When to Get Sideways with Your Fly Rod

It’s never a good idea to get sideways with people (or your fly fishing partner). But sometimes it’s okay to get sideways with your fly rod.

sideways with your fly rod

Most photos of fly fishers casting or fighting fish show the fly rod pointed up—vertical, perpendicular to the ground. But there are three times when it makes sense to get sideways with your rod:

1. The sideways cast

Dave, my pod-cast partner, and I like to fish a little trout stream in the Timber Coulee area of Wisconsin. One of the better stretches has three runs which are covered by low-hanging tree branches. If you look closely, you can see a couple strike indicators hanging from the branches.

One of them may or may not be ours.

But we’ve been able to fish this stretch successfully by using a side-arm cast.

It’s not that difficult. The main challenge is your back cast. If you have tall grass or low-to-the ground obstructions, it won’t work. But if you’re close enough to the run for low-handing branches to interfered, you probably won’t need a long back cast.

2. The sideways hook set

We use a sideways hook set for nymphing under two conditions:

First, the strike is right in front of us — not downstream. Second, the strike is just a few feet in front of us. I’ll explain why in a moment.

The rationale for a sideways hook set is simple. Rather than pull the nymph up and possibly out of the fish’s mouth, we pull it to the side so that it goes into the fish’s mouth. Fish face the current. That is, they look upstream. So when we set the hook, we pull to the side in a downstream direction.

However, this technique does not work well when the strike is downstream from you or twenty feet or more in front of you. In both cases, you have a lot of fly line on the surface. The surface tension will slow down your hook set. It will feel like trying to run fast in a muddy field. You’ll simply get bogged down.

So, it’s best to keep your fly rod vertical in these instances.

You’ll be surprised how a quick straight-up lift of your rod will get the line off of the surface before you can say “Trout!” Try this sometime when you don’t have a fish on the other end. Your line will lift off the surface so quickly that your strike indicator will come shooting at you. It shows how effective this technique really is.

3. The sideways fight

Holding your fly rod high and pointing it to the sky makes for a great photo when fighting a fish. But when you’re trying to land a fish as quickly as possible (for the sake of its health), pulling it from side to side works best. This forces a fish to use its lateral muscles, and it tires it out in much less time.

Perpendicular may look right. But sometimes, getting your fly rod sideways is the most effective way to cast, hook, and fight fish.

S3:E50 One Fine Day on Nelson’s Spring Creek

Nelson’s Spring Creek flows from the hills of Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston, Montana, and into the Yellowstone River. It’s only miles away from DePuy and Armstrong spring creeks, two other amazing fisheries, but Nelson’s is something extra special. In this episode, Dave interviews Steve about one fine day on Nelson’s Spring Creek. Since Steve failed to invite Dave along, Dave was not there to verify the number or size of fish, but Steve says he kept a journal. It truly was One Fine Day.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Day on Nelson’s Spring Creek”

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 ever had one fine day on a spring creek? We’d love to hear your stories. Please post your one fine day stories below!

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

    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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 5 Favorite All-Purpose Dry Fly Patterns

Pardon the overused pun, but I’m hooked on dry fly fishing. I love watching a trout rise to take a fly off of the river’s surface. My dry fly box is stocked and already in use for this spring and summer season of fishing. While I definitely carry more than five dry fly patterns, here are the five all-purpose flies, in various sizes.

dry fly patterns

I like these in sizes 14-18, with some size 20s in a couple of these patterns:

1. Parachute Adams

This is where it all begins for me.

If I could only use one dry fly, I’d choose a Parachute Adams for sure. This fly serves double-duty. I use it during a Blue-Winged Olive (BWO) hatch, but I also use it as an attractor pattern. It works equally well in Montana, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I carry some size 20s in this pattern because it has worked on days when trout stubbornly refuse a size 18.

2. Elk Hair Caddis

Like the Parachute Adams, the Elk Hair Caddis serves well as both an imitation and an attractor pattern. My dilemma is always the dubbing. I like black for the spring creeks in Minnesota or Wisconsin Driftless creeks, but green or tan works well for the Yellowstone River in Montana.

I’ve even had success with a larger Caddis pattern (size 12) during hopper season.

3. Light Cahill

I always make sure my fly box has an ample supply of Light Cahills to imitate Pale Morning Duns (PMDs). I’ve run into a lot of PMDs on the spring creeks in Montana and tailwaters like the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon. Like a BWO, and PMD is a another mayfly species.

While the BWO has darker (gray) color, a PMD is much lighter pale color—as its name suggests.

4. Comparadun

I’m being a bit non-committal here as the Comparadun is a rather general pattern rather than a specific fly. I’ll go with gray if I want to imitate a BWO or light tan if I want to imitate a PMD. The key is that the Comparadun floats a bit lower in the film than a Parachute Adams or a Light Cahill.

This makes it look more a cripple or a dun that is struggling to take flight.

5. Royal Wulff

My final go-to fly is an attractor pattern. While I’m selecting a Royal Wulff as my fifth fly, my favorite attractor varies from week to week and from river to river. I like something with bushy hackle which can handle a lot of water.

So I’m also fond of an H & L Variant and a Red or Yellow Humpy. Occasionally, I’ll return to one of the first attractor patterns I ever used — the Renegade. It doesn’t stay “dry” quite as well in rough water, but even when submerged, it produces well.

You only need a few basic patterns for spring and summer dry fly fishing, but make sure you fly box is full of them in different sizes.

S3:E49 Mysteries of the Fly Fishing Universe, Part 1

The Fly Fishing Universe is vast and filled with dark, unsolvable mysteries. One such mystery is, “Why are there no insect hatches on a perfectly overcast day in early spring when just the day before the caddis were coming off like a plague?” It’s a mystery. Just one of the great mysteries. In this hilarious episode, we explore five Mysteries of the Fly Fishing Universe. And make some feeble attempts to shed some light on the darkness.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Mysteries of the Fly Fishing Universe”

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.

Tell us your mysteries? What are the great mysteries of the Fly Fishing Universe that you have uncovered?

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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!

Second Thoughts on Barbless Hooks for Fly Fishing

Fly fishers often frown on barbed hooks. One guide and blogger wrote: “Barbs are barbaric.” The rationale is that a sharp barb on a hook damages a fish’s mouth when removed. Barbless hooks for fly fishing, however, slide out like a greased pig through the hands of its pursuer.

barbless hooks for fly fishing

I was on board with moving to barbless hooks until a friend made an observation that caused me to question the whole idea.

Post-Release Survival

My friend observed that a landed trout’s survival depends more on how quickly it is released — and kept wet during the release – than on whether the hook is barbless. In fact, he argued, it’s easier to land a trout more quickly on a barbed hook than a barbless one. That is, the time that it takes to reel in a trout on a barbed hook is less and thus enables the fly fisher to release the fish more quickly.

The quicker the time from the hookset to the release, the better.

What Studies Suggest

Of course, advocates of barbless hooks cite studies that suggest such hooks lead to a lower post-release mortality rate for trout. Simply “Google” the topic, and you’ll find plenty of articles discussing these studies.

You might be surprised, though, when you discover a few biologists and fly fishers who question the results of these studies.

Two decades ago, Doug Schill, an Idaho Fish and Game research biologist, looked at several studies done over the years and found that barbed hooks led to a negligibly higher mortality rate — 0.3 percent. He noted that a particular creek in Idaho had an average annual mortality rate of 30% to 65%.

“It is normal for fish to die at that rate,” he said. “So that 0.3 percent makes no difference.”

If he is right, that is well within the margin of error. Some studies simply show little correlation between barbed hooks and higher mortality rates.

The Larger Problem

I think there is an even larger problem related to fish mortality research.

Many studies simply do not and cannot account for enough variables to determine their accuracy. A family friend is a leading medical genomic researcher — probably one of the top five in his field in the world. He conducts prospective and retrospective studies and analyzes large data sets as his day job.

Yet he frequently scoffs at the confidence people have in the data. For example, the accuracy of any large pharmacogenomic study of cancer patients is determined by the gritty details, such as “Did the patient take the pill every day for three years,” and “How can we verify that she did?”

The problem almost always lies in the data, how it is collected, and whether it can be fully trusted. It’s the old “garbage in, garbage out” problem.

So many scientific studies are simply not conclusive. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in good science. I’m not a Luddite. It’s often non-scientific people, however, who talk the loudest and express the most emotion about the conclusiveness of scientific research. My podcast partner Dave has a saying, “Always confident, sometimes right,” to describe such people.

Personal Experience

Some anglers base their conclusions (understandably) on personal experience. But this does not come any closer to solving the problem.

I have read and listened to passionate accounts of how barbless hooks are the only way to go. Isn’t the issue common sense?

Yet others insist, from their experience, that barbless hooks for fly fishing create more problems than they solve. One angler claims that barbless hooks actually penetrate further than barbed hooks, creating more damage on their entrance than barbed hooks do on their exit.

This is why I have not jumped on the barbless hooks bandwagon.

I respect those who use barbless hooks for fly fishing, of course. And I always use barbless hooks when the law requires them. When in Yellowstone National Park, for example, I definitely use barbless hooks. I respect the laws of the land. I pinch down the barbs.

Fish-friendly and Conservation-Minded

But as conservation-minded as I am, I currently do not use barbless hooks when I have a choice. I’ve notice that other conservation-minded friends and fly fishing guides don’t either. I’m certainly open to changing my mind on this, though it will take more than the latest study to convince me.

In the meantime, I will land fish as quickly as possible, use forceps to remove the hook, and release a trout as quickly as possible. And always with wet hands.

S3:E48 Fly Fishing Safely in the Summer

Fly fishing safely is harder than it sounds, For sure, fishing is no extreme sport. Recently, however, while we were fishing in Yellowstone National Park, two fly fishers were attacked by a grizzly – just a drainage system over from us. Besides bears, there are other risks, of course, such as lightning. In this episode, Dave tells a harrowing story about a friend who was struck by lightning and lived to tell about it. But not before her heart stopped.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fly Fishing Safely in the Summer”

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 are other important safety concerns when fly fishing in the summer? Tell us your stories of “close calls”!

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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!

Strategies for Fly Fishing New Water

Every stretch of river I’ve ever fly fished has something in common. There was always a first-time. Fly fishing new water has been productive for me over the years. But it takes a bit of intentionality — at least to make the practice effective.

So here are five strategies I’ve found helpful.

1. Commit to it

I prefer to fly fish familiar waters.

I like places that are productive and predictable. But the only way to find these places is to commit to trying new water. As silly as it sounds, I’ve had to force myself to leave the old familiar places for a day to try something new.

So the first strategy has to do with a mindset. It’s making a commitment to spend every third or fourth day you fly fish on new water. You can only break this commitment if you’re in the thick of a caddis hatch or hopper season. Then you have an excuse to remain in those familiar waters as long as you’re catching fish.

2. Gather intel

There is no excuse for ignoring this strategy with all the accessible information.

Check online fly fishing reports. Listen to the gossip at fly shops. Pick the brains of fly fishing friends. Buy books about fly fishing certain areas. I have books on fly fishing particular regions, rivers, and even the national parks.

3. Just fly fish it

All the intel in the world won’t help you if you don’t use it. So get out there and give it a try. Force yourself to follow through on your commitment. Take the intel to new water and give it a try.

4. Fly fish it again

After you’ve fly fished a stretch of water for the first time, go back and try it again.

If it fished well, I don’t need to convince you to try it again. But if it wasn’t productive, give it another shot. Maybe the fish weren’t feeding that day. Maybe you didn’t walk far enough. It was on my fifth or sixth trip to Montana’s Madison River as it emerges from the Bear Trap Canyon that I finally stumbled onto an amazing run that has produced some large rainbows over the years.

5. Keep a journal

Buy a moleskin journal or create a file on your laptop to record your experiences.
Describe what patterns you used, what the weather was like, the water conditions, and how much success you had. I’ve been surprised over the years how I’ve used this information the second or third time when fly fishing new waters.

S3:E47 One Fine Day on the Madison at Bear Trap Canyon

Fishing for spring spawners on Montana’s Madison River needs to be on your bucket list. There several stretches of the Madison – the Lower, the Upper, and, among others, the stretch between Hebgen and Quake Lakes. Each part of the Madison is unique. In this episode, we continue our “One Fine Day” series by telling the stories from a day over a decade ago on the Madison River at Bear Trap Canyon, about a nine-mile stretch from Ennis Lake to near highway 84 around Black’s Ford. We hiked upriver at the Warm Springs Access and the rest is, as we like to say, One Fine Day.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Day on the Bear Trap”

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 “one fine day” stories? Tell us about a great day on the water and all the little things that made it special!

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

    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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 Reasonable Cost of Fly Fishing

Last week I stumbled onto an amazing bargain. I found a high-end St. Croix fly rod on sale for $1.60. Yes, you read that correctly—a dollar and sixty cents! The cost of fly fishing is amazing!

I also found high-quality flies on sale for 90 cents a dozen. However, it turns out that I’m 118 years too late. These deals appeared in a 1900 Sears catalog. I happened to see the catalog in a trendy coffee shop in Portland, Oregon.

Today’s Prices

This got me thinking about the cost of fly fishing today.

Even though a decent St. Croix fly rod will cost you a thousand times more ($160.00) today than it did in 1900, fly fishing is still a reasonably priced hobby. Sure, you can go crazy and burn through $3000.00 in a hurry to get set up if you insist on a top-of-the line products by Sage, Simms, Patagonia, Orvis, and Fishpond.

But you can fly fish on a tight budget, as Dave and I have had to do at times.

For the record, I own fly fishing gear manufactured by the afore-mentioned companies. I’m not knocking them, because their products are great. But the gear I’ve purchased from them was stretched over the last twenty-five years. I’m still wearing an Orvis fly vest that is over two decades old.

Recently, one of my sons purchased a “starter package” for his father-in-law. It cost $199. It included a decent fly rod, reel, line, a couple boxes of basic flies, and a few leaders. Throw in a pair of waders, wading boots, and a vest, and the total will still be between $400 and $500.

Starter Packages for Other Pursuits

If you’re tempted to complain about the price of fly fishing gear, consider what it costs to buy starter packages for other sports and hobbies.

A starter set of golf clubs will run about $200. Of course, you can spend that much on a driver. Don’t forget, too, about golf balls, and golf shoes. Oh yeah, add in green fees (which may run as much as a non-resident season fishing license in Montana).

Planning to hit the slopes?

A decent snowboard will cost between $300 and $400. Bindings and boots will set you back another $300 to $400. Lift tickets, like green fees, are not cheap either.

Big-game hunting is not cheap either. If you want a 30.06 or .270 caliber in a Ruger, Winchester, or Remington – expect to pay $450 or so for a basic quality rifle. Add another $200 for a decent scope. And that doesn’t include travel, lodging, and tags.

You get the idea. Fly fishing is a reasonably priced sport.

Why Cheaper is Better to Start

If you’re just getting started or buying for someone who is, I suggest starting with an affordable, modestly priced package. Here are three reasons why:

First, you don’t want to get stuck with expensive gear if you decide fly fishing is not for you.

Second, part of the fun is up-grading and saving for a high-end rod or waders.

If you start out with a Sage X or a Winston Boron IIIx, you won’t appreciate the high quality of these rods. Besides, you won’t be able to get anything better (even though you could spend more).

Third, you will have a better sense of what you want after you’ve fly fished awhile. A Sage X and a Winston Boron IIIx are comparable in price. But they act differently. The Sage X is more of a streamer rod and designed for distance. You’ll make a better choice as to which rod fits you after you’ve fly fished awhile.

If you plan to start fly fishing, you can be thankful that it’s a relatively affordable sport. But don’t expect to get a decent fly rod for less than two bucks unless you can travel back in time.

S3:E46 Why We Like to Fish Alone

Some of you fish alone all or most of the time. We don’t. We probably fish five or six days with someone (often together) for every one day we fish alone. And yet both of us enjoy the days alone on the river. In this episode, we reflect on what makes fishing alone so different in kind from fishing with a buddy – and why we like our solitude.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Why We Like to Fish Alone”

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 often do you fish alone? Does it energize you? Or enervate you? What do you learn about yourself when fly fishing alone?

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 Pattern: Serendipity

One early fall morning in Montana, I marched into a fly shop after a terrific day on the Madison River, bent on replenishing my dwindling supply of Olive Serendipities.

pattern serendipity

“What are you looking for?” the fly shop person asked.

“Got any Olive Serendipities?”

“You don’t want caddis,” he said. “The caddis stopped about a month ago.”

Of course he was right. The hatches ended some time in September.

A day earlier, however, I caught one of the heaviest fish I’ve ever hooked on a fly rod on a #18 Olive Serendipity, a caddis nymph. Steve and I were fishing near West Yellowstone, and we each caught a fat, 20-inch Hebgen Lake rainbow on our dropper at the far end of the swing.

At least in the West, this nymph pattern is consistently deadly. Here’s a little more background on the nymph:

1. Where it originated

In Fly Patterns of Yellowstone Volume vol 2, Craig Matthews and John Juracek trace the pattern to the late 1980s. A guy by the name of Ross Merigold brought the pattern to the attention of the tiers at the Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, which Matthews owned, in West Yellowstone. Mathews credits Merigold with the founding of the pattern. A California tyer, Merigold was also the creator of the RAM caddis, and the Serendipity is just a riff off the RAM caddis.

Today the Serendipity is a staple of fly fishers everywhere in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

2. How it’s made

The fly was first tied with a brown zelon body with a head of trimmed deer hair on a size #16 hook. Other versions then emerged, including a body with brown thread instead of the zelon, known as the Three Dollar Serendipity, named after the Three Dollar Bridge on the Madison River.

Tying the Serendipity begins by tying in a length of gold wire, wrapping the thread evenly over the wire to the bend of the hook, then forward back to the eye. The process ends by tying on a clump of deer hair on the eye, trimming it, and voila!

Easier said than done, of course. Twisting on the zelon to create the segmentation for the body takes some chops.

See this short video by Craig Mathews on how to tie the Original Serendipity.

Today there is the Olive Serendipity, the Guide’s Serendipity, a white Serendipity, and a Chrystal Serendipity, which uses pearl Krystal flash for the body. And I’m sure there are a thousand other riffs off the original.

3. Why it works

This nymph doesn’t just work. It slays trout. Matthews and Juracek say, “We think that it is the most important nymph pattern to come on to the scene in at least thirty years and maybe more.”

No one really knows why it is so consistently effective.

Matthews and Juracek say that perhaps it was the smaller size (#16) that made it so effective in the late 1980s. Up to that point, fly fishers often tossed bigger nymphs (#12 and #14). Perhaps the nymph represents more trout food than other flies. The Serendipity seems, generally, to work better than the Pheasant Tail in the same size.

