S5:E11 How Fly Fishers Gain Confidence

fly fishing

Fly fishers gain confidence by fishing for brook trout. Brook trout are forgiving, and there’s nothing like an afternoon of catching 15 brook trout to increase one’s confidence. That’s only one of several strategies that we discuss to help newer fly fishers gain confidence. It’s easy to feel discouraged during a stretch of no fish. We hope this podcast gives you hope for your next time out on the river.

LISTEN NOW TO “HOW FLY FISHERS GAIN CONFIDENCE”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

What advice would you give to help fly fishers gain confidence? We’d love your ideas to help newbies stay the course and learn to enjoy the sport.

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Getting Your Streamers Deep Enough

streamers deep enough

I recently fished a productive-looking run in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Fall River. It was the best run I had seen all morning. My sons and I had hiked into a steep ravine in search of water that rarely got fished. It was a harrowing hike, but I was finally rewarded with a long run that flowed out of a deep bend in the river (well, it was really a small mountain creek at that point).

I tied on a size #14 Elk Hair Caddis. Nothing. So I switched to a size #18 Parachute Adams. Same result. I even tried a black ant pattern. Still no interest by any trout.

My go-to approach when this happens is to tie on a streamer. I found a brown Woolly Bugger in my fly box and drifted it into the deep bend. I waited a couple seconds before I started the retrieve. During the first strip of line, I felt that old-familiar tug, and I ended up landing a fat, colorful Brookie.

One of the challenges I’ve noticed with streamer fishing is getting deep enough. Streamers may be the most effective way to catch trout hunkered down in deep pools and runs. But you have to get your streamers deep enough to where the trout lie. So how do you do it? I suggest three techniques. You may even need a combination of them.

Weight them

The most obvious way to get your streamers deep enough is to weight them.

Surprisingly, though, I’ve watched numerous fly fishers neglect this. If you tie your own flies, consider wrapping weight on the hook before wrapping the body. I’d also encourage adding a beadhead or conehead to the front of the fly. If you don’t tie, look for streamers with beadheads or coneheads.

If your fly is not weighted, then by all means, add weight to it before you toss it into a deep run or pool. I’ve even added weight to an already weighted fly! Some fly fishers like sleek line weights. I’m still fine with adding a removable split shot. I’ll typically use only one in a larger size. You can put it a few inches above your fly. Or, you can put it at the head of the fly, immediately in front of the knot that you’ve tied to the eye of the hook.

I’ve caught enough trout on Woolly Buggers with a silver split shot at the front that I don’t worry about a fish laughing at it and retreating to shelter.

If you’re fly fishing a larger river or a lake, then a sink tip line is a great way to go.

Wait to Get Your Streamers Deep Enough

Even if you have sufficiently weighted your fly, you need to give it time to sink.

I wonder how many times I’ve missed trout because I didn’t give my Woolly Bugger time to sink to the bottom of a pool before I retrieved it. Occasionally, you might get a strike as your streamer is sinking. But in my experience, it’s in the first couple retrieves that fish attacks the fly as it heads to the surface.

If you’re using a sink tip line in a lake, you’ll need to wait a few seconds (depending on the weight of the line) to get it to a sufficient depth before you start your retrieve.

Drift Them

This is actually a variation of the previous point. In moving water, the best way to get a fly to the bottom is to cast is well above the spot you expect to hook a trout. If you’re fishing downstream (one of my favorite approaches with streamers), drop it into the current and start feeding line. Give the streamer 10 or 20 feet to sink before it reaches the hot zone, then start your retrieve.

Use the same approach if you’re fishing a run from the side—that is, the river’s edge.

Cast your streamer far enough upstream so that it has time to sink as it floats. Once it reaches the hot spot (below you), start your retrieve. The streamer will swing, and this is when you’ll often get strikes. I experienced this a few years ago in Alaska. I was a few hundred yards up Clear Creek from the spot where it ran into the Talkeetnah River. I found a nice deep run, tied on a Dalai Lama, and started to fish. It took me a few tries to cast the streamer far enough upstream to let it get deep enough by the time it entered the prime section of the run. But once I hit the right depth, I had strikes on every cast.

Streamers are ideal for deep pools on days when trout are not feeding on the surface. But getting your streamers deep enough where the trout lurk is the discipline.

S5:E10 Strange Sightings While Fly Fishing

fly fishing

Strange sightings while fly fishing are part of the overall experience of the sport. In this episode, we recount watching a car float by while fishing the Yellowstone, a mink steal a duck from a nest, and a forest fire glow while on our way to fish Hebgen Lake.

LISTEN NOW TO “STRANGE SIGHTINGS WHILE FLY FISHING”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

What strange sightings while fly fishing have you observed? We’d love to hear your stories.

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Where to Find a Fly Fishing Mentor

fly fishing mentor

There is a magical season in every fly fisher’s journey. It is a season where everything seems to come together, and the fly fisher makes a leap in his or her proficiency. Confidence replaces frustration. Casts shoot to their destination and land softly rather than slapping the water. Fly selection become a science rather than a mystery. I’ve watched a lot of fly fishers make this leap, and they all have something in common: a fly fishing mentor.

Sure, there are a few naturals who watch a handful of YouTube videos or read a book on fly fishing and arrive at the river’s edge with the Midas touch. But most fly fishers who make significant progress in their ability to catch fish do so because they have spent time with a mentor.

If you’re a new fly fisher, or an old one who is still struggling, a mentor will make all the difference. But where can you find one?

Fly Shop Owner

This might seem obvious, but a fly shop owner can be a great mentor—especially if you’re a faithful customer. Buying the right fly rod may well involve some practice casting. Every time you stop by to buy a handful of flies or a new leader, you’ll learn what patterns to use and when to use them. You will learn where and when to fish. Fly shop owners and their associates can be a tremendous source of learning.

Fly Fishing Guide

Sometimes you have to buy a mentor. Hiring a guide for a day can lead to remarkable progress in your fly fishing skills. The $500 or so you split with a buddy (we recommend sharing a guide!) will give you a lot of one-on-one instruction. Using the same guide once or twice a year can accelerate your progress.

Fly Tying Instructor

I’ve talked about this before, but when I took a fly-tying class at Montana Troutfitter’s in Bozeman in 1996, my fly fishing skills spiked. Yes, I learned to tie Elk Hair Caddis patterns and Beadhead Prince Nymphs. But I also learned when and how to fish them. I started to think like a trout!

Fly Fishing Buddy

Now we move into the “less expensive” category of mentors! Not everyone has fly fishing buddies who are proficient enough to be guides. But if you do, set aside your pride and mimic them, pick their brains, and accept their criticism. I’ve benefited from the expertise of Bob, Kevin, Chaz, Doug, Mark, and several others with whom I’ve had the opportunity to fly fish.

Fly Fishing Mentor at a TU Chapter

A few months ago, Dave, my podcast partner, and I spoke at a local Trout Unlimited chapter. I was impressed with how helpful the veterans were to a couple of younger, inexperienced fly fishers. There’s nothing better than a community of mentors!

Fly Fishing Parent or Child

Don’t overlook family members. If you have a parent or a child who is a proficient fly fisher, don’t be too proud to let them pass on their expertise to you. This goes both ways. I taught my two sons to fly fish, and now I gain new information and learn techniques from them.

Fly Fishing Spouse

The risk, I suppose, of learning fly fishing from your spouse is more marital conflict! But I’ve been impressed as I’ve watched my sons teach their wives how to fly fish. I’m amazed with their patience and encouragement, and their wives are smart women who catch on quickly. Obviously, it can work the other way around, too. Some wives have become proficient fly fishers and can be the best mentors their husbands could ever find.

Here is a final thought: develop a community of mentors. When I think of my mentors, my mind goes to more than one. They have been friends, relatives, guides, fly shop owners, and instructors. So don’t obsess over finding the perfect mentor. Build some relationships, and you’ll benefit from multiple sources of input. Along the way, you may just find that your fly fishing soars to a new level.

S5:E9 The Truth about Trout Lies

fly fishing

Trout lies are places in the river or stream where trout hang out. One of the most well-known lies is called the “feeding lie,” where trout sit in the current or pockets of water and grab insects or larger chunks of calories as they drift by. Often, a fly fisher can spot the feeding lie or food line by the line of bubbles in the current. In this episode, we review the three kinds of trout lies and discuss the importance of knowing which is which. It’s all about “reading water,” as one of our favorite fly fishing authors Gary Borger describes it.

LISTEN NOW TO “THE TRUTH ABOUT TROUT LIES”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

We’d love to her your stories about a favorite run or “lie” in which you’ve had a great day.

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Fly Fishing High Water

fishing high water

Fly fishing is like farming. So many things can go wrong. I spent last week fly fishing some beautiful mountain creeks in Colorado. I had a great time with my two sons, a brother, and a nephew. But the fishing was lousy. The creeks we fished flowed clear, but the water was unseasonably high. It was late July, but the water levels resembled what is typical in late June. In fact, we scrapped plans to fish an outstanding stretch of a river that fishes best at 600 cfs (cubic feet per second) when we learned it was flowing at 1700 cfs. Fly fishing high water is no fun.

We made the most of a tough situation. Notice that I’m not calling it a “bad situation” because the higher water reflects above average snow pack in the high country and an abundance of rain. This is good.

By the end of the week, we caught a few fish, enjoyed some fantastic scenery, and laughed a lot (especially when a group of people on horseback rode past us on a trail above our stream and the lead wrangler pointed us out and said, “Look! There are some fly fishers in their natural habitat.” Yup, that’s us!).

When the water is high, here are a few important practices to make the most of your experience:

Exercise extra caution when fishing high water

Fly fishers should always be cautious in and around moving water. High water, though, calls for extra caution. The problem is not wading in deeper water. The problem is wading in faster water that delivers a lot more force. Make sure you have a wading staff, and don’t take unnecessary risks. Save yourself for a more productive day when the water levels subside. When in doubt, stay out!

By the way, if the water looks like chocolate milk, stay out! Never wade if you can’t see the bottom.

Add more weight

If you’re nymphing or slinging streamers, you’ll need more weight than usual to get those flies to the bottom where the current is slower and the fish are feeding. Some runs will simply be too fast to fish successfully. But if you think you have a chance, put on an extra split shot (or whatever kind of weight you like to attach). This weigh will slow down your fly as well as help it sink.

Choose visible flies when fishing high water

If the water is off-color, you’ll want to choose more visible flies. This means larger nymphs or streamers with some flash to them. Off-color water is a great time to put on a San Juan worm since the conditions often dislodge worms and send them floating down the current.

Look for slower water

This is about the best advice I can offer.

Last week, I caught trout on dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. But every trout I caught was in a slower moving stretch of water. This meant skipping a lot of runs I’d normally fish. I did my best when I found pocket water or pools or eddies where trout were feeding on the surface or just below it.

One day, one of my sons and I fly fished a one-mile stretch of high mountain stream. We only found five fishable runs. We had a lot of action in each one. Yet we did a lot of walking and wading to get to those spots. So skip the fast stuff and find the calm, slower water.

Yes, fly fishing resembles farming. A lot can go wrong. When it comes to high water, go to a lake if you have the time. Or wait a week or two if you can. But if your only chance to fish is during high water, you can still make it enjoyable.

S5:E8 Fishing Hopper Season

fly fishing

Hopper season is upon us. And from now until some time in early to mid-September, trout will be attacking grasshoppers that fall or are blown into the river. In this episode, we offer up an introductory conversation on fishing during hopper season, what to expect, and how to make the most of this most wonderful part of the fly fishing year. Often the action doesn’t start until mid-morning – as grasshoppers seem to need the sun to start moving.

LISTEN NOW TO “FISHING HOPPER SEASON”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Ever had a one of those days in late summer fishing hopper season? We’d love to hear your stories. And which kinds of hopper patterns do you like most?

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Fly Fishing at Dusk – 5 Quick Tips

fly fishing at dusk

Some of the best fly fishing occurs at dusk. The crowds are gone, the temperature is cooler, and the trout (especially Browns) feed more aggressively. This has been the case in Colorado this week where my wife and I are visiting family. The best fishing this past week has been fly fishing at dusk, the hour before dark.

If you’re planning on fly fishing at dusk, here are a few tips to help you be successful and safe:

1. Keep it simple

It’s more challenging to tie tippet to your leader and flies to your tippet. So make sure your initial rig is in place before you get to the river.

If you have to switch flies, consider going with a single fly rather than taking the time to tie on a dropper. Time is slipping away. So is the light. If you know which patterns work in the area where you’re fly fishing, you could tie some droppers onto lead flies in advance.

2. Use visible flies

Assuming that you’re dry fly fishing, make sure your fly has a white post. A Parachute Adams, for example, is much easier to see than a fly with a red post or no post.

If you use an Elk Hair Caddis, use one with light elk hair. Or, if you tie your own flies, tie some white synthetic fibers to the top of the fly.

3. Wear a head lamp

Some kind of flashlight is a must.

A cell phone flashlight will do. So will a conventional mini-flashlight. But what I like best is a headlamp. You can buy a lightweight one for $20 or less. I always put one in my vest when I’m going to fish at dusk. The “hands free” approach works great. Plus, it makes it a lot easier to tie on a fly when it’s almost dark.

4. Be alert for wildlife

This is true everywhere, but especially in the West. Moose and elk have a way of showing up out of nowhere when you’re fly fishing at dusk. Mountain lions and bears do the same.

5. Watch your step when fly fishing at dusk

A few days ago, I was wading at dusk and slipped on a rock I couldn’t see.

I took a tumble into the small mountain stream and dropped my rod. Before I could grab it, the current whisked it away. I searched for it, but left the stream without my rod and reel (a $500 investment).

The story has a happy ending.

I returned a couple of days later to search for it after the water level had dropped a bit. My son found it at the bottom of the creek in some brush. The tip section was broken, but Orvis will repair or replace it for $60.

When fly fishing at dusk, the shadows and low light can make it harder to see — especially beneath the surface of the water. Take it from me, watch your step when you’re fishing at dusk!

S5:E7 Surviving Animal Encounters in the Outdoors

fly fishing

Animal encounters are a fact of life in the outdoors. We’ve discussed at length the precautions to take when fishing in grizzly country, but there are other types of encounters to avoid or at least to prepare for. In this episode, we discuss insects, birds, and even domestic cows. Animal encounters (and other kinds of critters) are part of the great wonder of outside living.

LISTEN NOW TO “SURVIVING ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

What kind of animal encounters have you heard about (or experienced) while fishing, camping, or hiking? Any porcupine or crow encounters? We’d love to hear your stories!

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Euro Nymphing for Beginners

euro nymphing for beginners

I have no business writing about euro nymphing for beginners, other than I tried the technique. And I liked it. I’m an old school fly fisher – I fish nymphs with a strike indicator and two flies, the last fly tied on the bend of the hook of the first. I might add a split shot above the first fly if I need to get the nymph into the hot zone.

However, at the urging of our one listeners, I decided to give euro-nymphing a try. At the end of this post, I offer up a three resources, including a four-minute overview video that I found on the technique.

I thought you might benefit from five basics that I’ve learned from my short journey.

1. Start out using your existing rod.

With euro nymphing, the recommendation is to purchase a longer rod. And for sure, you need to purchase one if you plan to get serious about the technique. Euro-nymphing rods are longer, between 10 to 11 feet, and you generally purchase the rods in a 2 or 3 weight.

Initially, I thought, “Hey, my 9 foot, 6 weight should work. Why don’t I try euro nymphing first? One or two feet can’t make that much difference, right? If I like it, then I’ll purchase a new rod.”

Now that I own a euro-nymphing rod (10 foot, 3 weight), I realize how lousy my regular rod was for this technique.

However, I caught quite a few fish on my regular rod using the euro technique. One day in Montana, I caught eight browns in about 45 minutes while Steve and a friend sat along the bank and ate lunch.

So you may want to try out euro nymphing with your main rod, just to see if you think you’ll like the different way of nymph fishing. Once you’re all in, though, you definitely need to pick up a euro rod.

Just so you know: I picked up an “Echo” euro nymphing rod for about $250. One of the top rods on the market (at least by way of reviews) is the Sage ESN at around $900. I’m too lousy of a euro-nympher to appreciate the nuance of a $900 rod, so I went with the Echo at the recommendation of a friend.

2. You’ll need a different kind of leader.

With euro-nymphing, not only is the rod different, the tackle is different.

I purchased a Rio, 11-foot leader, but frankly, any brand works. Don’t get side-tracked by which is the better brand. The euro leader is longer than a traditional leader. The 11-foot leader is basically 9 feet of a tapered leader with two feet of “indicator material” or “sighter” – which is different in color than the opaque white, so you can see it in the water.

At the end is a tippet ring. You will tie on additional tippet (and then your flies) on the end of it.

3. You will need a “sighter” at the end of the leader.

A sighter is simply colored material at the end of the leader to which you tie your tippet. You can buy leaders that already have the sighter material attached to it. That’s what I prefer. Other fly fishers purchase the leader and the sighter separately – and then tie the two together.

I buy the full euro leader with the sighter material. Life is too short for one more knot to tie.

4. You need weighted nymphs.

With euro nymphing, you do not add split shot or weight to get the nymph down into the hot zone or near the bottom of the river. The nymphs themselves are weighted. They are called “tungsten weighted nymphs.” The eyelet is to the side and looks like an old fashioned jig.

In fact, they are called “jig nymphs.”

I purchased four standard nymphs to start: the rainbow warrior, the pheasant tail, the gold-ribbed hair’s ear, and the prince nymph.

5. I use double-tapered fly line.

Many euro nymphers use “level line,” because, frankly, you’re only casting out about as far as the leader, maybe a little farther. I’ve found that euro nymphing works best in smaller rivers with well-defined runs that I can get up on. I’m sure the professionals would mock my lack of expertise, but my longest casts tend to be fifteen, maybe twenty feet.

In general, the fly line takes on a lesser role in euro nymphing.

The one tip I took away from a book I read (the one listed below) is to use double-tapered line. That way, I can switch to a dry fly rig without having to carry two rods or having to run back to the truck to grab my regular rod. You can’t sling dry flies with level line.

Three resources

The videos, books, and articles on euro-nymphing for beginners are legion. Here are just three:

    Overview of Euro Nymphing

    Explanation of the Euro Leader

    Nymphing – the New Way: French Leader Fishing for Trout

S5:E6 Fly Fishing Trips – Planning vs. Flexibility

fly fishing

Fly fishing trips are not easy to plan well, especially if you are heading to a new place. Two factors unravel the best laid plans: weather and whether there is a bite on. Through the years, we’ve had to fight against the tyranny of Steve’s hyper-planning and the chaos of Dave’s “Let’s just see what happens.” In this episode, we discuss the importance of creating a plan for the fly fishing trip that includes space for flexibility.

LISTEN NOW TO “FLY FISHING TRIPS – PLANNING VS FLEXIBILITY”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

What are the best kept secrets of how you plan for your fly fishing trips? How do you ensure that the experience is one to remember?

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

4 Fly Rod Hacks for Beginners

fly rod hacks

The graphite fly rod you hold in your hand is an amazing instrument. It is designed to shoot line, maneuver line, fight fish, and lift line off the water. If you’re planning a trip to the river, the following four fly rod hacks might be useful. Even if you’re a veteran fly fisher, it never hurts to review the basics.

So here we go:

Write the Letter “C”

Fly fishers learn early on to cast and then mend their line.

Mending is flipping the middle of the line upstream so that it doesn’t get ahead of the fly and drag it through the current. But it’s possible to put a mend in the line during your cast. Actually, this is something you do right at the end of your forward cast. As soon as you complete your forward cast, and the is shooting out to the target, draw a small “c” with your rod tip. A regular “c” puts a mend to the left. That is, you will create a “c”-shape bend in your line as it drops to the water.

A backwards “c” puts a mend to the right. Remember that you want your mend to go upstream.

You will want to try this a few times. But you’ll be surprised how quickly you can pick it up. Think small “c” rather than a capital “C.” In other words, this is a quick, small maneuver. Of course, if you want a larger loop, then, make your “c” larger. However, it’s easier to go smaller at first.

Lift before your back cast

If you get a nice long drift but no strike, you’ll want to try another cast. But rather than trying to pick up your line and make a back cast all in one motion, lift your rod tip to a 45 degree angle. This lifts your line off the surface.

Then make your back cast. Breaking this into two steps — lift then back cast – is especially important if you have a lot of line on the water.

The lift will break the surface tension. Then the back cast will go a lot easier.

Use a back cast when your forward cast needs to go to the right

Here’s the situation. The river bank along which you’re standing is lined with trees. You simply cannot make a back cast without hooking a branch or a bush. To make matters more complicated, the river is flowing from right to left. To cast upstream, you need to cast right.

Fortunately, the solution is easy.

Face downstream (assuming you’re right-handed), and make a forward cast parallel to the bank on which you are standing. Then, looking back, angle your back cast to the head of the run you want to fish. Let the rod do the work. Then, mend your line, and get ready for a strike!

Change the Rod Angle

Who doesn’t love the image of a fly fisher fighting a trout with rod tip pointed to the sky?! The photo looks even more impressive when fly fishers hold the reel above their heads. It’s a Norman Rockwell print waiting to happen.

But there are times to lower that rod tip. As you lower it, the flex point moves from the tip to the mid-section. This means that lowering the rod from a 90 degree angle (rod tip pointed up to the sky) to a 45-degree angle will force a trout to fight against a stiffer part of the rod. It’s helpful to know this after you’ve tired out a fish and you’re ready to bring it to your net.

Your rod is designed to do more than you think. So remember these fly rod hacks, and you’ll have a better experience — better casts, better mends, and better fights with those trout you hook.

S5:E5 Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park

fly fishing

Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park is a different experience than is fishing the national parks in Montana for several reasons. One is that there are no grizzlies. Another is elevation: Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park is more demanding physically, simply because the lowest elevation to start hiking is around 7,800 feet. In this episode, we give you an overview of fishing Rocky Mountain National Park, discuss a few of its streams and high mountain lakes, and, hopefully, inspire you to carve out some time to fish this gorgeous place.

LISTEN NOW TO “FISHING ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Have you ever fished Rocky Mountain National Park? If so, we’d love to hear your stories.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Midges

midges

My non-fly fishing friends marvel that fly fishers catch large trout on flies the size of a Tic Tac mint. Catching a 20-inch trout on a size #20 fly (or smaller!) is possible, in part, because of Midges.

Here is a brief profile of these tiny insects that are an important part of a trout’s diet:

Names

    • Midges belong to the insect order “Diptera”—a Greek term meaning “two wings”; and

    • Fly fishers sometimes refer to Midges as “Chironomids” because they belong to the family of insects known by its scientific name, Chironomidae (Latin).

