed a man about to check out with a haul of “like 200” flies. Intrigued, Loper introduced himself and the big spender turned out to be Matt Heron, owner of Matt Heron Fly Fishing guide service, and the Truckee/Western Nevada director of Cast Hope, a Northern California nonprofit organization that seeks to connect kids with the gift of the outdoors through fly-fishing.

Loper soon joined Heron on a guided trip, and after learning the vital art of nymphing, caught about eight fish that day including a 22-inch brown trout. He was hooked. Now Loper gets out as much as he possibly can — sometimes tagging along on Cast Hope trips to drop a line and help out.
“I met a lot of people on one Cast Hope trip who had literally never touched a fishing rod in their life, and they were catching, like, 20-inch rainbows,” Loper said. The passion for teaching the art of fishing is something Loper gained through Cast Hope, and he says that although his only teaching experience so far is taking inexperienced friends out to the river, he wants to one day be a guide.

Talking with Loper is like listening to an old man with attention deficit disorder rattle off his fishing bucket list — he’s got an endless supply of ideas and plans: becoming a better bass fisherman with a fly rod; using a one-weight to explore the tight creeks around Truckee; perfecting a simple yet elusive minnow pattern with his fly-tying set up; fishing the rivers of Italy, Alaska, Maine, New Zealand, Russia… The list goes on. With a tight school schedule it can be tough for him to make steps toward his fishing goals, but when he has time, he strives to spend it on the river.

When Heron pointed me in Loper’s direction during my search for sports fanatics of every variety, I invited the 15-year-old to go fishing as an introduction to the story, even though it was about 20 degrees outside — 10 with a wind chill. Loper said yes without hesitation. We got skunked. Fingers froze. Snow accumulated on the feet of our wading boots. Ice caked the guides of our fishing rods until they were unable to cast. But Loper, who recently began sporting some neoprene fishing gloves, told me later that “it’s never too cold to fish.”


  • Sage Sauerbrey

    Sage Sauerbrey recently graduated with a journalism degree from Sierra Nevada College, and was rescued from the throes of post-college-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life-blues by the good folks at Moonshine Ink. Now he's happily walking the news and sports beatwhile daydreaming about new climbs, lines, and fishing holes.

    Connect with Sage

    M-Tu, Th-Fr 9:30am - 6pm
    10317 Riverside Dr
    Truckee, CA 96161
    Email: sage (at)

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