4. How to fish it

Steve and I fish the Serendipity as a midge-larva, dead-drifting it along the bottom. Depending on what we’re doing and where we’re fishing, we’ll drop the nymph anywhere from eight inches to a foot or more off a top fly. This fall, we tied on a #14 Stone Fly and then dropped the #18 Olive Serendipity. Steve caught more fish than I did on the nymph, but I got in the last word with the biggest fish of the day.

This spring, I plan to experiment with the Serendipity in the Minnesota and Wisconsin Driftless.

Other Articles in the “Know Your Pattern” Series

    Know Your Pattern: The Prince Nymph

    Know Your Pattern: The H and L Variant

    Know Your Pattern: The Parachute Adams

    Know Your Pattern: The Royal Coachman

    Know Your Pattern: The San Juan Worm

    Know Your Pattern: The Woolly Bugger

S3:E45 What Fishing Guides Have Taught Us about Ourselves

Fishing guides are the hardest working folks in the fishing industry. Each year, we budget one guided day on the river, most often float trips, though last year we did a wade trip on the Madison. We’ve accumulated a modicum of experience with fly fishing guides. And we’ve learned a ton about how to fish. However, the guides have also taught us a few things about ourselves. In this episode, we reflect on what the great fishing guides have taught us about our own aspirations and fly fishing chops.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “What Fishing Guides Have Taught Us about Ourselves”

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 ever use fly fishing guides? What have you learned from them? Or, what what they taught you about yourself?

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

Small Difference Makers for Landing Large Trout

My son, Luke, keeps sending me hurtful text messages. These texts contain reports and photos of landing large trout on the South Platte River in Colorado. He has caught several 19- and 20-inchers in the last two weeks. I’m hurt since I’m not there to join in on the fun.

landing large trout

But a comment in one of his text messages struck me. Luke talked about something that made all the difference in landing these big fish. His comment got me thinking about the “difference makers” that lead to success in landing big fish. Here are four that have worked well for me when I have large trout on the other end of the line.

1. Fishing with a heavier tippet.

Go as heavy as you can. I used to think that I always needed a 6x tippet (roughly 3.5 pound test) with a size #18 fly whether a nymph or a dry.

Anything larger risks looking like a rope.

But I’ve had success with a 5x (about 4.75 pound test) and sometimes even a 4x (about 6 pound test) tippet. You can get away with a heavier size if the water is a bit off-color or the current is faster. Choppy current is your friend, too, if you’re fishing dry flies. The trout don’t get as good a look at the tippet.

2. Fighting the brute from the side.

If you’re striking a classic pose for a photo, then I suppose pointing your rod tip to the sky and trying to pull the fish directly towards you makes sense. But if you want to land that brute, you need to try something different.

You want to pull the fish from side to side rather than directly towards you. It is the side to side pressure which works against a fish’s muscles and tires it out.

So, for example, if you’ve pulled the trout to the left for thirty seconds or so, switch and pull it to your right. Go back and forth and you’ll tire it more quickly than you might expect.

3. Setting the drag properly on your reel.

Your fly reel has an adjustable drag — a lever or a dial which determines how much pressure a fish must exert to pull the line out of the reel.

The basic rule is to set the drag’s tension on the light side. However, if it’s too tight, a sudden surge by the fish will snap the tippet. But if it’s too light, the fish will invariably run for cover and snag or snap your line on a submerged branch or other obstruction. I often adjust my drag even as I’m retrieving a fish.

With a larger fish, I will typically tighten my drag as the fish tires and is less prone to make a sudden run downriver. I want to get it in as quickly as possible.

4. Using a long-handled net.

For years I’ve used a small hand-made net by Brodin.

A couple years ago, generous friends gave me a Fishpond Nomad Emerger. I can still clip it to my fly fishing vest, and it doesn’t feel as bulky as it might look. But it has a larger basket as well as a longer handle.

This has been a difference maker when I’m fishing alone. I don’t have to pull in a big trout as close to my body — where bad things tend to happen — with a long-handled net.

This was the difference maker for my son, Luke.

I told him to go buy the same net I’ve been using since he was running into some big fish. He did, and he reported that he would have had a hard time landing those twenty-inch rainbows with his shorter net.

S3:E44 The Variables of Spring Fly Fishing

Spring fly fishing is in full swing, though the weather still feels like winter in many parts of the United States, certainly in the northern states. Weather is certainly one variable in spring fly fishing, but there are others that affect the kind of day you’ll have on the water. In this episode, we identify some of the factors that make spring fly fishing so wonderful and so unpredictable.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “The Variables of Spring 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.

What did we miss? What other variables do you encounter when fishing in the spring? We’d love to hear your stories of overcoming an element or two for a terrific day on the water.

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

Fly Fishing Tips Below the Surface

You can find some great fly fishing tips below the surface. I’m referring to the surface of our articles and podcasts — not the film of a river or lake. There are some great insights in the “comments” section below each article or episode we post. Our readers post some terrific ideas, hacks, and tips.

fly fishing tips below the surface

Here are a few insights we found helpful. You might benefit from them too:

Wet Waders and Boots

I bring along a plastic garbage bag for transporting my wet waders home from the river. But Thomas suggested a better idea. He uses a low-walled plastic tub for carrying his wet boots and waders. It’s convenient and usually keeps the mud and sand on the bottom.

It’s a lot less messy than stuffing it all into a garbage bag.

Counter Intuitive Dry Fly Measures

My first reaction when my dry fly sinks is to retrieve it and dry it. But Duane’s story makes me pause.

“Once while fishing the Gallatin in Yellowstone Park,” he writes, “my orange Elk Hair sank, and in disgust, I was about to yank it out of the water for drying and recast when a large mouth on a BIG Cutthroat came up and grabbed it.

“The trout that day ignored it floating, but loved it sunk.”

Duane also says, “Many times I have tried matching the hatch on rising trout and was ignored, then changed to a #14 Royal Wulff – which looked absolutely nothing like the BWO hatch and bingo!”

Going with a High-End Fly Rod

On our podcast, Dave and I have been advocate for shelling out several hundred bucks for a higher quality fly rod. We prefer to save our money elsewhere. Of course, you can catch trout on a low-end fly rod. But if you fly fish enough, you’ll appreciate the quality that a high end rod provides.

Jim made this point in a recent comment: “I never believed it made a difference until I bought a Winston fly rod. I’ve had a lot of cheaper rods and they fished well. But once I upgraded, those cheaper rods don’t get used as much these days.”

Storing Dropper Rigs

Some fly fishers like to tie their dropper rigs in advance – in the warmth and leisure of their home. But how do you transport these without getting them tangled.

Thomas recommends the Smith Creek Rig Keeper for storing your dropper rigs. He says it’s been worth the few bucks to avoid frustrating tangles.

Making Small Adjustments

Dave and I have talked before about the art of making small adjustments.

One of our listeners, David, shared several small adjustments he regularly makes. These include going to a smaller tippet size on clear water under bright blue skies; lengthening his leader for dry fly fishing or shortening it for nymph and streamer fishing; switching to a fly of a different size or color; changing up the retrieve while streamer fishing; and varying the depth and weight while nymph fishing.

David claims that the endless adjustments you have to make while fly fishing is what makes it such a fascinating, wonderful sport.

We agree!

There’s more wisdom like this “below the surface” in the comments section of each article or podcast episode we post. You might find something that results in catching more fish or at least making your day on the water more enjoyable.

Episodes on Fly Fishing Adjustments

We’ve published two episodes on making fly fishing adjustments:

    Adjustments to Improve Your Fly Fishing Game

    The Art of Making Small Adjustments on the River

S3:E43 One Fine Day between Hebgen and Quake Lakes

Hebgen and Quake Lakes in southwestern Montana bookend a short ribbon of the Madison River that is well known for its big rainbows in late March to mid April. In this episode, we recall one fine day on this stretch of the Madison, our first fly fishing trip together after college. Steve tells the story of the earthquake in 1959 that created Quake Lake, and Dave confesses one more time his dull-wittedness at the end of that one fine day.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Day between Hebgen and Quake Lakes”

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 here your “one fine day” stories when you hit it just right. Post your stories below!

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

    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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

Steve’s Suggestions for New Fly Fishers

When I was a boy, I devoured every issue of Field & Stream magazine. The piece to which I always turned first was “Tap’s Tips” — an advice column written by H. G. Tapply. I had no idea that dipping wooden matches in nail polish would waterproof them. Nor did I know, until I read “Tap’s Tips,” that cutting an old rubber or synthetic sponge in cubes provides a supply of bobbers. Uh, make that strike indicators. In the spirit of “Tap’s Tips,” I’ve come up with five suggestions for new fly fishers:

1. Tie on your dropper ahead of time.

My son, Luke, has caught some big trout this spring on the South Platte River in Colorado with a two-fly combination. I talked to him the other day, and he told me that he puts together about three “two-fly” combinations while he’s watching sports on television. It saves time for him when he’s out on the river—especially on cold days when fingers tend to fumble.

What this means is tying on a piece of tippet to the bend in the hook of your lead fly and then tying on the dropper (second fly at the end of the tippet). Then, when you get to the river, you only have to tie on your lead fly. Such suggestions for new fly fishers can turn frustration as you start your day on the river to confidence.

2. Take along a old throw rug and a garbage bag

You’ll use the throw rug when you’re sitting on the bumper and putting on your waders. It beats stepping in gravel, wet grass, or mud. Then, you can throw your wet waders and boots in a garbage bag for the drive home. It keeps the back of your SUV or the trunk of your car clean and dry.

Make sure you removed the wet stuff as soon as you get home to clean it and let it air dry.

3. Use barrel swivels to connect your leader to tippet.

Sure, you’ll eventually want to learn a surgeon’s knot or something similar for tying tippet onto a leader. However, you can get by with the same knot you use for tying on your fly—an improved clinch knot—if you use a barrel swivel. Simply tie the leader to one end of the swivel and the tippet to another. Use the smallest barrel swivel you can find. This works best for nymphing since the extra bit of weight is not an issue.

If you are dry fly fishing, you’ll need a longer tippet since the barrel swivel may sink slightly.

4. Flick your wrists when making a cast.

Most beginners use too much of their body when casting. The trick is to make your rod do the work.

To accomplish this, all you need to do is to flick your wrist sharply when making a cast. Practice by making a “revolver” out of your hand (index finger pointed forward, thumb pointed up). Then flick your wrist up and down. You’ll use this same motion when you have a rod in hand.

5. Pull fish to the side when you’re fighting them.

I learned this tip from Gary Borger, whose many books on nymphing, fly fishing gear, flies, and fly fishing techniques are packaged as practical suggestions for new fly fishers.

You’ll tire out trout more quickly when you pull them from side to side. This forces them to use their muscles in a way that pulling up on your rod does not. This, of course, probably doesn’t apply to the 8-inch Brookie that you’re ripping out of a small pool. The technique works great, though, in larger runs with larger fish.

S3:E42 Adjustments to Improve Your Fly Fishing Game

Frustration almost always sets in when the same tactics yield the same results. If you fish only once or twice a year with a guide or outfitter, improving your fly fishing game doesn’t really matter much. But if you take fly fishing with even a modicum of seriousness, you know the importance of making small adjustments. In this episode, we offer our list of adjustments to improve our fly fishing craft from the past couple years.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Adjustments to Improve Your Fly Fishing Game”

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 adjustments have you made to improve your fly fishing game? What single adjustment has had the greatest effect in the number of fish you catch?

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

The Mayfly Life Cycle

There’s nothing more exciting than reflecting on the life cycle of a mayfly. Well, actually there is. It’s catching trout—and lots of them. If you want to catch more trout, it’s helpful (though not necessarily exciting) to think about the life cycle of a mayfly. It will help you know what you’re trying to imitate.

mayfly life cycle

1. The Nymph stage

A mayfly spends all but one or two days of its life underwater as a nymph. It’s no wonder, then, that 85% of a trout’s diet comes from beneath the surface. It’s why fishing nymph patterns is almost always a sure bet. Nymphs move about the stream as they feed and molt and then drift into the current or dart from place to place.

If you want to get technical, there are four categories of Mayfly nymphs. Dave Hughes, in his Pocketguide to Western Hatches, classifies them as swimmers, crawlers, clingers, or burrowers. You could vary your strategy if you’re trying to imitate a certain kind of mayfly. However, most of the time, the tried-and-true dead drift method will work. Standard patterns include Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail. A Prince Nymph works fine, too, even though it was originally designed as a Stonefly nymph.

2. The Emerger stage

In this brief stage, the child becomes an adult when the skin splits along the back of the nymph and the winged dun escapes. This happens as the emerger rises to the surface and sheds its skin underwater. Some nymphs, however, crawl to the edge of the river where they shed their skin on the rocks or grass. This explains why you often see empty “casings” on rocks near a river’s edge.

It’s often a good idea to trail your dry fly with an emerger pattern, which you fish just under the film. Sometimes you’ll even see “rising” trout which don’t seem to be feeding on the surface flies. If so, definitely switch to an emerger pattern.

3. The Dun stage

Now the fly has become a young adult. The dun stage is a favorite for fly fishers, and many standard patterns—such as the Parachute Adams, the Comparadun, and attractors like a Royal Wulff—imitate this stage. Mayfly duns ride the surface until their upright wings are dry and hardened for flight. This ride can last for ten to twenty feet.

Fortunately for fly fishers, most mayflies hatch (technically “emerge”) during daylight hours. Prime time is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., depending on wind and water temperature. Overcast, cool days are ideal, especially for Baetis flies and Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs).

4. The Spinner stage

This is the fully formed adult stage in which mayflies are ready to mate. As Dave Hughes says, “Mating takes place in the air, another bit of incomparable grace.” At this point, the females are spent and fall to the water. This creates a “spinner fall” — another opportunity for the trout to roil the surface as they feed. Anglers who see mayflies with flat wings like an airplane – rather than with wings sticking up – should switch to a spinner or “spent wing” pattern.

On some days, you might be able to catch a trout on a pattern that imitates any of these stages. But other days, trout are more selective and zone in on a particular stage. Switching to a pattern that reflects a different stage in a mayfly’s life cycle might trigger some superb fishing.

S3:E41 Legends of Fly Fishing: Bud Lilly

The fly fishing industry today is a mature industry with a thousand niches, such as salt water fishing, Tenkara, even fly fishing for carp. Before fly fishing’s emergence into the conscience of popular culture came the trailblazers, such as Lee Wulff, Joan Wulff, Lefty Kreh (who passed away recently), and, among many others, Bud Lilly. In this first in a series on fly fishing legends, we attempt to tell a little of Bud Lilly’s story and contribution to the broader fly fishing community.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Legends of Fly Fishing: Bud Lilly”

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 read any of Bud Lilly’s writings? Ever talk to him in person? What influence did he have on you?

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.

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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

Confessions of a Half-Hearted Fly Tyer

My name is Steve, and I’m a half-hearted fly tyer. There, I admitted it. Perhaps it’s even an exaggeration to call me a fly tyer. Some of the flies I’ve tied might make a more skilled fly tyer laugh. But I’ve caught dozens of trout on patterns I’ve tied. I think that’s enough to give me membership in the fly-tying fraternity.

half-hearted fly tyer

There are, though, a few confessions that I want to make. And not merely for catharsis, though confession, so goes the cliché, is good for the soul. Rather my admission is to empower other fumble-fingered folks who feel like fly-tying misfits:

1. I am a half-hearted fly tyer.

I know, I already said that. But let me unpack my revelations a bit:

My passion for fly tying resembles the moon. It waxes and wanes. I’m always ready to grab my rod and head for the river. But I don’t feel the same about grabbing my vise and Metz Dry Fly Neck (Grizzly color) to tie a Parachute Adams. I can fly fish for hours and never get bored. But some days I tie flies for only minutes before I’m bored. Some days I’m disinterested before I even start. Yet, sometimes the urge hits, and I will crank out a dozen flies of a particular pattern.

The lesson: Even half-hearted fly tyers can produce useful flies and save themselves some money in the process.

2. I am artistically challenged.

I can’t draw stick figures for the life of me, and my attempts to build a gingerbread house for our annual family Christmas gingerbread competition are pathetic. My creation ends up looking like a dilapidated chicken coop. Surprisingly, though, I can tie a decent fly. Sure, my flies bulge in the wrong places, and the wraps look uneven. However, I’ve discovered that the fish don’t care. Perhaps the bulges and unevenness make my flies look more buggy.

The lesson: Even clunky-looking flies fool trout.

3. I limit myself to a few simple patterns.

I’ve never tied a bad-looking Muddler Minnow.

That’s because I don’t tie Muddler Minnows. I’ve fooled around with spinning deer hair. But it’s an art I never mastered well. So I leave these kinds of flies to the pros. I stick with San Juan Worms, Brassies, Woolly Buggers, and an occasional Elk Hair Caddis. The latter is not an easy fly for me to tie. But I shot a bull elk a few years ago during archery season, and I preserved the hide with a bit of 20 Mule Team Borax. Every so often I can’t resist tying a handful of size #14 caddis flies so I can brag about catching a trout with a fly I tied using hair from a bull elk I called in and took with an arrow. That helps me save face when the fly falls apart after catching one trout.

The Lesson: Even the simplest of patterns can be deadly when it comes to catching trout.

4. I haven’t improved much in two decades.

I’m like the guy who spent five of the best years of his life in second grade.

Honestly, I haven’t tied enough to get a lot better. But again, my interests are not in winning fly tying contests (do those even exist?). I simply want to catch trout. And I’m fascinated enough with fly tying to dabble in it whenever I feel the urge. It is a thrill to fool a trout with a fly I’ve tied. It is fun to create something that looks halfway like the flies I see in the bins at my local fly shop. It is fun to create.

The Lesson: Even if you never get better, you can still feel the satisfaction of sporadic fly tying.

Now that I’ve finished this piece, I feel the urge to get out my fly tying vise, bobbin, dubbing material and … oh wait, I have to fill out my bracket for March Madness!

Fly tying will have to wait until next week. Or next month.

S3:E40 Extending the Life of Your Fly Fishing Gear

Fly fishing gear can last a long time, if well cared for. Steve just retired a pair of 20-year-old waders. Of course, he isn’t fishing 50 days a year, but just a modicum of care can prolong the end of fly rods, reels, waders, nets, and boots. In this episode, we offer up some simple tips for making your fly fishing gear last.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Extending the Life of Your Fly Fishing Gear”

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 do you maintain your fly fishing gear? What sort of tips or hacks help prolong the life of your fishing gear?