The Basics

    • Midges live in all kinds of water. Midges in rivers are a lot smaller (the average is size 20, though they can range from size 16 to size 24) than those living in ponds are lakes;

    • Midges, like all Diptera, go through complete metamorphosis—larva, pupa, and adult stages; and

    • Midges can have up to five generations a year, so trout feed on them constantly in moving water. This means fly fishers can fish them year round. However, the winter is the best time—especially for dry fly patterns—since they are about the only thing hatching.

The Stages of Midges

    • In their larval stage, Midges live in the bottom of streams and rivers, feeding on algae or on decaying plant or animal matter. Dave Hughes, an Oregon fly fisher and entomologist, does not think fly fishers should spend much time trying to imitate them since they are challenging to imitate and since trout do not seem to feed on them exclusively (like they do at times for the next two stages);

    • The pupal stage may be the most important one for fly fishers. When the larvae reach maturity, they begin pupation and are ready to float to the surface. They do this more by floating than swimming, though they wiggle their abdomens a bit to get started. Once they reach the surface, they are trapped until they break the surface tension. This is a time when trout can go into a feeding frenzy. It may look like they are feeding on Midges on the surface. But the trout are actually feeding on Midges in the surface film or just beneath it. Although pupae emerge throughout the day, they show up in larger numbers in the afternoon—and sometimes into early evening; and

    • Midges enter their adult stage once they push through the surface film. In colder months, they float longer, waiting for their wings to harden before they fly away. Mating occurs either on land, in the air, or even in the water. Since they come off the water in great numbers, Midges often form clusters. At times, trout may focus more on these clumps of Midges — a larger meal!—than singles.

Effective Patterns

    • A Zebra Midge, a Brassie or a Krystal Flash Midge can imitate Midges in their larval stage;

    • Midge pupa patterns are legion, so you might need to visit a fly shop and ask for help. Some of the more effective patterns, though, for Midge pupae include the Biot Midge Pupa or the Traditional Midge Pupa. The CDC Transitional Midge or CDC Stillborn Midge are great choices, too, since they imitate the Midge in its transition—or failure to transition—between the pupa and adult stage;

    • For the Adult stage, my favorite patterns – that work well especially for a cluster of Midges – include the Griffith’s Gnat, the Renegade, and the Parachute Adams. Keep in mind that you may have to go to sizes 22 to 26 if you are trying to imitate a single Midge! That’s why I prefer to imitate the clusters.

Other Entomology 101 Articles & Sources

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Midges

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Blue-Winged Olives

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Caddisflies

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Pale Morning Dun

    Sources: Dave Hughes, Jim Schollmeyer, Bob Granger

S5:E4 Legends of Fly Fishing: Lefty Kreh

fly fishing

Lefty Kreh was actually both a lefty and a righty. One of the most beloved and popular American fly fishers, Lefty cast right handed, because he felt it was easier for the majority of folks (who were right handed) to watch him and learn. Lefty was an original. He was a World War 2 veteran and fought in the Battle of the Bulge; fished with Ernest Hemingway; and was a close friend of Joe Brooks, another fly fishing legend. In this episode, we attempt to give an overview of this amazing fly fisher’s life and discuss Lefty’s significant contribution not only to fly fishing but to what it means to be an American.

LISTEN NOW TO “LEGENDS OF FLY FISHING: LEFTY KREH”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Do you have any stories from meeting Lefty Kreh at a fly fishing show or watching him cast? We’d love to hear your stories.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

When a Fly Fisher Encounters a Moose

encounters a moose

Many moons ago, I shared a beaver pond with a moose.

I was a teen, fishing near Hoback Junction in Wyoming. A large Brookie darted out from under a rock to take a swipe at my Woolly Worm. Meanwhile, a cow moose watched me from 25 yards away. It was standing in three feet of water on the other side of the small pond.

The moose was dangerously close. But I didn’t panic for three reasons. First, I was so intent on hooking the Brookie (I eventually did) that the potential danger did not register. Second, I knew that the pool created by the beaver dam was at least six feet deep. Third, although I was right about the unlikelihood of a moose trying to charge me through a six-feet deep pool, I underestimated the danger like a typical teenage boys do all the time.

However, I have learned to fear the moose I encounter in the outdoors. I have not had any close calls, although a cow moose came within 30 yards of me when I was bow-hunting elk in a wilderness area in Montana. It stared at me for a couple of minutes before I backed away. A year later, a cow moose—and the bull following her—charged my brother while he was quartering a bull elk he shot on a mountainside in that same wilderness area. The pair veered off when they were ten yards away! My healthy fear of moose comes mainly from the accounts I’ve read and stories I’ve heard.

When a fly fisher encounters a moose, there are ways to avoid the danger. And there are ways simply to avoid the encounter in the first place:

Keep your dog home

No hate mail, please.

“Keep your dog at home” is not a hard and fast rule. But if you’re hunting in moose country, think twice about it. At least keep your dog on a leash. Moose may think your dog is a wolf. There’s nothing pretty about your beautiful lab getting sliced by a knife-sharp moose hoof.

Stay Alert

“Duh, Captain Obvious,” you say.

But alertness is critical, especially true in the spring and in the fall. Whether you’re fly fishing in Maine or Montana, stay alert. Cows calve in the spring, so they will be more cranky and protective of their offspring. Bulls are aggressive in September and October during the rut.

The thick streamside vegetation moose inhabit is the right recipe for a close encounter of the wrong kind.

Stay Away

If you see a moose while you’re on the river, stay away. Don’t risk getting close. Admire it from a distance. Conventional wisdom says to stay at least 25 yards away. However, I’d double that. If you see a cow with a calf, then double it again. There’s no reason to risk an encounter.

Back Away

When a fly fisher encounters a moose (because he or she is so focused on next run to fish), the best strategy is to back away slowly from it.

Run Away

If a moose charges, then run. That’s right! Run. This is lousy advice for dealing with a charging bear. But running from a moose will not incite it. Nor will it be tempted to take you apart with its teeth like a grizzly could.

Moose are not carnivous.

Of course, you can’t outrun a moose — unless you can run faster than 30 miles per hour. But running still works for at least two reasons.

First, as Rachel Levin points out in her book, Look Big, a moose will not follow you very far.

Second, you can usually out-maneuver a half-ton animal if you’re running in a forest, dodging trees and boulders. Find a place to hide. A moose simply wants you out of its space.

Encounters a Moose

There are a lot of dangers to consider when you fly fish — lightning, swift current, venomous snakes, and grizzly bears. When a fly fisher encounters a moose, he or she should But don’t forget about moose if your favorite river or stream happens to be in their back yard.

Other articles we’ve done on safety and the outdoors include:

    Summer’s Greatest Danger for Fly Fishers
    Hidden Dangers for Summer Fly Fishers
    5 More Suggestions for Safe Wading

S5:E3 Surprising Things Trout Eat

fly fishing

Trout eat pretty much anything put in front of them, including their young. Much of fly fishing is focused on the insects, such mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. But often trout are looking to consume a bigger chunk of calories. In this episode, we regale each other with stories of things we’ve heard trout eat. One such story comes from Craig Mathews, who founded Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone. After this episode, you’ll renew your commitment to fish more streamers.

LISTEN NOW TO “SURPRISING THINGS TROUT EAT”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Anything unusual that you’ve seen trout eat? We’d love to hear from you.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Scary-But-True Fly Fishing Stories from Our Listeners

gift of fly fishing

Sometimes our listeners tell us fly fishing stories that keep us awake at night.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration. Yet their stories make us shudder. Here are three scary-but-true fly fishing stories our listeners have shared with us.

Gary and the Rising River

“I once had a dangerous moment on Chatahoochie River in Georgia just below the Buford Dam.

”When the dam is about to release (which it does a few times per day), a series of horns will sound indicating the need to get out of the river and head to high ground. I was downstream on the opposite bank when I heard the first horn sound. I immediately began wading across the stream to get to safety, but the pool was already deeper than I expected.

“Then the second horn blew.

“I had to work my way back upstream to find another place to cross. I was mid-stream as the third horn made its call. At that point, I had to tighten my belt and swim across deeper pool created by swiftly flowing 45 degree water. I made safely across the pool.

“But the adventure was not over.

”I still had to run through the woods to avoid being cut off from my party by small tributary now gaining depth. After this final test, I looked back at river. It had risen ten feet in just under 15 minutes.”

Russ and the Deer Hunter

“One morning in late October in the middle of my state’s second rifle season, I arrived at my chosen fishing spot on the South Platte River and noticed a truck in the parking lot that didn’t appear to belong to a fisherman.

“As I walked down to the river, I noticed a group of mule deer bucks across the river in a meadow. I looked repeatedly from the truck to the deer. Then I looked at my waders and jacket. I was tan from top to bottom! So I decided to wait in my truck for a bit. Sure enough, right at shooting light, I heard a gunshot from the hills on the other side of the river. While the hunter did everything right, shooting away from the river and road, I’m still glad I decided to play it safe.

“After that experience, I always wear hunters orange while fishing during hunting season.”

Michael and the Charging Otter Fly Fishing Story

“I often fish alone in some of California’s more remote locations, and I have experienced quite a few nerve-racking encounters involving wildlife–bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes.

“However, regardless of how far-fetched it might seem, my scariest confrontation involved a river otter.

“I had just exited the river and was hiking back to camp when I spotted an otter about twenty yards away. I became mesmerized as I watched it swim effortlessly against the strong swift current of the Pit River. I quickly moved behind some brush about five yards from the riverbank and froze, hoping to go unnoticed in order to prolong the moment.

”Bad move.

“As it approached the bank, the otter left the river at a run and headed directly towards me. It gave no indication of slowing down! I went from this serene moment of thinking “how wonderful it is to view wildlife in a natural setting” to “yikes, this thing’s coming after me!” The otter kept charging until my yelling and arm-waving got it to stop. It was only two feet away when it suddenly turned and headed back to the river.”

Stay alert and stay safe out there!

S5:E2 Fishing Yellowstone National Park

fly fishing

Fishing Yellowstone National Park is a one of life’s great thrills. There’s nothing like hearing the shrill bugle of an elk in the fall while casting a hopper into the Yellowstone in early September. In his book on great fishing spots in Yellowstone, Richard Parks, founder and owner of Parks Fly Shop in Gardiner, Montana, identifies more than a hundred places to fish. And thus the challenge. In this episode, we provide an overview on fishing in Yellowstone National Park and offer a few ideas on when and where to fish.

LISTEN NOW TO “FISHING IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Which rivers or creeks have you found productive when fishing Yellowstone National Park? We’d love to hear any stories you have about fishing in any of our national parks!

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

To purchase Richard Parks’ book on Yellowstone, visit Amazon.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

This book is a must-read for folks who like to scan lists and discover helpful hacks and tips.

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

Short Adjustments to Improve Your Casting

improve your casting

Casting is your biggest challenge as a fly fisher. Sure, fly selection is important. So is reading water. However, if you can’t cast, you can’t catch fish. Improve your casting and you’ll improve your catch rate.

Before you hire a guide or take fly casting lessons from your local fly shop (both are great strategies), here are some “short” adjustments you can make on the fly (pun intended). Trying these immediately might lead to immediate casting improvement.

Shorten Your Casting Distances

I am continually surprised at how many trout I catch with casts of 10 to 15 feet. This is true even in big rivers like the Madison in Montana or the Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park. If you are struggling with accuracy, limit your casts to 10-15 feet. You will find plenty of fish within this range.

Don’t forget that a lot of the fish in the river live and eat right next to the bank.

Shorten Your Arm Action

Some fly fishers cast like symphony orchestra conductors. They wave their arms, and sway their upper. Perhaps the “shadow casting” scene in A River Runs Through It has inspired this technique. However, all you need to do to make your rod work for you is to flick your wrist.

Practice this before you even pick up your rod: Make a pistol out of your hand (index finger pointing forward, thumb pointing up). Snap your wrist down, then snap it up. Do this over and over. It’s the motion you want to use when you pick up your fly rod to make a cast.

You can move your arm as you flick your wrist. But think of yourself as a baseball catcher trying to throw out a runner attempting to steal second base. The key to a strong throw is the flick of your wrist. The same is true of casting a fly rod.

You’ll be shocked how easily the line shoots out with minimal effort when you put some snap in your cast.

Shorten Your Stroke

I’m still an advocate of viewing your fly rod as a hand on a clock (with apologies to those of you who have long since ditched clocks with ‘hands’ for digital models).

Begin with your rod pointed straight up in the air at the 12 o’clock position. Then, snap it back to 11 o’clock and snap it forward to 1 o’clock. In reality, your back cast may take you to 10, and your forward cast may take you to 2. But if your rod extends to 9 o’clock on your back cast, your fly line is likely to hit the water or the brush.

In my experience, the most egregious casting errors involve the back cast. So concentrate on it. The forward cast usually takes care of itself.

Note that the point of the 11 to 1 approach is not hitting the precise numbers on an imaginary clock. Rather, you are trying to shorten your stroke. If your back cast is too long, your cast will lose energy—not to mention the problems you’ll create by slapping the water or snagging the brush behind you.

Limit the Number of False Casts to Improve Your Casting

The more false casts you make, the more chance you have of snagging brush, creating tangles, and spooking fish.

Why, then, do fly fishers (myself included) make so many false casts?

I’ve pondered this question and have a couple of answers: First, we want our casting rhythm to feel “right.” It may take several false cases to get into the right rhythm. But trout do not award style points for your casting. Nor does the right rhythm guarantee a better cast. Second, I suspect the biggest reason for more false casting is the fear of a wrong landing. So we keep casting our line back and forth in the air.

However, the best fly casters make one back cast and then place the line on the water on the forward cast. There are, of course, exceptions. As long as I’m not false casting over the water, I will make a few false casts to dry out a water-logged dry fly. Also, if I’m making a longer cast, it may take me two or three extra casts in order to let out a sufficient amount of line.

However, as already noted, to improve your casting, shorter casts ought to be the rule — not the exception.

Less is often more. These short adjustments may seem rather simplistic. But they work. They can lead to more effective casting, which leads to catching more fish. So remember, shorten up for success to improve your casting.

Other Articles on Casting

    3 Fly Casting Mistakes that Beginner’s Make

    Trouble with the Cast

S5:E1 Memorable Traditions in the Great Outdoors

fly fishing

Traditions in the great outdoors are routines with meaning. It’s one thing to make a single memory with a fly fishing or hunting trip. But traditions in the great outdoors create multiple layers of memories that enrich and give joy to life. In this episode, Steve and Dave interview Dave’s father on his family’s traditions – and what they means to the family.

LISTEN NOW TO “TRADITIONS IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

What are your favorite or most memorable traditions in the great outdoors? We’d love to hear your stories.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

The One That Got Away

one that got away

A few weeks ago, I fished a deep undercut bank at dusk.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I had an outstanding day on a little spring creek in the Minnesota Driftless. We decided to return in the evening to see if any fish were rising — or if any big ones might be coaxed out of their hiding places. The creek is full of brown trout, so we thought we might get a chance to hook into a big one on the prowl.

We only saw a handful of rising fish. So I tied on a Woolly Bugger to fish a deep undercut bank. After a few strips through the dark water, a fish slammed my fly. It felt like a big fish. Dave concurred. The fight was on! Then it happened. As hard as I tried to keep it from escaping to its lair, the trout managed to get to the undercut bank and tangle my line around a submerged tree branch.

Perhaps the biggest trout I hooked on that little creek became “the one that got away.” I have other stories like this. They keep popping up in my memory. And I keep bringing them into conversations with my fly fishing friends. “Did I ever tell you about the one that got away when I was fishing the Bear Trap section of the Madison?”

It dawned on me recently that these memories—and my inclination to share them—have some upsides. I can think of at least two upsides to “the one that got away.”

Mystique of the One that Got Away

First, the big trout that get away add a bit of mystique to our experiences on the river. I keep wondering if that Minnesota brown I hooked was 18+ inches. Dave and I know there are some monsters that lurk in a few those deep pools. Yet the largest brown I’ve caught in that spring creek to date is about 14 inches.

A couple decades ago, I purchased a new Orvis fly rod. The first time I used it, I tied into an aggressive rainbow.

At least I assume it was a rainbow.

I was fishing the Bear Trap section of Montana’s Madison River in the spring. I hooked a fish while nymphing, and it felt like a big fish. Then it decided to run. I ran after it — well, as fast as one can run in a couple feet of water! Shortly before it got into my backing, it wrapped itself around a large rock and snapped off the line. In retrospect, I should have been more aggressive in fighting it.

But I still have memories of that fish.

Initially, the memories were painful. Oh, I would have liked to see that trout! I’ve caught several twenty-inchers in that stretch of the Madison during the spring, and this one seemed even bigger. In more recent years, though, I’ve felt more nostalgia than pain when this memory surfaces. That elusive fish is part of the mystery that accompanies fly fishing. I’ll always imagine it as larger than it probably was.

Challenge of the One that Got Away

Another upside, I suppose, of the one that got away is how it reminds you that fly fishing is a challenging pursuit.

Let’s face it: if you caught a large trout on every cast, fly fishing would lose its appeal. Sure, it would be a blast at first. Eventually, though, it would resemble fishing in hatchery pond. The lack of challenge would diminish the satisfaction.

Part of the satisfaction that comes from fly fishing relates to overcoming adversity. Getting skunked is one form of adversity. But it’s worse when you were close—oh, so close—to landing what feels like a monster trout. It’s like blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series. It stings more than losing the series in four games.

The big fish I’ve hooked and lost remind me how hard they are to land. Any number of things can go wrong. On those occasions when everything goes right, I have a greater sense of appreciation for what I accomplished. The ones that got away remind me that I’ve overcome a challenge when I finally get that 22-inch trout into my landing net.

Hope for the Future

I’ve shared the story before of a fall day on Montana’s Madison River with my son, Luke. He was about 11 years old at the time. On his first cast, he snagged a rock. Or so he thought. I waded over to see if I could dislodge his fly without snapping it off. As I tugged gently, I sensed movement at the other end.

“Luke, you’ve got big one the end of your line!”

He played it well, and I moved in with my net. The trout rolled in the film. It was monster brown! Suddenly, as big fish tend to do, it took off just as I was lifting the net. It wrapped itself around my legs and snapped off. I felt sick. I could see Luke was upset. So I consoled him with words of hope: “Luke, there’s more in here like this. You’ll probably hook into another one on the next cast.” I’m not sure I believed this. But that’s exactly what happened. Luke caught a 20+ heavy brown on his next cast — and another half dozen over 20 inches before we left that day.

Every time I fish that stretch of the Madison in the fall, I remember the one that got way — even more clearly that the ones we caught the rest of the afternoon. Even on days when I catch nothing, or simply catch smaller trout, the one that got away reminds me that there are large trout in this river. Every cast is a chance to hook one of them.

Yes, the thought of a lost lunker can be depressing at first. But over time, the memories will provide a sense of mystique, heighten the challenge you face when you head to the river, and provide hope that you’ll tie into a big one again. Maybe next time you’ll land it.

Cheers to the one that got away.

S4:E52 One Fine Day on One Fine Run

fly fishing

Steve is the restless wanderer when he is out on the water. He makes a few casts in a run and then skips ahead to the next. He moves on. On a recent trip to the Minnesota Driftless, Steve spent almost the entire two days of fishing in one fine run. In this final episode of Season 4, we continue our “One Fine Day” series about one fine run, certainly a day to remember.

ONE FINE DAY ON ONE FINE RUN

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Have you ever had a day where you stayed in one run for most of the day? We’d love to hear your stories.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing Entomology 101 – Stoneflies

entomology 101 - stoneflies

The late Bud Lilly said he often fished a hole with a streamer and caught nothing. Then, he tied on a Rubber Legs nymph, went back through the same water, and caught a nice fish.There’s a reason for this: trout love Stoneflies! So you should too.

Here’s a brief profile of this species:

Names and Varieties

  • Stoneflies belong to the order “Plecoptera.” If you’re an entomologist who is into etymology (that is, a student of insects who is into the study of word origins), this Latin term comes from two Greek words: “braided” and “wing.” Yes, it looks like Stoneflies have braided wings!
  • The four most important Stonefly species for fly fishers (with apologies to the smaller Little Brown Stones and Olive Sallies) are Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, and Skwala.

The Basics

  • Stoneflies spend most of their lives in the nymphal stage that varies in length from seven months to four years. Yes, four years! That’s why Stonefly nymph patterns can work any time of the year. For example, Dave, my podcast partner, and I have had great success with them in late October on the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Stoneflies have an incomplete metamorphosis, existing in only two stages: nymph and adult. Mature nymphs migrate to the shoreline and then crawl out of the water. They emerge into the adult stage anywhere from a few inches to fifty feet from the river’s edge. Their emergence usually takes place at night—out of the sight of birds that would prey on them. The adult Stonefly emerges when its nymph skin splits. Then it slowly crawls out and walks away from the shuck.
  • Stonefly nymphs have long, segmented bodies with two antennae sticking out of their heads, two tails, and three pairs of legs. Each leg has a couple claws which enable Stoneflies to grip the rocks in the swift water they inhabit.
  • Adult Stoneflies mate in streamside vegetation rather than in the air. However, the egg-laden females then fly over the water—with their abdomens hanging down—to deposit their eggs (which then sink to the bottom of the river). Trout can go crazy when Salmonflies or Golden Stones are depositing their eggs. The other reason you might entice a trout to take a Stonefly pattern on the surface is the tendency for Stoneflies to fall into the water from vegetation. I’ve seen Salmonflies get blown by the wind into the Yellowstone River in June.
  • Smaller Stoneflies (Little Brown Stone, Olive Sally) range from ¼ to ½ inch in length. Yellow Sallies and Skawala can approach an inch. Golden Stones can reach 1 ½ inches, while Salmonflies can extend to 2 inches.

Effective Patterns for Stoneflies

  • You can’t go wrong with Stonefly nymphs year round! My favorites are the Rubber Legs patterns with either a black or brown body in a size 4 to 8. Aside from the obvious patterns (Golden Stone Nymph, Yellow Sally Nymph, etc.), try a Kaufman’s Golden Stone or a Kaufman’s Black Stone. A Copper John in a size 12-16 usually works as well as a Yellow Sally Nymph. Similarly, a Hare’s Ear will fill in quite nicely for a Golden Stone Nymph (in sizes 4-8) or for a Skwala Nymph (in sizes 10-12). Did I mention how effectively the Rubber Legs patterns work? Yes I did, but it’s worth repeating. When all else fails, put on a big nymph with rubber legs!
  • For Stonefly adults, I like a Yellow Stimulator or a Madam X (size 6-8) for imitating Golden Stones. An Elk Hair Caddis with a green abdomen (size 10-12) will work well for Olive Sallies. If you get a chance to fish the Yellowstone River in June (assuming the runoff hasn’t turned it brown), an Improved Sofa Pillow or Warren’s Salmonfly (size 4-8) will do the job.
  • The size and color of a particular Stonefly species will vary from one river to another. After all, Golden Stones come in four subspecies. Also, some rivers (like the Missouri in Montana) do not have many (if any) Stoneflies. So check with your local fly shop before you hit a particular river.