More Episodes on Fly Fishing Gear

    Which Is the Best Overall Fly Rod?

    Gearing Up for a New Fly Fishing Season

    Fly Fishing Gear We Use

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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

11 Ways to Fish Streamers

The more I fly fish, the more I realize how many ways there are to catch fish. Surely, there are time-tested principles, but the tactics are legion.

fish streamers

Just recently, Steve (my podcast partner) and I fished streamers for several hours on the Blue River in Wisconsin. I threw mine upstream and stripped it back. Steve got on top of the run, tossed the streamer downstream, and stripped it back. Two approaches, same number of fish. Okay, so maybe he caught one more than I. But my biggest was bigger than, er, his biggest.

So in honor of our diverse means, I thought I’d list all the many ways I’ve caught trout on streamers:

1. Throw the streamer upriver …

and strip it back QUICKLY.

    2. Throw the streamer upriver …

    and strip it back SLOWLY.

3. Throw it upriver …

but don’t strip it back; let it dead-drift to the swing. Then strip it back in SHORT strips.

    4. Throw it upriver …

    but don’t strip it back; let it dead-drift to the swing. Then strip it back in LONGER strips.

5. Throw it directly across the river …

and strip it back in SHORT strips.

    6. Throw it directly across the river …

    and strip it back in LONGER strips.

7. Throw it directly across the river …

but don’t strip it; let it dead drift to the swing. Then strip it back in SHORT strips.

    8. Throw it directly across the river …

    let it dead drift to the swing. Then strip it back in LONGER strips.

9. Get above the pool or structure in the river …

and throw it downstream, stripping it back in SHORT strips.

    10. Get above the pool or structure in the river …

    and throw it downstream, stripping it back in LONGER strips.

11. Hold your fly rod behind your back with both hands …

and toss the streamer into the river and twirl around to retrieve the Woolly Bugger in short twirls, chanting, “Go Woolly Bugger, go!”

Other Articles from 2 Guys on Slinging Streamers

    Fishing Streamers in Smaller Creeks

S3:E39 One Fine Day in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Harrison Flats is not listed on the trail head as you walk into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. The trail ends about a mile below the lake, so finding it is cause for celebration. In this episode, Steve interviews Dave about finding and fishing this pristine high mountain lake that sits above the timberline. It’s one fine day of rising cutthroat, blue skies, and breathtaking scenery in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Day at Harrison Flats in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness”

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 had an experience fishing in a place like the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness? We’d love to hear your story. Please post your comments below.

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

    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

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

5 Fly Fishing Lessons from a February Day

An app on my smartphone told me I needed to go fly fishing on a late February day. Oh, it didn’t say it in those exact words. But the weather app predicted a one-day window with mid-50s temperatures in southwestern Wisconsin. So I contacted Dave, my podcast partner, and we shifted our schedules to make it work.

Now, I’m at my laptop a couple of days later, and five lessons from that day come to mind:

1. Getting out of Dodge at the last minute isn’t easy.

Dave drove an hour from his home to mine on a Monday evening. We had decided to make the three-hour drive from my home that night to stay in a Super 8 near our fishing spot. That way we could hit water first thing on Tuesday morning.

Everything went according to plan.

But we were both fried emotionally when we left my house. Both of us overscheduled our Monday so we could be gone on Tuesday. I felt like I was on the run all day. Meetings ran longer than expected, and I had scheduled a razor thin margin between them. Dave’s SUV was in the shop, so he had to bring his family’s mini-van. I threw in two duffel bags of fly fishing gear because I didn’t have time to pack it into one.

Now I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that you have to push through the craziness that a last-minute trip creates. It’s worth it . . . eventually.

2. The early bird gets the worm.

Perhaps “getting the worm” is not an apt image for fly fishing. But bear with me.

Arriving at our destination on Monday night turned out to be a great move. We were able to get an early start on Tuesday and arrive at the Blue River before anyone else. The stretch we like to fish is less than two miles long. The “river” is really a small stream, so there are a limited number of productive runs.

The fly fisher who arrives first doesn’t have to take the leftovers.

3. Woolly Buggers are the ticket for coffee-colored water.

The Blue River always has a bit of color. It’s always a bit stained.

But there had been enough snow runoff that the water was coffee-colored. I suppose it was a rather weak coffee color. We guessed that Woolly Buggers would be our best bet, and they were.

Dave and I each landed two 14-inch browns — big fish for such a small stream. I also caught a nice rainbow and lost another brown after playing it for half a minute. All this happened in about three hours.

For a bright sunny day in February, we were pleased with the outcome. It was consistent with other days when we’ve had success stripping streamers in murky water.

4. The streamer bite has a definite window.

The first two hours on the river were productive. The last one was not. As the sun got higher and the temps warmed up, the fish stopped hitting streamers. Dave remarked that the streamer bite was finished for the day. I agreed for two reasons. First, I knew he was right. Second, it meant we could grab lunch at the local café sooner than later.

We both remarked that we could have (uh, should have) started an hour earlier. That would have given us a three-hour window of fishing rather than only two.

We’re not complaining — just observing: Once the trout are done feeding, it’s useless to keep fishing.

5. Mud can be slick.

I was worried about slipping on the ice and getting hurt. The good news is that this didn’t happen. The bad news is that I slipped on the mud and tweaked my ankle. It’s only a slight sprain, so I’ll survive.

Who knew that mud could be so slick! Let the fly fisher beware.

More Fly Fishing Lessons

Alright, I promised only five lessons, so I’m going to stop here. I won’t talk about:

  • How it’s best not to catch your front bumper on the concrete wheel stop at the head of your parking space. That might embarrass Dave;
  • How it’s easier to snap a front bumper back into place in the daylight than in the dark;
  • How it’s best to hide your limp (if you sprain your ankle) when you arrive home. Otherwise, your adult children might send the rest of the family a rather hilarious Snapchat video (complete with a satirical caption) at your expense.

S3:E38 Fly Fishing for Brookies

Fly fishing for brookies is one of the great joys of life. In this episode, we regale each other with stories of fly fishing for brookies and also discuss a study from the Minnesota DNR about whether brown trout are crowding out the native brook trout population in the Driftless. We wrap up our conversation with some tips for catching even more of these Great Wonders of the world.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fly Fishing for Brookies”

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 a story about the largest brook trout you’ve caught! Please post your comments below.

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

Protecting Your Fly Fishing Reel

Let’s keep it reel. Now that my feeble attempt at humor is out of the way, I want to offer you a few tips for protecting your fly fishing reel. Typically, fly reels are not high maintenance. But there are a few steps you can take to protect them:

1. Read the instructions that came with the fly fishing reel

Yeah right, you’re thinking. But you might pick up a surprising insight.

For example, Lamson reels do not need lubricant. Most Ross reels don’t either, yet the Ross Colorado LT does. Its instruction manual calls for applying a small dab of waterproof grease in between the interface of the clicker and the spring. Similarly, the Orvis Vortex requires the application of Penn Reel Lube once or twice a year.

So read your instruction manual. If you can’t locate it, you should be able to find it online.

2. Be careful where you place it on the ground

I set my fly rod on the ground dozens (I suppose) of times a day. I do this when I eat lunch, cross a fence, take off or put on a jacket, tie on new tippet or fly, or take a photo. The key is to take a moment to check the ground. Try to avoid sand, fine gravel, and dirt. Also, give your reel a soft landing when you set it on a rock.

3. Take off the spool to check for grit

Do this at least a couple times a year.

Once every fishing trip is preferable — especially if you haven’t been thoughtful about where you have set your rod. Some fly fishers carry a toothbrush for this purpose. But I prefer to keep it simple and use my fingers and the tail of my shirt (despite the danger of grease stains!).

4. Let your reel air dry

There is nothing wrong with getting your reel wet. Mine has even slipped into the river occasionally.

Make sure, though, that you let your reel air dry before putting it away for the day. If your reel has been submerged, definitely take off the spool. You might even want to pull out some of the line (even to the backing) so that moisture isn’t trapped in the line coiled around your spool. But you don’t need to do anything heroic like blow-drying it. Simply set it on a counter or on top of your duffel bag.

5. Use the protective case

This should be obvious. But I get lazy sometimes and toss my reel into my duffel bag. Or I simply place it in the pile of stuff in the back of my SUV. So let the protective case do its job — which is, well, protection!

6. Back off the drag during the off-season

I’ll confess that I haven’t done this in the past. It makes perfect sense, but it didn’t occur to me until I read suggestions from both Sage and Orvis to set the drag to minimum when you store your reel for the off-season. Lessening the tension will add more life to the mechanism (spring) that creates tension.

7. Carry an extra spool

Last fall, I slipped and dropped my rod—reel first—on a rock on the Yellowstone River. I bent the spool on my Lamson reel and had to bend it with some needle-nosed pliers to make it work.

When I returned from the trip, I ordered another spool. It’s good to keep a spare spool in your duffel bag—especially if you’re fishing a stretch of river in a more remote place (that is, miles from a fly shop).

S3:E37 When Life Gets in the Way of Fishing

Life gets in the way of fishing more than we’d like. We’ve had stretches during which we’ve fished little, and stretches that were full of days on the river. Life often gets in the way of doing what we love most. In this episode, we identify the big life obstacles to fishing and some ways to overcome them while still making good on what’s most important, whether family or work.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “When Life Gets in the Way of 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.

When life gets in the way of fishing for you, what is the main reason? How have you overcome the obstacle? We’d love to hear your stories of what has helped you make good on your life commitments while getting out on the river more.

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $15.99!

Know Your Pattern: The Prince Nymph

Sometimes I get tired of tying on a Prince Nymph. I use it so frequently that it seems boring. But every time I decide to replace it with something fresh, I return to this classic. There’s no mystery. Even though I may get tired of it, the trout never do. Here is the scoop on this superb pattern:

Prince Nymph

1. How it originated

This fly is not named for the flamboyant musician of “Purple Rain” fame. Nor is it named after the Nigerian prince who needs your help transferring millions of dollars out of his country.

Rather, the fly is named after its creator. Doug Prince of Monterey, California, developed it in the late 1930s or early 1940s. His original “Prince Nymph” had a black body, black soft hackle, and a black tail. A modification of this pattern, which he called the “Brown Forked Tail,” became the well-known Prince Nymph.

2. How it is designed

The Prince Nymph, a.k.a. Brown Forked Tail, features a Peacock herl body wrapped with gold or copper wire. The neck consists of brown soft hackle fibers. The distinctive feature, though, is the use of two white goose biots for the wings and two brown goose biots for the tail. This makes the fly difficult to tie — at least for casual fly tyers like me. The biots are fragile, and they never stay where I want them to stay when I’m trying to secure them with my wraps of threat.

I’m partial to a gold beadhead, so I always tie and fish the beadhead version of this fly.

3. Why it works

Doug Prince designed this as a stonefly imitation for fast water.

However, it’s a visually striking pattern which seems to imitate a variety of aquatic insects. I’ve had success catching trout on a Beadhead Prince Nymph during the Caddis hatch on Montana’s Yellowstone River and during the emergence of Blue-Winged Olives on the Madison River.

The Prince Nymph is versatile enough to use it as a larger lead fly (size #12 or #14) in a two fly rig. Or, it works in a smaller size (#16 or #18) as a dropper.

4. When to use it

The short answer is, “Any time.” Seriously!

It works in all seasons and in all kinds of water conditions. I’ve had success with it in the spring creeks of Wisconsin, the big rivers in Montana, and the mountain streams in Colorado — all four seasons of the year.

So what’s in your fly box? If you want to catch trout, your box will include an ample supply of Beadhead Prince Nymphs. Don’t leave home without a handful of them.

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series”

    Know Your Pattern: The H and L Variant

    Know Your Pattern: The Parachute Adams

    Know Your Pattern: The Royal Coachman

    Know Your Pattern: The San Juan Worm

S3:E36 Fly Fishing Off Color Water

Fly fishing off color water is pretty much standard fare in the spring. We all fish different kinds of waters – freestone rivers, spring creeks, or tail waters – but when the water muddies up, it’s time to tweak our approach. In this episode, we discuss some practical adjustments to increase the odds of catching fish when the creek is no longer crystal clear.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fly Fishing Off Color Water”

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 adjustments do you make when fly fishing off color water? Any go-to flies that you would recommend? Tell us about a time you caught fish in impossibly murky water!

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $16.99!

The Agile Fly Fishing Mindset

Several years ago, I stole away to fish for six hours in mid January while on a business trip. When I left the city, it was 51 degrees. I couldn’t believe my luck. A warm day would surely surface a few risers.

agile fly fishing mindset

When I arrived at the stream an hour later, it was 32 degrees. After an hour of fishing, sleet began to pelt the back of my jacket. The wind at my back, I kept fishing for another hour. Finally, I turned to walk back to the truck, against the wind. The sleet had hardened to what felt like sand against my face. At the truck, I felt like I was dog-paddling slowly in deep water as I peeled off my waders with cold stumps for fingers. I shivered as I bent down to rip off the iced-up velcro of the gravel guards at the bottom of my waders.

The temperature had plummeted to 20 degrees. The wind chill put the temperature closer to 0, Fahrenheit.

This is not a post about winter fly fishing in particular but fly fishing in general. Rarely do expectations match reality. You plan one thing, and then everything is upended. This is the true nature of fly fishing (and life, I might add). The ability to move from what you expected to what you encountered is the essence of the sport.

Intelligent Reaction

There is a concept in software development called “agile software development.” The word agile refers to the “ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment.”

The old world of software development was more akin to the phrase “intelligent design” – highly organized and linearly planned software development. Designing the architecture was first, creating real-world applications was second. Agile software development, on the other hand, is iterative. It’s flexible, evolving. Yes, there is an initial concept for the project, but quickly, developers react to what the client or customer needs to be coded in real time.

In 2005, Adam Bosworth, a former Google engineer, gave a presentation in which he called this approach “intelligent reaction,” which is his foil to “intelligent design” thinking.

“Don’t obsess about a grand plan,” he said. “It doesn’t survive an encounter with reality.”

The agile mindset is all about intelligently reacting to current reality. It’s part of the soul of fly fishing.

The Agile Fly Fishing Mindset Meets Reality

If I could graph my “catching expectations” before a day on the river, the left-to-right graph on many days would move from high to low. I expect each day to be fabulous. I always think the fish will hit whatever I’m of sound mind to sling.

Rarely, though, does the emotional graph move from high to higher as the day wears on. I have had days where I was overwhelmed with my success, but those days are not numbered like the stars in the sky. I tend to manage my expectations downward as the day progresses.

That fine cold January, as I cheerily drove from the convention hotel to the river, I had fantasized about dry fly fishing in winter. The precipitous drop in temperature, though, killed that idea.

So, once on the river, I tied on a streamer. I began fishing deeper pools, mostly because I had just read an article on winter fly fishing. The article reminded me that since the metabolism of trout slows in winter, they tend to congregate in deeper pools where they don’t have to fight current. Made perfect sense. Like an obedient fly fisher, I followed the rules. I fished the slower water.

Nope. No strikes in the deeper pools. By this time, I couldn’t feel my face, and I wondered if the piercing cold in my right wading boot was a leak. Maybe my aging waders had finally betrayed me.

I then decided to try casting the streamer upstream in some swifter-moving runs – and quickly stripping it back. Why? I have no idea. I often will dead-drift a streamer with a dropper – just to mix it up. Some times I strip back the streamer as it starts to drift. Some times I wait to strip it back until after the swing. This day, for no apparent reason, I tried stripping it back as soon as the streamer hit the water.

Voila! I ended up catching two nice browns and had three other strikes within twenty minutes. And not surprisingly, the wind didn’t feel quite as bitter on my way back to the truck.

I’m trying to learn not to obsess about my grand plans each day I fish. They never survive reality. While reality can be cruel, it can also be a friend.

S3:E35 What the Big Brown Trout Had for Lunch

Big brown trout are in reality river sharks, as biologists have noted. Brown trout in general also tend take over rivers and streams. Biologists surmise they feast on other trout like cutthroat and small fish. In this episode, we discuss a report in Hatch Magazine about what biologists discovered in the stomachs of brown trout. The episode may simplify your fly box.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “What the Big Brown Trout Had for Lunch”

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 patterns to you find most potent when fishing for browns? We’d love to read a great story of how you switched to a different fly and caught a huge brown!

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “cliffsnotes for fly fishers.”

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 $16.99!

What Fly Fishers Pursue

Henry David Thoreau once said: “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” I have to agree. I love catching trout when I fly fish — the more the better. But I figured out long ago that what fly fishers pursue is much more than the fish.

what fly fishers pursue

Here is a brief list of what I’m after when I head to the river with my fly rod:

Beauty

I love the sheer beauty of rugged mountains, crystal-clear streams, snow showers, yellow aspen leaves, and the piercing bugle of a bull elk. Fly fishing gives me a way to experience this beauty — not just observe it. Whether I’m knee-deep in Montana’s Yellowstone River or in the Milwaukee River not far from where the Milwaukee Bucks play basketball, there is beauty to feel and see on the river.

Solitude

I like people, so it took me awhile to realize that I lean more toward introversion than extroversion. A couple lines from an old John Denver song resonate with me whenever I go fly fishing.

    Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams,
    Seeking grace in every step he takes

There’s something about fly fishing that gives me the space and quiet and time to re-energize. The next couple items on my list are by-products of that refreshing solitude.

Clarity

I do some of my best thinking when I’m fly fishing. It’s rather unintentional, though. When I’m fly fishing, my single-minded focus is on casting to the right spot and getting the right drift. Yet this concentration clears my head of the white noise, and my mind begins connecting scattered thoughts and seeing solutions to problems I’ve been pondering.

The dynamic at work here relates to what a writer once counseled his students. He told them to quit writing for the day at a point of frustration. Later, during the mundane activities of the evening, one’s mind begins making connections until a solution appears. That’s what happens to me when I’m fly fishing. I go to catch trout and come back with a list of insights and ideas.

Solace

My friends describe me as an optimist and a rather positive person. But I can brood over failures and frustrations with the best (or worst) of people. Fly fishing provides a solace — a comfort or consolation that I don’t get elsewhere. Maybe it works because fly fishing provides physical exertion to counteract my fretting and brooding. Hiking and casting and wading serves as good medicine.

Togetherness

Ironically, fly fishing provides togetherness as well as solitude. I crave both. The most obvious form of togetherness is the experience and conversation I share with my fly fishing companions. This is most often my podcast partner, Dave, and occasionally my brother or one of my sons.

The time together on the river is rich. We alternate between silence and laughter. The conversation ranges between where we will eat at the end of the day and where we will be at the end of our lives.

There’s another form of togetherness, though.