Other Entomology 101 Articles & Sources

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Blue-Winged Olives

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Caddisflies

    Fly Fishing Entomology 101: Pale Morning Dun

    Sources: Dave Hughes, Jim Schollmeyer, Bob Granger

S4:E51 Crazy Moments from a Recent Fly Fishing Trip

fly fishing

You can’t make this stuff up – that’s a common expression after seeing or experiencing something unusual. On a recent fly fishing trip, we collected several strange moments that in aggregate made the trip one to remember. Steve had some apologizing to do after this trip.

LISTEN NOW TO CRAZY MOMENTS FROM A RECENT FLY FISHING TRIP

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

We’d love to hear from you a few crazy moments from a recent fly fishing trip.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

The Ten Commandments of Fly Fishing from a Drift Boat

fly fishing from a drift boat

Fly fishing from a drift boat was a bit unnerving.

I worried I would snag my friend who was rowing. It turns out that my fear was well-founded. But I didn’t discriminate that day. I snagged myself as well. I also snagged a tree branch on the side of the river. I felt like the drift boat was zooming along at 50 mph even though we were simply drifting the speed of the current.

However, fly fishing from a drift boat can be a terrific experience once you get used to it. It’s easy on your feet, and you can cover a lot of water. Here are a few basics to remember when fly fishing from a drift boat.

1. Thou shalt not rent and row a drift boat with no experience.

Rowing is not something you can learn “on the fly” (no pun intended). I’ve tried rowing a couple of times in friends’ drift boats, and there’s definitely a big learning curve. Usually, you’ll end up in a drift boat for the first time because you’ve hired a guide or because a friend invites you.

By the way, there’s no need to feel bad if you don’t know how to row a drift boat. You’re not missing out on something. The truth is that the rowers are the ones who miss out. They don’t get to fish!

Of course, learn the skill of maneuvering a drift boat if you can. Your fly fishing friends will thank you.

2. Relax and enjoy the ride

I’ll stop with the “Thou Shalt Nots …” for now, but drift boats are set up for your comfort and ease. As long as you’re in the boat, you don’t have to hike or wade or walk on boulders!

Typically, there’s a cushioned swivel seat with a standing platform (into which you can fit your knees) at both the front and the rear of a drift boat. Standing with your knees in the platform is best, although you can sit if you like. In fact, that’s how some vessels work — including rafts and Au Sable River boats (flat-bottomed boats originally used by loggers). They simply have benches.

3. Do not worry about making long casts

A good rower will get you close to the run you want to fish. Usually, that run is up against a bank. I rarely cast more than twenty feet when I’m fishing from a drift boat.

That’s not always true all the time, of course. Last fall, Dave (my podcast partner) and I fished Quake Lake with a guide, and our whole strategy was to stalk rising fish. Often we cast 40 feet or more.

But generally, as you drift down the river, your casts are much shorter.

4. Do get used to casting in a tighter space

To say it bluntly, you need to avoid hooking the rower! This is not a problem if you are right-handed and casting to the left while standing in the front of the boat — or casting to the right when standing in the back of the boat. Otherwise, you need to keep line high and straight over your head when your casting hand/arm is on the side of the rower. It seems a little daunting at first. But you will get used to it.

Guides are (should be) patient people and will help you if it’s your first time.

5. Do keep your line in your zone

The “zone” or space your fishing is in front of you or behind you. If you’re casting from the front of the boat, you can cast directly to your left or right, or even slightly ahead of the boat if you are casting into slower current. If you’re in the back, you need to cast slightly behind the boat.

This minimizes the risk of getting your line tangled in the oars or in the other fly fisher’s line.

6. Do share the front of the boat with the other fly fisher

Most guides will tell you when to switch.

But it’s a good idea to share since the person at the front has a slight advantage. If you’re at the front, the fish in any given run see your fly first.

Second, the guide is focusing on you and is maneuvering the front of the boat to get you into the best position to fish a particular run. However, there are days or moments when the person in the back does as well or better. So you can catch fish from either spot.

7. Do keep your fly in the water

This sounds like another tip from Captain Obvious.

But you only get one shot at a good run unless you’ve got a great rower who is willing to “back up” and let you try it again. In most cases, you can get a good long drift since your fly will travel about the same speed as the drift boat. The more false casting you do, the more fish you will miss — and the greater the chance of snagging the rower.

8. Do not panic if you get snagged

You will get snagged if you’re trying to throw your fly tight up against the bank (which you ordinarily want to do) or if you’re getting your nymphs or streamers deep enough.

Often, your rower will be able to circle back so you can retrieve your fly. Loosen your drag if necessary. If there’s no chance of retrieving your fly, then point your rod directly at the snag so that what breaks is your line — not your rod tip!

9. Do not let the fish go under the boat

My podcast partner, Dave, may or may not have broken a guide’s expensive Orvis rod because he let a monster brown trout run under the boat. However, Dave declined to be interviewed for this article.

When you hook a fish, fight it like you would if you were standing in the river or on the bank. Pull it from side to side. As it gets closer, your guide or fishing buddy will (should) have a long-handled net to net it before it’s too close to the boat.

But beware of that last-second dart for cover.

10. Do stop and wade-fish the most promising runs

One of the benefits of floating a river is the opportunity to stop and fish runs that might otherwise be inaccessible. The hike might be too long, or there may be private property you have to cross before getting to the river.

Let your guide or friend know that you would be happy to stop to fish runs that deserve more than a 30-second, all-or-nothing attempt.

If you want to listen to our episode on fly fishing from a drift boat, listen to this episode

S4:E50 Basics of Buying a Fly Fishing Rod

fly fishing

Buying a fly fishing rod should be easier than it is. It’s certainly easier to buy your second or third rod than it is your first. If you are purchasing your first rod, the brands and options are endless. In this episode, we attempt to cut out much of the noise on fly rods – and discus some basic ideas on how to think about your purchase. We each have multiple rods, and we do not have rods that are the same.

LISTEN NOW TO THE BASICS OF BUYING A FLY FISHING ROD

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

How do you go about buying a fly fishing rod? How many fly rods do you have? What would you recommend to a newbie? Which brand do you like most?

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Dry Fly Fishing During a Hatch – 5 Tips

dry fly fishing during a hatch

Dry fly fishing during a hatch can be thrilling. It can also be frustrating.

I’ve had moments where a river or creek comes alive. The water seems to thrash with rising trout. Yet my fly will drift through the frenzy untouched. I’ve learned a few things, though, over the years, when dry fly fishing during a hatch. Here are five tips that have increased my success during Caddis, Pale Morning Dun (PMD) and Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches.

Be ready for the waves

Hatches typically arrive in waves.

Sometimes they are sustained, but often they subside after a few minutes. If you’re not ready for the next wave, you might miss out while you’re tying on a fly. I had this happen recently. I was leisurely switching from a size #18 Parachute Adams to a size #20. As it turns out, I was too leisurely. By the time I was ready to cast, the BWO hatch suddenly started, slowed and then stopped. I had to wait fifteen minutes until the action began again. It always amazes me how trout will ignore the right pattern for ten minutes and then suddenly begin attacking it.

Dry fly fishing dishing a hatch is all about timing.

Land and release fish quickly

I realize that this sounds like a tip from Captain Obvious. But I’ve squandered some five minute feeding craze because I took three minutes to land a trout that should have taken one minute.

Use a net and have your hemostat (forceps) handy to remove the hook and release the trout gently and quickly. The goal is to get back to fishing to catch one more before the hatch subsides.

Make your dry fly visible

A blizzard of bugs on the surface means you will have a hard time identifying your fly. You may laugh the first time this happens. But after a while, it will drive you crazy. I have found a little hack that works, though.

If you’re fishing during a BWO or PMD hatch, use a pattern with a red or lime green post. If you’re fishing during a Caddis hatch, use a pattern with red or green fibers on the top of your Elk Hair Caddis. I’ve purchased flies like this, and I’ve even put red synthetic fibers on the top of the Elk Hair Caddis flies that I’ve tied.

If you can’t find a red or lime green post on the BWOs you purchase, use a Sharpie marker to turn the white post red or lime green.

Use an emerger or a nymph as a dropper

Recently, while fishing a little creek in the Minnesota Driftless, I felt helpless (and a bit angry) that I couldn’t get a trout to rise to my size #20 Parachute Adams. I knew it was the right size given all of the bugs I saw fluttering in the air.

But then, during a particularly intense hatch, I realized that the trout were feeding on emergers. I saw several dart through the water without breaking the surface. Those that did simply broke the surface with their fins. So I tied on a foot of tippet to the bend in the hook of my dry fly. At the end of the tippet, I tied on a small beadhead Copper John. I had action immediately and ended up catching about ten trout in the next half hour.

Switch to nymphs or streamers if nothing works

Sometimes, though, nothing works.

Before giving up, try a streamer. Or try nymphing. Yes, you can use a nymph as a dropper as I described above. But traditional nymphing will get your flies deeper. That might just be the ticket to success. Trout, at times, prefer to feed on emerging nymphs well before they approach the surface of the river. Streamers can work, too. A trout that won’t budge for an emerger may well show interest in a super-sized meal.

There’s nothing quite like fishing during a hatch. But there’s nothing to like about it if you’re not getting some strikes and hooking a few fish.

S4:E49 Fishing Where Grizzlies and Mountain Lions Live

fly fishing

Fishing where grizzlies and mountain lions live requires a heightened level of vigilance. It seems as if there have been more reports of mountain lion attacks the past year or two than in recent memory. Not long ago, a runner in Colorado was attacked by a young mountain lion while trail running west of Fort Collins. And just this spring a boy in Montana turned back a charging grizzly with bear spray. In this episode, we recount a few hair-raising stories of encounters while fishing where grizzlies and mountain lions live. And also offer up a few practical ways to ensure your safety when out and about in the great outdoors.

LISTEN NOW TO FISHING WHERE GRIZZLIES AND MOUNTAIN LIONS LIVE

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

Have you had any close calls while fishing where grizzlies and mountain lions live? Or maybe you’ve seen a grizzly or mountain lion while in the outdoors?

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Fly fishing is a wisdom sport. The more you fish, the more you accumulate tips and ideas and hacks – that make you more proficient and increase your enjoyment of the sport.

This book is just that – lists of wisdom that we’ve accumulated through the years. It has come from guides, fly fisher friends, from our reading, and from watching videos.

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you’ll read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park – The Waters

Yellowstone Nationa Park - The Waters

America’s first national park provides endless venues for fly fishing. This is the second installment of our series: Yellowstone National Park – the Waters. Richard Parks, fly shop owner just outside the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park (YNP), has identified over 100 streams, rivers, and lakes to fish.

Here are ten waters to consider if you make a trip to fly fish in Yellowstone:

Yellowstone River

This is the major river in YNP.

Perhaps the most popular section is the 13-mile stretch between Yellowstone Lake and the Upper Falls — especially in Hayden Valley. After the mighty ‘Stone emerges from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, access is difficult until Tower Fall.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I like to hike down to the river from the Tower Fall parking area and then fish upriver. You can also access the river from the bridge near Tower Junction.

Madison River

The Madison begins at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers at Madison Junction. You can expect to catch 8- to 14-inch trout (the locals) during the spring and summer. Then, the “runners” — the big brutes heading up from Hebgen Lake to spawn — typically show up in late September and October.

Lamar River

This is an outstanding fishery!

However, it gets a lot of pressure. Also, as the joke goes, all it takes to make the Lamar muddy is an elk urinating a few drops into it. Actually, even light rain seems to turn this river chalky or brown.

Gardner River

Like the Madison, the Gardner has local trout in the 8- to 14-inch range. But during October, the browns come up from the Yellowstone to spawn. Dave and I have also caught some big rainbows and cutthroats that trail behind the spawners in search of eggs.

There’s usually less pressure on the Gardner in October than there is on the Madison.

Slough Creek

This is another well-known fishery in YNP, but frankly, it’s a long hike to get to the second meadow where the best fishing begins. I rode in on horseback with my dad and a friend several years ago (the fishing was good), and that’s the only way I’d do it.

Firehole River

This fabled river, well, stream, fishes best in June and October — before the thermal water flowing into it warms it up enough to make the trout lethargic. It’s a superb choice if you like dry fly fishing.

Gibbon River

The Gibbon River is more stream than river.

The good news is that the stretch from Elk Park (near Norris Geyser Basin) to Madison Junction is right along the highway, making for easy access. That’s also the bad news. It gets a lot of pressure from anglers. But it usually fishes well through the summer.

Indian and Panther Creeks

If small creeks are your thing, these are great choices. At least they were a couple decades ago when my family and I used to camp at the Indian Creek Campground. We had a great time fishing these little creeks. The trout are small but abundant. Both creeks join the Gardner (or Upper Gardner, to be precise). I’ve had success in all three waters.

Lewis Lake and River

The inlet and outlet are the most productive places to fly fish Lewis Lake. As far as the Lewis River, the fastest sections below Lewis Falls usually give anglers the best chance for success. Brown trout run up into this stretch from Jackson Lake in the fall.

Yellowstone Lake

This huge lake fishes best early in the season — that is, for the four weeks or so after it opens on June 15. The fish are closer to shore. Try some of the sheltered bays as well as the shore near the inlet streams and the outlet to the Yellowstone River.

A disclaimer

There is terrific fishing in the other 90+ waters I did not have time or space to mention! For more detailed information, consult Richard Park’s fine book, Fishing in Yellowstone National Park

Admittedly, I’ve weighted my suggestions towards moving water and towards the northern part of Yellowstone. That’s where I have spent most of my time over the years.

Also, check out our previous post on the basics of fly fishing in Yellowstone—including the need to carry bear spray! We hope you get a chance to fish in this magnificent area.

S4:E48 Landing Larger Trout

fly fishing

Landing larger trout takes a different skill set than what most of us practice on a regular basis. It takes a different set of chops to net a 22-inch rainbow than it does to rip out a 10-inch brook trout. Most of us have lots of experience landing smaller fish and rare opportunities of landing larger trout. In this episode, we lament the monsters we’ve lost and offer up some practical advice to make sure you net the next big fish that you hook.

LISTEN NOW TO LANDING LARGER TROUT

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights and stories of our listeners.

We’d love to hear about a big fish that you lost. Or landed! And what other tips would you recommend? Steve needs all the help he can get.

Please post your comments and stories below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you.

Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop.

If you are a nonprofit, serving the outdoors community, you have our permission to reprint our content in your online or print newsletter with the appropriate credit and links. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park – The Basics

fly fishing in Yellowstone

People laughed at John Colter’s description of the area that became Yellowstone National Park. They referred to it as “Colter’s hell” because his description of bubbling mud pots and boiling waters seemed too amazing. The place is amazing, and so is fly fishing in Yellowstone. Your fly fishing bucket list needs to include Yellowstone National Park (YNP).

Here are the basics you need to know about fly fishing in YNP if you’re planning on making a trip.

Seasons

The earliest you can fish in YNP is Memorial Day weekend. So if you plan an April trip to Montana (a great time to fly fish there!), don’t expect to make a side trip to YNP. The season opens the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and extends through the first Sunday in November.

However, some waters do not open until June 15 or July 15. Most notably, the Yellowstone River upstream of Chittenden Bridge near Canyon does not open until July 15.

Some of the best fly fishing is in the fall when the crowds of tourists are gone and the brown trout are spawning.

Permits

Anglers 16 years of age and older need to purchase a YNP permit. Currently, you can purchase a 3-day permit for $18, a 7-day permit for $25, or a season-long permit for $40. You can purchase these at fly shops outside YNP as well as in the Park at visitor centers, backcountry offices, or the Yellowstone General Stores.

You do not need a state permit (Wyoming or Montana) to fly fish in YNP. However, if you’re fishing near the Park’s boundary, make sure you have a state permit or else know exactly where the boundary line runs. For example, if you fish the Baker’s Hole area on the Madison River, you may want to fish both in Montana and in YNP.

Wading Boots

Felt-soled footgear is prohibited!

The purpose of this restriction is “to reduce the potential for introduction or spread of aquatic invasive species” (according to YNP regulations).

Flies

There are two restrictions that fly fishers can easily overlook. First, your weights must be lead-free. This applies both to split shot used for nymphs and streamers as well as to the ribbon or wire wrapped into your streamers. I still have a few Woolly Buggers I tied years ago and weighted with lead wire, so I remove those from my fly box when I fish in YNP.

Second, hooks must have barbless points.

YNP regulations say that you can pinch down the barbs with pliers. I sometimes carry a small pair of needle nose pliers for this purpose. You can even use your hemostat (forceps) to do this, but in my experience, it only works well with size 16 flies or smaller.

Grizzly Bears

YNP is grizzly bear country! So take the necessary precautions.

First, it’s best to avoid fishing alone. Second, make noise—especially where visibility is limited. Preventing surprise encounters will go a long way to ensuring safety. So talk loudly or sing. You may feel silly hollering “Whoa bear!” every time you approach timber or thick brush. But it could save your life. Third, do not leave your vehicle without bear spray! Your life may depend on it. You can purchase bear spray in stores outside YNP.

Alright, that covers the basics. You can find out what waters to fly fish in our upcoming article on “Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park — The Waters.”

Also, please note that regulations can change from season to season, and so do water conditions. So make sure to check with area fly shops, and by all means, ead YNP’s fishing regulations for yourself.

S4:E47 Legends of Fly Fishing: Joe Brooks

fly fishing

Joe Brooks was one of America’s greatest sportsman, and his contribution to the rise of fly fishing in America, including the conservation of our fisheries, is unparalleled. With this episode, we start a new series called “Legends of Fly Fishing,” in which we profile some of the great contributors to our sport. First up is Joe Brooks, whose first half of life and second half of life couldn’t be more different. Joe’s life is inspiring on so many different levels, one of which is that he didn’t make his most important contribution to the sport until late midlife. See below for a link to where you can watch the full documentary on his amazing life called “Finding Joe Brooks.”

LISTEN NOW TO LEGENDS OF FLY FISHING: JOE BROOKS

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

What part of the story of Joe Brooks do you resonate with most? Do you have other,  additional anecdotes about Joe Brooks?

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

To watch the documentary that we mention in the podcast, visit the Joe Brooks Documentary web site.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing’s Critical Moment

fly fishing's critical moment

Fly fishing has its share of critical moments. But one is especially important when it comes to landing the trout you’ve just hooked. It’s the moment right after the hook-set.

Tricky situation

The good news is that you have a fish on the other end of the line. The bad news is that you may have several yards of fly line at your feet or in the water. This line needs to be retrieved so that the fish is fighting against your reel as well as your rod.

Sure, some fly fishers prefer to fight fish without the aid of their reel. Yet a good fly reel is designed to manage the tension while the fish is fighting on the other end of the line. When its drag is properly set, the reel provides some resistance to the trout that is trying to escape. It also prevents a fish from snapping the line when it suddenly darts or lurches.

The reel lets out line before the weakest part of your line — the tippet or the knot you’ve tied—reaches a breaking point.

Maintaining tension

While you retrieve the excess line with one hand, you need to maintain tension with the other. So, if you’re right-handed, you’ll need to maintain tension on your fly line with your right index finger. Sounds easy, right? If you’ve ever done this, you know that it’s easy to clamp down too hard on the line with your index finger. Then, when the trout makes a sudden move, the line can snap because there is no “give” in it.

However, if you don’t clamp down a bit on the line, there’s no tension. The hook can slide out of the fish’s mouth. Or, the trout can more readily “shake off” the hook. This is especially the case with larger fish.

Retrieving excess line

Getting the proper amount of tension with your right index finger is only half the battle. Your left hand must simultaneously pull in the excess line. This is what a reel handle is for, right? Perhaps. But if you pay attention to the way fly reels are designed, you’ll notice that the spool is exposed. This allows you to “palm” spool—that is, to spin it quickly with the palm of your hand.

Don’t worry about making a neat, tidy retrieve of your line. Just get it in as quickly as you can. Later, after you’ve landed, admired, and released your fish, you can strip out the line and rewind it in a more even manner.

Adjusting the drag

As soon as you have retrieved the excess line, remember to adjust the drag. I usually keep my tension light so it’s easy for me to strip out more line as I’m casting. So when I have a fish in the other end, I invariably need to “tighten” the drag a bit. It’s easy enough to do. The size of the fish and the amount of fight it has determines exactly how much adjustment I make.

It’s a relief to get through this critical moment!

Now I’m playing the fish against my reel. I can reel in line as needed and let the fish run a bit (but only a bit!). I’ve lost my share of trout because I was clumsily trying to retrieve excess line. Don’t make the same mistake. If you can retrieve your excess fly line while keeping sufficient pressure on the line, you have a much better chance of keeping the fish on your life.

This is a case where your right hand needs to know what your left hand is doing. Keep them working together!

S4:E46 Fishing When Nothing Is Working

fly fishing

You arrive first on the river. You have a couple miles of river to fish by yourself. The day is slightly overcast. Fishing reports have been fantastic. This is the day. You fish the first run. Nothing. Then the next. Nothing. You switch to streamers. Nothing. Then to nymphs. Nothing. Three hours later, you’ve had one strike. And you missed the hook set. What do you do when nothing is working?

LISTEN NOW TO FISHING WHEN NOTHING IS WORKING

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

What do you do when nothing is working? How do you think about your day on the river? What tactics do you change up?

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Landing Larger Trout

landing larger trout

My friends and family members are making me envious. Yesterday, my friend, Greg, showed me photos of a couple steelhead he caught in Wisconsin on streamers. Both were about 20 inches. Last week, on the same day I enjoyed catching an 11-inch brown on a size 20 dry fly in the Wisconsin Driftless, my son, Luke, sent me a photo of a 22-inch rainbow he caught on a tiny Zebra Midge.

Gazing (with envy) at those photos reminded me how challenging it is to land large trout. I’ve landed my share of trout over 20 inches. But I’ve lost a lot of them too. Here are some practices I’ve learned for landing larger trout. If I had used all of them sooner, who knows how many more big fish I would have caught!

Use a stronger tippet

I’ve landed 20-inch rainbows in Montana’s Madison River on 5x tippet. But a 5x tippet is only 4.75 pound test. Going to a size 4x increases that to 6 pound test, and a 3x tippet increases is to 8.5 pound test.