Norman Maclean speaks of it near the end of his novella, A River Runs Through It. Fly fishing for him was a way of reaching out to those in his life who were gone. When I’m on the river, I think of times with my dad bow – hunting elk high on the mountain slopes in Montana’s Beartooth-Absaroka Wilderness Area. I think of the times when he waded into icy mountain streams to free my, uh, Mepps Spinner from a rock or submerged branch. Somehow, fly fishing triggers these memories more than anything else I do.

There’s also a sense of togetherness with the Creator of the rivers I’m fishing and the mountains at which I’m gawking. Or, in the words of a poet, there is a sense of “awesome wonder” when I consider all the works God’s hands have made.

Adventure

Of course, fly fishing is not all contemplation. It’s a blast, too!

Sure, fly fishing is not an extreme sport, but it is an adventure. There are cliffs to climb, moose to avoid, currents to wade, snowstorms to endure, and some of the most interesting people you could imagine. Will I catch a 20-inch rainbow today? Will I step on a rattlesnake? Will I make it out of this isolated stretch of river before dark? Once Dave and I walked around a bend in a trail and came upon a herd of bison, and one of the bulls wanted to get to know us better. The bull walked within 30 yards of us before switching its tail and heading up the ravine with the others.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like catching fish. I always on a mission to catch trout – and hopefully lots of them. But Thoreau was right. I’m after much more than the fish.

S3:E34 The Short Happy Life of a Mayfly

Mayflies are an important food source of trout. The short happy life of a mayfly is about a year – and all but roughly a day or so of its life are spent rolling around the bottom of the river. Their few hours as adults are mostly spent in a mating frenzy, after which the female deposits thousands of eggs into the river. And the cycle begins anew. The variations of mayflies are legion. But there are some basic patterns and types of mayflies that you’ll want to have in your fly box when, uh, opportunity rises. In this episode, we discuss the short happy life of a mayfly – and the happy life of a fly fisher when mayflies emerge.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “The Short Happy Life of a Mayfly”

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 often do you fish mayflies? What is your best story of success fishing a mayfly hatch?

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

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 $16.99!

Fly Fishing Murky Water

I’m fond of trout fishing because I love crystal-clear rivers and streams. They are simply breath-taking and life-giving. So I can get a bit grumpy when a rainstorm adds a bit of color to make the stream more like chocolate milk.

fly fishing murky water

But I’ve learned not to despair. Here are a few insights about fly fishing a murky river or stream:

1. A bit of color may work to your advantage

Sure, a swollen river gushing with snow runoff is usually not productive. Yet, fish are less spooky when the water is a bit murky. The murkiness prevents them from seeing fly fishers, false casts, and larger tippets.

2. Put on the San Juan Worm

There are a couple reasons why a murky river is a great place to try a San Juan Worm.

First, rainstorms and rising water often loosen up mud along the banks. This dislodges worms and sends them drifting down the current. Second, a pattern like a San Juan Worm is a bit larger than a size #18 Zebra Midge, so it’s easier for trout to spot it when visibility is limited.

3. Slow down your fly

Since visibility is limited, you want to give trout a longer-than-usual view of your fly. If you’re fishing nymphs, add a bit more weight to get your fly into the slower current at the bottom of the river. Remember, if the bubbles on the surface are moving faster than your strike indicator, you’re at the right depth. If you’re stripping a streamer, strip it a bit more slowly.

4. Keep an eye out for risers

I’m always surprised to see trout rising when the water is murky. But it happens more often than you might think. Often, I’ll find risers in slower water—either in the tailwater of a pool or even on the outside of a bend. These are places where the fish have more time to respond since the flies on the surface are not being carried along so quickly.

5. Look for fish in unexpected places

A few years ago, I fished the Lower Madison River in Montana when it had more color than usual. When I approached a familiar run, I was surprised to see a couple trout feeding near a shallow bank. I had never seen trout in that spot before. They were always in a deeper channel about six feet further into the river. But with murky water, they were less visible to predators.

I ended up catching one of them.

So don’t give up on fly fishing when your clear-running river gets a bit murky. You can work around a bit of color. Sometimes, it may even work to your advantage.

S3:E33 The Roller Coaster of Learning to Fly Fish

Learning to fly fish is the worthy pursuit of a lifetime. But the first couple years, depending on how often you fish, can be frustrating. You think it’s about casting, but that’s not even a fraction of what you need to learn to catch fish consistently. In this episode, we interview Steve’s two sons about learning to fly fish. The audio is patchy, and for that we apologize, but we thought Steve’s two sons had some great insights for newer fly fishers.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “The Roller Coaster of Learning to Fly Fish”

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 was the most difficult part of learning to fly fish? If you were learning to fly fish today, what would you do differently?

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

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 $16.99!

Response to the @CastingAcross Open Letter

Dear Matthew, we’re still stinging from your Open Letter to us on January 3, 2018.

The stinging was caused not by the content of your post but the reminder of our last Skype podcast interview with you. Gazing at your unbelievably pristine lumber-jack beard during the interview was a rebuke to our manhood. Even in midlife, Dave has no real shot at such facial hair, and Steve’s goatee is nothing short of pathetic, a feeble attempt to validate his deep outdoor insecurities.

So we must begin our reply with nothing but deference to and accolades for your facial accomplishments. You have achieved legendary countenance status in our hearts and minds.

Before we go much further, we want to be sure to accept every wonderful comment that you make about our podcast and book, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish. Did we mention that we’ve published a book?

Now that we’ve covered our annoying self-promotional, self-aggrandizing hoo-ha, we’d like to address the big idea of your post: that we need to broaden our fly fishing experiences to the East Coast.

Key Lines of the @Castingacross Open Letter

To properly respond to every nuanced thought in your post, we’ll break it down:

“I did want to remind you that I still haven’t received the royalty checks for my two appearances:”

Say what?

Didn’t you mean to say, “I still haven’t sent you the royalty checks for the privilege of being on the podcast?”

“… it is clear that your fly fishing hearts lie beyond the Mississippi.”

We think it’s clear that we are cheap. We begin all our fly fishing planning with, “Do we have family or ‘loose family ties’ that we can mooch off?”

Steve is a master mooch, and Dave is Steve’s mooch conspirator, for Dave never complains when Steve finds free lodging on one of their Montana excursions.

“I’m just asking you to seriously consider some angling opportunities that lie a little more eastward.”

Eastward. Hmmm. Is that a direction?

A River Runs Through It has captivated recent generations of fly fishers, and rightly so. Still, that brand of western angling nostalgia only looks as far back as the early 1900’s. Places in the Catskills and Central Pennsylvania are literally the birthplaces of American fly fishing.”

Uh, this may be a bit embarrassing for you, but everyone knows Brad Pitt is the founder of fly fishing and that Norman Mclean was his father in real life. Everyone. Given that bit of historical, uh, truth, the royal lineage of fly fishing seems to run through Montana.

“It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I am the chief sinner when it comes to just going where it is comfortable.

We don’t want to judge you, but the phrase “chief sinner” had come to mind before you mentioned it.

“So what say you? Maine brook trout? Massachusetts striped bass? Carolina catfish?

You had us at Carolina catfish.

“Sincerely, the hopefully-soon-to-be 3rd guy in a river out east,

You are here by officially knighted as the Third Guy. We’ll send an invoice for a third of the expense of it all shortly. You can pay us by saying yes to another podcast episode real soon.

Your Western-Biased Friends,

Dave and Steve
2 Guys and a River

S3:E32 The Art of Making Small Adjustments on the River

Making small adjustments on the river is the secret sauce to better days on the river. No one ever tells a new fly fisher that the three attractor patterns in his or her fly box won’t work every time out. Sooner or later, we all learn that fly fishing is all about a thousand adjustments. In this episode, we discuss the importance of the ability to know when to switch out one pattern for another or go up or down a size or switch to nymphs or streamers. It’s all about adjustments.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Making Small Adjustments 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.

What kinds of adjustments do you make most often on the river? How patient are you when what you’re slinging isn’t working?

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

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 $16.99!

10 Commandments for Staying Warm in Cold Conditions

I have not conducted a formal study on the reason fly fishers stay home on a cold winter day. But I’m confident I know what it is. It’s not the problem of ice build-up on fly rod guides. Nor is it the less-frenetic feeding patterns of trout in the winter. It’s the problem of staying warm in cold conditions.

Here are ten commandments for staying warm when fly fishing on cold days. Most of these are obvious. But they are good reminders. Perhaps there’s one that you’ve missed.

1. Drink liquids — whether hot or cold

Chances are that you won’t cover as much water on a cold day. So there’s no need to obsess about traveling light. Bring along that small Thermos or Yeti tumbler filled with your warm liquid of choice—coffee or hot chocolate. Your tumbler might even double as a hand warmer.

Actually, water may be your best bet since it promotes circulation to your your fingers and toes. Drinking enough water also eliminates a huge contributing factor to frostbite and hypothermia: dehydration.

Be wary of spiking your drink with schnapps or brandy. Alcohol may make you feel or think you are warmer. But it actually drops your core body temperature.

2. Use a hand-warming device

Cold hands make it impossible to fly fish. It’s hard to tie on a fly or tippet when your hands don’t work. Cold hands also make fly fishers miserable. The most obvious solution is to purchase a pair of insulated, waterproof gloves. Personally, the ones with exposed fingertips don’t help me, because it’s my fingertips which get cold first! Occasionally, I’ll bring two or three pairs of lighter wool gloves so I can switch them when one pair gets damp.

Another possible solution is to use hand warmers. I’ve used the small, disposable, inexpensive packets which get activated when exposed to air. In my experience, most brands provide sufficient heat for only an hour or two. The downside is that these packets stop working when they get damp. If you spend enough time fly fishing on cold days, you might try the chrome plated hand warmers (about the size of a cell phone) which run on lighter fuel. I confess that I haven’t used one of these since I was in my early teens while spending the entire day in the woods deer hunting. But they put off a lot of heat.

Don’t forget to stop and stuff your hands inside your shirt against your flesh. If you can place your hand under an armpit (a lovely thought) you can warm both sides of your hand. Read on for another overlooked option.

3. Wear a warm hat

You might be surprised to learn that your cold hands are due, in part, to the heat escaping from your head. So wear a warm hat — preferably one with ear flaps. A stocking cap works fine — especially one with wool or microfiber.

4. Go with layers instead of one large jacket

I usually wear the same lightweight Simms rain jacket I use in July that I do on a cold winter day in January. It protects me against wind and moisture. Then, I add more layers underneath. More layers provide more warmth than one bulky jacket. Start with good moisture-wicking underwear. Even when it’s cold, you may sweat when walking to your fishing spot. Staying dry is essential to staying warm.

After a layer of moisture-wicking underwear, build layers with an assortment of relatively thin pullovers, sweaters, or wool shirts. Add a down vest if you need to. The advantage of layers is that you can peel them off as the day gets warmer. Your waders add another layer of warmth, too—even if you’re not wading.

5. Use a neck gator

Even a thin microfiber neck gator will keep your face warm. Your cheeks and tip of your nose will thank you at the end of the day.

6. Wear warm socks

I’ve never tried the battery powered socks or even the inexpensive, disposable foot warmers or toe warmers. But I suspect they are a terrific option—as long as your feet don’t get too hot. I opt for a thin pair of moisture-wicking socks covered by a slightly thicker wool blend pair. Keep reading for another strategy.

7. Keep moving

The most obvious way to keep your feet and body warm is to keep moving. At last, I have an excuse for moving so quickly from one run to another! Moving generates heat and compensates for the way that cold temperatures restrict your blood vessels, slowing down your blood flow.

But what do you do if you want to fish the same run for three hours because it’s producing? Take a walk anyway and come back to your spot in five minutes. It’s likely that most of your competition will be at home on the sofa watching the Winter Olympics.

8. Simplify your gear

The less time you rummage through pockets to find tippet or split shot, the less time your hands will be exposed to the cold. Also, this will decrease the time you are stationary. Remember, you want to keep moving–walking or casting—to stay warm.

9. Eat snacks

Whether you stick with health-conscious choices or go with a Snickers Bar, eating will provide the energy you desperately need in the cold. Plus, it will also boost your metabolism.

10. Limit your wading

I’ve stood knee-deep in Montana’s Madison River in January for long stretches of time and have remained surprisingly warm.

However, the deeper you wade, the more you put yourself at risk for disaster. Falling into a river when the air temperature is thirty degrees poses risks that falling into it when it’s seventy degrees does not. Hypothermia is always a concern. So be on the safe side. Don’t try anything heroic when it comes to wading.

If you spend a cold winter day in front of your television or fly tying vise, you have made a wise choice. But if you want to fly fish, you can have a great experience if you take the precautions needed to stay warm.

S3:E31 Parenting Kids to Love the Outdoors

Parenting kids to love the outdoors is easier said than done. It requires intentionality, patience and flexibility. In this first-of-its-kind episode (for us), we invited several of our kids to ask them about our “outstanding” job of helping them develop a love for the outdoors. Joining us for this episode are Steve’s two boys, Ben and Luke, and Dave’s oldest, Christian. Steve has two other kids, and Dave has three others. This is a fun one, as the boys regale us for a hilarious episode on parenting kids to love the outdoors.

Listen now to “Parenting Kids to Love the Outdoors”

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 advice would you give to young parents who want to instill a love for the outdoors? We’d love to hear your funny stories of the patience it takes to parent kids in the outdoors!

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

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 $16.99!

My Fly Fishing Resolutions for the New Year

I’m looking forward to fly fishing in the new year. One never fully knows what opportunities or obstacles a new year will bring, but intentionality helps create good experiences. So the other day I scribbled down a few fly fishing resolutions for the new year.

I may modify my list as the year unfolds. But at least I have some direction:

1. Cut down on my false casting

The reason I false cast a bit too much is, well, because I can. But the trick with fly casting (as it is with a lot of skills) is to work smarter, not harder. The extra casts only increase the odds of spooking fish or getting tangled. So I’m going to try to concentrate on keeping it simple.

2. Stop, look, and listen more often

I actually managed to do this one day last fall on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. Dave, my podcast partner, and I were fishing a remote stretch of the river. We had the whole day to fish, so I found myself more willing to sit down, nibble on the cheese and crackers I had packed, and watch a couple of elk on the opposite mountainside. I need to do more of this. It helps me savor the whole fly fishing experience.

3. Tie more flies

I hardly tied any flies last year.

At one level, I’m fine with that. My time is limited, so I’d rather cast flies on the water rather than tie them. However, I find it gratifying to catch trout on flies I’ve tied. Besides, I can’t bring myself to pay a couple bucks for something simple like a San Juan Worm or a brassie or even a Woolly Bugger.

My fly tying bench is now cleared off, so I have no excuses!

4. Work on my double haul

A double haul is using your “line hand” (your left hand if you’re casting your rod with your right hand) to haul or pull back the line on both your forward and backward stroke. This increases line speed by delivering velocity to your fly line. I’ve played around with it before, but I want to improve my technique. As soon as the weather gets warmer, I plan to head to the grassy field in a park about four blocks from my house to practice.

5. Transfer my flies to a new fly box

More than a year ago, I slipped and fell while fishing a small creek. The good news is that I didn’t get hurt. The bad news is the one of my fly boxes in my vest did get hurt. It cracked. So, I purchased a new box. One year later, that box is still in pristine condition. That’s because I haven’t used it yet! Somehow, I haven’t found the time to transfer a hundred plus flies from the cracked one to the new one. It seems tedious. But I need to do that before I get out on the river.

6. Save for a new pair of waders

My twenty-year old Patagonia waders finally gave out last summer. My fifteen-year old Simms waders are still going strong. But I suspect they have almost reached their life expectancy. So I need to save for a replacement pair before I really need to replace them. I’m intrigued with the waders that have a front zipper. I looked at a pair of Patagonia waders last year that make sense. So it’s time to start setting aside dollars so I can get them in early spring.

7. Introduce my grandsons to fly fishing

This is the one that’s most important to me this year. Our whole family is going to spend a week this summer at a mountain ranch in Montana, and I’m looking forward to helping my seven-year old and five-year old grandsons dabble in fly fishing. Even if I let them reel in a trout I’ve caught, I hope it will give them the feel – and the fever! — for fly fishing.

I don’t know what the next year is going to bring. But if I can follow through on some — or all — of these resolutions, I should have a good time fly fishing.

What are you New Year’s resolutions for fly fishing?

S3:E30 What Your Strike Indicator Tells You

Your strike indicator gives off some important signals, the most obvious being whether a fish is working your nymph. In this episode for newer fly fishers, we discuss the various kinds of strike indicators – and how to read whether your nymphs are down far enough in the feeding zone. Nymph fishing is a high-interest topic of our audience, and going back to the basics now and then can help you find more success on the river.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “What Your Strike Indicator Tells 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.

What kind of strike indicator do you like best? Or do you even use one? Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

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 $16.99!

For the Ice on Your Fly Rod Guides

A friend sent me a photo of one of the largest rainbows he’s ever caught on Montana’s Missouri River. He caught it in mid-December, the temperature was 8 degrees above zero. That’s cold. He endured frozen digits and iced-up fly rod guides for a day to remember.

fly rod guides

I dislike fishing in a frigid weather for several reasons:

First, it’s really cold (an understatement, of course). Second, my fingers get really cold. Third, my toes get really cold. Fourth, my face gets really cold. Okay, you get the idea.

There’s another problem though. The guides on my fly rod collect ice like my hunting boots collect mud when I walk through a plowed field on a rainy fall day.

How do you deal with ice on your fly rod guides?

Preventative Measure for Your Fly Rod Guides

Some fly fishers coat their guides with Vaseline. Others apply some kind of lip balm. So maybe you should purchase that Simms lip balm the next time you’re in a fly shop (Kidding!That’s an inside joke that our long-time readers and listeners will get!) Seriously, a lot of fly fishers say that Vaseline or lip balm works. Others suggest spraying your guides with olive oil or some kind of cooking spray. This sounds like an easier approach as long as you remember to put a canister of it in your duffel bag or fly vest.

You’ll notice that I refer here to “some” or “other” fly fishers.

The truth is, I’ve never bothered with this measure. It’s not because I fear that the chemicals in these products will damage my rod or guides. The reason is it seems like a lot of work for a solution that will only be temporary. After a half hour, or so, of fishing, the ice reappears (from what other fly fishers tell me). At that point, I have no interest in fumbling around with lip balm or trying to retrieve a canister of cooking from my fly vest.

However, enough fly fishers swear by this approach that you owe it to yourself to try it to see if it works for you.

Fly Rod Guides No-No

Perhaps the most obvious solution is to use your fingers to break it off of the guides. Nooooo! Not under any circumstances!

You run the risk of breaking off the guides with the ice. You’ll use more pressure than you expect to break off those stubborn ice crystals. If Michael Scott of The Office were writing this article, he would likely describe it as a “Lose-Lose-Lose” approach. So don’t try it when you’re on the river.

Simple Is, Well, Best

This brings me to the approach I prefer. It’s simple, yet effective.

Dip your rod in the river you’re fly fishing. With the right depth of water and the right angle, you can do this without submerging your reel (and your hand!). I typically leave my rod guides submerged for a few seconds. To use the words of an old television commercial, the ice “rinses away like magic!” Sometimes, there is still some residue of ice. But it’s loose enough that you can remove it (gently!) with your fingers without breaking a guide.

Also, once I remove my rod from the water, I shake it to remove excess water. If light water crystals start to form, I simply blow them off with my breath or gently squeeze them with my fingers.

If all of this seems rather tedious, well, it is.

Chances are you’ll get cold and leave the river before the tedium of clearing the ice off your guides drives you crazy. The only other alternative is to stay home and tie flies or watch a video of fly fishers hauling in huge trout in New Zealand. But then you might miss out on the fish of a lifetime.

S3:E29 2017 Fly Fishing Reflections

Fly fishing reflections are a good way to begin planning for the new year. In this episode, we look back on 2017 and discuss its lowlights and highlights. We both want to fish more days in 2018, improve a couple areas of our fly fishing craft, and, hopefully, catch more fish. Life really is short. Catch more fish.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “2017 Fly Fishing Reflections”

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 were some of your highlights in 2017? What are some of your aspirations for 2018? We look forward to hearing your comments!

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

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 $16.99!

A Fly Fisher’s Christmas Wish

I’ve never fly fished on Christmas Day. I’ve fished on Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, but never on Christmas.

fly fishers christmas wish

Yet I remember a year a couple decades ago when all I wanted for Christmas was to go fly fishing. I had a fly fisher’s Christmas wish:

    ‘Twas the week before Christmas, when there in my house
    I looked out on the valley, and I started to grouse.
    The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
    But it’s my stocking foot waders I wanted to wear

Our house overlooked the north floor of Montana’s Gallatin Valley. From our picture window I could it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A dozen or more houses glowed with Christmas lights. An inch of snow covered the valley floor with a white blanket. Inside our house, the tree was decorated, and the sound of Karen Carpenter singing “I’ll be home for Christmas” filled our living room.

Christmas was seven days away.

But I was desperate to go fly fishing. It had been two months since I last flung a fly on the water. Just then an idea began to form in my mind. I knew that tomorrow was going to be in the high thirties, and I figured out a way to take off work in the early afternoon.

    So away from the window I flew like a flash,
    tore open my duffel bag where my fly gear was stashed.
    Before long I was nestled all snug in my bed,
    While visions of rainbow trout danced in my head.

The next afternoon, I left work early at two o’clock and headed for the Madison River. I arrived at the mouth of the Bear Trap Canyon an hour later. My plan was to park at the Warm Springs fishing access and walk up about three-quarters of a mile to the rock garden where some decent sized trout always seemed to lurk. But my heart sank when I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine.

    I had just parked my truck when there arose such a clatter,
    I opened my door to see what was the matter.
    It roared like a freight train, that miserable wind.
    I knew that my chances to catch trout were quite thin.

No wonder the parking lot was empty.

I had no desire to hike three quarters of a mile in gale force wind. But it occurred to me the bend in the river that wrapped around the far corner of the parking lot. I was in no mood to be true to my mantra: “Always walk at least a mile before you start fishing.” Besides no one in their right mind would have fished this elbow during the last few days of blustery weather.

    More rapid than eagles the snowflakes they came,
    so I shouted at the wind and called it a name.
    Then I tied on a prince nymph and went straight to my work,
    while hoping a rainbow might give it a jerk.

For the next few minutes, I got into a consistent rhythm: cast, shiver, mend, shiver, retrieve, shiver, complain, shiver. And then it happened.

    The wind just kept whipping that new falling snow,
    I was about to stop casting, about ready to go,
    When what to my watering eyes should disappear,
    but my miniature strike indicator, and this caused me to cheer.

For the next couple minutes, I felt the old familiar tug of a fish on the end of the line. It turned out to be a 14-inch rainbow which looked surprisingly plump for the time of year. I wouldn’t call that catch a Christmas miracle. But it made my day.

After I released it the fish, I realized that my shivering had increased. It was cold, and the sun had slipped below the mountain. So I began the long walk back to my truck—all fifteen steps. Later that night, I stood at our picture window and looked out over the moonlit Valley. Beyond the houses dotted with Christmas lights, I could faintly see the gap in the distant hills where the Madison River emerged from the Bear Trap Canyon. I was thankful for the light and warmth of home.

But I was also thankful for those fifteen minutes on the river that lifted my spirits.

    There I stood by the window and looked into the night,
    and thought about the trout that put up such a fight.
    And so I exclaimed as I turned off the lights,
    Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

S3:E28 Living in Fly Fishing Exile

Fly fishing exile is when you wished you lived closer to the big rivers. Steve moved from Bozeman, Montana, to the Chicago area more than ten years ago. And Dave moved from Colorado to the Chicago area more than 25 years ago. We’ve grieved the loss of close proximity to blue-ribbon waters. Now, we’re not griping. We’re not complaining. Well, maybe a little. In this episode, we reflect a bit on our decision to move to the Midwest and discuss what we love most about our lives today, now that we live with ten million of our closest friends in the Chicago area.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Living in Fly Fishing Exile”

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 close to you live to great fly fishing waters? How far do you drive to sate your fly fishing thirst? Post your stories below!

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks.

Maybe even 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!

Fly Casting Against the Wind

A friend recently went through his late grandfather’s personal papers and stumbled upon the notes to a speech. My friend laughed when he saw a particular note his grandfather had written at the top of a page. The note read: “Weak argument, yell louder.”

fly casting against the wind

Unfortunately, I’m tempted to adopt a similar approach when I’m fly casting against the wind. My inclination is to cast harder. But casting harder against the wind resembles yelling louder when the argument you’re trying to make is weak. It is highly ineffective.

Here are seven tips when fly casting against the wind. Some are obvious, some not so much. All of them can make a big difference.

1. Use 6-weight line

The current favorite for an all-around fly rod is a 9 foot, 5-weight.

But after years of fishing in the wind on Montana’s Madison and Yellowstone Rivers, I’m sold on a 6-weight rod for windy conditions. The added power of a 6-weight does help you cut through the wind. If you can’t afford another fly rod, at least get another spool with 6-weight line. It will work fine with your 9 foot, 5-weight rod.

By the way, you might want to shorten your leaders from 9 feet to 7.5 feet. A shorter leader is easier to control in windy conditions.

2. Cast between gusts of wind

Alright, this is one of those rather obvious tips. But it works when fly casting against the wind.

One of the windiest days I ever fly fished was during the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch on the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Montana. I had to stop for a while and close my eyes to keep them from filling with dust. But I discovered that if I waited, I would get 5 or 10 second windows to cast. I had to be quick, but the window was sufficient to get my fly on the water.

I caught a lot of trout that day.

3. Use your wrist, not your whole body

Again, the temptation is to work harder when you cast in windy conditions—to put your whole body into it. If swinging your arms and swaying your entire body is your approach, stop it. The wrist flick is where the power is. That’s what makes your rod work for you. If you try to get your entire body into the cast, you actually diminish the performance of your fly rod.

The wrist flick — back and forward — makes the rod do what it is designed to do.

4. Learn the double haul

One of the best ways to cut through the wind is to use the “double haul.” This technique increases line speed by delivering velocity to your fly line. Joan Wulff says: “The rod is loaded more deeply, and that transfers to greater energy in your line.”

Basically, you use your “line hand” (your left hand if you’re casting with your right hand) to haul or pull back the line on both your forward and backward stroke. It’s much easier to see than to describe.

So here is a helpful video by Orvis: The Double Haul

Joan Wulff teaches the double haul here: Joan on the Double Haul

5. Lower your cast

The idea is to keep your line low — perhaps under the wind. There are two ways you can do this.

First, use a sidearm cast. You can still double haul while casting sidearm. A second way to lower your cast is to crouch or kneel. I can’t remember how many times I crouched while standing knee deep in Montana’s Madison River on windy days in March and April.

6. Shorten your casts

This may seem obvious, but you may need to remind yourself to keep your casts shorter. The less line you have in the air, the less problem you’ll have with the wind. You can live with a shorter cast if you can extend your drift as much as possible. So keep feeding line until your fly drifts through the feeding zone.

7. Don’t cast against the wind

That’s right. If at all possible, figure out how to get the wind at your side or, preferably, at your back. This might mean fishing the opposite bank or casting downstream instead of upstream.

If you practice these techniques when fly casting against the wind, the day won’t make you quite so angry. You may not even mutter or yell inappropriate words. Instead, you’ll happily hum Bob Seger’s old tune, “Against the Wind” as you make one effective cast after another.

S3:E27 Matthew Lourdeau @castingacross on Fly Fishing Shows

Fly fishing shows are not our expertise. We’ve been to a grand total of one in the last five years. We needed an expert, and so we called on Matthew Lourdeau, a fly fishing blogger and fly fishing show frequenter. Matthew lives on the east coast, and in this episode on fly fishing shows we interview Matthew to help you make the most of your next show.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “An Interview with Matthew Lourdeau @castingacross on Fly Fishing Shows”

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.

When was the last time you attended a fly fishing show? How do you making the most of your time at an outdoor show? What do you recommend for newer fly fishers?

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

Our Other Episode with Matthew Lourdeau

    S3:E5 Blogger Matthew Lourdeau on Fly Fishing Culture

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks.

Maybe even 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!

A Primer on Mending for New Fly Fishers

Now mend your line.” Those words from Bob Granger, one of my fly fishing mentors, still ring in my ears. I needed all the help I could get on mending for new fly fishers.

Curtis, another fly fishing guide, recently said: “Better menders catch more fish than better casters.” I am convinced he is right. So here is a quick primer on mending for new fly fishers.

What is mending?

Once your fly line is floating down the river or stream, mending is simply flipping the mid-section of the line upstream of your fly line.

So if the current is flowing from right to left, flip the mid-section of the line to the right. The end result is that your fly line should resemble the letter “C” as it floats down the river — with the back of the “C” on the upstream side of the current.

Why is mending for new fly fishers important?

Mending is critical because it eliminates drag.

If the mid-section of your line gets ahead of your fly, it will drag it through the current. Your dry fly will resemble a water-skier, leaving a wake that will send trout scattering for cover. Your wet fly will zoom through the current more quickly than any nymph normally drifts through it.

The point, then, is to get a natural drift. Your fly should look like a normal morsel floating freely on top or underneath the surface.

When is mending important?

The answer is, almost every cast. Every cast needs to be mended at some point.

It’s possible to put a mend in the line during your cast. On your forward cast, simply draw the letter “C”—normally if the current is going from left to right or backwards if the current is moving from right to left. Otherwise, you will almost always need to mend your line once it lands on the water.

How can I avoid disturbing fish while mending?

First, do your mending well before the fly enters the hot zone. If you are casting a dry fly to rising fish, cast well above this spot. If you are nymph fishing or even dry fly fishing when nothing is rising, then cast well above the zone where you figure the fish will feeding.

Second, practice mending so you don’t disturb your dry fly or your strike indicator. The first few times you try to mend your line, you’ll probably jerk your fly or strike indicator a couple inches.

Of course, that’s not the end of the world if you’re mending well before your fly reaches the hot zone. But it’s best to eliminate this. You’ll get a feel for it with more practice, but the key is to lift up as much fly line as you can from the water before you make your mend.

How can I mend longer casts?

The more line you have on the water, the more difficult it is to mend it effectively with a single mend. Longer casts require multiple mends, depending on the current. By multiple, I mean two or three — not seven or eight! Instead of trying to mend the entire line in one flip, concentrate on moving the section closest to you. Then move the rest of it in another mend or two.

What is stack mending?

You can also use the technique of multiple mending to create “stack mends.” Stack mending refers to the creation of successive loops of line on the water. This allows for a much longer drift before your fly ever begins to drag. You might be surprised at how many trout you’ll catch towards the end of a long drift. Stack mending makes longer drifts possible.

So don’t just stand there after you make a cast. Do something. Mend that line.

The fish will not thank you, because you’ll fool them more often. But you will be a more satisfied fly fisher.

S3:E26 One Fine Day on the Madison at Baker’s Hole

Baker’s Hole is a bucket-list stretch of the Madison River near the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Baker’s Hole Campground is located approximately three miles north of West Yellowstone, Montana, and in the fall, Hebgen Lake rainbows move up the Madison River to spawn. The stretch that winds near the campground features several deep runs where running rainbows stack up as they move up the river. Click now to listen to “One Fine Day on the Madison River at Bakers Hole”

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to One Fine Day on the Madison River at Bakers Hole

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 have a story from a fine day on the river from this past year? We’d love to hear about it! Post your story below.

REFER THE PODCAST!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simple way to help us grow!

More Episodes in Our “One Fine Day …” Series

    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

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

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.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks.

Maybe even 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!

Witty Outdoor Sayings: “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”

You should have been here yesterday – I can’t think of a more annoying comment. I’ve had some great days on the river. But I’ve also had a lot more days on the river when I was reminded later by some jerk I had never met before that the previous day had been a lot better.

The phrase “You should have been here yesterday” is not really all that witty. It’s pretty much a thoughtless taunt. At least it feels like a taunt. Maybe it’s simply small talk. It’s unnecessary chitchat, for sure. It’s a saying that complete strangers at a fly shop or at the coffee shop will offer up with no warning.

It’s mindless. And flippant.

Shame on My Friends

Worse, it’s a saying that even friends and family have the audacity to blurt out, with little to no provocation.

For a generation each fall, I have hunted upland game and waterfowl with my father and his cronies. For decades, I carved out a week of my life and traveled back to North Dakota. My sons and brother and I bounced around the prairie with my father’s generation, who regaled us with Ole and Lena jokes, some of which raised the eyebrows of my young sons, who giggled at the occasional potty language and body parts.

Invariable, no matter how good a week of hunting, one of my father’s friends would pipe up, just as sure as the sun rose that morning, “It’s too bad you weren’t here last week. We shot so many geese.”

This is another perverse form of saying, “You should have been here yesterday.”

Last week. Yesterday. The other day. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Maybe I’m just being too sensitive. But when an inconsiderate slob, even a family friend, makes the brainless observation that I should have been fishing here yesterday, he or she puts me in a mood.

I wasn’t here yesterday. I am here today. And the fishing stinks.

I will say, though, that the wisecrack rarely comes up on a guided float trip down the Yellowstone River.

Before we put in, the guide may say, “Man, it was really good yesterday. The browns were slamming hoppers.” However, as the day goes by, especially on the slower trips, the conversation rarely drifts to yesterday. That’s good. Because I’m still thinking about his earlier comment how good the fishing was yesterday while feeling grumpy about the action today.

Guides are pretty savvy. They know their tip comes at the end of the day. So, it’s never strategic to offer up the saying to an exasperated client at 4:30 PM.

My Bigger Struggle with “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”

A couple years ago, Steve, my podcast partner, and I fished a stretch of Montana’s 16 Mile Creek. By sheer luck (Steve’s connections and a rare opening on private waters), we spent six hours reeling in trout after trout until we cried “Uncle.” At about 4 PM, Steve said, “I am wrecked.” I was too.

Exhausted, we wrapped up the late afternoon and early evening with 4,000 calories each at the area’s best steak house.

The next morning, we were back at the fly shop, still feeling sluggish from the carnage at the steak house, and I began to make small talk with one of the shop monkeys. I mentioned that we had fished 16 Mile, and he said that had fished a stretch of the river not long ago.

I couldn’t help myself.

“You should have been at 16 Mile yesterday.”

S3:E25 The Exceptional People You Meet While Fishing

The best part of any fly fishing trip is often the exceptional people you meet. Yes, we like to catch fish, but often what gives the trip color and creates great memories are the unexpected conversations. In this episode we identify five exceptional and one unexceptional conversations from a recent trip to Montana.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to The Exceptional People You Meet While 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.

We’d love to hear a story about some exceptional people you’ve met while fly fishing. It could be a great guide, a person at a cafe, or the characters at your favorite fly shop. Please post your story below.

Refer the Podcast!

By the way, 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.

That is the most simply way to help us grow!

Another Episode on Fly Fishing Personalities

    The Six Fly Fishing Personalities You’ll Meet

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks.

Maybe even 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!

Fly Fishing and Thanksgiving

I have much for which to be thankful as Thanksgiving Day nears. My list begins with the love of God, the love of family, good health, good friends, and a job which I love. Yet fly fishing is high on my list of reasons to give thanks. This week, fly fishing and Thanksgiving have given me pause for some reflection.

fly fishing and Thanksgiving

Here are seven of the fly-fishing-related gifts for which I am thankful.

1. I am thankful for the years I lived within an hour of famous trout waters.

I lived in Montana for over two decades.

One year, I lived in Paradise Valley — just two hundred yards from the Yellowstone River. Then, I moved to Helena where I could drive to some terrific spots on the Missouri River in less than an hour. Five years later, I moved to the Gallatin Valley near Bozeman. The house we built was less than a mile from the East Gallatin River and less than an hour away from the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers. It’s been twelve years since I moved from Montana to the north suburbs of Chicago. But once or twice a year I return to fish those amazing rivers.

I know where to go and how to fish them because I had the privilege of living in fly fishing heaven for so long.

2. I am thankful for the relative affordability of fly fishing.

My favorite outdoor sports are elk hunting, deer hunting, and fly fishing for trout. But I rarely hunt these days because of the cost. Now that I am a nonresident, an annual fishing license in Montana costs me $86. By comparison, the cost of a nonresident Elk Combination license (which includes fishing and upland birds) costs $868. A nonresident Deer Combination license is $602. You will find significant differences between the costs of guide services (if you use them) for fly fishing and big game hunting.

You might be surprised, too, when you compare the costs of fly fishing to other outdoor sports like downhill skiing or golf.

Thankfully, fly fishing is fairly affordable — even if you splurge for a Winston Rod or a pair of Simms waders.

3. I am thankful I can fly fish year round.

When I lived in Montana, the window for big game hunting was roughly Labor Day to Thanksgiving Day weekend. Once you filled your tags, you were done. However, you can fish every month of the year in Montana if you like. I have caught fish in Montana every month of the year. Three of the four seasons—spring, summer, and fall—offer fantastic opportunities.

That is nine months of prime fly fishing!