Using a stronger tippet with streamers is a no-brainer. Admittedly, it’s a bit more challenging with tiny dry flies or nymphs.

When I’m fishing with nymphs, I will typically use a 3x tippet on my lead fly if it’s large – like a size 8 or 10 stonefly. Then, I’ll use the 4x on the smaller dropper—such as a size 18 Copper John. In most cases, the increase in size doesn’t spook the fish. It’s helpful, though, if there’s a bit of color to the water.

Pull the fish from side to side

Gary Borger taught me several years ago that pulling a fish from side to side tires it out more quickly than simply pulling it in straight. Pulling it from side to side works the fish’s muscles. So point your fly rod to the side when you’re trying to land a large trout.

If you’re using a stronger tippet, then you can be a bit more aggressive and land the fish quicker. That’s a win-win situation. The trout will be less stressed than if you prolong the fight. You’ll also have less opportunities for a trout to run on you and snap the line on a rock or submerged branch. I’ve had both happen.

Use a long-handled net

The net I carry when I have a chance to hook into large trout has an 8.5-inch handle. The extra length extends my reach. That can make all the difference when trying to land a monster. I’ve had the frustration of getting a large trout almost within reach but needing an extra 2 or 3 inches.

A long-handled net cuts down on that frustration.

I don’t always catch large trout. But when I do, I have a much better chance of landing them when I’m practicing these three tips.

S4:E45 Fly Care and Presentation

fly fishing

Scant attention is paid to fly care and presentation. So much of the focus is on fly rods, reels, waders, boots – and every other fly fishing gadget known to humankind. But without the fly itself, there is no catching. In this episode, we concoct a list of aphorisms – short witty statements about how to care for your flies.

LISTEN NOW TO FLY CARE AND PRESENTATION

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

Any advice that you’d like to share with our listeners about fly care and presentation? Where did we miss the mark? What should be added to the conversation?

Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Dry Flies for Spring Fly Fishing

dry flies for spring fly fishing

Spring is in the air. So are millions of flies. Mayflies. Caddisflies. Craneflies. It’s the time of year when dry fly fishing begins to work.

If you are new to fly fishing and wonder what dry flies to have in your fly box, here are the two basic patterns you need:

Parachute Adams

If the fly fishing authorities limited me to one dry fly pattern for spring, I would not think twice. My hands-down choice is the Parachute Adams. This pattern imitates midges and Mayflies — and especially the sub-species of Mayflies known as Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs). My favorite size is an 18.

However, last week in the Wisconsin Driftless, I saw trout rising to small BWOs. So I put on a size 20 Parachute Adams and promptly caught an 11-inch brown.

In the interest of full disclosure, the size 20 pattern I used was a Parachute Purple Haze. It’s the same fly as a Parachute Adams, only with a purple body. Honestly, I haven’t noticed that one works better than the other. Trout seem to like either one. Perhaps the Purple Haze gives them a slightly different look from the tried-and-true Parachute Adams. But that advantage is disappearing as more fly fishers give in to the “purple haze craze.”

What I like about the Parachute Adams – or its flashy cousin (the Purple Haze) – is the white post or “parachute” that makes it visible. Even a size 20 sticks out as it floats down the run.

The Parachute Adams works well in the West, the Upper Midwest, and (from what my friends tell me) the East as well. Wherever you find midges and BWOs, the pattern will work. Midges appear throughout the winter and into spring, while BWOs show up in March.

Elk Hair Caddis

My other go-to pattern for spring fly fishing is the Elk Hair Caddis. Caddisflies appear in mid-April in both the West and the Upper Midwest. Fly fishers in southwest Montana — on the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers — eagerly await the “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch.” Of course, by the time Mother’s Day appears on the calendar, the rivers usually look like chocolate milk. However, late-April fishing before the spring runoff can be fantastic as Caddis hatches intensify.

The Elk Hair Caddis is a bushy fly, and the tan elk hair wing makes it quite visible. The only problem is that it doesn’t stand out among dozens of other Caddisflies on the surface of the water. You can solve this problem can be solved by tying (or buying) an Elk Hair Caddis with some red or pink fibers on top of the elk hair wing.

The best sizes range from 14-18. It all depends on the watershed you’re fishing as well as the time of year. The best way to figure out the size is … you guessed it … check with a local fly shop. Also, some rivers will fish better with certain body colors. When I’m on the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Montana, I like a green or a tan body. When I’m in the Wisconsin or Minnesota Driftless, I prefer a black body. I’ve even used some flies with elk hair that has been dyed black.

Other Patterns

I’m tempted to end the article here because these two flies will work in the spring 80% of the time when bugs are in the air and on the water. However, the later you get into spring, you’ll start to see some other flies that require other patterns.

In the Upper Midwest, Hendricksons appear as early as mid-April. Sulfers, March Browns, and Craneflies show up in May. I remember an evening on a little stream in the Wisconsin Driftless when the trout refused everything but a Cranefly pattern.

In the West, March Browns in a size 12 work well surprisingly early on the big rivers like the Yellowstone. There are Stonefly hatches as well that happen in the spring. Even a Stimulator can be effective at times — even though I tend to think of it as a pattern for summer.

Your best bet, though, will be to have plenty of Parachute Adams and Elk Hair Caddis flies in various sizes and — in the case of the Elk Hair Caddis — various colors.

While nymphs and streamers are always a sure bet in the spring, don’t neglect dry flies. You might miss out on the fun!

S4:E44 Simplifying Your Fly Fishing Experience

fly fishing

Fly fishing tends to move from simplicity to complexity. You start out learning to cast. And you have one fly rod. You pick up a couple of attractor patterns. And you have one fly box. You purchase a vest, waders, and wading boots. And head to the river. Over time, however, you wind up with four fly rods, thirteen fly boxes with hundreds of flies, and a couple vests that are weighed down by every gadget known to humankind. Fly fishing has become complex. In this epsidode, we discuss ways for simplifying your fly fishing experience.

LISTEN NOW TO SIMPLIFYING YOUR FLY FISHING EXPERIENCE

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

How have you simplified your fly fishing experience? We’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments below, and we’ll consider them for our Great Stuff from Our Listener’s segment.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing Entomology 101 – Caddisflies

caddisflies

If Mayflies resemble small twin-engine airplanes, Caddisflies resemble B-52 bombers. The long wings of Caddis flies flank their abdomen, meeting at the top like the two slopes of a gable roof. This means Caddis patterns are easy to see on the water.

However, during the thick of a hatch, it’s hard to pick out your fly in the midst of dozens of other bugs on the surface. I’ve even had to scoop away Caddis adults that are crawling on my glasses, my nose, my hat, and my sleeves.

It’s no wonder that Gary LaFontaine called the Spotted Sedge Caddis the single most important trout-stream insect. I’ve caught fish on Caddis patterns from Wisconsin to Montana. Here is a brief profile of this important species:

Names

  • “No matter what the subspecies, fly fishers simply refer to them as “Caddis.”
  • “Caddisflies belong to the order ‘Trichoptera.’ Occasionally, books on flies and fly patterns simply refer to ‘Spotted Sedge’ — the most notable subspecies of Caddisflies for fly fishers.”

The Basics

  • Most Caddisflies have a one-year life cycle. Once they emerge, the adults can live for as long as a month—as opposed to a couple of days for most Mayflies.
  • Caddisflies, unlike Mayflies and Stoneflies, have complete metamorphosis, going from egg (1-3 weeks) to larva (9-10 months) to pupa (2-5 weeks) to adult (1-3 weeks).
  • Entomologists divide Caddisflies into five groups based on the way their larvae behave. The five groups are: free living (no case or shelter), saddle-case (dome-shaped case with an opening at each end), net-spinning (a case with a web next to its entrance to catch food), tube case (portable case that enables the larvae to move around when threatened), and purse-case (a case of silk and fine sand).
  • Spotted Sedge Caddisflies are net-spinners.
  • According to Dave Hughes, trout probably eat more Caddis larvae than any of the other stages. Trout are likely to feed more selectively on pupae than on larvae or adult Caddisflies.
  • Caddisflies hatch about any time of the day. To be sure, the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. window is usually a given. But I’ve fished in Caddis hatches between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and as late as dusk—both in the Upper Midwest and in the Intermountain West.

Effective Patterns for Caddisflies

  • Most fly fishers will concentrate on patterns that imitate the larva and the adult stages. But since Caddisflies (like Mayflies) can get “stuck” in their pupal shuck, the right pupa pattern can be effective.
  • It’s best to check your local fly shop for the best larva pattern to use since there is such a wide variety of Caddis larvae. Some of the more popular patterns include the Tan Caddis Larva and the Olive Caddis Larva (both with beadheads). I’ve also used a Beadhead Red Fox Squirrel Nymph successfully in the Yellowstone River in Montana.
  • Popular pupae patterns include the Deep Sparkle Pupa (either brown or yellow), the Krystal Flash Pupa, and the Beadhead Caddis Pupa. Fly shops will typically have a particular pattern that works well in the local waters.
  • The most famous of all the adult patterns is the Elk Hair Caddis. This fly has tan elk hair, although we’ve used patterns with the elk hair dyed black in the Driftless region of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The body of an Elk Hair Caddis will typically be tan or green or (in some instances) black.
  • The X-Caddis pattern, developed by Craig Matthews and John Juracek, is a great option for imitating adults which are caught in their pupal shuck.
  • often tie a bit of red or pink antron body wool on the top of my Elk Hair Caddis pattern (see the above photo) so that they are visible to me when surrounded by a dozen other Caddisflies in the current.
  • Sizes 12-18 are standard for all stages, although I’ve done the best over the years with sizes 14-16.

Other Entomology 101 Articles & Sources

    THE PALE MORNING DUN

    BLUE WINGED OLIVES (BWO)

    Sources: Dave Hughes, Craig Matthews, Jim Schollmeyer, Bob Granger

S4:E43 Spring Dry Fly Fishing

fly fishing

Spring dry fly fishing is one of the most delightful stretches of the fly fishing year. While there are other hatches, the two most dominant in most streams and rivers, of course, are Blue Winged Olives (BWOs) and Caddis. In this episode, we discuss patterns that we like, the use of an emerger with a dry fly, and the importance (once again) of size and color.

LISTEN NOW TO SPRING DRY FLY FISHING

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

We’d love to hear your tips for catching more fish on dries in the spring. Are there any patterns that work especially well for BWOs and Caddis? Please post your comments below.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Best Fly Fishing Gear Developments in the Last Decade

fly fishing gear developments

Fly fishing gear has come a long way since I first started fly fishing in the late 1970s. Fiberglass rods have given way to graphite rods. Lightweight breathable fabric waders have replaced the body-hugging neoprene kind. Everything else from wading boots to reels reflect better technology. Fly fishing gear developments have made the sport a bit easier — if not more expensive.

Here are four noteworthy developments I’ve appreciated in the last decade or so. Some are arguably more significant than others. But each one makes the sport a bit easier for fly fishers — and even the fish we land.

4-piece fly rods

For years, two-piece fly rods were the standard. The first decent fly rod I purchased — an Orvis Silver Label — came in two pieces. The length wasn’t an issue except for backpacking trips to high mountain lakes.

Then, about the time I moved away from Montana, airline flights started charging for extra carry-ons. Thankfully, the four-piece rod became a thing about that time. Rod makers redesigned tapers and ferrules so that a four-piece rod performed as well as its two-piece counterpart.

Sure, some of the best casters can tell a difference between the way a two-piece and a four-piece rod handles. But most of us would be hard-pressed to figure out which is which if we did some casting with each one while blindfolded.

I am a big fan of the four-piece fly rod because its rod tube fits inside my suitcase. It also straps onto the side of my backpack frame without reaching into outer space.

Rubber nets

If you haven’t noticed, newer landing nets come with rubber netting. There are no strings attached.

This is a huge development for fish health for at least two reasons.

The first is obvious: Rubber nets flex, so they are less jarring to the fish than string nets. It resembles the difference between falling back onto your mattress (and the resulting bounce) and falling back onto your box springs (ouch!). Second, I suspect that rubber nets remove less mucus from a fish’s body than string nets do. That mucus is a vital protector of a fish’s skin.

Besides, I’ve noticed that the hook on my flies — especially the one the trout didn’t take on a two-fly rig — doesn’t get tangled in rubber webbing like it did in my stringed nets.

Foot Tractor Soles

Another great development was Patagonia’s Foot Tractor boot soles. There’s nothing like felt soles for traction on slippery rocks. But felt has fallen out of flavor (and is illegal in some watersheds) because of concerns about how it might trap microorganisms and transport them to the next river you fish.

However, before you rush out to buy a new pair of wading boots, you need to be aware of another new development. Patagonia’s Foot Tractors have retailed for the past few years at about $279. That price is hefty enough, but I could justify it for the sake of safety. Now Patagonia has collaborated with Danner Boots to produce a beautiful pair of leather wading boots with the patented Foot Tractor soles. But these boots retail at $549. Gulp!

Unfortunately, the “old” model is being phased out. You might want to buy the “old” model on closeout — if you can find them. I did that recently so I’ll have an affordable pair when my current pair of Foot Tractors wears out.

Zip-front Waders

I like this new development!

Admittedly, I haven’t purchased a pair of zip-front waders yet. But I’m going to consider them when my current waders wear out. Waders with a waterproof zipper make it easier to get in and out of them, as well as to answer the call of nature.

There is one downside. Yes, you guessed it—zip-front waters cost more than the traditional kind. However, I recently saw a pair of Cabela’s zippered waders for $149.

Honestly, fly fishers do not need every new gadget or model that shows up on the floor of a fly shop or the pages of an online store. But there are a few gear developments that make fly fishing a more satisfying experience — for both fly fishers and fish.

S4:E42 One Fine Winter Day on the Blue

fly fishing

It was a great day for skiing in late winter – a fresh foot of powder blanketed the landscape. But we were fishing. Recently, we got up before dawn and drove almost four hours to fish for a few hours on a stretch of the Blue River west of Madison, Wisconsin. The snow was fresh, and there were no tracks on what is often a busy stretch of river (er, small spring creek). In this episode, we recount one fine winter day on the Blue River, and we hope it evokes a great memory from one of your recent days on the water.

LISTEN NOW TO ONE FINE WINTER DAY ON THE BLUE

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

We’d love to hear about a one-fine-day story from one of your recent trips. Please post your comments below!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

How Closely Should You Match the Hatch?

match the hatch

Whether you tie or buy your flies, it’s tempting to think that if you’re not catching fish, one reason may be that your fly does not match exactly what’s transpiring in the water column. However, the Law of Diminishing Returns seems to apply to how closely you need to match the actual insects. Here are six mostly true statements about matching the hatch:

1. Trout are not like us.

While there are days when I think my teenager may have a single digit IQ, it’s more likely true of trout. No doubt that big brown is wily, but its feeding pattern seems to be driven largely by an evolutionary algorithm that takes into account calories divided by energy. The numerator always needs to be greater than the denominator.

Ergo, the calories need to be worth the effort.

While we may worry that we don’t have the perfect fly for any given situation, the trout may be ignoring what we’re casting for a different reason other than it is not the exact bug that is rolling along the bottom, emerging or hatching on the surface.

2. Some flies work everywhere.

A wide variety of nymphs are highly effective anywhere where trout are found. That’s no surprise, I’m sure.

Just to name two old standby nymphs: the Pheasant Tail Nymph and the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear. These are just gold, pretty much in any cold-water fishery across the world.

And then there’s the trusty, old-and-tired Parachute Adams, your grandfather’s dun pattern. In various body colors, this fly can represent nearly all the mayflies, caddis, and midges that are emerging at the film, where the adult pulls itself free from the pupal skin.

The Parachute Adams is not sexy, but it works. Somehow, the trout find it strike-worthy even though it isn’t a perfect match to the BWOs that are popping.

3. Suggestion is more important than imitation.

In fly fishing, the “close enough” principle seems to be at work.

I’ve been surprised how even a Colorado fly like the H & L Variant, a high riding attractor pattern, fools trout on the Driftless streams in the Midwest. It can be used to imitate Green Drakes on the Frying Pan in Colorado as well as the Crane Fly (also known as “leather jackets,” “daddy-long-legs,” and “skeeter eaters”) in the Driftless.

Perfection is not the end game; catching fish is.

4. Color and size trump the perfect match to the hatch.

This morsel of fly fishing advice is as old as the river you’re fishing, but it holds true and is worth repeating:

If you’re not catching fish, try a smaller fly. Or change color. That’s especially true with dry flies, but it also is true of nymphs and emergers.

On one fly fishing trip, I couldn’t figure out how to catch browns on a stream in the Driftless region during a caddis hatch in early May. It’s not like I’d never catch a riser, but I’d land one or two when I thought I should have caught ten or more. I finally grabbed an adult caddis one morning and analyzed its coloring. It was largely black. Then I looked at what I was casting – a tan-bodied caddis pattern.

Duh!

I picked up some black-bodied caddis later in the afternoon, and the next morning I was golden. Or at least more golden than I was the day earlier. I also dropped a size #18 Olive Serendipity about eight inches from my dry fly. The emerger seemed to work when the browns refused the adult caddis pattern.

5. Less is more, and more is more.

The knowledge that fish tend to prefer suggestion over imitation can help you simplify the number of patterns that you carry. Less is more as it relates to carrying all the possible flies for each hatch.

And more is more as it relates to color and size.

6. Some trout are more picky than others.

That’s certainly true on spring creeks, with even flows and temperatures, clear waters, and seemingly an unlimited food supply. You always need to refine your tackle and techniques when fishing on spring creeks.

Also, if your stream gets slammed during certain parts of the year, with fly fishers at every bend, fish seem to appreciate more precision or a different look.

S4:E41 Fair Labor Practices for Fly Fishing Products

fly fishing

Fly fishing is truly global, if for no other reason than most fly fishing products are created or assembled in other parts of the world. In this episode, we interview Peter Stitcher, who, along with his wife Jessica, is the co-founder of Ascent Fly Fishing in the Denver area. Peter designed his company with purpose, and one of the key elements of his vision is to sell sustainable flies. Listen to Peter describe his “fly tying factory” in Africa, where he has created a community of fly tiers who have become, essentially, part of his extended family and who participate in the profits of his business.

LISTEN NOW TO FAIR LABOR PRACTICES FOR FLY FISHING PRODUCTS

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

What are your thoughts on Peter’s vision for sustainable fly fishing products?

For more information on Peter Stitcher and his fly fishing business in Colorado, visit Ascent Fly Fishing.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a few fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

A Few of My Favorite Things About Spring Fly Fishing

favorite things of spring fly fishing

Raindrops on rainbow runs, hands without mittens
Bright colored Copper Johns, trout that are smitten
Browns slamming streamers so hard as they swing
These are a few of my favorite things

Perhaps this is not what Rodgers and Hammerstein had in mind when they wrote the show tune “My Favorite Things.” But spring fly fishing makes me want to break out in song! Here are a few of my favorite things about fly fishing in the springtime.

A new beginning

Spring is the new year of fly fishing.

After a long winter (and, boy, was it long in the Upper Midwest this year), this is the first of the three best seasons of the year for fly fishers—spring, summer, and fall. Let the fun begin!

Oh, yes, there’s a chance to use the new gear purchased with Christmas gift cards and, uh, money that could otherwise be put into savings.

Insect hatches

Spring is the time of year when the river bottom comes to life. The first brood of Blue Winged Olives shows up in March. Then Caddis emerge as the water temperature rises in mid-April. After a fall of slinging streamers and a winter day or two of drifting midges, the explosion of insect life is a welcome gift.

Runners

Spring is as a time for runners — the rainbows that head up the rivers to the redds (spawning beds), as well as other species of trout, which lurk behind in wait for eggs or small egg sacs to drift down the river. I’ve tied into some large rainbows on Montana’s Madison and Missouri Rivers during the spring rainbow run.

If you’re fishing during the spring, make sure to stay off the redds. There’s no need to add stress to spawning fish. Once you know what to look for, it isn’t hard to spot the redds. Look for shiny spots in gravelly places. You can fish below or above them. But please leave the redds alone.

Fewer crowds

Depending where you live, you still might see a lot of fly fishers in the spring — especially if you’re on a stretch of river where big rainbows are on the move. But tourist season is still a few weeks away. So you typically won’t have to deal with large crowds.

By the way, I have nothing against tourists or fly fishers who can only fish on a summer vacation. I’m now a tourist, I suppose, when I return “home” to Montana where I lived and fly fished for the better part of 25 years. The reality, though, is that you’ll have less competition in the spring than in the middle of July.

Crazy weather

Call me crazy, but I’m intrigued by crazy weather.

I’ve fly-fished in Montana and in Wisconsin on 60-degree days in March. I’ve also stood knee-deep in Montana’s Madison River in April when the snow softly falls. A few years ago, my podcast partner, Dave, and I floated the Upper Madison with a friend on a mid-April day. I think we saw at least three seasons, complete with sun, wind, sleet, and rain. It’s rather fascinating.

Alright, these are a few of my favorite things about fly fishing in the spring. Hooray for spring! It’s time to grab a fly rod and head for the river.

When no trout bite
When the sleet stings
When I’m casting bad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

S4:E40 What We’d Tell Our 20-Year-Old Fly Fishing Selves

fly fishing

If we had it to do over again, we’d do a few things differently. In this episode, we ask the question, “What would we tell our 20-year-old fly fishing selves?” One answer is that we’d have spent fewer years as do-it-your-selvers. That is, we’d have pursued more fly fishing instruction in our 20s. We’d be much better fly fishers today. We identify a handful of big ideas that we think could benefit fly fishers just starting out.

LISTEN NOW TO WHAT WE’D TELL OUR 20-YEAR-OLD FLY FISHING SELVES

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self, if anything? Some of you might say, “Get out on the river right now!” We look forward to your comments.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing Entomology 101 – The Pale Morning Dun

Pale Morning Dun

We were getting ready to step out of the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon and head to our SUV when my son exclaimed, “Dad, there’s one of those pale flies!” He was right. I turned and watched a couple Pale Morning Duns flying near the opposite bank.

It was a late morning in July, and so we tied on a couple of “pale fly” patterns and caught a handful of 16-18 inch browns. Veteran fly fisher Dave Hughes says that Pale Morning Duns are the second most important mayflies for fly fishing — not far behind Blue-Winged Olives.

Here is a quick profile of this species.

Names

  • “Pale Morning Dun” is commonly abbreviated as “PMD.”
  • There are two species of PMDs—inermis (the most numerous species) and infrequens. It is impossible to tell the two apart, but it really doesn’t matter to fly fishers.