4. I am thankful for the friendships which have formed around fly fishing.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I have other interests besides fly fishing. But our love of casting a fly on trout streams and rivers has given us a context for our life-long friendship to flourish. I’ve developed several other friendships solely because of fly fishing.

There’s something about it which creates and deepens relational bonds like few other activities do.

5. I am thankful for the way fly fishing has strengthened family ties.

Fly fishing provided a means of communicating and relating with my sons even during the most difficult seasons of their youth (middle-school years). We’ve had some tremendous memories catching cutthroat trout on hoppers in the Yellowstone and big rainbows on nymphs on the Madison.

The memories we share while fly fishing have drawn us closer to each other.

6. I am thankful for the mentors who have taught me to fly fish.

I have written about this elsewhere, but I am profoundly grateful for the guys who helped me learn to cast, to mend my line, and to tie flies. I am also thankful for mentors who shared their favorite spots with me as well as their wisdom. I am thankful for the patience of all those who got hooked by my backcasts or who had to help me untangle my two-fly combination after an unnecessary false cast.

7. I am thankful for the conservation efforts which make good fly fishing possible.

I am grateful for the foresight of anglers like Bud Lilly and the ongoing efforts of folks like Craig Matthews to protect fish and fisheries. I am thankful for the Skinner brothers—ranchers near Belgrade, Montana who were ahead of their time in implementing practices to protect and even restore sections of the East Gallatin River.

I am appreciative of Trout Unlimited, a conservation organization to which I belong, for all of its initiatives and projects which protect wild trout.

As Thanksgiving Day nears, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on all the reasons you have to be thankful for fly fishing. It is an amazing pursuit!

S3:E24 One Fine Fall Day in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is no doubt our happy place. It’s one of our favorite places to fish, especially in the fall. This fall we fished the Yellowstone and Gardner near the north entrance of Yellowstone Park as well as the Madison River near West Yellowstone. In this episode, we recall one fine day on the Yellowstone River in mid October.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to One Fine Fall Day in 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.

Do you have a great day on the river from this past year? Wed love to hear about it. Please post your stories below!

By the way, 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.

Other Episodes in the One Fine Day Series

    One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan

    One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

    One Fine Day on the Blue River

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!” target=”_blank”>Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine When 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.

We’d love to hear some funny stories from your time on the river? Or even while hunting.

By the way, 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.

Other Articles and Podcasts on Funny Outdoor Moments

    Funny Outdoor Moments

    Stupid Is as a Stupid Fly Fisher Does

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Fly Fishing’s Most Important Letter in the Alphabet

The most important letter in the alphabet for fly fishers is the letter “C.” If you can draw the letter “C” with the tip of your fly rod, you can manipulate your line in some important ways.

C is for Mending

Once you have cast your fly upon the water, you’ll want to mend it to get the middle part of your line upstream—behind your fly. If the middle section of line is in the lead, it can drag your fly through the current. No trout with any sense will give your fly another look.

Mending essentially puts your line in the shape of a “C.” Picture your fly at the top tip of the letter and the point where your fly line first touches the water at the bottom tip of the letter. If the current is moving from left to right, you will want to create a normal “C” shape. If the current is moving from right to left, you will want to create a backwards “C” shape.

The way to perform the mend is to draw the letter “C” with your rod tip shortly after your line lands on the river or stream. Draw this letter quickly. You’ll figure out with some practice how to do this without disturbing the fly on the surface.

C is for Looping

Another option is to create a “C” loop which your fly line is still in the air. At the end of your forward cast, quickly write the letter “C.” This will put a loop in your line so it falls in the surface in a “C” shape, requiring little or no mend.

Remember to use a backwards “C” if the current is moving from right to left.

C is for Feeding Line

Once your line is floating downstream, you want to get the longest drift possible. This is true whether you are nymphing or dry fly fishing. You will need to feed more line. The best way to do this is to keep writing the letter “C” to feed the extra line you have available. You could actually close the loop and make the letter “O.”

Again, you can learn to do this motion in a way that does not disrupt the line that is already on the surface.

C is for Line Pickup

Finally, you can pick up your line by writing the letter “C” with your rod tip. Gary Borger has perfected this technique. He says it needs to be a quick flip of the rod tip. According to Borger, “The curl introduced by the ‘C’ movement will flow down the line and snap it up off the water.” But it doesn’t stop there. Immediately after writing the “C,” continue right into your backcast.

Borger says not to hesitate between the two movements.

Who knew that learning to write the letter “C” in your first grade classroom could make you a better fly fisher!

S3:E23 Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine When Fly Fishing

Laughter really is the best medicine when your best laid fishing plans go sideways. Or when you snap off the tip of your fly rod on the first day of your fly fishing trip. Or when your partner’s lack of planning almost ruins the first day of your fly fishing trip (let’s just say it’s not Steve). Click now to listen to our latest episode on laughter and fly fishing.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine When 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.

We’d love to hear some funny stories from your time on the river? Or even while hunting.

By the way, 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.

Other Articles and Podcasts on Funny Outdoor Moments

    Funny Outdoor Moments

    Stupid Is as a Stupid Fly Fisher Does

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

The Generous Fly Fisher I Aspire to Be

I aspire to be a better fly fisher. But it’s not what you might think. Sure, I want to improve my casting so I can consistently drop my fly an inch from the opposite bank. Someday, I hope to put the whip finish on my flies with the speed of a calf roper tying a half-hitch.

generous fly fisher

I’d also like to think like a fish—as Paul Maclean aspired to do. But I have higher aspirations. I want to be a more generous fly fisher:

What Generosity Looks Like on the River

Instead of hoarding information about my favorite spots, I’d like to be more willing to share helpful intel with others I meet on the river.

Instead of hogging a good run, I’d like to share it more readily with others. If someone watches me catch a trout in a particular run, I’d like to be generous enough to invite them to take a few casts.

Instead of feeling smug when I see a newbie fly fisher cast like I did when I first got started, I’d like to be jump at the chance to offer some pointers and some words of encouragement.

A Fine Role Model

If I have a role model for the generous fly fisher I want to be, it is Craig Matthews. He is the founder and former owner of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, Montana. When you talk to him, his responses are enthusiastic, not arrogant.

Ask him a question, and his answer is gracious, not condescending.

What impresses me most about Matthews is a comment he made in an interview recorded in Chester Allen’s book, Yellowstone Runners. When asked what kind of water he likes to fish late in the season when the “runners” are heading up the Madison River, Matthews talked first about the type of runs he likes. But then he made this comment: “I stay away from ‘behind the Barns’ [the well-known runs just inside the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park] and other popular places since I live here, and I can fish anytime and leave the popular spots to elderly angers and visiting anglers.”

That, my friends, is generosity. And that’s the kind of fly fisher I aspire to be.

I recently ran into Matthews in West Yellowstone and he regaled the fly shop with stories of big browns and streamers the size of 56 Buicks. Even in his storytelling, he was warm and giving back to others, making us feel part of his story and the larger narrative of fly fishing.

The Old Man I Don’t Want to Be

Unfortunately, there are always a few fly fishers who think they are “it.” As my podcast partner Dave says about them, “Always confident, sometimes right.” You’d think these folks invented the sport of fly fishing.

A guide in Blue Ribbon flies recently told us about an encounter he had with an older fly fisher at the Barns Pools. There are some terrific people who frequent the Barns Pools every fall. But this guy seemed to have an ego the size of a jumbo jet.

A young teen was fishing with a hopper pattern. Nearby, his grandmother sat watching him.

Meanwhile, the older fly fisher began to mock the young teen, grousing about him using a hopper pattern. That’s not how you fish the Barns Pools. After a couple minutes of this, the guide piped up and told the older guy to shut up. After briefly strutting like a peacock, the older guy came to his senses, shut his mouth, and sulked and muttered as he walked away.

The grandmother on the bank spoke up for the first time and thanked the guide. She said, “This has been my grandson’s dream. All he wanted to do was to fly fish in Yellowstone National Park. Thanks for sticking up for him.”

Age has a way of magnifying our character traits. Our hard edges become sharper, and our soft edges become even more polished. If you practice generosity now, chances are it will become an even more pronounced trait that will not fail you even when your eyes and legs do. That’s the older fly fisher I want to be.

S3:E22 From Guided Float Trips to Fly Fishing Solo

Fly fishing solo can be confusing when you’re first starting out, especially if all you’ve ever done is guided float trips. Making the transition is not a snap for everyone. Many folks take a guided float trip and never make the time to learn the sport. In this episode, we identify several ways to make the journey from guided float trips to fly fishing solo.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to From Guided Float Trips to Fly Fishing Solo

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 did you make the transition to fly fishing on your own? What advice would you give someone who wants to start the learning curve to fish on his or her own?

By the way, 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.

Other Articles for New Fly Fishers

    How New Fly Fishers Can Increase Their Odds of Success

    7 Streamside Habits of Highly Generous Fly Fishers

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Setting the Hook for Nymph Fishing

What is the best way to set the hook when fly fishing nymphs? I have been an advocate of the “side pull” approach. A Montana fly fishing guide first suggested it to me. He pointed out that lifting my fly rod — pulling it straight up — could yank the nymph out of the trout’s mouth. Better to do a “side pull” in the direction of the current.

Since trout are facing the current, pulling the rod to the side in a downstream direction take the nymph into the trout’s mouth. He was right. Some of the time.

Surface Tension

The “side pull” approach makes perfect sense. But it has one big problem: surface tension.

Suppose you get a nice long drift so that your strike indicator bobs when it is twenty feet downstream. Try yanking your rod to the downstream side. Since your fly line will be floating on the surface, pulling it to the side requires it to fight through surface tension. If you’ve ever tried running through three feet of water, you can appreciate what your fly line faces as it skims through the surface or even the film.

There is too much resistance for a quick, effective hook set.

The Quick Lift

The solution is to go with “the quick lift.” Simply lift your rod tip. That is, go with your instincts and pull up on your rod.

When you do this, it’s remarkable how quickly the rod will lift your line off of the surface of the water. Try this sometime when you don’t have a fish trying to ingest your nymph, and you will be amazed at what you see. As soon as your fly line lifts off of the water and the surface tension is gone, your strike indicator will lurch towards you. That gives you an indication what happens when a trout has taken your fly.

You will get a solid hook-set.

I suppose you still might run the risk of pulling the fly out of the trout’s mouth. But the “side pull” method is so slow that your hook set will probably be useless. If the trout has hooked itself, you’re fine. But if not, it can spit out the fly before the gets pulled into the side of the trout’s mouth. Even then, the hook set will lack in force because of the resistance you’re facing from the surface tension. Alright, enough with the physics lesson.

I think you get the idea.

Madison River Monsters

My pod-cast partner, Dave, and I used the “quick lift” technique effectively on a day we recently spent on the Madison River right outside Yellowstone National Park. We were fishing for the big “runners” which come out of Hebgen Lake for fall spawning. Without exception, every trout we hooked was 15-25 feet below us. Rather than fighting the surface tension with a “side pull,” we used a quick lift. I do not have lightning-quick reflexes at age 55, but most strikes resulted in hooking fish.

The Exception for Setting the Hook

There is a situation when I still use the “side pull” approach when fly fishing nymphs. It works under two conditions:

First, the strike has to take place above me (upstream) or right in front of me.

Second, the run I’m fishing has to be less than twelve feet in front of me. This enables me to keep little or no line on the surface as long as I keep my rod tip high. Without any resistance, a pull to the side in a downstream direction works quite well.

Once your indicator gets past you, though, forget the sideways pull when you get a strike. It’s too awkward, and there will be too much drag. Instead, go for the quick lift.

You’ll be pleased with the results.

S3:E21 Which is the Best Overall Fly Rod?

Best overall fly rod – it’s not a debate for the ages, but it’s important to new fly fishers. You probably are not going to purchase two fly rods out of the gate. In this episode, we sort out a few key issues and discuss how we approach fly rod length and line weight.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to Which is the Best Overall 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.

If you have multiple fly rods, which is your go-to rod for most situations? Which fly rod do you want beside you in your casket?

By the way, 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.

Other Articles on Fly Rods

    Is the 5 Weight Fly Rod the Best All Around?

    Before You Buy Your First Fly Rod

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

How to Read Your Strike Indicator

Most fly fishers use a strike indicator when fishing with nymphs. When the little plastic bubble or tuft of synthetic yarn bobs or twitches, it’s time to set the hook. A trout is taking your fly. (Or perhaps you’ve hit bottom!) It’s all about how to read your strike indicator. But your strike indicator does double duty: It indicates something else that will make or break your success on the river. It tells you whether you are deep enough.

Conventional Wisdom on How to Read Your Strike Indicator

To succeed when fishing nymphs, the trick is to get the artificial flies down to the right depth. They need to be in the trout’s window.

Conventional wisdom says that you’re not fishing deep enough if you’re not getting snagged occasionally on the river-bottom. So, when the strike indicator disappears and you’ve snagged a rock rather than hooked a fish, that signals you are at the right depth. Your nymph or nymphs are deep enough to entice the trout.

We’ve advocated for this signal in previous articles:

    Nymph Fishing’s 7 Nagging Questions

    Our Top Nymph and Wet Fly Patterns

    The Basics of Nymph Fishing

Nymphing Re-imagined

However, there is a problem with conventional wisdom. Unless you’re fishing scud patterns, you may not need to get your nymphs to bounce along the bottom.

Yes, the fish are at the bottom of the river or stream. But they are looking up unless they are nosing around in the mud or rocks for scuds. Your nymph needs only to be deep enough to be in the river’s lower zone where the trout are feeding. But you don’t need, necessarily, to bounce your nymph off of the bottom.

A More Excellent Way to Read Your Strike Indicator

So how do you know that you’re fishing deep enough if you don’t see your strike indicator disappear occasionally because you’ve snagged the bottom?

There is another signal.

Your eyes still need to be on the strike indicator. But if the indicator is moving more slowly than is the surface current, then your nymph or nymphs are deep enough. The fact is, the current at the bottom of a river or stream moves more slowly than the current on the surface. When your nymph(s) and weight float in this slower current, they will slow down the speed of your strike indicator on the surface.

Recently, I was fishing for “runners” on the Madison River just outside West Yellowstone, Montana. On a particular run, my two-nymph combination never once caught on the bottom. Yet I knew I was deep enough because my strike indicator was moving along more slowly than the surface current. After a few casts, my indicator disappeared, and I had the joy of fighting and landing a heavy brown trout.

Watch the Bubbles to Read Your Strike Indicator

This raises another question, though.

How in the world can you tell if your strike indicator is moving more slowly than the surface current?

Watch the bubbles on the surface of the water. That’s right. The bubbles tell the tale. It’s like watching a NASCAR race and seeing cars getting passed or lapped. If the bubbles on the river’s surface start passing your indicator, then you have reached the right depth. If the bubbles never pass your strike indicator, then you need to add more weight. Your nymph has not reached the slower current in the bottom zone.

Watching for the bubbles to start passing your strike indicator will also reveal how long it takes for your nymphs to reach the proper depth in the particular run you are fishing. It may take two feet or fifteen feet depending on the speed of the current and the depth of the run. This is important because it might reveal that your nymphs are getting deep enough after they drift through the spot where you suspect the fish are feeding. Armed with this insight, you can cast farther upstream so that your offering reaches its depth right before it enters the hot zone.

As always, keep your eye on the strike indicator. It gives the signal when you have a strike. But it will also tell you if you’re going to have a chance at a strike because your nymph rig has reached its proper depth.

S3:E20 The Wonders of Brown Trout Fishing

Brown trout fishing is everywhere, mostly because the browns have taken over the American waters. Brought over to America in the 1800s, this European specie has thrived globally, even pushing out some native trout in the process. In this episode, we give a brief overview of this beauty, tell a few stories, and offer a few takeaways on catching more fish.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to The Wonders of Brown Trout 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.

What is your favorite trout to catch? What is the biggest brown trout you’ve caught on a fly rod? Share your brown trout fishing stories below!

By the way, 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.

Other Articles on Brown Trout Fishing

    What Idaho Biologists Found in Brown Trout Bellies

    Big Browns Save the Day

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

The Legacy of My Fly Fishing Mentors

It takes a village to raise a fly fisher. In my case, it was a village of fourteen fly fishing mentors who showed up in my life over the years and helped me learn the craft of fly fishing.

fly fishing mentors

I’d love to pay tribute to them by naming them. But I’m not going to do so for two reasons: First, the list would resemble the credits at the end of a movie. Nobody cares about them except the producer and those involved in the production.

Second, I am still a mediocre fly fisher on my best days. So I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone by citing them as one of my fly fishing mentors.

Perhaps I can pay tribute by listing a few characteristics that they all had in common. These characteristics can help you identify a mentor if you are new to the sport. Or, they can help you be more effective when you get the opportunity to mentor a younger fly fisher.

1. Patience

This is the number one characteristic by far.

My mentors did not sigh or curse (at least not audibly) when I slapped my line against the water, when I was slow to set the hook on a strike, or when my backcast hooked a branch. I may have even hooked one or two of my mentors. They simply went over their instructions again and again.

Bob never raised his voice when he kept telling me to mend my line, and Kevin didn’t roll his eyes when I tried to threat my tippet through my fly rod guides when we were getting ready to fish the Gallatin River.

2. The ability to simplify

Fly fishing is a complex sport. It can bewilder beginners. But good mentors break down complex concepts into simple explanations. One mentor encouraged me to stick with a few simple patterns while I learned to fly fish—the Woolly Bugger, Prince Nymph, Parachute Adams, and Elk Hair Caddis. Another boiled down my first lesson in casting to: (1) flick your wrist when you cast and (2) keep your eyes on the target. Still another taught me that the foam line in the current is the feed line. The simple explanations formed a knowledge base on which I’ve been building for more than three decades.

3. Creativity

Good mentors are also creative.

None of my mentors had me cast to the rhythm of a metronome like Norman Maclean’s father did in A River Runs Through It. But Gary Borger taught me to tie a couple important knots by using a small piece of rope rather than a tiny 6x tippet. He also taught me to pick up my line off of the surface by drawing the letter “C” with my rod tip.

Good mentors traffic in word pictures and analogies. They find vivid ways to show and tell.

4. Unselfishness

I’ve had some faux-mentors who simply left me on my own while they raced ahead to their favorite spots.

Real mentors, however, sacrifice the time they could be fishing and share the prime spots they could be fishing. They act more like guides whose mission it is to set up their clients for success.

I remember my mentor and friend, Bob, taking me to fish for fall browns on the Madison in Yellowstone National Park. He brought his rod along, but he didn’t make one cast that day. He simply devoted his time to helping me read water, cast, and (of course) mend my line. It’s rewarding to teach others to fly fish. But you have to be prepared to give up some rod time and even some of the hot spots you love to fish.