The Basics

  • Like Blue Winged Olives, PMDs inhabit all kinds of rivers and streams in the western United States. You will find the heaviest populations in spring creeks and tailwaters.
  • PMD hatches are most prolific in June and July, although they appear in May and continue into August.
  • The best time of day for PMD hatches is late morning to early afternoon. While hatches can begin as early as 9 a.m., PMDs are more likely to emerge around 11 a.m. and continue into the afternoon—until 3 p.m. or so.

Nymph Stage

  • PMDs nymphs belong to the crawler group of mayflies.
  • PMDs in the nymph stage are poor swimmers. They are slow and rather feeble, drifting along the bottom for quite a distance before they reach the surface.
  • PMD nymphs have blocky bodies with a modest taper, and their color ranges from reddish brown to dark brown with a bit of an olive tint.

Adult Stage

  • As their name suggests, Pale Morning Duns have a pale-yellow colored body with yellow-gray (female) or pale gray (male) wings. They also have small hindwings.
  • PMD Duns tend to have trouble getting off the water. So they drift for long distances while their wings dry. Frequently, they get stuck in their shucks as cripples. They often flutter in an attempt to lift off, but then end up back on the surface of the river.
  • Once PMDs emerge and molt into the spinner stage, they mate. Both the spent males and females end up on the water’s surface.

Effective Patterns

  • The classic PMD nymph pattern is a Hare’s Ear in an olive-brown color. A Beadhead Fox Squirrel nymph works too.
  • For an emerger pattern, a PMD Floating Nymph/Emerger is best.
  • For the dun stage, Craig Matthew’s Pale Morning Sparkle Dun is my favorite. A burnt wing pattern (like the one pictured above) usually works well, too.
  • For the spinner stage, try a PMD Parachute Spinner or Pale Morning Quill Spinner.
  • PMD nymphs need to be in the size 16-18 range. PMD Dun and Spinner patterns should range between size 16 and 20.
  • One thing to keep in mind about PMD patterns: they all seem to look different in color, wing type, etc. – depending on the tyer.

Other Entomology 101 Articles & Sources

    BLUE WINGED OLIVES (BWO)

    Sources: Dave Hughes, Craig Matthews, Jim Schollmeyer

S4:E39 Nick Lyons, Fly Fishing and the Good Life

fly fishing

For many fly fishers, fishing is more than the simple act of catching a fish. It’s not merely the transaction of hooking and landing a trout or salmon or bonefish. In this episode, we reflect on several quotes from Nick Lyon’s wonderful book, “Spring Creek.” The world of fly fishing has a few things to teach us about life, pointing us to something greater than a 30-fish afternoon.

LISTEN NOW TO NICK LYONS, FLY FISHING AND THE GOOD LIFE

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

Any reflections on Nick Lyon’s quotes from the episode? What stories did the quotes trigger for you? Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Why Fly Fishers Wear Waders When They Don’t Seem Necessary

fly fishers wear waders

Why do fly fishers wear waders when fishing a small creek on an 80-degree day?

I admit to doing an eye-roll when I’ve seen fly fishers do this. But as one of our podcast listeners recently reminded me, there are at least two good reasons for it. I added a couple more that came to mind. So here are four reasons you might want to wear chest waders even when they don’t seem necessary.

1. Ticks

Ticks spread Lyme Disease.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 300,000 people a year get Lyme Disease. Most cases occur in the Northeast and upper Midwest. In fact, 14 states account for over 96% of cases reported to the CDC.

It makes sense that chest waders can provide an effective shield. Of course, long pants and long-sleeved shirts can help, too. But it’s possible that chest waders offer a bit more protection from a tick crawling up underneath your pants leg or untucked shirt and burrowing into your flesh.

2. Poison Ivy

I remember getting nasty rashes when I was a boy after tromping through the brush on my grandparents’ farm in Pennsylvania. The culprit was poison ivy.

Once again, a pair of long nylon pants and a long-sleeved might be sufficient. But waders might just be the ticket. If you know you’ve walked through poison ivy, be careful about grabbing the legs of your waders when you remove them!

3. Snakebites

I have a few friends who always wear waders when in rattlesnake or copperhead country. Sure, a venomous snake’s fangs could puncture your waders and sink into your calf. But it’s also possible the fangs could get caught in your baggy waders.

Honestly, I don’t know how effective this works — and I hope I never have to find out. But if you have had firsthand experience with waders preventing a snakebite, I’d love to hear from you.

4. Warmth

On a cold winter or spring day, chest waders are the ticket for staying warm. They provide an extra layer of insulation, and they are waterproof.

Do you think of any other reasons to wear chest waders when the temperature is so warm or the water is so shallow to make them unnecessary?

I don’t always wear chest waders when I’m fly fishing. But when I do, it’s for a good reason.

S4:E38 Our Simple Guide to Fly Fishing Wading Boots

fly fishing

Fly fishing wading boots are the undisputed, most important safety purchase you’ll make for the sport. There are felt soles, rubber soles, rubber soles with studs, and rubber soles with aluminum bars. In this episode, we discuss our philosophy of wading boots, given the number of days we fish each year – and make a case for one type of sole. We offer up several questions to help you determine which type of boot is best for you.

LISTEN NOW TO OUR SIMPLE GUIDE TO FLY FISHING BOOTS

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

Which fly fishing boots do you use? Do you have more than one pair of boots? How do you handle longer hikes? Do you pack a pair of wading shoes? Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Does a Landing Net Make Sense for Small Trout?

landing net

A sign in the dentist’s office caught my attention: “You don’t need to floss all your teeth. Just the ones you want to keep.” I think something similar can be said about using a net to land trout: “You don’t need to net all the trout you catch. Just the ones you want to protect.”

Landing Nets Versus Barbless Hooks

I’m a big advocate for using a net for 12-20 inch trout. Some of the veteran fly fishers and guides I’ve talked to claim that using a net is more important for trout safety than using a barbless hook—especially since barbed hooks today have much less severe barbs than those of yesteryear.

A Confession

However, I have to confess that I’ve never bothered to take a net when I’m catching small trout of the little streams I fish in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. By small, I’m referring to 8 to 11 inch trout.

Okay, perhaps I should say 6 to 11 inch trout!

In fact, I’ve even smirked inwardly at some anglers I’ve seen with nets clipped to the back of their vests on some of these small streams. Who needs a net to land an 8-inch brookie?! Or maybe the smirk was for wearing chest waders on an 80-degree day along a stream whose deepest run is three feet.

An Excuse to Buy More Gear

I repent, though.

I just ordered a Brodin Phantom Firehole Net. My old Brodin, which was made not far from where I used to live in Belgrade, Montana, has string netting. I wanted one with rubber netting since it’s much easier on trout. I have a Fishpond Nomad which works great for bigger trout. But that would be overkill for smaller trout.

At least that’s my excuse to make a new purchase.

The Brodin Phantom Firehole Net is only 23 inches long with a hoop that is 7 inches by 15 inches. That makes the handle 8 inches long. This will work nicely for small trout, and it would work in a pinch for a larger one.

An Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Benefit

One of the benefits of using a net for little trout is obvious. It prevents excessive handling of the trout. It also keeps them from flopping on boulder-lined banks. Even (or especially) smaller fish are not indestructible.

But there is another not-so-obvious benefit:

It’s the habit and skill this will form. If I commit to using a net every time I fly fish, then it will become a habit. Furthermore, there is a skill (maybe even an art) to landing trout. The more practice I get, the better I get—assuming that I’m using the right techniques (lifting up the net rather than stabbing at the fish, lifting my rod when I’m about the land the fish, etc.).

The next time you see me toting a net on a small stream, please don’t smirk. Or if you do, make sure it’s not because I’m using a net for small trout. You can shake your head or roll your eyes because I’ve justified yet another fly fishing gear purchase.

S4:E37 Peter Stitcher on Spring Fly Fishing

fly fishing

Spring is no where to be seen in the Chicago area. Winter is still roaring like a lion. If spring comes in like a lion as well, then we’re toast. But at least the days are getting longer, and inevitably, spring fly fishing will be in full swing. In this episode, we interview Peter Stitcher, an aquatic biologist and owner of Ascent Fly Fishing in the Denver, Colorado, area. We asked Peter to help us understand the nuances of spring fly fishing – what to look for when temperatures start to rise, which patterns seem to work best, and what times of day to fish. See below for more information on how to fish ethically during spawning season.

LISTEN NOW TO PETER STITCHER ON SPRING FLY FISHING

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the of every episode, we reflect on a comment from one of our listeners. We’ve learned so much through the years from the insights of our listeners.

How do you think about spring fly fishing differently? What have you found that works best as the water temperatures start to rise? Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

FISHING ETHICALLY DURING THE SPAWN

In the episode, Peter mentioned a video on best practices when fishing during spawning season:

    FISHING ETHICALLY DURING THE SPAWN

Also, here is another short video on how to fish bead eggs:

    FISHING BEAD EGGS

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Fly Fishing Entomology 101 – Blue-Winged Olive

Veteran fly fisher Dave Hughes claims that Blue-Winged Olives are the most important mayflies for fly fishing. I believe he is right. Trout seem to feed on them with the same intensity that kids (and adults!) eat popcorn. Here is a quick profile of this species:

Names

  • “Blue-Winged Olive” is commonly abbreviated as “BWO.”
  • BWOs are also known as “Little Olives.”
  • The Latin name for BWOs is Baetis. Technically, the BWO is a sub-species of Baetis, but many fly fishers use “BWO” and Baetis as synonyms.

The Basics

  • These flies are ubiquitous. You will find them in slow, medium, and fast currents. They live in freestone rivers, spring creeks, and tailwaters.
  • Although BWO hatches happen every month, they are most prolific in April-May and again in September-October.
  • The best time of day for BWO hatches is late morning to early afternoon — the warmest part of the day. Cloudy, rainy conditions intensify and lengthen these hatches.

Nymph Stage

  • While BWOs in the nymph stage are excellent swimmers, they tend to drift with little or no movement.
  • BWO nymphs have slender, tapered bodies which some fly fishers describe as “torpedo-shaped.” Their color ranges from olive to dark brown.
  • BWO nymphs have two long antennae and three tails—with the center tail considerably shorter than the outer two.

Adult Stage

  • The most prominent feature of a BWO dun (newly hatched adult) is its large wings in comparison with the rest of its body. The wing color varies from a pale gray to a dark gray with a bluish tint — hence the name “Blue Winged Olive.”
  • BWO duns ride the surface of the current for up to twenty feet until their wings dry and they can fly. Also, some BWOs get stuck in an “emerger” phase while they are trying to scape their nymphal shuck.
  • A fully mature BWO adult is called a “spinner.” Within twelve hours of emerging to the surface and flying to streamside bushes or brush, the sexually mature BWOs mate in swarms near the edge of a river or stream. So trout typically feed on BWO spinners in slower water near the river’s edge.

Effective Patterns

  • The classic BWO nymph pattern is a Pheasant Tail (or some variation of it).
  • One of the best emerger patterns is Craig Matthews’ Little Olive Sparkle Dun.
  • For the dun stage, a Parachute Adams will often work as well as a Parachute BWO. If the trout are not hitting one of these standard patterns, then switch to a Red Quill Spinner or a Blue Quill Spinner.
  • Hook sizes for BWOs will range between 16 and 24. However, a size 18 or 20 usually does the trick.

Sources: Bob Granger, Dave Hughes, Craig Matthews, Jim Schollmeyer

S4:E36 Live at the Lee Wulff TU Chapter

fly fishing

Trout Unlimited is a distributed army of passionate conservationists, united by the mission to save the coldwater fisheries of North America. Recently, the Lee Wulff Trout Unlimited chapter invited us to share the story of 2 Guys and a River at one of their monthly meetings. This episode is an edited version of that wonderful evening at the Village Pizza and Pub in Carpentersville, IL. The pizza was fantastic, the conversation invigorating. And for almost an hour, the delightful folks at the Lee Wulff Trout Unlimited chapter tolerated our ramblings and generously laughed at our feeble attempts at humor. We hope you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed the January evening with them.

LISTEN NOW TO LIVE AT THE LEE WULFF TROUT UNLIMITED CHAPTER

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. Our theme in this episode is about why we love fly fishing. We’d love for you to post a story that captures the essence of why you love our sport.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Nick Lyons on Life and Fly Fishing

life and fly fishing

Nick Lyons’ book, Spring Creek, is a masterpiece.

Here are some of his more reflective quotes. Each one makes me pause and ponder a bit more deeply about life and fly fishing. And about how the two intersect.

How many fish make a good day

“I’m always astounded when I read of someone catching forty, fifty, sixty trout in an afternoon, ten of them over such-and-such size. Why? Why continue? A few good fish make a day. More make an orgy. A flurry of fish-catching satisfies me completely. I don’t want to catch every fish in the river. I don’t want to “beat” my companion. I don’t want to break records.”

The newness of familiar water

“I never went to Spring Creek without seeing something new.”

Why life should be like a riverbank

“At times I have wished life as simple as this riverbank — the world a logical structure of bend, current, riffle, and pool, the drama already unfolding on the glassy surface, and me, here on the bank, armed with some simple lovely balanced tools and some knowledge, prepared to become part of it for a few moments.”

What he wants his writing to achieve

“I’d like the stew to be rich enough to catch some of the stillness, complexity, joy, fierce intensity, frustration, practicality, hilarity, fascination, satisfaction that I find in fly fishing.

“I’d like it to be fun, because fly fishing is fun—not ever so serious and self-conscious that I take it to be either a religion or a way of life, or a source of salvation. I like it passionately but I try to remember what Cezanne once said after a happy day of fishing: he’d had lots of fun, but it “doesn’t lead far.”

Why trout fishing is not enough

“I would like to be here for weeks, even months, but I could not live all my life in trout country. I have other fish to fry and, difficult as that other world might be, I’d rather be in the thick of it, blasted by its terrors, than sit outside and snipe. If all the year were holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work—and I have rarely found work tedious.”

How trout fishing benefits your life

“Tough fishing stretches you, provides you with skills and confidence for a thousand lesser moments–and it eggs you on to take great chances. It’s not just courage that’s required, of course, but some knowledge of the kinds of major tactics that can be necessary on a trout stream, and then a perfection of the skills needed to enact them.”

S4:E35 Best Fly Fishing Advice, Part 2

fly fishing

The best fly fishing advice comes in bits and pieces over a long period of time. One accrues advice. In this episode, the second in a series, we offer up some some bits of fly fishing advice that has helped us catch more fish. Some of this will be obvious to many of you, but to us, it’s some of the best we’ve received. If you haven’t yet listened to Part 1 of Best Fly Fishing Advice, do so here.

LISTEN NOW TO BEST FLY FISHING ADVICE, PART 2

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. We’d love to hear some of your best fly fishing advice. Please post your comments below.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

The Wit and Wisdom of Nick Lyons

wisdom of Nick Lyons

One of the finest fly fishing books in the last three decades is Spring Creek by Nick Lyons.

It offers an account of 31 days Lyons spent on a spring creek in Montana. He originally published it in 1992. The writing is vivid and crisp, and it is full of wit and wisdom. Here are a few gems from the book that will make you smile and reminisce about your own fly fishing experiences. Enjoy!

First, though, a public service announcement: you may not be able to stop laughing after you read the final gem in the collection below!

How fly fishing resembles a tennis court

“Fly fishing is both a restriction (like putting up a net and outlining a court, so two tennis players don’t just smash a ball at each other, wantonly) and an opener of new worlds.”

The difference between spinning and fly fishing

“I’m not quite sure why one switches from spinning to fly fishing — it’s like going from something that works to something that, for a long time, doesn’t work.”

But Lyons has a tongue-in-cheek answer

“One cannot get enough equipment: seven rods are not enough; three thousand flies do not quite serve all possible contingencies. One cannot study entomology hard enough, read enough magazines and books. Marketers of such stuff call this an “information-intensive” period; I think the novice is just gut-hooked and loony.

“There’s so much to learn: plop casts and reach casts, subtler stream reading, twenty-seven different knots, wading techniques, insect cycles, ninety-three new fly patterns “you can’t do without,” new hot spots, new techniques … of which there are as many as rocks in a stream. By comparison, spinning is one-dimensional: it bypasses virtually all that makes fly fishing a joy and a consummate challenge, and it leaps solely to the catching of trout, which it does very well, but with a limited number of necessary options.”

The calming effect of the river

“I had come to the river full of tension and Saint Vitas’s dance, but by the end of the first week, the rush, the fret, the wolf, the tooth of the world began to slip away, over the bench past the far range of snow-capped mountain ranges, into left field.

“My eyes and ears began to catch more and more: the muskrat, the sparrow, the bald eagle, the white-tailed deer, the great wealth of wild things in this valley, which the two of us fished alone. But mostly I watched the water and listened to the water.”

A float tuber’s worst nightmare

“A friend, fishing from a float tube, was once blown across an arm of Hebgen Lake by heavy wind; he ended in a tangle of brush on the opposite shore and was contemplating the long walk back, around the arm, in flippers or bare feet, when he saw a helicopter descending in the nearby field.

“He began to call to them but then noticed that they were depositing something from a scrotumlike net beneath the plane. It was only a rogue grizzly — and my friend was persuaded to hide in the brush for an hour or so, until the wind died down, and then head back across the lake.”

To pick up the book, visit Amazon.

S4:E34 Taking an Exotic Fly Fishing Trip

fly fishing

Steve has fished in Alaska, but other than that, neither of us has gone on a fly fishing trip outside North America. We’ve recently been wondering if it is time. But where to start? We decided to interview Toby Swank, who owns one of the premier fly fishing shops in Bozeman, Montana, and has conducted hosted trips to places like Mexico, Belize, and New Zealand. In this episode we interview Toby on what fly fishers should expect when taking an exotic fly fishing trip. For more information on Toby’s fly shop, you can visit Fins & Feathers.

LISTEN NOW TO TAKING AN EXOTIC FLY FISHING TRIP

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. Have you been on an exotic fly fishing trip before? Would love to hear your stories. Please post your highlights below- and we may discuss your comments at the end of one of our next episodes!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

More Winter Fly Fishing Hacks

more winter fly fishing hacks

Winter is a different animal when it comes to fly fishing. If you insist on heading to the river on a winter day in the United States north of Interstate 80, here are five more hacks to keep in mind. (I already offered seven in a previous article: Winter Fly Fishing without Losing It)

1. Don’t snap ice off your rod guides

It’s so tempting, but this can easily result in a broken guide. Simply dip your rod into the water. This will dissolve the ice because the cold water is still warmer than the air temperature.

If you’re into preventative measures, try coating your guides with lip balm. Some fly fishers like Carmex because it is not petroleum-based. The jury is out on whether lip balm with petroleum can damage your fly line. I suspect, though, that the risk is minimal. Another option is Stanley’s Ice-Off Paste which your local fly shop may carry.

2. Focus on deep pools as well as shallow water

Here I’m pushing back a bit on my earlier suggestion that you focus on shallow water rather than on deep pools. That was Bud Lilly’s suggestion. He observed that trout in shallow water will feed more aggressively than trout in deep pools. The reason is that the sun can trigger insect activity of even the metabolism of a sluggish trout in a shallow riffle. This is true.

However, the opposite can be true as well. It depends on the conditions and the particular river you are fishing. Tom Rosenbauer, another veteran fly fisher, notes that fish tend to “pod up” in deeper pools during the winter. So look for deeper, slower water if you’re not seeing or hooking trout in the shallows.

3. Get your nymphs deep

This is always good advice. However, it’s especially critical if you’re fishing a deeper pool in the winter. The fish may be deeper than usual. Besides, the current runs the slowest at the bottom of a river or stream. Slow is better on winter days when trout don’t move as quickly. So use more weight than normal.

How can you tell when your fly is deep and slow enough? Watch your strike indicator. You’ve hit the right depth and speed when it moves than the bubbles on the surface of the water.

4. Make a few more casts than usual

Trout do not feed as voraciously in the winter as in the other three season of the year. This means the feeding window for a particular trout is smaller than usual. So make more casts than normal to insure you’ve drifted your nymph through every possible window in a run.

5. Stock your fly box with Midge patterns

Mayfly hatches are almost non-existent in the winter. The same is true of terrestrials. So you want to take along plenty of midge patterns—both in nymphs (such as the Zebra Midge) and dry flies (a size 18 Parachute Adams works well for this).

Winter fly fishing doesn’t appeal to every angler. If it holds enough appeal to prompt you to venture out into the cold, stay safe and stay warm. Perhaps one of these hacks will make your day a good one to remember.

S4:E33 Setting Fly Fishing Goals for the New Year

fly fishing

Fly fishing goals may seem like a bit of overkill when thinking about the new year. But life often crowds out the good, so setting some fly fishing goals helps us focus on what, truly, is most important. In this episode, we discuss our goals for 2019, which includes more time on the water (with family), honing some skills, and definitely more days on the river (with no family!).

LISTEN NOW TO BETTER FLY FISHING GOALS FOR 2019

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. What fly fishing goals have you set for 2019? Please post your answer below – and we may discuss your comments at the end of one of our next episodes!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We would love a referral from you. Simply mention our podcast to your TU chapter or fly fishing club or even local fly shop. Thank you for your trust.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

Are you a new fly fisher? Or someone who needs a couple fly fishing hacks to improve your skills?

This book is like a plate of hors d’oeuvres. You simply can’t have one. Read one list, and you read the next. Visit Amazon to buy your copy today!

Making Your Fly Fishing Trip to the West Affordable

fly fishing trip to the west

Fly fishing the Madison or Yellowstone Rivers in Montana used to be no big deal.

I simply tossed my gear in the back of my Toyota pickup and drove for 45 minutes to one of the two rivers. If I only had a couple hours to fish, both the East Gallatin and the main Gallatin Rivers were 5 minutes from my house. The only cost for those trips was a gallon or two of gas.

Then I moved to the north suburbs of Chicago. This has made the trip to those rivers a lot more costly. Still, I have fished in Montana at least once a year since I moved to Illinois twelve years ago.

I have modest amount of discretionary income, so I’ve had to figure out ways to keep my trips to Montana affordable. Here are a few cost-cutting hacks which have worked for me. Some are big, some are little. Even the little ones help.

1. Go in the spring or fall

This is a great idea simply because spring and fall fishing in the Rocky Mountain west is fantastic. But it’s cheaper, too. No one is flocking to the beaches of Montana or Wyoming for spring break. Nor do families vacation in Yellowstone National Park in early October.

So hotels are cheaper (especially when you book them on Orbitz or Hotwire), rental cars are cheaper, and flights are cheaper (usually!). If you plan to book time on a spring creek for a day, rod fees are cheaper, too.

Summer is a great time to fly fish in the west. But it’s more crowded and more costly.

2. Go with a friend

Perhaps this is a no-brainer. But it’s cheaper when you can split the cost of a hotel room, rental car, and a guided trip. Yes, you need to invest in at least one guided trip if it’s the first time you’re headed west! Besides, going with a friend is safer and more fun.

3. Pack economically

Baggage fees for airline travel vary. But most airlines charge around $25 for each checked bag (one way) and then let you bring a carry-on for free. I have figured out how to get everything into a checked bag (an Eddie Bauer Drop-Bottom Rolling Duffel) and a carry-on suitcase.

Most of my fly gear goes into the duffel. It’s long enough for my 4-piece fly rod tubes and my net. If you insist on carrying your rod tube, it might pass as a personal item. Occasionally, if my duffel bag is pushing the airline weight limit (usually about 50 lbs.), I’ll put my wading boots in my carry-on.

Yes, my duffel bag cost me about $175. But eliminating the need to check 2 bags for a round trip saves me $50 a trip. My duffel bag has long since paid for itself. Of course, a cheaper large suitcase can work as long as your rod tube(s) fits into it—perhaps at an angle.

4. Eat strategically

Dave, my podcast partner, and I like to enjoy a good evening meal. It caps off our day of fly fishing and allows us to savor the experiences we had on the river even as we savor the food.

We don’t mind paying for an evening meal at a nice steakhouse because we cut corners the rest of the day. If we can handle the food at our hotel’s free continental breakfast, we eat it. If not, we find a reasonable café. Lunch is a cheap sandwich on the river or sometimes even protein bars.

5. Budget for the unexpected

Perhaps I should say budget for the “expected,” because you can always expect some unexpected expenses! We’ve had to replace damaged reels, leaky waders (which were beyond repair), and lost fly rods (don’t forget to check the roof of your vehicle before you leave the fishing access parking area!). We’ve even forgotten about national park entrance fees or the rising cost of a non-resident fishing license.

Trust me, you can count on losing, breaking, or forgetting something on your trip. So save a bit more than you think you will need.

6. Purchase fishing gear and flies strategically

There are no hard and fast rules here other than to shop with savvy. Do you need to replace your fly rod before your trip? That Orvis or Sage rod will typically be the same price at the fly shop in your town as it is in Bozeman, Montana. But there is no sales tax in Montana. Nor is there in Oregon. I typically need a new pair of wading boots every three years. Unless I find a great sale (and the boots that work best for me are never on sale!), I wait until I’m in Montana.

On the other hand, it may pay to stock up on flies before you arrive at your destination. If you tie, then that’s easy enough to do. If you don’t, then stock up on Parachute Adams, Prince Nymphs, and your other go-to flies from the cheapest place you can find. You always need a good supply of basic patterns.

Local fly shops definitely have the best intel for what to fish on the area rivers, and the hottest fly may be something you didn’t anticipate. Make sure you support the fly shops where you ask for advice.

Also, figure out where you are unwilling to cut corners. You get what you pay for. I’m willing to pay a bit more for the best quality wading boots and rods. But I’ll compensate by going for the mid-range waders, fly vests, and even reels. I’m fine with an off-brand fly fishing shirt. I think you get the idea.

It takes a bit of savvy, but you can make your next fly fishing trip to the western United States more affordable with a bit of thought and preparation. We will see in you Bozeman or Thermopolis or Estes Park!

S4:E32 7 Questions for Knowing Your River

fly fishing

Success on the river comes in part from knowing your river. There’s an intimacy that forms between the fisher and the river: You know the primary runs on the stretch you fish and the lies where the fish hang out and the time of year it fishes best. In this episode, we offer seven questions to give fly fishers a framework for a deeper knowledge of the rivers they fish.

LISTEN NOW TO 7 QUESTIONS FOR KNOWING YOUR RIVER

    GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

    What questions did we miss? What other categories should we have added to getting to know your river? Please post your comments below.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

    We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

    Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

    That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

    The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

    Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

    To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

    We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

    To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

    Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

Give Your Fly Rod a Lift

fly rod a lift

Some of the most effective fly fishing techniques are so obvious that we overlook them.

Maybe we practice them instinctively. Or maybe we don’t. But if we thought about them a bit more, perhaps we would practice them more strategically.

One such practice (and there’s no need for a drum roll because this may seem patently obvious) is giving your fly rod a lift. There’s no mystery here. Just lift up the tip of your fly rod. Yes, that’s it!

It can make a big difference. Here are four reasons to give your rod a lift:

1. To pick up slack line on a close, short drift

On smaller streams, I frequently fish runs that are only three or four feet in front of me as I stand on the bank. These runs are typically short, so it’s easy to let out too much line when I make my cast.

Since the fly reaches the “hot zone” almost instantly, I need to retrieve slack immediately. Otherwise, I can miss a strike (too much slack to remove before the actual hook set happens) or risk drag (too much line on the surface for a swift current to pull). In either instance, a simple rod lift solves the potential problem.

2. To pick up my line at the end of a long drift

At the end of a long drift, a fly fisher needs to do one of two things.

Ideally, you will need to set the hook on the trout that has taken your fly on the swing at the end of the drift. Or, you will need to pick up the line to make another cast. In either scenario, you will have to reduce the surface tension. Otherwise, your hook set will be too slow or you will make a scene on the surface of the river.

The simple solution in each case is a quick, deliberate rod lift. Then continue your hook set or your back cast.

If you’re not sure why this is effective, give it a try the next time you’re nymph fishing and using a strike indicator. Let your nymph drift forty or fifty feet downstream from where you are standing. Then, give your rod tip a deliberate (but not violent!) lift. Make sure the lift is straight up and not to the side. You’ll be surprised to see your strike indicator shoot towards you!

It’s when you pull your rod to the side that surface tension messes with your hoot set or back cast.

3. To give your fly some movement during the drift

My podcast partner, Dave, and I watched our friend, Dave Kumlien out-fish us last fall on a beautiful tailwater creek in Montana. Our friend caught two or three fish to every one we caught. We were all using the same streamers. But it dawned on us later that he was lifting and lowering his rod tip to give his streamer a twitch and to make it move up and down in the current — even as he retrieved it.

This technique works well with nymphs, too. Lift and lower your rod during the drift, and you may be surprised at how it entices a trout to strike.

4. To keep you line from breaking when fighting a fish

When you are fighting a fish, you rely on both your reel and your rod to absorb the force created by the fish’s sudden lunge or race for cover. Too much force results in a snapped line.

This is where the drag on your reel comes into play.

When set properly, it provides some resistance – but not so much that the force of a running fish exceeds the strength of your line (or the knot which ties your tippet to your line or your fly to your tippet). Your rod can play an important role too. The lower your rod tip is to the surface, the more the pressure point on your rod moves from tip to butt.

When I’m trying to move a big fish, I lower my rod to a 40 or 45 degree angle (in relationship to surface of the water) so that the pressure goes to the mid-section. I also pull the rod to the side. But if the fish suddenly darts, I lift my rod tip. This moves the pressure point closer to the rod tip where there is greater flex. This means less force on my line However, you need to do this with caution. Lifting your rod tip too high (at a 90 degree angle to the surface) too quickly can result in a broken rod tip!

There are so many little things to remember during the cast, drift, retrieval, repeat cast, and (hopefully) fight with a fish. I know, it can seem maddening. But do your best to think about your rod tip. You may get better results if you give it a lift.

S4:31 Wading Commandments Revisited

fly fishing


Our most-read post on this site is the one Steve wrote on “The 10 Commandments of Wading.”
Using the phrase “wading commandments” is a good way to talk about a subject that carries with it the great risk of the sport. In this episode, we revisit each of the ten commandments, adding in comments from our listeners and telling stories of our close calls.

Listen Now to WADING COMMANDMENTS REVISITED

    GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

    What have we missed? What other wading commandments need to be added to our list?

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

    We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

    Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

    That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

    The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

    Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

    To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Book for a New Fly Fisher

    We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

    To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

    Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

5 Disciplines of Highly Satisfied Fly Fishers

satisfied fly fishers

Fly fishing brings me a lot of satisfaction. If it didn’t, I’d choose another pursuit.

Sure, there are moments of frustration. Certain days leave a bit to be desired. But all in all, I find fly fishing highly satisfying. This is significant, I think, because I’m an average fly fisher. Yes, even fly fishers with average skills can find great joy in the sport. So what makes for a highly satisfied fly fisher? There are five disciplines which come to mind.

1. Competence

Let’s face it. You need a modicum of skill. If you can’t cast, tie a couple basic knots, or “read” a river, you’re not going to have an enjoyable experience. But the good news is that you don’t have to become a pro in order to find fly fishing satisfying.

Tim Wu wrote a fantastic article for The New York Times titled “In Praise of Mediocrity.” He argues that we get too obsessed with our hobbies, striving for a level of excellence which creates anxiety rather than joy. I love his description of “the gentle pursuit of modest competence.”

It’s fun to get better. Read a fly fishing book or watch a series of fly casting videos. Learn the improved clinch knot (for tying flies to your tippet) and the infinity knot (for tying tippet to leader). Concentrate on improving your cast.

Just don’t overdo it.

2. Simplicity

This goes for everything from acquiring new gear to learning skills.

Fly fishing is a gadget-intensive hobby. In some respects, that is part of the fun. But an obsession with the latest pair of waders or the upgraded version of the fly rod you use can leave you frustrated. Greed never says, “Enough!” It always wants more.

The same is true of learning new skills. If you’re interested in Euro-nymphing or learning to tie flies, go for it! If you’re not, that’s fine, too. Focus on what interests you. If there are fifteen practices of highly successful fly fishers, you probably only need to master five of them. Don’t let fly fishing become too technical.

3. Friendship

I like solitude as much as the next lone fly fisher.

But I get so much satisfaction out of sharing experiences with my podcast partner (Dave), my brother (another Dave), and my sons (Ben, Luke), and other friends with whom I occasionally fly fish (Kevin, Bob, and yet an additional Dave). The laughter and comradery is priceless. I go home with a full heart every time I fly fish with one or more of these folks.

4. Adventure

I’m not talking about high-adrenaline experiences. Rather, I’m referring to trips or days on the water that require more than just a casual stroll to the river’s edge. It might be a six-hour float on a picturesque river. Or, perhaps it involves a strenuous hike into a remote stretch of river. It might even be fly fishing in grizzly bear country. All of these adventures will provide experiences or sights that you’ll savor for years to come.

5. Variety

Sameness is a leech which sucks the life out of you. Sure, it’s fun to go back to the same spot day after day—or week after week—if it’s productive. But variety really is the spice of the fly fishing life.

So vary the time of year you fish. Take a fall trip one year, and a spring trip the next. Try fishing nymphs or streamers as well as dry flies. Fish different kinds of water—from large freestone rivers to small spring creeks to high mountain lakes. If you mix it up a bit, you’ll have richer experiences.

Sure, catching fish is a big part of satisfaction. Yet each of these disciplines, in their own way, contributes to a full, rich experience on the river. They reflect what satisfied fly fishers do.

S4:E30 Days of Mystique on the River

fly fishing

Have you ever had one of those days on the river that transported you to a different dimension? Not every day of fly fishing is a day of mystique, but through the years, we’ve had special moments that are burned into our memory. It’s not merely about catching lots of fish or hooking into a monster. In this episode, we attempt to describe the emotion or experience of mystique, that magical time when time is suspended and fly fishing becomes something more than fishing.

LISTEN NOW TO Days of Mystique on the River

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

We’d love to hear about a day of mystique on the river that you’ve had. Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

    Crisp IPA

    Gold Moss

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Helpful Book of Hacks for New Fly Fishers

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

The Gift of Fly Fishing

gift of fly fishing

Christmas came early this year. Whether you’ve received fly-fishing-related gifts and stocking suffers (or not), you’ve been enjoying the real gift of fly fishing all year long. Or at least during the seasons of the year when you were able to fish.

The new reel or fly rod or gift certificate to your local fly shop is great. But the real gift is fly fishing itself. It’s an experience that gives you more than you might think. Sure, there’s the joy of hooking and catching a trout. But there’s more, and Charles Orvis recognized this in 1883 when he wrote:

More than half the intense enjoyment of fly fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life thereby secured, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard, and done.

Orvis identified at least three gifts in this statement. These gifts are still a huge part of fly fishing today.

1. Beautiful surroundings

It’s one thing to see a snow-covered mountain range from your car or from a scenic overlook along a highway. It’s an altogether different experience to see it when you’re standing in the current of a river. It’s the difference between being a spectator and a participant. It’s also the difference between a quick glance accompanied by a photo opportunity and the chance to linger in the moment for an hour or more.

Even when the scenery is not remarkable, the pasture-land or the trees along a river exude their own beauty. The water is stunning, too. Riffles, eddies, seams, and pocket water provide an endless source of fascination.

Weather adds a flourishing touch, sometimes transforming a tranquil scene into a wild or a haunting one.

Fly fishing bids its participants to slow down and soak in the magnificent grandeur or the gentle beauty in and around the river.

2. A new lease on life

A day on the river can also secure a new lease on life—or “of” life, as Orvis said. A few hours can bring clarity to a situation, insight into a challenge, or energy to face a problem.

Tension dissipates. Ideas emerge. Calm prevails. Dreams form. Desires awaken. Anger diminishes.

If you fly fish, you know this from experience. That’s why fly fishing can be some of the best medicine for a weary or uptight soul.

3. Pleasant memories

Fly fishing gives birth to so many good memories—or pleasant recollections, as Orvis called them. Such memories lead us into peaceful sleep at night. They warm our hearts. They connect us with places and people long, long ago. They nurture a desire for what lies ahead.

I recall a warm summer evening on a little creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The year was 1978. My younger brother and I took turns casting the cheap fly rod we shared. Every cast resulted in a 10- or 12-inch brookie, rising to our size 14 Royal Coachman. As the sun began to set, I remember running back to our campsite in the Custer National Forest to report to our father what we had accomplished.

One of most striking memories from this past year is landing a brown trout in the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park while a herd bull (elk) was bugling on a hillside about 200 yards above us. I’m sure I will remember this as vividly in 40 years (if I make it to 97!) as I do the memory in the Black Hills.

These are only three of fly fishing’s gifts. There are others. If you were able to enjoy fly fishing during the past year, then Christmas came early. It will next year, too, because fly fishing is a gift that keeps on giving.

S4:E29 Decisions that Make or Break Your Fly Fishing Day

fly fishing

A day on the river always comes with a series of decisions that can make or break your fly fishing day. In this episode, we identify a few of those and discuss how we go about moving from decision to decision. For example, one nagging question is, “How quickly should I move to something else if what I first put on isn’t working?” That’s only one of many small decisions that a fly fisher makes throughout the day.

LISTEN NOW TO DECISIONS THAT MAKE OR BREAK YOUR FLY FISHING DAY

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What did we miss? What other decisions, small or large, do you make as you make your way through your fly fishing day?

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

    Crisp IPA

    Gold Moss

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Stocking Stuffer for Christmas

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

The Fly Fishing Wisdom of Charles Orvis

fly fishing wisdom of Charles Orvis

Fly fishing changes. The sport is different in 2018 than it was 135 years ago in 1883.

However, some bits of fly fishing wisdom from 1883 still hold true today.

Recently, I’ve been reading The Orvis Story by Paul Schullery (2006, The Orvis Company). The beginning of each chapter includes a quote from Charles Orvis, the founder of what is now The Orvis Company. These quotes appeared in a book that Charles co-edited with A. Nelson Cheney in 1883, Fishing with the Fly: Sketches by Lovers of the Art. Incidentally, I ordered a re-print from Amazon for less than twenty bucks.

Here are some of bits of wisdom from Charles Orvis in 1883. They still make sense today.

The Last Hour Before Dark

    “Perhaps during the last hour before dark you may fill your basket, that has been nearly empty since noon. Don’t give up, as long as you can see—or even after—and you may when about to despair taking some fine large fish.”

Catch-and-release fishing was not yet in vogue when Orvis penned these words. But he’s right that the hour before dark—and even after—can be especially productive. It depends on the river, but I have some spots in Colorado and Wisconsin which I don’t bother fishing until dusk.

Wading with the Current

    “It is easier to wade with the current.”

If you’re not convinced of this, try wading against the current! Wherever you’re headed, be it the opposite bank or a better approach to a promising run, let the current work for you.

Fishing with an Expert

    “To one who has not acquired the art of fishing with a fly, let me suggest that a day or two with an expert will save much time and trouble. There are many little things that cannot well be described, and would take a long time to find out by experience, that can be learned very quickly when seen. It is not easy to tell one exactly how to fish with a fly.”

That quote is chock-full of wisdom!

Dave, my podcast partner, and I keep repeating this message. If you’re a new fly fisher, you need to fish with an expert. That may be a friend (free) or a guide (a bit more expensive!). But the dollars you spend on a guide for a day will be tremendous investment in your fly fishing future.

Enjoying Fly Fishing

    “Unless one can enjoy himself fishing with the fly, even when his efforts are unrewarded, he loves much real pleasure.”

My wife and I both go to the gym regularly.

Okay, she’s more consistent than I am. But she enjoys it; I find it boring. This is how folks approach fly fishing. Some enjoy it; others do not. You can only grow to love fly fishing if you find joy in the art itself–even if your fly casting does not look particularly artistic! There’s something about the rhythm of the cast and about a well-executed cast, whether the trout takes your offering or not.

Patience and Perseverance

    “In conclusion, be patient and persevering, move quietly, step lightly, keep as much out of sight of the fish as possible, and remember, trout are not feeding all the time.”

This is great advice. It’s as true in 2018 as it was in 1883. All the best to you, our listeners and readers, as you get ready for another great year of fly fishing!

S4:E28 One Fine Day on the East Gallatin River

fly fishing

The East Gallatin River would look like a piece of ribbon candy, if you viewed it from a drone. It’s a slow moving creek that for the most part runs through private property north of Bozeman, Montana. One fall day, Steve found himself in the middle of a BWO hatch. In this episode, Dave interviews Steve about one fine day of catching rolling rainbows rising to blue-winged olives on a rainy and occasionally snowy Montana September day.

LISTEN NOW TO ONE FINE DAY ON THE EAST GALLATIN RIVER

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Please tell us about one fine day you’ve had on the river. What made it special?

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

One Fine Day on Quake Lake

One Fine Day on Nelson’s Spring Creek

One Fine Day on the Madison at Bear Trap Canyon

One Fine Day on the Bear Trap

One Fine Day in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

One Fine Day on the Madison at Baker’s Hole

One Fine Fall Day in Yellowstone National Park

One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan

One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

One Fine Day on the Blue River

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    1. Eucalyptus Yogurt

Cool Fresh Aloe

Deep Sea Goats Milk

Bay Rum

Spearmint Basil

Crisp IPA

Gold Moss

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Stocking Stuffer for Christmas

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

Protecting the Future of Fly Fishing

future of fly fishing

Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, tells the poignant tale of a father and son traveling through the ravaged landscape of America. The novel does not fill in back story. Yet the gray snow and ever-present ash suggests the aftermath of nuclear war. The novel ends with these haunting words:

    Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. . . . On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

While this grim conclusion unsettles any reader, it particularly troubles fly fishers.

Imagine there are no longer brook trout in mountain streams!

These days, our greatest threat to trout and the waters they inhabit may not be nuclear war. Rather, it’s likely a hundred smaller threats belonging to categories like invasive species, disease, pesticides, predators, mishandling (by anglers), and development. As another year ends, we might ponder what we, as fly fishers, can do to protect the future of fly fishing.

Here are four small practices that can make a big difference:

1. Pack out trash

There’s simply no excuse for littering the banks of a river with beverage cans or candy wrappers. Yet I frequently find these items along the rivers or streams I fly fish. My sense is that most fly fishers are eco-friendly; yet there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. Blessed are those fly fishers who not only pack out their own trash but do the same with the garbage others leave behind.

2. Handle fish carefully

This amounts to a bunch of small but significant habits:

    Land fish as quickly as possible
    Use a net. If you want a photo
    Keep your hands wet
    Don’t squeeze the fish too hard
    Stop fishing if the water temperature exceeds 68 degrees (or even well before).

I keep a thermometer in my fly fishing vest for the last habit.

3. Don’t spread aquatic invasive species

No one does this intentionally. At least I hope not. But we can unwittingly spread invasive species if we fail to clean waders, boots, and drift boats after use. So get the mud off! Rinse your boots and waders. Let gear dry. Switch from felt soles to rubber soles with some kind of metal studs or traction bars. All of this is especially critical when you’re moving from one river to another.

4. Donate to conservation efforts

Your local Trout Unlimited (TU) chapter is a great place to start. I’m also partial to The Missing Salmon Project of The Atlantic Salmon Trust. You can also donate your time as well as your money. Your local TU chapter may sponsor some cleanup days on a local river or some kind of restoration project.

We need a few thousand fly fishers pursuing these small practices. Then, hopefully, we will never have to utter words like “once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains.”

S4:E27 Best Fly Fishing Advice, Part 1

fly fishing

The best fly fishing advice often comes with a small dose of humiliation. Or at least with a palm to the forehead, “Duh!” That’s how we felt when a guide recently said to us, “Why are you trying to cast harder into the wind. It won’t improve your distance. Your mechanics need to be the same, wind or no wind.” Of course! That’s only one bit of advice that we’ve take to heart through the years. In this episode, we each offer up five pieces of “best advice” that we’ve received from listeners, guides, books, and mentors.

LISTEN NOW TO BEST FLY FISHING ADVICE, PART 1

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What is single best piece of fly fishing advice that you’ve received? We’d love to hear about it. Please post your comments below!

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – The Perfect Stocking Stuffer for Christmas

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

5 More Suggestions for Safe Wading

Of all the pieces we’ve published, by far the most popular (per our tracking data) is “The 10 Commandments of Wading.” Based on your feedback, and on further reflection and on additional experiences, here are five more suggestions for safe wading. They may not be on the level of “commandments,” but they at least deserve consideration.

1. Use a second wading belt

This may seem like overkill, but it’s a wise strategy if you insist on wading in deep water.

Typically, a wading belt will go around your mid-section. The place to add a second belt is around your chest—that is, near the top of your waders. It can keep the top part of your waders from filling up, especially if they do not have some kind of a drawstring or mechanism to seal them around your chest.

2. Use a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Alright, this one might really strike you as extreme. But I can see the value in it if you need to wade in deeper water.

I remember floating the Wyoming Bighorn a few years ago and stopping to wade a few stretches. I was surprised how much deeper I could wade because the current was not as swift as, say, Montana’s Yellowstone River. Also, the river bed consisted of gravel instead of greased cannon balls (what I suspect lies on the bottom of the Yellowstone). But whenever I waded into deeper water, I noticed how the current gently drifted me into deeper water. I struggled to get momentum to back out of it or to turn around and walk towards the bank.

A PFD would have provided a great safeguard. I’m not suggesting that fly fishers need to take one along in most conditions. But if you insist on wading into deep water, a PFD might keep you from getting in over your head.