5. Humility

These mentors are some of the best fly fishers on the planet. But none of them felt the need to inform me about this. I had to coax out of them the stories about their fly fishing heroics The best mentors do not have egos the size of a jumbo jet. They do not need to tell you how great they are.

I’m convinced that humility is what enables patience and unselfishness.

Okay, maybe I will let the credits roll. I owe my fly fishing skills to the mentoring of Gerald, Duane, Doug, Kevin, Jerry, John, Murray, Bob, Toby, Harry, Dave, Gary, Leon, and Ben.

Thanks, fellas.

I’m fishing in and around Yellowstone National Park this week, and I’m a better fly fisher for all the ways you invested in my development. I wish you were all here. I still need all the help I can get.

S3:E19 Buying Fly Fishing Gear for That Next Trip

Buying fly fishing gear is not merely about catching more fish. For some, it’s more like a shopping or hoarding addiction. For others it’s about status. For each of us, purchasing new fly fishing gear means something slightly different. This week, we discuss some of our recent purchases, what we plan to buy next, and what it all means in the small (not grand) scheme of things! Click now to listen to this week’s podcast.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to Buying Fly Fishing Gear for That Next 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 gear have you purchased this past year? When do you find the best deals on rods, waders, and other gear? What recent purchase was something you’d recommend?

By the way, 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.

Other Similar Articles and Episodes

    Little Fly Fishing Gadgets, Big Impact

    Is the 5 Weight Rod the Best All Around?

    The Scoop on Fishing Nets

    Three Half Truths about Fly Rods

    Your Next Pair of Fly Fishing Waders

    Three People to Trust When Buying Fly Fishing Products

    Before You Buy Your First Fly Rod

    Soothing Words for the Fly Rod Owner’s Soul

    Go-To Gear for All Kinds of Weather

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

How New Fly Fishers Can Improve Their Odds of Success

This summer, I drove my youngest son to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I dropped him off at a camp and then headed home. I decided to stop at a small creek in Wisconsin for a day of fly fishing. I was alone. It was hot. Muggy. And the bugs swirled around my head like the dusts of dirt around Pig-Pen, the character in the comic strip “Peanuts.”

I fished for about 30 minutes. And then quit. I had had enough. The stream in mid summer was weedy, with only small channels in the middle that were fishable. If I had been a new fly fisher, I would have been pretty discouraged. Maybe I would have thought, “This is too hard. I’m never fly fishing again.”

When you’re just started out, it’s important to find early success, and here are three ways to make that happen:

1. Learn to fish nymphs and streamers … immediately.

The learning arc for most new fly fishers is to learn to dry fly fish first. They take a fly casting class. They feel the surge of emotion of early casting success. But then struggle to catch fish during their first few outings. Perhaps there’s no obvious hatch, and they default to fishing a dry-fly attractor pattern like Parachute Adams or Elk Hair Caddis every time they go out.

You’ll catch more fish early on if you learn how to nymph and fish streamers while you’re also struggling to learn to fish dry flies. I might add that learning to sling a streamer may be the easiest first thing to do. It will force you to take a good look at your tackle, which needs to change if you’re fishing streamers.

I remember well my struggle learn to fish streamers. For starters, I was trying to hurl a size #6 Woolly Bugger with a 6x leader. I didn’t know any better. No one told me that I needed 2x or 3x tippet. I had learned to dry fly fish first, so it didn’t dawn on my that I needed different tackle.

My suggestion: if you’re struggling to catch fish and you only dry fly fish, add streamers to the mix. Yes, it’s one more thing to learn, but especially in the fall, you will find much more success.

2. Know and Avoid the Dead Zones.

Steve and I published an entire episode on fly fishing dead zones, those times of the day and seasons of the year when very likely you’ll not catch fish.

New fly fishers don’t have this knowledge. If they did, most likely they’d catch more fish and be able to fan the tiny flame of passion for the sport.

Dead zones to avoid are winter (of course), early morning and late evening in the spring, and midday during the heat of the summer.

In the spring, especially late April and early May, I like the 10 AM to 2 PM window during the day for fishing dry flies. In mid to late summer, when the water is low and the temps are hot with lots of sun on the river, the best opportunities are fishing dries during the evening until dark. And in the fall, I primarily nymph fish and streamer fish. Most often, the streamer bite is on in the mornings in late September and October.

Of course, veterans can catch fish during any time, and there is much more nuance to dead zones and hatches than I can write about in this short space. The point is that new fly fishers would do well to know when not to fish.

3. Rethink Float Trips.

My brother, who is a competent fly fisher, often takes his oldest son (who is now 13) to Oregon for a couple days on the McKenzie River. They float for a couple days and catch a zillion rainbows – about 8 to 12 inches. It’s a lot of fun for Matt’s son.

This year, Matt came back and said, “I’m really tired of these kinds of trips.”

One reason is that on most float trips, the guide hands you a fly rod, instructs you on where to cast, and, voila! you catch fish. The big problem with float trips is that you don’t learn a lick. Steve and I are big proponents of hiring guides, but we do so only once or twice a year. Our primary goal is to gain intel when fishing a new area. (I do find that I learn quite a bit on guided wade-fishing days.)

We all have “friends” who go on big trips out West, take gorgeous pictures of huge trout, and think that they are fly fishers. They are not. Very little is learned on a guided float trip.

New fly fishers need take the harder path of the learning curve. It’s tempting to sate your desire to catch fish with float trips. The best move is simply more reps on river – making mistakes, finding success, and doing it all over again and again.

Other podcasts and articles on this topic

    Fishing the Dead Zones

    11 Reasons You’re Not Catching Trout

S3:E18 Overcoming the 5 Barriers to Fly Fishing More

Barriers to fly fishing more include season of life, health, beginner frustration, finances, and many others. In this episode, we identify five common barriers and discuss how we can overcome them and get out on the water more often. So much of what keeps many from fly fishing more boils down to a question: Is fly fishing something I really want to do? It’s not for everyone.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Overcoming the 5 Barriers to Fly Fishing More

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 do you find time to fly fish more? What have you done to make space in your life to find more time in the great outdoors?

By the way, 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.

Other Similar Articles and Episodes

    5 “More Fly Fishing Myths

    S2:E32 Fly Fishing Myths of “More”

    S2:E26 The Markers of Fly Fishing Satisfaction

    Sustaining Your Fly Fishing Passion

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Improving Your Dry Fly Vision

It always amazes me how many people can’t see their fly.” Craig Matthews, veteran fly fisher in West Yellowstone, Montana, made this observation a few years ago when asked about common mistakes fly fishers make. “I’m really surprised at how few people can see their fly or see rising fish,” he said.

dry fly vision

So what can you to do improve your dry fly fishing vision? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years.

1. Concentrate

Yeah, yeah, this seems too obvious to mention for improving your dry fly vision. But it’s critical. And easily overlooked.

Without a laser-like focus on your dry fly, you simply won’t see it. You’ll be surprised how concentration will improve your dry fly vision. So develop a habit of zeroing in on your dry fly.

2. Wear polaroid sunglasses

Polaroid sunglasses reduce glare on the surface of the river or stream. I wear them even on cloudy days and in the low light towards the end of the day. Even a cheap pair works fine.

3. Use flies with white in them

This may be the most helpful tip I can offer to improve your dry fly vision.

The white post on a size #20 Parachute Adams makes this fly easier to see (at least for me) than a bushy size #14 Humpy. For an attractor pattern, I like a Royal Wulff or an H & L Variant because the wing material is white tufts of calf hair or synthetic material. Even with big hopper patterns, I prefer those with a white parachute. For flies that lack white on top, go light. An Elk Hair Caddis with lighter hair on top is easier to see than one with darker hair.

4. Make shorter casts

This is, perhaps, another no brainer. Yet it really helps. It’s easier to spot a dry fly fifteen feet away than thirty feet away from you. So if you’re having trouble seeing your dry fly, move in closer to the run you’re fishing.

5. Use a strike indicator

For tiny, almost invisible dry flies, consider using a strike indicator. This may be a larger dry fly. Try a size #12 or #14 Parachute Adams as a lead fly, and then drop your size #20 Pale Morning Dun or Blue-Winged Olive imitation off of it. Keep your eye on the larger fly. When it dives into the water, set your hook! I have even used thin foam strike indicators—the kind with sticky backing. I simply roll a small piece around my leader, a few inches above my fly. Fluorescent yellow seems to be more visible to me than fluorescent orange.

Seeing is retrieving. If you can’t see your dry fly, you can’t see when to set the hook—that moment when a trout sips it or attacks it. So do whatever it takes to keep your eyes on the trout’s target.

S3:E17 One Fine Day on Elk Creek near Augusta, Montana

Elk Creek flows out of the Scapegoat Wilderness west of Great Falls, Montana. It’s one of thousands – small-creek fisheries in Montana filled with various combinations of browns, rainbows, brook trout, and even some cutthroat. In this episode, we walk down memory lane from a day more than 36 years ago. It was surely a day to remember. And surely was the inspiration for the next 36 years of fly fishing.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Day on Elk Creek”

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.

Are you able to pull up a memory from a decade or more ago? We’d love to hear a great story that is deep within your memory!

By the way, 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.

Other Episodes in the “One Fine … ” Series

    One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan

    One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

    One Fine Day on Canfield Creek

    One Fine Day on the Blue River

    One Fine Day on Willow Creek

    One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 1)

    One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 2)

    One Fine Day on the Madison River

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Know Your Pattern: Woolly Bugger

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Woolly Buggers. They are America’s favorites. Well the latter is only popular among fly fishers. But it’s hard to argue against the notion that the Woolly Bugger may be the most popular, adaptable, effective fly pattern ever invented. It’s certainly the king of streamer patterns.

The Woolly Bugger is easy to tie, and it’s easy to fish. I’ve had great success with it in high mountain lakes, small Midwestern spring creeks, and large Western rivers.

Here is a profile of this super-effective pattern:

1. How it’s made

There are two main parts to this streamer.

First, the body of a Woolly Bugger consists of chenille wrapped around the shank of a 4X long streamer look (sizes #6 to #10 are the most popular) with hackle wound through it. Then, a marabou tail runs behind the body.

Both the hackle and the marabou make this streamer look active as it darts through the water.

The most popular colors for the Woolly Bugger are black, olive, and brown. I’ve even tied it using red chenille with black hackle and black marabou to catch the big trout in Hyalite Resorvoir in the mountains above Bozeman, Montana.

Normally, the Woolly Bugger is weighted with either a beadhead or wire (underneath the chenille).

2. Where it originated

It is unclear who gets the credit for the Woolly Bugger, but it’s definitely a modification of the Woolly Worm (a Woolly Bugger without the marabou tail).

3. Why it works

Conventional wisdom says the Woolly Bugger imitates leeches, but it likely also passes for crayfish, minnows, sculpins, and large aquatic nymphs such as hellgrammites, damsel flies, stone flies, and dragon flies.

Trout will chase it and go into attack mode because it’s a high-calorie meal. Compared to a tiny may fly, it’s like the difference between an eighteen ounce steak and a Chicken nugget.

4. How to fish it

The key is to retrieve it so that it darts through the water. You can dead drift it down a run, then swing it and retrieve it with deliberate strips. Or, you can simply cast it down river and strip it back against the current.

Depth is important.

Let it sink sufficiently in the lake or river you’re fishing. You may have to experiment to figure out the definition of “sufficient.”

Bud Lilly used to say that color seems to matter a lot with Woolly Buggers. If black is not working, try switching to olive or brown. Your best bet may be to get intel at your local fly shop.

After you’ve spent a fair share of time fishing with size #18 dry flies or nymphs, it’s refreshing to lob a streamer through the air, let it sink in the current, and then retrieve it vigorously. The attack will always take you by surprise, and then the fight is on!

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series

    H & L Variant

    The Royal Coachman

    San Juan Worm

    Parachute Adams

S3:E16 Dry Fly Fishing Lessons from the Summer

Dry fly fishing lessons are best learned by doing – not by reading or in a classroom. This summer, we had some great days on the river catching brookies and browns on dry flies. We also learned a few things. Click now to hear some of the lessons we had to relearn as we fished on the surface.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Dry Fly Fishing Lessons from the Summer”

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 lessons have you learned this past summer? Please post your comments below?

By the way, 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.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Little Fly Fishing Gadgets, Big Impact

Fly fishing gadgets are everywhere. There is no end to the number of little devices you can stuff into or clip onto your fly vest.

fly fishing gadgets

Beyond the obvious items like dry fly floatant and nippers, here are a few items which I always carry with me when I’m on the river.

Headlamp

This is a new one for me.

Last summer, I was trying to use my cell phone flashlight to tie on a size #18 Parachute Adams at dusk. It occurred to me that I either needed a third hand or a headlamp. Not surprisingly, the headlamp was a more feasible option. For less than $20, you can purchase a lightweight headlamp that lasts a long time and is hands free.

It works well when hiking into your fishing spot before dawn or walking out in the dark.

Drying powder

Is this truly a gadget? I’m not sure, but I’m calling it one.

Even though I use dry fly floatant, I still find drying powder to be the ticket for drying a dry fly after it’s been water-logged or slimed by a fish. For years I’ve used the Orvis Hy-Flote Shake-N-Float Renew. Or, if you want something with fewer syllables in the title, try Umpqua Bug Dust. Both brands use a combination of crystals and dust. You simply drop your fly in the bottle, close the lid, and shake it for a couple seconds.

It works like magic!

Magnetic net holder

Veterans know about this little gadget, but newbies may not: This item allows quick removal of my net, which hangs off of the back of my fly vest. The best part is re-attachment.

Since one of the magnets is clipped to the D-ring on the collar of my fly vest, I simply have reach behind my head with my net handle. The other magnet is attached to the end of my net handle, so that magnets quickly grab each other. There’s no yoga or gymnastics required to put the net back in place.

Believe it or not, there is a video with over 21,000 views. If you need to see how the gadget works, watch this clip. You can buy the Orvis magnetic net holder for $34 or the Scientific Angler one for $19.95.

Two-way radio

It’s nice to have a friend with two-way radios. That would be my podcast partner, Dave.

I often stuff one of his two-way radios in my vest when we’re fly fishing in more remote areas—like the back-country in Yellowstone National Park. We carry them for safety if we’re fishing different stretches of a river. We’ve also been known to use them to brag about the trout we just caught. You may be surprised at how many places you will have cell phone service. Yet it’s spotty at best in more remote areas, so we like the small two-way radios in case one of us needs help.

There are a million two-way radio brands, ranging from $25 to $300 or more. We like the Motorola brand, but frankly, almost every brand will do the trick.

GPS Tacker

For those of you doing more serious backpacking or fishing, you’ll want a GPS tracker. The major brand in GPS tracking is SPOT GEN3. You’ll want this device when you travel outside the bounds of cell service. With the simple push of a button, should the worst happen, you can alert emergency responders your GPS location. It’s small, pocket-sized, and can fit in your fly vest.

Of course, you can’t stuff everything into your fly vest, satchel, or front pack. Leave the fidget spinner at home. But there are some little items which really help with fly fishing and safety.

What’s in your fly vest?

S3:E15 You Can’t Fix Stupid Outdoor Behavior

You can’t fix stupid is one of the all-time great phrases about how humans can behave in public. It’s also true in the great outdoors. “You can’t fix stupid” also applies to us. We’ve not been the most brilliant at times. Click now to listen to some stupid things we’ve seen others do in the outdoors. And a few of our own as well!

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “You Can’t Fix Stupid Outdoor Behavior”

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.

So what’s the most “you can’t fix stupid” outdoor thing you’ve seen while fly fishing? Okay, you can come clean: What’s the most stupid decision you’ve made while fishing?

By the way, 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.

Other “You Can’t Fix Stupid” Content

    Funny Outdoor Moments

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 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

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

5 “More” Fly Fishing Myths

There’s a four-letter word fly fishers should avoid. It’s not what you yell when you snag your fly on the bottom for the umpteenth time or when your back cast lands in a pine branch. Rather, it’s a word that can mislead you and set you up for disappointment. The four-letter word is “more.”

fly fishing myths

Here are five “more” fly fishing myths that you will do well not to believe. Each myth has the ring of truth. But at the end of the day, each one will mislead you or leave you dissatisfied:

1. The more I fly fish, the better I will become.

The problem is that practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. It reinforces. If you’re intentionally working to improve, then you’ll improve. Otherwise, your bad habits will become more ingrained.

This is the reason why I watch casting videos, read helpful articles, and fish at least once a season with a guide. These habits help me unlearn some bad habits—like being lazy about keeping my fly line through my finger of my right hand at all times during my retrieve. When I fail to do this, I end up setting the hook on a strike with my left hand. That is much slower.

The truth is, the more you work at the craft of fly fishing, the better you will become. The fly fishing myth that more time on the water will lead to better skills is just that – a myth.

2. The more flies I have in my fly box, the better my odds at catching more fish.

There is some truth to this.

If you’re fishing when Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) start coming off the water, and all you have are darker flies like a Parachute Adams, then you won’t have success.

However, some of the most skilled fly fishers I know say that using fewer patterns has helped them catch more fish. If you have a few dry fly patterns (Parachute Adams, Pale Morning Dun, Elk Hair Caddis), a few nymphs (Beadhead Prince, Copper John, Zebra Midge), and a couple streamers (perhaps a black Woolley Bugger and an olive one), you’ll be fine. This assumes that you have them in a few different sizes.

Of course, I have a lot more patterns than this in my fly box. I like trying new patterns. Yet I find myself returning to the same basic patterns over and over again. The reason is that they work.

The truth is, the more you can simplify your fly selection, the better your chances at catching fish.

3. I will fly fish more if I move to a prime fly-fishing area.

I could write a book on this one. I lived in Montana for two decades and loved it.

But I noticed how life got in the way of my fly fishing. They were high school sporting events to attend, evening board meetings, long hours at work, and all kinds of family responsibilities. I do not begrudge any of these. My point is simply that moving to a prime-fly fishing area sounds romantic. But life will crowd your calendar.

When I lived near Bozeman for fourteen years (and my parents lived on the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley for several of those years), I was able to get away for a couple of hours here and a couple of hours there. Occasionally, I could slip away during the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch or when the Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs) were coming off of the East Gallatin less than a mile from my house.

Now, I spend about a week a year fly flshing in Montana. I probably spend as many hours on the water, though, as when I lived there.

If you get a chance to move to Montana or Maine or Oregon, do it. But don’t forget that

The truth is, you will have opportunities and obstacles to fish the great trout waters whether you live twenty miles from them or a thousand miles away. Living near a blue ribbon trout river is a terrific blessing. But it’s not bliss.