3. Wear Patagonia Foot Tractors

Full disclosure: I am not secretly sponsored by Patagonia!

I only mention this particular brand and model because I haven’t found any other wading boots (aside from those with felt soles) which provide such good traction. The aluminum bars in zig-zag fashion on the soles of these boots really do the job. Felt soles seem to be on the way out. They are now illegal in Yellowstone National Park, and I expect other watersheds or even states to follow suit.

4. Beware of Mud

I’ve had a few situations over the years where my feet have sunk a ways into the mud—both in the west (Montana’s East Gallatin River) and the Midwest (Canfield Creek in the Minnesota Driftless).

This fall, I was wading the inlet of Quake Lake (not far from West Yellowstone, Montana) when my boots started sinking into a sandbar. I was standing in knee-deep water at the time. I moved too quickly, and actually fell down. It was a bit tricky to stand back up with both feet being stuck.

It reminded me to test any suspicious looking spots before stepping into them. It’s quite a fight against suction to pull out your boots when they get stuck in the mud. Add a couple feet of water into the mix, and the situation can become downright dangerous.

5. Slow down

Per my previous point, the worst thing you can do when wading (or trying to stand up after you’ve fallen!) is to panic and hurry. I tend to hurry this most when I’ve crossed a difficult stretch and I’m nearing the bank. It’s tempting to run those last few feet. But a couple times, I’ve hurried too quickly and have slipped into the water. I have to remind myself to slow down. Slower is safer in most cases. It preserves your balance and helps you keep your legs together so that you’re providing only one pressure point – not two — for the current.

Admittedly, it’s a bit of a hassle to following some of these suggestions. But your life may depend on it. Whatever you can do to stay safe while you’re wading is more than worth the inconvenience.

S4:E26 Avoiding Fly Fishing Burnout

Fly fishing burnout seems like a malady for someone with too much time on his or her hands. But there can be too much of a good thing. Some have taken time away from the sport, others have stopped fly fishing altogether. In this episode, we grapple with the topic and try to frame the issue into the larger context of our lives. We look forward to your reaction to the topic.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO AVOIDING FLY FISHING BURNOUT

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Have you ever experienced fly fishing burnout? Have you ever intentionally stepped away from the sport for a while?

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

What New Fly Fishers Need Most

New fly fishers have a long list of needs. They need to learn to tie knots. To improve their casting. Remember to mend their line. Figure out which fly to use. And to read water so they can cast their fly where the fish are feeding.

new fly fishers

But there is something more basic to success:

The Secret of a New Fly Fisher’s Success

What new fly fishers need most is intel. That’s right. They need intelligence about where to fish and what to use. I know, you can’t catch a trout if you can’t cast a fly. True. But I’ve watched brand new fly fishers catch fish because someone told them where to go and what pattern to use.

Poor casting in the right place at the right time always beats great casting in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A Colorado Success Story

My belief that new fly fishers need intel more than anything else came from a text message I received this fall. My nephew, who lives in Colorado, had tried his hand at fly fishing a few times. But every time he returned home with zero success. Then, he asked a generous fly shop owner for an idea about where to fish. A day later, I received a text from my nephew describing a couple of big browns he caught. He had the photos to prove it. I realized that while he needs work on casting, mending, and streamside entomology, his greatest need is for intel. He needed to go where the fish were hanging out, and he needed to use the kind of patterns they were attacking.

Where to Get Intel

If you are a new fly fisher, where do you get good intel?

The key is to develop a relationship with a more experienced fly fisher. Often, the place to start is at a fly shop. The best time to ask where you might fish and what you might use is immediately after you have purchased half a dozen flies—or better yet, a new fly rod or waders.

Also, a good friend who is an experienced fly fisher is invaluable. Birds of a feather flock together. This means that if you’re interested enough in fly fishing, you’ll develop some friendships with others who like to fly fish. If these friends are better than you, don’t resent them. Take advantage of their expertise. Hopefully, your friendship adds value to their lives, too. If it does, they will be happy to share some intel which will put you into some good fishing.

Of course, you can always hire a guide. This is the ultimate way to get good intel because your guide will take you to a good stretch of water and then help you fish it effectively. Believe me, it’s worth the cost.

Intel as Preventative

Sometimes, intel works as a preventative measure.

Last fall, my podcast partner, Dave, and I planned to spend a couple of days on the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. We had visions of brown trout dancing in our heads as a result of the success we had the prior fall. When we stopped by Parks’ Fly Shop in Gardiner, Montana (yes, the river and the town are spelled differently due to a mistake) for some intel, Richard Parks told us that the fishing on the Gardner for fall runners was the worst it had been in 25 years!

That was not encouraging. But it forced us to come up with Plan B (the Yellowstone River), and we ended up doing quite well.

Sure, we would have figured out soon enough that the fishing on the Gardner was not great. Yet without the intel, we probably would have spent much more time trying to catch fish on a river that was not as full of fish as in prior years.

If you’re new to fly fishing, learn to cast, mend, read water, and identify the hatch. But there’s simply no substitute for good intel. Don’t leave home for the river without it.

S4:E25 The Angling Interval: Key to Fish Survival

Catch and release fly fishing has been around for more than a half century. In recent years, there has been a renewed push for fish survival with the Keep ‘Em Wet movement (#keepemwet), the idea being to make sure the fish stays wet the entire time it’s out of water. In this episode, we interview Dave Kumlien, fly fishing guide, former fly shop owner, and coordinator with Trout Unlimited, on what he calls the “angling interval.” The key to the trout surviving the catch-and-release interruption is reducing the time from when the fish is hooked to the time it is released.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO THE ANGLING INTERVAL: KEY TO FISH SURVIVAL

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

We’d love to hear you tips for protecting your fly rod. As well as your breakage stories. Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $12.99!

Thanksgiving Day Double

It is Thanksgiving Day 2004. My son, Luke, and I rise before dawn to spend the morning hunting whitetail deer. Hunting deer or elk on Thanksgiving morning has been a family tradition as long as I can remember. Luke is eager to join me even though he is a year away from being old enough to buy a license and carry a rifle. My son, Ben, is in his senior year of high school and wants to sleep in a bit.

So Luke and I head for the Dry Creek area north of Belgrade, Montana. The Dry Creek Road transitions from pavement to gravel where the Gallatin Valley floor gives way to the foothills at the base of the Bridger Mountains.

We turn off onto a side gravel road and drive past a grain field which sits below the butte we want to hunt.  I park my truck at the side of the road, and we close the doors quietly. Six years ago, my dad and I just missed getting off a shot at a big buck on the hill on the opposite side of the little creek we will need to cross. I tell Luke this story before we get out of the truck, urging him to be as quiet as possible. We cross a barbed-wire fence and prepare to sneak through the tall grass towards a plank that bridges the little creek.  Six steps after we cross the fence, Luke whispers, “Dad, there’s a buck!” Sure enough, a 4×4 whitetail peers at us from across the creek, about ninety yards away.

We are five minutes into legal shooting light, so I aim, fire, and drop the buck in its tracks. This is the easiest deer hunt I have ever had! Luke helps me field dress the buck, and then we drag it to the truck, the length of a football field away. It is now 7:55 a.m. We arrive home fifteen minutes later and hang the buck in our garage. I prefer to let a deer hang for a day before skinning it.

By the time we finish this, it is only 8:30 a.m. An idea begins to take shape. It is a rather warm day. Already, the temperature has risen past forty degrees. We have four or five hours to kill before we gather with some friends for Thanksgiving dinner.

So, why not spend it fly fishing!

Nice Buck, Fat Rainbow

Ben is up by this time, and he joins Luke and me in search for our waders, fly fishing vests, and fly rods. By 9:30 a.m., we reach the Warm Springs parking area on the Madison River where it exits the Bear Trap Canyon. Predictably, no one is parked here today. We enjoy the warmth of the sun as we walk in the trail. There is a bit of wind, but the conditions are pleasant. So is the fishing.

It would be an exaggeration to say that we slaughtered the trout on this day, but in the next two hours at our favorite spot, affectionately known as “Rainbow Run,” we each land three trout. One of mine is a seventeen-inch rainbow, which I catch on a San Juan worm. This is the easiest fly in the world to tie.

You simply tie the middle of a piece of red chenille to the shank of the hook Then, you burn off each end with a lighter or a match to make the ends bead. It may be simple to tie, but it is effective.

The wind picks up about 11:30 a.m., so we begin the twenty minute hike to the parking lot, then make the forty minute drive home.  By 12:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, I have accomplished something I have never done before. I’ve taken a nice whitetail buck and caught a seventeen-inch rainbow with my fly rod on the same morning.

It’s a Thanksgiving Day double! I don’t recall the Pilgrims doing anything like this on the morning before they sat down with members of the Wampanoag tribe at Plymouth Plantation to eat the first Thanksgiving Day meal.

If you spend enough time fly fishing, you’ll have days that humble you and some that elate you. You’ll even have some that are crazy enough to provide a deep sense of satisfaction.

S4:E24 Protecting Your Fly Rod

Protecting your fly rod is as simple as obeying this rule: “Slow down!” We’ve lost rods, stepped on rods, and broke other fly fisher’s rods. In this episode, we step back to offer up some “Don’t be like us” tips – to help you protect your investment. Just a modicum of thought goes a long ways towards keeping your fly rod safe.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO PROTECTING YOUR FLY ROD

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

We’d love to hear you tips for protecting your fly rod. As well as your breakage stories. Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

Taking Time to Be a Good Fly Fisher

If you want to be a great fly fisher, it’s going to take some time — perhaps time you can’t afford to spend. Recently, I saw a blog post claiming it takes a minimum of 50 days a year on the water to be a great fly fisher. 100 days is ‘way better,’ and 200 days is “better yet.” According to the post, if you spend only ten days on the water per year, you can only be an “adequate angler.”

good fly fisher

I don’t dispute this. Yet, I’d argue that you can be a good fly fisher if the 10 days you spend on the water are well-spent. Not every day on the river is created equal.

Practice makes permanent

There’s an old adage that piano teachers and basketball coaches and, perhaps, fly fishing instructors quote: “Practice makes perfect.”

Well, not necessarily. The truth is, practice makes permanent. It takes practice to get better. But if your next practice is not better than the last one, then you are only reinforcing bad habits. This is the reason why a couple days on the water with a professional guide or with a fly fishing friend who is better than you will be more productive than ten days on your own — at least when it comes to the rudiments of fly casting and reading water.

Substitute for time on the water

Another comment I frequently read in fly fishing blogs is that there is no substitute for time on the water.

Actually, there is — provided that it takes place between the times you spend on the water. I realize that casting in your backyard is not quite the same as casting into a river. But I’ve seen newbies learn casting basics in their back yard and then translate those same basics into good casts on the river.

Between trips to the river

So then, if you can only fly fish 10 to 15 days per year, the key to improvement is what you do between trips to the river.

In addition to practice your casting, you can watch videos and read fly fishing books. Taking a fly tying class at your local fly shop will boost your skills as well. Even if you never tied a fly once you completed a class, your knowledge of streamside entomology (what bugs are hatching in what stages) will help you the next time you cast your fly upon the water.

Another difference maker

There is an additional difference maker that factors into whether you move from adequate to good to great.

It’s your natural aptitude and your athletic ability.

Perhaps “athletic ability” isn’t quite the right descriptor. But some people just have the fly fishing gene. I think of a guy who fishes fewer days than I do per year. He has not read nearly as much as I have about fly fishing; nor has he ever taken a fly tying class. Yet this guy is a natural fly fisher and can outfish me any day of the week.

Here, then, is the takeaway. You can be a good fly fisher if you make the most of the 10-15 days you spend on the water and if you use the time between them strategically.

I honestly don’t know if I’m an “adequate” or “good” fly fisher. I definitely know I’m not great. But as one who spends 15 days or less on the water a year, I get better every year, and I catch a lot of fish when the conditions are right. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

S4:E23 One Fine Day on Quake Lake

Quake Lake was formed in 1959 when an earthquake triggered the collapse of a side of a mountain. The mountain fell into the Madison River, creating a natural dam. This fall, we fished Quake Lake near West Yellowstone, both for the first time. In this episode, we reflect on the experience, describing the emotion of fishing this haunting lake. It wasn’t one of the best days of fishing we’ve ever had but one of the most memorable.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO ONE FINE DAY ON QUAKE LAKE

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Where do you draw the line in your pursuit of fly fishing or any other hobby? What’s “good enough”? Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

    One Fine Day on Nelson’s Spring Creek

    One Fine Day on the Madison at Bear Trap Canyon

    One Fine Day on the Bear Trap

    One Fine Day in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

    One Fine Day on the Madison at Baker’s Hole

    One Fine Fall Day in Yellowstone National Park

    One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan

    One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

    One Fine Day on the Blue River

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

Why Fly Fishers Should Stop Wading

I have a novel proposal for fly fishers who are not catching fish. It may seem a bit extreme. But hey, if you’re not catching fish, you’ll try anything, right?

stop wading

If you think you have the right fly size and pattern, if you mend your line to reduce the drag on your fly, if your casts don’t send fish fleeing for cover, and if you’re getting your nymphs deep enough, then here is my suggestion:

Step away from the river.

That’s right, stay out of it. Stop wading.

What Fly Fishers Do

I told you my suggestion sounded a bit extreme.

Wading in the river is what fly fishers do. That’s what a friend figured the other day when he heard I was a fly fisher. He is not. But he was interested and said, “Oh, is that the kind of fishing where you stand in the water?”

Yes, I suppose that’s our mental image of fly fishing. And yes, I will admit there’s something enchanting about standing in a river as you cast—especially on a late fall morning when the snow is softly falling or at dusk on a warm summer day.

But I’m more and more convinced that fly fishers who are not catching fish should stop wading. It’s not a punishment! Nor is it always and forever. But fishing from the river’s edge should be your default mode; wading is the exception. There are at least two reasons why.

Fishing near the bank

First, follow the lead of the fly fishers in drift boats. They typically cast to the banks. That’s where the trout are lurking. Sure, there may be some runs on the other side of the stream or perhaps fifteen feet away from the bank. But a lot of feeding lanes crowd the bank.

If you must wade, find an entry point between runs and walk out far enough so you can cast back toward the bank.

Whenever I hike up the Yellowstone near Tower Fall in Yellowstone National Park, I leave my waders in the truck. I’m not a fan of hiking 3-4 miles up the river in waders before I start fishing. Surprisingly, there are few places where not having waders puts me at a disadvantage.

Honing your observation skills

The second reason is related to the first. If you commit to fishing from the bank (at least for awhile), you will likely pay more attention to what is happening near the river’s edge.

I remember a time on Montana’s Madison River when I was getting ready to wade out to a run about 20 yards from the bank. Seconds before I stepped into the water, I saw two trout rise five feet in front of me. If I had not seen them, I would have sent them racing for cover when I walked through the little run where they were feeding.

Have I over-stated my point? Perhaps. But with so many prime places for trout to feed along the bank, it’s worth fishing that area before you think about setting foot in the water.

So, when all else fails, step away from the river.

S4:E22 Are You Too Serious about Fly Fishing?

Is fly fishing truly a hobby for you? We recently read a New York Times column called “In Praise of Mediocrity,” which ripped on America’s fascination with turning every hobby into a “pursuit of excellence.” We fish less than 25 days a year; we’re not professionals. So how good should an amateur get? How should we think about our sport if casting 100 feet in 20 per hour wind is an unreachable feat. What is good enough for the time we’re able to invest in the sport? This is another fun episode in which we explore the edges of what makes our sport so enjoyable.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO ARE YOU TOO SERIOUS ABOUT FLY FISHING

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Where do you draw the line in your pursuit of fly fishing or any other hobby? What’s “good enough”? Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

My Favorite Fly Fishing Streamers

I love fly fishing with streamers. I suppose it reminds me of those days long, long ago when I fished Mepps spinners with an ultralight spincast rod and reel. Streamers also catch large trout — especially in the fall when brown trout are on the move. Mainly, though, I love the shock of a trout attacking the streamer as I retrieve it.

favorite fly fishing streamers

If you’re new to fly fishing (or fly fishing with streamers), the good news is that there are a few basic patterns which work consistently — from season to season and year to year.

Here are my top five favorites.

Woolly Bugger

The Woolly Bugger is the poster-child of streamers. I’ll bet I fish with one 85% of the time I fish with streamers.

The construction of this “fly” (if you can call it that) is simple. It’s basically a chenille body – with hackle wrapped through it — followed by a maribou tail. This pattern looks lively as it darts through the water.

I prefer garden variety colors—black, brown, and olive. The color combinations are endless, though.

For example, I tie my olive Woolly Buggers with black hackle and sometimes with black maribou. I’ve even used red chenille with sparkles along with black hackle and then black maribou with a couple strands of red crystal flash.

Fly fishers often refer to patterns like this as Crystal Buggers.

My preference for size is anywhere from 6 to 10, and I rarely fish a Woolly Bugger without a beadhead or conehead. Weight is important.

You can find more information on Woolly Buggers here: Know Your Pattern.

JJ Special

Technically, a JJ Special is a Woolly Bugger with a bit different color scheme.

But the pattern is so popular and unique that it deserves (in my opinion) its own entry. The JJ Special features a brown (chenille) body with gray hackle and yellow rubber legs. Then, the tail is brown over yellow maribou.

The brown and yellow color scheme makes the fly resemble (you guessed it) a young brown trout. This has been a go-to pattern for me when I’m fishing browns in the fall. Also, I am partial to the conehead version of this fly — although a beadhead will work just as well.

Muddler Minnow

To be honest, I rarely fish with Muddler Minnows. It’s not that they don’t work. They really do. It’s just that I do so well with Woolly Buggers and can tie them rather easily.

A Muddler Minnow imitates a minnow (surprise!) or a sculpin. Or, if you skim it on the surface of the water, it can imitate a floundering moth or mouse.

The head consists of spun deer hair. Some fly tyers enjoy the artistry of spinning hair. Others, like me, find it time consuming compared to slipping a conehead or a bead onto the hook! The other prominent feature is a wing and an underwing.

Zonker

This is another pattern I rarely use since a Woolly Bugger works so well. But the Zonker is a classic. It can be terrific on big rivers because it is a super-sized meal for large trout. A long strip of rabbit fur with the hide attached gives this fly its heft.

Dolly Llama

I don’t always fish with something the size of a 1957 Chevy Wagon. But when I do, I opt for the Dolly Llama (aka Dali Lama, aka Dalai Lama).

Like a Zonker, it uses a strip of rabbit fur attached to the hide. But this fly is long because it includes a second hook which is connected by wire to the first hook, trailing behind a couple inches.

This fly worked superbly a few years ago when I fished Alaska’s Clear Creek a few hundred yards upstream from where it emptied into the Talkeetnah River. I caught several 19-20 inch rainbows on a white Dolly Llama. To be honest, I haven’t used it in the big rivers in Montana (that’s why Woolly Buggers exist), but my friends in the Pacific Northwest like the Dolly Llama for steelhead.

You can’t go wrong with any of these patterns. Learn to fish them effectively and you’re bound to have a blast.

And if you haven’t yet listened to our episode with Dave Kumlien, fly fishing guide and streamer fisher extraordinaire, you can do so here: Catching More and Bigger Fish with Streamers.

S4:E21 Top 10 Dont’s When Visiting Yellowstone National Park

You’ve read all about all the wonderful places to see or things to do the next time you visit Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Fall, Yellowstone Lake – just to name a few. This episode, though, is all about the dont’s – what NOT to do the next time you enter the hallowed sanctuary of the Park. This is a light-hearted yet straight-up episode on making sure you enjoy the vistas and wild animals of Yellowstone without losing your life. Steve regales us with some hilarious stories about visiting Yellowstone National Park when he was a kid, and we recount some of our encounters with wild animals on our many fishing trips in the Park.

visiting Yellowstone National Park

LISTEN NOW TO Top 10 Dont’s When Visiting Yellowstone National Park

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What have we missed? What other “dont’s” should be on this list?

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

The Truth about Trout Lies

If you want to catch trout, you need to know the truth about trout lies. I’m referring to the places where trout lie — as in “hang out and spend their time.”

trout lies

Gary Borger is the expert on this. In his book, Reading Waters, he defines a lie as the “place that the fish holds in the current.” Then, he identifies three basic categories of trout lies. Fly fishers who understand these will know where to look to find trout:

The Sheltering Lie

Trout need protection from predators.

According to Borger, these “sheltering lies” exist under something. This might be a place under the bank, under a rock, under a log, under deep water, or under vegetation. Typically, fish do not eat when they are in these places. Borger says they zip their mouths shut and hunker down until they feel it is safe to go out again.

The Feeding Lie

Trout, of course, need to eat.

They need protection from the currents in the river, yet they need those currents to bring food. So they will often lie in slower current, right at the edge of faster moving current. We refer to this spot as a “seam.” Borger notes that the slow current behind a rock or another obstruction is a great place for trout to feed.

One of the easiest ways to spot a feeding lie is to look for the line of bubbles which meander down the current.

This is the food line! It’s where insects drift through the current.

The Prime Lie

Fly fishers hit the jackpot whenever they fine a prime lie.

According to Borger, this is both a sheltering lie and a feeding lie rolled into one.

A classic example is an undercut bank. The bank itself provides protection from birds of prey. Yet, the current brings the food close to the bank. That’s why trout will dart out from under a bank to take your hopper pattern or even a tiny dry fly. Sometimes, you’ll find a prime lie in a deeper pool or in water under a foam patch. The key is to look for places which provide both cover and food.

Good fly fishers shouldn’t tell lies. But they should be able to spot them.

S4:E20 How to Learn the Basics of Euro Nymphing

At the request of our listeners, we’ve now published an episode on euro nymphing. Our take is a bit different. Instead of interviewing an expert, Steve interviewed someone who is clearly a non-expert – Dave. In the last six months, Dave picked up euro nymphing on his own, watching videos, reading books, and fumbling with learning a new technique. In this episode, Dave tells his story of starting the journey to learn the basics of euro nymphing. It’s not pretty. But this interview may inspire you to pick up the technique.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO How to Learn the Basics of Euro Nymphing

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Have you tried learning the basics of euro nymphing? Any advice for Dave? Have you purchased a longer rod? How long did it take to catch fish? What type of streams do you euro nymph?

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

Surviving the Fly Fishing Off Season

fly fishing off season

My nephew texted me a few days ago to ask me about winter fly fishing. He said, “I’m not sure I want to wait until spring to fish!” The same day, I saw on Facebook that a guide-friend from New York state thanked his clients and fellow fishing guides for a spectacular season.

It reminded me that the fly fishing off-season is here — or almost here. I consider the off-season November through February. If you’re a fly fisher, what can you do to survive it?

1. Go fishing

Personally, I’m not a big fan of winter fly fishing.

One year when I lived in Montana, I caught trout on a fly rod every month. But after doing it to say that I did it, I rarely made it to the river in December and January.

Other than Midges, the hatches are minimal. Plus the temperatures are frigid most days.

Still, if you’re patient and content to catch fewer fish, you can do well in the winter on nymphs and even on the surface with Midge patterns (yes, a size #20 Parachute Adams will work). My podcast partner, Dave, and I had a fantastic February day last year on the Blue River (really, a small creek) in Wisconsin. The temperatures were in the high 50s, and the browns were hitting our nymphs.

If you live near brown trout fisheries, play close attention to when these waters close for the year.

For example, the fishing season in Yellowstone National Park runs through the first Sunday in November. If I still lived in Montana, I’d take a break from elk and deer hunting to make one last trip to fish the Gardner River for the “runners” that are heading to their spawning beds.

2. Reflect a bit

I’m convinced we (fly fishers) need to get better at this. We need to savor the moments we’ve had over our past year of fly fishing.

So go back through your photos to re-live your best fly fishing memories. Review your journal if you keep one. If you don’t keep a journal, grab a sheet of paper (or open a file on your word processor) and write down your top ten favorite memories from the past season.

The tendency to rush from one run on the river to the next one can carry over into rushing from one season to another.

Stopping to reflect a bit on the past year of fly fishing can provide a lot of satisfaction. It will also create anticipation for next season.

3. Get ready

Use the time from November through February to do what you can never find time to do during the prime months of fly fishing (March through October).

Tie some flies. Watch some You Tube videos on fly casting. Read The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists (couldn’t resist). Go through your gear and take inventory. Re-organize your fly box. If you’re planning on purchasing a new rod or waders or whatever, the off season is a time to do some research—whether online or in your local fly shop.

It’s almost November, but March is coming! We will all survive the off-season (I think).

Photo credit: Jim Keena

S4:E19 Catching More and Bigger Fish with Streamers

Bigger fish on streamers is common promise. Often you hear, “If you want to catch bigger fish, throw on a streamer. Yet fly fishing with streamers is not popular among many fly fishers. In this episode, we interview Dave Kumlien, who has been a fly fishing guide for forty years, owned a successful fly shop in Bozeman, and now works for Trout Unlimited. One key part of this episode is what Dave Kumlien calls the “twitch” – a technique for stripping in the streamer. For more information on the twitch, see the link below to an article by Tom Morgan on the twitch technique. Catching bigger fish with streamers is not just a promise; it’s a fact.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO Catching More and Bigger Fish with Streamers

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Do you fish streamers? What’s the biggest fish you’ve caught with a streamer? Have you found that you catch bigger fish with streamers? Please post your comments below.

In the podcast, we reference something called The Morgan Twitch. Here is the article by the legendary Tom Morgan, who at one time owned R.L. Winston, the fly rod company, and also co-founded Tom Morgan Rodsmiths. Tom has passed away, but his legacy lives on in his fly rods and in his contribution to the larger fly fishing community.

You can find the article here.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

Know Your Waters: Three Kinds of Rivers

When my son, Luke, played tight end for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, he played football on two kinds of surfaces. All his home games took place on artificial turf in an indoor stadium. He even played on red turf at Eastern Washington University on a field dubbed “the Inferno.” But when he traveled to the University of Northern Colorado, the game took place on a natural grass field.

three kinds of rivers

These two different kinds of surfaces — artificial turf and natural grass – required different kinds of cleats and different approaches.

This is true of the rivers you fly fish as well. While every place you fish is unique, you can group rivers into one of three kinds of rivers. The better you understand the characteristics of each type, the better you can make adjustments and set yourself up for success.

1. Freestone Rivers

Surface waters provide the main source of water for freestone rivers and streams.

This means rainfall and snow runoff.

Not surprisingly, then, freestone rivers rise and fall with the conditions. They can flood easily. When the spring temperatures warm and the snow melts, freestone rivers swell with water. This heavy water churns through the river or stream bed, displacing stones—hence the name “freestone.”

All this has a definite effect on fly fishing.

Of the three kinds of rivers, freestone streams may be the most volatile. Anglers must re-learn familiar stretches of river from year to year. A flood may scour out a larger undercut bank where large trout lie in wait for food. Alternatively, the same flood may deposit silt in a productive channel or run so that trout abandon it as a feeding lie.

Conditions can change rapidly, too.

I’ve had good fly fishing on Montana’s Yellowstone River one day, only to find it swollen the next day. In dry years, water levels drop, and water temperatures rise. This means staying off rivers when water temperatures creep into the high 60s. Fighting fish in such warm conditions endangers their lives.

One year, my podcast partner and I fished a creek that Dave and his brother had fished a couple years earlier with great success using hoppers. The stream is a smaller creek that flows into the Gallatin River. But the year Dave and I fished it, we could hardly find a run that was deep enough to fish. There was little snowfall the winter prior, and the creek was so low that the fish were bunched up in small pockets of water.

2. Spring Creeks

Since their main source of water is underground, spring creeks are more uniform in water level and temperature throughout the year. They typically flow through mineral-rich soil. This translates to significant aquatic plant growth which translates to an abundance of aquatic life (insects, scuds, crayfish, leeches, worms, etc.) which translates to a healthy fish population — both in terms of numbers and size.

The spring creeks I fish in the West and in the Midwest tend to have more silty areas than rocky areas. This makes for easier wading.

Spring creeks typically run crystal clear, so trout have the advantage.

When I used to fish Nelson’s Spring Creek south of Livingston, Montana, I found the trout to be more selective than spooky. These clear spring creeks have a few riffles, yet the runs tend to be gentle with slower current. Trout get a clear, long look at what you offer them. So fly size and tippet size matters.

In recent years, Dave, my podcast partner and I, have fished more spring creeks than freestones, given that we both now live in the Midwest. I’ve come to appreciate the more technical chops needed to catch fish in a spring creek.

3. Tailwaters

A tailwater is essentially the river or creek that flows out of a reservoir or lake created by a dam. These, these fisheries resemble spring creeks with their even flow. Because water is often released at the bottom of a dam where it is cooler and where the sediment is rich with nutrients, tailwaters can produce some large fish.

Tailwaters are often a bit off-color, so the fish tend to be less spooky.

I have been able to sneak up a lot closer to feeding fish in the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon — a fine tailwater full of brown trout—because it is slightly off color on most days. Like spring creeks, tailwaters resist the volatile swings that weather conditions create on freestone rivers. Conditions are more likely to change from of a discharge from a dam than from a snow runoff or a heavy rainfall.

So the next time you head to the river, identify its type. A little bit of understanding can go a long way towards success. All three kinds of rivers have their challenges, but all three are fun to fly fish.

S4:E18 Overcoming a Fly Fishing Plateau

When starting out in the sport, most fly fishers struggle to build skills in all the areas required for success: casting, reading waters, grasping a cursory understanding of entomology, and simply identifying places to fish. It’s a fire hose of information, knowledge, and skill. In this episode, we focus on a different set of problems – when you’ve plateaued. That is, you may be bored with your level of proficiency or you’ve simply stopped getting better. You’ve stopped making progress. This episode is for those who want to grow. We identify some ways to get off the plateau – and to fall in love again with the sport.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO OVERCOMING A FLY FISHING PLATEAU

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What kind of plateaus have you experienced? What did you do to begin a new growth curve or get better at the sport? Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

You will also love the shampoo – and the beard oil!

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off your first order.

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

5 Lessons from a Day Fishing Quake Lake

I recently fulfilled a long-time dream. I fished Quake Lake near Yellowstone National Park. A 1959 earthquake split off a chunk of mountain, and the 80-million ton landslide into Montana’s Madison River created a natural dam. The lake behind it, which backs up almost to Hebgen Lake, stretches 6 miles long and reaches depths of 190 feet. Fishing Quake Lake is something I can now check off my bucket list.

fishing Quake Lake

For years, I’ve heard about some of the large trout that lurk in Quake Lake. Finally, on a recent mid-September morning, my podcast partner, Dave, and I got our opportunity to fish its upper reaches. Here are a few takeaways — reminders or lessons — from that memorable day.

1. The early bird gets the worm

That is, the early bird gets the worthwhile spot.

We hired a guide to take us to a productive area near Quake Lake’s inlet. Shortly after dawn, we boarded a drift boat equipped with small trolling motor. We arrived first, so we had our pick of spots. Later in the morning, we could see a half dozen other drift boats in the surrounding waters.

It reminded me how important it is to arrive early if you want your choice of places to fish.

2. There is a haunting beauty unique to each fishery.

Perhaps the final line in Norman Maclean’s novella, A River Runs Through It, suffers from overuse.

But it’s true: “I am haunted by waters.”

Each river or lake has its own mystique. It’s hard to describe the eerie beauty of Quake Lake at dawn, with patches of fog on the water, clouds of Midges and Tricos fluttering in the air, and the ghost-like remains of tall trees poking up through the water’s surface.

3. It’s pure joy when you catch a trout you’ve hunted

The first fish I caught in the morning was a 17-inch rainbow. I saw it feeding while we were hunting for larger fish in a couple of feeding lanes. I tossed a size #20 Midge pattern a few yards above it and let the current take it above the trout’s nose. I expected the strike and set the hook at the right time.

Yet it still startled me.

This sensation is why I love dry fly fishing.

4. Soft landings work best

Lest my previous point give the impression that I’m a master fly fisher, I will quickly confess that I missed my share of fish on Quake Lake that day. I missed some strikes, made a few errant casts, and spooked a couple of fish when my casts thumped the surface of the water.

I had to remind myself to pull up my rod tip slightly on my forward cast to stop the forward thrust of the line. This makes the line go limp and then fall gently to the surface.

5. Sometimes it’s not your fault if you’re not catching fish

We caught some beauties during our day on Quake Lake — both on dry flies and later on nymphs. But it was a fairly average day of fly fishing.

At times I wondered how many more fish I would have caught if I was a better fly fisher.

At one point, one of us asked our guide: “What are we doing wrong?”

Our guide, who freely speaks his mind and offers blunt criticism when appropriate, replied: “Nothing. Sometimes it’s not your fault if you’re not catching fish.”

He explained that he has fished Quake Lake enough to know the difference between a day when the trout are feeding sporadically and they are in a feeding frenzy.

Our day was the former type. That’s simply how fly fishing works—or doesn’t work. We had a satisfying day, and between sporadic success and the mystique of Quake Lake, it’s a day that I’ll remember for a long time.

S4:E17 Mysteries of the Fly Fishing Universe, Part 3

The fly fishing universe is filled with mysteries. One deep, unsolvable mystery is how few calories a day of fishing burns relative to the large amount of calories consumed at the Supper Club or steak house later in the day. The mysteries are dense. Virtually impenetrable. But in this episode, we peer behind the curtain, identify a handful of new mysteries, and attempt to solve the unsolvable.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO MYSTERIES OF THE FLY FISHING UNIVERSE, PART 3

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Surely you’ve come across some fly fishing or outdoors mysteries. Please post your new mysteries below!

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We love Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

What a Fly Fisher Saw One Fall Day in Yellowstone

You never know what you will see during a fall day in Yellowstone. Here are 9 sights from a memorable day of fishing in Yellowstone National Park:

fall day in Yellowstone

1. A bull elk bugling at Mammoth

Even though this huge herd bull and his harem were occupying a manicured Park Service lawn, his raspy bugle reminded me of the days when my dad and I hunted elk during archery season about 35 miles north of Yellowstone National Park.

An elk’s bugle is one of the most stunning sounds in nature.

2. A tourist trying to coax a deer to eat an apple

No kidding. A tourist with a camera in one hand and an apple in the other outstretched hand had a mule deer doe within twenty yards. Apparently, the font size on the “Don’t feed the wildlife” sign at the park entrance wasn’t large enough for this tourist to see.

3. A grizzly track on the bank of the Yellowstone River

I felt a chill go down my spine when I spotted this track right along the river. At this point, my fishing partner and I were on a remote stretch of the Yellowstone about 3.5 miles from our trailhead. We both checked the position of our bear spray canisters on our belts.

4. Healthy cutthroat trout

We both caught some fat, colorful Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. They were all 14-17 inches with football-shaped bodies. I caught them on hoppers, terrestrials, and streamers. The fishing was solid. We each landed 8-10 cutts.

I’ve had days where I’ve caught more on this stretch of river. But it was still a satisfying day.

5. My fishing partner sliding off of a rock into the river

Since we had such a long hike (see below), we decided not to wear waders. We opted for hiking books and nylon pants. We knew from prior trips that wading the stretch of river we planned to fish was not essential.

At one point, though, my fishing partner was crouched on a rock fighting a fish when his feet slipped and he slide into the water. He got wet but was never in danger.

I may or may not have laughed.

Also, I will not confirm whether or not this fly fisher was my podcast partner, Dave.

6. A bull bison blocking our trail on the way out

On our return, we climbed to the top of a small plateau and instantly spotted a brown animal on the trail in front of us.

My first thought was “Grizzly!”

As I reached for my canister of bear spray, I realized a bull bison was lying down on the game grail in front of us. We made a wide circle and left the bull undisturbed. He stood up to face us and confirm we were leaving.

But he didn’t make any hostile advances (unlike the bull bison we encountered a few years before on the same trail).

7. My Fitbit watch showing 22,324 steps

At the end of the day, I felt like I had hiked 8 miles. But my Fitbit showed 22,324 steps and calculated the distance as 10.4 miles.

My response was “10-4, good buddy!”

8. An elderly couple struggling to stand on a retaining wall above Tower Fall

I saw this right after leaving the Tower Fall parking area. Their view was stunning. But so was the drop-off below them. I shuddered when I thought about how many people in Yellowstone have fallen to their deaths.

9. A wrecker pulling a jeep up a steep bank

The final “sight” which impressed me was a wrecker pulling a Jeep Wrangler up a bank. The driver had obviously driven off the road—whether by swerving or simply veering off the edge where there was no shoulder. Thankfully, the bank was not steep or the driver would not have survived.

So what should I make of what I saw?

I’m not sure I learned anything new. Still, what I saw on that fine fall day reinforced some long-held convictions:

    The sights and sounds of a fall day Yellowstone are stunning. Aspen leaves burst with color, and the bugles of herd bulls and satellite bulls pierce the morning air. It’s hard to beat mid-September.

    It is wise to carry bear spray.

    It’s better to share the experience with a friend than to be alone — especially when your friend provides a bit of entertainment.

    Fall tourists are no smarter than summer tourists.

    There is a new vista and a new danger around every bend in the road or trail.

    Mid-September is simply an awesome time for a fall day in Yellowstone.

S4:E16 How to Plan a Memorable Fly Fishing Trip

Planning a memorable fly fishing trip is pretty easy if you do a few things right. There are factors that you can control, of course, and then there is the weather – and whether the fish are in the mood. In this episode, we lift the veil on our do-it-yourself fishing trips. Which is probably not saying much. However, we have a lot of trips under our proverbial wading belt. All trips are memorable, we suppose, but some trips stick in our minds because we figured out how to catch fish while enjoying every day on the trip and keeping costs to a minimum.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO HOW TO PLAN A MEMORABLE FLY FISHING TRIP

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What are your best practices for designing a successful fly fishing trip? We want to know! What works? What doesn’t? Please post your comments below.

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We are big fans of Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

5 Facts about Midges Every Fly Fisher Should Know

Midges account for about half of a trout’s diet. Plus, they are about the only hatching insect available to trout during the winter. So here are five facts about midges that you need to know if you are going to fish midge patterns effectively.

facts about midges

1. Midges in rivers and streams are tiny.

According to fly fishing author Dave Hughes, the average size for midges in moving water is around size 20.

A size 16 is a big one, and some midges get as small as 24 or 26. This is why I typically stick with midge patterns in the size 18-20 range for nymphs and in the size 20 range for dry flies.

2. Midges have up to five generations per year.

This means you can fish midge patterns all year.

Fly fishing expert Jim Schollmeyer claims that trout often feed selectively on midge larvae in heavily fished streams even when other insects are hatching. However, trout feed most heavily on midges from late fall to early spring when there are few other insect hatches. This explains why you must fish midges if you’re on the western rivers in February.

3. Trout eat midge larvae constantly

Trout are more selective when feeding on midges in their pupal and adult stages. Yet they constantly feed on midge larvae in moving water. That’s why I always have a handful of beadhead Brassie or Zebra midge patterns (both nymphs) in my fly box.

4. Midges cluster on the surface

Mating midges will form clusters on the surface of the water as groups of males gather around single females.

In my experience on Montana rivers, this happens especially during late winter and early spring. What dry fly patterns work best?

A Griffiths Knat is a great pattern to imitate clusters of midges, although I’ve used a Parachute Adams with success on Montana’s Lower Madison during the winter.

5. Spent midges end up in slow water

Have you ever noticed trout sipping on tiny black dead bugs in a pool or eddy (slower water behind an obstruction) at the river’s edge? These trout are feeding on spent females that have laid their eggs and have been swept downstream.

Some anglers like a CDC Biot Midge, although a Renegade or Parachute Adams usually works for me.

It seems like Mayflies and Caddisflies get all the press. But don’t head for the river without some tiny midge patterns — especially if you fly fish during the winter.

S4:E15 Organizing Your Fly Box Chaos

Fly box chaos is real. You start out nice and organized, with pretty little rows, and then the Law of Entropy kicks in. Next thing you know, your fly box looks like a tossed salad. In this episode, we interview Peter Stitcher, with Ascent Fly Fishing. Peter has come up with a simple but biologically organized method for making sense of your fly box. Peter is a legit biologist, and his solution is briliant. By the way, Peter has given our listeners a discount on his “Creating Order in Your Fly Box” film to help you implement his approach. Scroll down to get your promo code.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO ORGANIZING YOUR FLY BOX CHAOS

$5 off Peter’s Film on “Creating Order in Your Fly Box”. Visit River Oracle or Ascent Fly Fishing and enter the code “2GUYSANDARIVER.” You can also rent or buy the film at http://watch.riveroracle.com/.

By the way, we (Steve and Dave) receive no financial benefit from your purchase of Peter’s film in any way. This is simply Peter’s gift to you.

GREAT STUFF FROM OUR LISTENERS

At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Does Peter’s method make sense? How do you simplify your fly box? How many flies do you carry out on the river? What is your biggest frustration with managing your flies?

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We are big fans of Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

Two Weeks before Your Fly Fishing Trip

I am currently in preparation mode for a fly fishing trip. Dave, my podcast partner, and I are leaving in a few days for the West. Last week, I shared some tips for planning a fly fishing trip to a specific region—the area in and around Yellowstone National Park. In this post, I want to zero in on what I do to get ready for a trip two weeks in advance, what to do before your fly fishing trip.

before your next fly fishing trip

This is about preparation, not planning. Here are three simple ways I prepare:

1. I ramp up my workouts

I usually make it to a local workout facility about three times a week.

But when I’m two weeks away from a trip, I ramp up both the frequency and the intensity of my workouts. I take some longer walks on days when I’m not doing my lifting and elliptical regimen.

Yesterday was too nice to work out inside, so I rode my mountain bike on the Des Plaines River trail and stopped to run up a long sledding hill a couple times. On my way back, I paused to look at the muddy Des Plaines River and reflect on how I’ll see clear water in a few days! I make sure, of course, not to overdo it. I intentionally do not work out on the two days before I leave for a trip.

We have a hard hike planned for day one of our trip, so I want to give my body time to rest and recover from my intense workouts.

2. I read some “pump up” material

When my son played college football, he had his air buds in several hours before a game to get pumped up and ready to hit the field.

Honestly, I haven’t found any tunes that seem to fit a fly fishing trip. Suggestions, anyone?

Maybe John Denver’s American Child would work if I was “going up to Alaska” to fly fish. But it seems like overkill to jam to Taio Cruz’s Dynamite or one of U2’s more raucous hits.

So I read a good fly fishing book. It may not make the adrenalin run, but it does stir my sense of anticipation. Since I’m headed to the West, I’ve been re-reading Yellowstone Runners by Chester Allen—a memoir about three weeks of fishing the wild trout that migrate from Hebgen Lake into the Madison River.

Of course, any good fly fishing book will do.

3. I take inventory of my gear

This seems obvious. But if I start doing this two weeks in advance rather than the night before, I end up being a lot more prepared.

My fly boxes need re-organizing, and I need to figure out if I have enough tippet material, dry fly dressing, and first aid kit ingredients. I make sure my rods are and reels are ready to go. I also set aside some of the little items that can easily be left behind — neck gaiter, thermometer, headlamp, and plastic bags (for wallets and keys on days I wet wade).

Then I remember to look for my favorite hat and favorite fly fishing shirt. How can I expect to enjoy the trip if I forget them?!

T-minus two weeks. What will you do to get ready for your next trip?

S4:E14 What Fly Fishing Does for Our Day Job

What fishing does for our day job is more than just relieve stress. That’s important, of course. But fly fishing is about something bigger, or maybe deeper. While both of us would love to fish more days each year, we certainly don’t wish we could fly fish full-time as professionals (and certainly not possible, given our chops!). We like our day jobs. In this episode, we explore the edges of what keeps us focused on our work and how fishing rounds out a full life.

fly fishing

LISTEN NOW TO WHAT FLY FISHING DOES FOR OUR DAY JOB

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

How you think about fly fishing and your day job? How does fly fishing fit with the whole of life? If you could fish more days a year, how many more would you fish?

OUR SPONSOR: DR SQUATCH NATURAL OUTDOOR SOAP

We are big fans of Dr. Squatch soap products for guys who love the outdoors. Our favorite bar soap is Pine Tar. But there are many others, including:

    Eucalyptus Yogurt

    Cool Fresh Aloe

    Deep Sea Goats Milk

    Bay Rum

    Spearmint Basil

Visit Dr. Squatch Outdoor Soap for Guys, fill your shopping cart with great outdoor products, and enter “2Guys” as the promo code. You’ll receive 20% off!

WOULD YOU REFER OUR PODCAST?

We’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Be sure to forward our weekly email to your network!

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.” Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $13.99!

Tips for Fly Fishing Trips to the Greater Yellowstone Area

Fly fishing trips to the Greater Yellowstone area in Montana or Wyoming are not cheap. I’ve made not a few fly fishing trips to the Greater Yellowstone area. And I’ve assembled a few tips that come from a decade of making annual trips from the Midwest to the West, as well as from the two decades I lived and fly fished near Bozeman, Montana.

fly fishing trips to the greater yellowstone area

I suspect these tips will apply — at least to some extent – to other regions in United States. But they relate specifically to fly fishing in and around Yellowstone National Park.

1. Go in