4. I will fly fish more at the next stage of my life.

Good luck with that!

I thought it would be easier when my kids were out of diapers and in school. But football, volleyball, soccer, concert choir, band, church youth group, and an endless string of activities took a lot of time. Then, when they moved away from home, I thought I’d have even more time. But now that “extra time” is spent visiting with them.

Of course, I love visiting them! I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that the next stage of life will probably not give you as much time as you want.

I’m not at retirement age, or close to it. But I suspect that my retirement body will not handle quite as much hiking and wading as I do now.

The truth is, you have to be relentless to carve out time at any stage of life to fly fish. Don’t wait for life to slow down. Get out there now because tomorrow will have scheduling issues of its own.

5. The more fish I catch, the more satisfied I will be.

Believe me, I love catching a lot of fish. I’ll take a forty-fish day over a ten-fish day any day! I’ve had a few of these the last two years. But when I do, I find that I have trouble slowing down the moment and savoring the experience when I catch one after another. I find myself almost getting greedy. I hurry to get one trout off the line to hook another one.

Then, I find at the end of the day that I rarely remember one or two specific fish I caught.

Besides, my desire to catch more fish doesn’t diminish at some magic number. I quit at 30 or 40 (if I’m fortunate to have such a great day) because I’m too tired or it’s too late—not because I’m so satisfied that I can stop. Catching trout number 30 makes me want to catch trout number 31 which makes me want to catch trout number 32.

The truth is, I need to savor each fish I catch and to remember that one more fish will not necessarily make the day better. It’s hard to say that, but it’s true. More satisfaction is just another fly fishing myth.

So don’t buy into the fly fishing myths of “more.” Thinking realistically will help you get more enjoyment out of your time on the river.

S3:E14 Fly Fishing Guide Glen Zarboni on Nymph Fishing

Nymph fishing is arguably the most productive way to catch more fish and bigger fish. We use the word “arguably” because slinging streamers is a close second. In this interview with fly fishing guide Glen Zarboni, we discuss what makes a great fly fishing guide as well as euro-nymphing – a unique style of nymph fishing popularized by the European competition fishing circuit in the 1980s. Click on “Fly Fishing Guide Glen Zarboni on Nymph Fishing” now!

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fly Fishing Guide Glen Zarboni on Nymph 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.

Have you ever tried “euro-nymphing”? What other tips would you like to share for catching more trout on nymphs?

By the way, 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.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Is the 5 Weight Fly Rod the Best All Around?

Kirk Deeter recently posed a question which took me by surprise. On a Trout Unlimited blog, he asked: “Will the 5-weight always rule trout fishing?”

5 Weight Fly Rod

My surprise came from my assumption that the most popular all-around fly rod for trout fishing was a nine-foot, 6-weight.

Whenever Trout Unlimited offered a nine-foot, 5-weight for anglers who purchased a lifetime membership, I figured it was because they got a great deal from Sage or Winston. Surely those companies saw that 6-weights were selling like crazy and that they had a large leftover inventory of 5-weights.

It turns out that I was wrong.

5 Weight Fly Rod of Choice

TU offers nine-foot, 5-weight rods because they are the rods of choice. Deeter wonders if 4-weights might take over if technology can make them “beefier” or if 6-weights might one day rule if it gets “lighter.” Then he says: “For now, I just don’t see the 5-weight ever being supplanted as the world’s No. 1 fly rod.”

All of this makes me wonder: is the best all-around fly rod for trout fishing a nine-foot, 5 weight? Or a nine-foot, 6-weight?

I really don’t feel like arguing about this until I’m blue or red in the face. It reminds me a bit of those arguments over whether a .270 or a 30.06 is the best caliber for a deer rifle. One is more flat-shooting, the other packs more wallop. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is a hunter’s ability to shoot steady and straight.

So whether a 5-weight or a 6-weight is the “best” all-around fly rod depends on you. Which one feels best and works best for you?

What Are You Slinging?

Jerry Siem, a rod designer for Sage, says that the choice is all about the size of flies you intend to fish. Kirk Deeter concludes: “Nothing really compares to the 5-weight when it comes to throwing either size 18 BWO dry flies or size 10 woolly buggers.”

However, after years of fly fishing big western rivers like the Yellowstone and the Missouri, I’m partial to a 6-weight. I suspect that’s why a lot of fly shops in the west suggest them to first-time buyers.

I follow the reasoning of the late Tom Morgan, the owner of the Winston Rod Company from 1973 to 1991. He preferred the 6-weight for handling wind (plenty of that in the west) and for making longer casts. He liked the delicacy of the 5-weight, but felt it was too delicate to be the right choice for an all-around rod—especially on the big rivers in Montana.

Personally, if I want more delicate, I drop down to a 4-weight.

This introduces another consideration: If you use multiple rods, do you want to go with even sizes (4, 6, 8) or odd sizes (3, 5, 7)? I like to go on the heavier side. By the way, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to own both a 5-weight and a 6-weight unless you have an abundance of disposable income or you are that good to appreciate the fine shade of difference.

How, then, should you determine what is the right size for your all-around, go-to fly rod?

Waters and Wind

First, consider what size of water you will be fishing and how much wind you will encounter. Trying to decide based on fly size is, in my opinion, a bit more difficult.

Second, get some help from the guides at a fly shop. You might want to talk to more than one guide to listen for recurring themes in their advice.

Third, and perhaps most important, try casting both a 5-weight and a 6-weight. Choose the one that feels best to you.

My brother, Dave, recently invested in a high-quality fly rod for his “go-to, all-around” rod. He asked me my recommendation. I strongly suggested he get a nine-foot, 6-weight. But instead of listening to his older (and wiser!) brother, he dissed my advice! He tried both a 5-weight and a 6-weight. The 5-weight felt better to him.

I am happy to report that my brother and I still speak to each other. Do we argue about whether a 5-weight or a 6-weight is best? No. We are too busy catching fish.

Unless you’re one of those people who has to be right about everything, get used to the idea that ideal rod-weight is in the eye of the beholder—or actually, in the feel of the fly-caster. Anglers — from novice state to expert stage — will continue to debate the merits of 5-weight versus a 6-weight.

The good news is that you won’t go wrong with either one.

S3:E13 The Mystique of Fall Fly Fishing

Fall fly fishing is here. Truthfully, it’s our favorite time of year to fish. The transition from summer to fall to winter means Friday night lights, elk bugling, and cool nights. The browns stack up in the redds, in October, and the streamer bite is on many mornings. Click on “The Mystique of Fall Fly Fishing” now!

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “The Mystique of Fall 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.

What is it that you appreciate most about fall fly fishing? What is your favorite fall story?

By the way, we’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

When to Cast Your Fly Downstream

Casting downstream is not generally my first instinct. But when I do, I have a good reason for it. Yes, the default mode for fly fishing is to cast upstream. It provides greater control of the drift, and a lot of the action happens as your fly drifts right in front of you. It also keeps you behind the trout you’re trying to catch. This prevents them from seeing you and fleeing to safety.

cast your fly downstream

However, here are three times when it makes sense to cast your fly downstream:

1. You are fishing streamers in deep runs

Of course, you can cast a streamer upstream, let it drift down the current, and then strip it in back upstream once it swings across the current at the end of your drift.

But in deeper runs, I like to get above them and make my cast downstream.

I aim for the tail end of the pool or run and give my streamer time to sink. Then, I strip it back through the pool. This creates the effect of something swimming rather than drifting — and that is what you want with Woolly Buggers or Dalai Lamas or other streamers. I feel like I have better control that if I cast upstream, let my fly drift through the run, and then retrieve it. Often, the area above the run is too shallow to be fishable. So why bother?

I’ve fished a lot of runs from above in the fall on the Gallatin River near Bozeman, Montana. It’s been deadly on brown trout. Dave, my podcast partner, and I did this effectively too last fall on Willow Creek in Montana’s Gallatin Valley.

Even though when you cast your fly downstream, it puts you above the trout, they are less likely to see you when the run your fishing is deep. Of course, you can always find ways to stay hidden by crouching down or hiding behind some brush on the bank.

2. You are trying to cast a dry fly in a tight spot

Suppose you’re fishing upstream (with the current coming towards you), and you come to a run that is tight against the bank on which you are standing. You might be able to wade out into the stream or river to get a better angle. But on some streams or rivers, you cannot do this without spooking fish. It’s time to figure out how to cast your fly downstream.

I think of a run in the Yellowstone River that hugs a rock cliff for about two-hundred yards. This run is too deep to wade. It’s flows so tight against the bank (with little curve to the river) that it creates an awkward cast for a right-handed caster (which most of us are). The best solution is to fish it from above and cast your fly downstream.

Sometimes, the current can be a factor.

I think of particular runs where I could minimize drag (the current dragging my fly through the run) by standing above it (casting downstream) than by approaching it from below (casting upstream).

3. You are dealing with wind and shadows

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out: it’s harder to cast with the wind in your face than with the wind at your back. If the wind is strong enough (and it has not convinced you to quit), cast your fly downstream just so you can get the wind at your back — particularly if you need distance on your cast.

Later or earlier in the day, the shadows are longer. So the sun can be an issue. If the sun is behind you casting long shadows when you’re trying to cast upstream, then go above the run and cast downstream so your shadow doesn’t spook the fish.

Sometimes, one cast is the best shot you have at catching a fish from a particular run. Treat the cast like a golfer treats a putt on the green. Analyze the situation and figure out your approach. In a few cases, it might make more sense to cast downstream.

For more information on how and when to cast your fly downstream, listen to our podcast on Casting Upstream or Downstream.

S3:E12 Fly Fishing Grizzly Country

Fly fishing grizzly country should evoke a small amount of anxiety. Surprising a sow at her cubs while making your way along the trail to get to the river is no way to begin the day. In this episode, we discuss the 50-year-old events of the night of the grizzlies in Glacier National Park and come up with a couple takeaways for fly fishing grizzly country.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fly Fishing Grizzly Country”

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 portion 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 ever fished in grizzly country? What precautions do you take? How do you prepare for a day in grizzly country?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Double Up for Fly Fishing Success

Two is better than one when it comes to chocolate brownies, contact lenses, and trout flies. If you’re looking to increase your odds of catching trout, then double up. Use a lead fly and then a second fly, which trails behind it a foot or so.

fly fishing success

Here are some double-fly combinations that really work. They include wet-fly combos, dry-fly combos, and dry-wet-fly combos. You never know which fly the trout may prefer on a given day:

1. The Hopper + Terrestrial

This is great for late summer during hopper season. Start with a size 6-10 hopper pattern—or some kind of large attractor pattern (such as a Stimulator). Then, trail either an ant or beetle pattern behind it. This is basically a dry fly combo, although it’s fine if your dropper (the ant or beetle) floats below the surface in the film. Last week, I was fly fishing in Colorado and talked to a fly fisher who used this combo in a high mountain lake and caught fish after fish on size 14 beetle pattern.

2. The Elk Hair Caddis + Caddis Emerger

This is a dry-wet fly combination which works well in the late spring (when the Caddis start to appear) and then into the summer as the Caddis flies continue to emerge.

I like a size 14 or 16 Elk Hair Caddis as my dry fly. Then, I use some kind of an emerger pattern as the dropper. One of my favorite droppers is a size 14 Red Fox Squirrel Nymph. I’ve had great success with this combo on the Yellowstone River in Montana’s Paradise Valley. With this combo, your lead fly acts as a strike indicator. I’ve often tied some synthetic red or white fibers at the top of Elk Hair Caddis so I can distinguish it from all the other Caddis flies on the water.

3. Woolly Bugger + San Juan Worm

My podcast partner, Dave, put me onto this combo. It’s worked well for us in the Driftless region of southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin. This is a wet fly combo. Start with a smaller-sized Woolly Bugger (8-10) and then use a San Juan Worm (tied on a size 8-12 scud hook) as dropper. I use a strike indicator and drift it like a nymphing rig. Then, at the end of the drift, I will swing it and strip it back to me.

On the swing and strip, it’s the Woolly Bugger that is effective.

4. Egg Pattern + Copper John

When I’m fly fishing during the rainbow spawning season in the spring, I’ll often turn to this wet-fly combination. I’ll begin with a standard-size egg pattern (12-14) and then use a size 18 Copper John as my dropper. I like a Red Copper John. Or, I’ll use a Dave’s Emerger. This fly was developed by Dave Corcoran, then the owner of The River’s Edge Fly Shop in Bozeman, Montana.

Regardless of which dropper I use, this combo has been lethal during the rainbow run on Montana’s Madison River. It can work, too, during the fall when the browns are running. But continue reading for another dynamite wet-fly combo.

5. Stone Fly + Egg Pattern

Dave and I used this last fall in the Gardner River in the north reaches of Yellowstone National Park. We had outstanding results. Start with a Stone Fly nymph pattern (size 8-10). The options are legion.

A Golden Stone Fly or a Rubberlegs Stone Fly (with a brown or tan body) works quite well. Then, use a standard-size egg pattern (12-14) as the dropper. Last fall, I had a 30-fish morning on the Gardner using this combination. The browns were all between 15 and 20 inches. I estimate that I caught half on the Stone Fly and half on the egg pattern.

6. Beadhead Prince + Pheasant Tail

This wet-fly combo, or some variation of it, may be the standard go to pattern when there is no obvious hatch.

Use a Beadhead Prince Nymph in a size 12-14 as your lead fly. Or go with another standard nymph such as a Hare’s Ear. Then, use a size 18 Pheasant Tail as your dropper. Again, your dropper could be any number of nymphs—such as a Copper John or Zebra Midge.

Remember, two are usually better than one. Try one of these combinations or experiment with some of your own. You’ll likely double your chances of catching the trout which are monitoring the food line you’re fishing.

S3:E11 One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan

Little Jordan is a tiny stream that flows through a junky farmyard in southeastern Minnesota. We had our doubts about fishing the stream. We had read about the Little Jordan in Bob Trevis’ Fly-Fishing for Trout in Southeastern Minnesota … a Troutchaser’s Guide. His description of the farmyard – and the great brook trout fishing – was spot on. Listen now to “One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan.”

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan”

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 portion 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.

When was the last time you took a risk and discovered new water? Any great stories about overcoming some obstacles to find some great fishing?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

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To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Know Your Pattern: H and L Variant

H and L Variant is a new fly. At least to me. I recently picked up the fly at a fly shop near Winter Park, Colorado. Frankly, I had not even heard of the H and L Variant until a friend put me on to it. Shows what I know.

H and L Variant

The H and L Variant is no new fly, of course. Here is a snapshot of this oldie but goodie:

1. How it originated

R.C. Coffman (a western Colorado fly fisher) ostensibly tied the first H and L Variant. He apparently sold so many of the fly in the mid-to-late 1950s to President Eisenhower that he (Coffman) said he was able to buy a “house and a lot” (thus the “H” and “L”) on the Fryingpan River in Colorado.

Sounds apocryphal to me.

Using today’s math and valuations, Coffman would have likely had to sell $350,000 worth of $2 flies to buy even a sliver of real estate along the Fryingpan River.

I bet that Coffman was a really good story-teller. He certainly created a fly for the ages.

2. How it’s designed

I am certainly no fly-tying expert but when I saw the H and L Variant for the first time, it reminded me of the Royal Coachman chassis. Like the Royal Coachman dry fly, the H and L Variant has calf-tail wings and a body of peacock herl. According to Skip Morris, the H and L Variant body is created by partially stripping a peacock quill and wrapping it so “the bare quill forms the rear half of the body and the fiber-covered quill the front half.”

The other distinguishing feature is its calf-tail-hair tail, which along with its calf-tail-hair wings, gives it its buoyancy.

3. Why it works

The H and L Variant is what is known as a “rough water” fly.

That is, as one writer put it, “this fly floats like a cork.” It sits nice and high in swift-moving current and stays dry. I also love the fly’s visibility in low light. One writer called its calf-hair wings and tail “white beacons.” They are. And my middle-aged eyes appreciate it!

I should state the obvious: the H and L Variant is an attractor pattern, generally, though I did see at least one fly fisher mention that he uses the fly as a Green Drake imitation on western rivers, such as the Roaring Fork and Colorado.

4. When to use it

I’ve made the H and L Variant one of my go-to attractor patterns when I want to surface evening risers. I did that recently on the Fall River in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had caught several brook trout on Caddis emergers but not on a dry fly Caddis or a Purple Haze pattern, two of my favorites. Stumped, I tied on the H and L Variant, and within ten minutes I had my first brookie on a dry fly.

The H and L Variant is more visible (at least it is to me) than any other attractor pattern. So, if you are fishing small, swift-moving streams or rough water, this is the fly.

The H and L Variant Name

I do not mean any disrespect to Mr. Coffman, but name H and L Variant is just about the most clunky name for a fly that I can imagine. But I tip my hat to him for creating a dry fly classic with a rich legacy and a bright future.

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series

    The Royal Coachman

    The San Juan Worm

    The Parachute Adams

S3:E10 Fishing the Dead Zones

Dead zones are those seasons of the year and times of the day when fishing will be unproductive. It’s important to know that as a new fly fisher. If you spend your first few times on the river during a fly fishing dead zone, you might think fishing is harder than it really is. In this episode, we discuss a few dead zones to avoid.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fishing during the Dead Zones”

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 portion 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 experience.

Where did you disagree with us on the dead zones? What have we missed? Tell us your best story during a dead zone.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

The Glacier Park Grizzly Attacks that Changed Our Relationship with Bears

Glacier Park grizzly attacks are, today, not exceptionally rare. But they were 50 years ago, when an unimaginable night of terror unfolded in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Shortly after midnight on August 13, 1967, a grizzly bear dragged a 19-year old woman, Julie Helgeson, from her sleeping bag and mauled her. She died four hours later at 4:12 a.m. This was the first fatality from a bear attack since the park officially opened in 1910. Then, less than a half hour later, it happened again.

night of the grizzlies

Eight miles away, as the crow flies, around 4:30 a.m., another Glacier grizzly dragged another 19-year old woman, Michelle Koons, from her sleeping bag to her death. Two separate grizzly attacks. Two dead. Same night.

Jack Olsen, at the time a senior editor for Sports Illustrated, provided the definitive account of this double-tragedy in his 1969 book, “Night of the Grizzlies.” In 2010, Montana PBS aired a documentary titled Glacier Park’s Night of the Grizzlies, which featured interviews with living survivors of the attack, as well as park officials and hikers involved in the events of that fateful night.

The fiftieth anniversary of the night of the grizzlies reminds us of the fragile relationship we have with the wild places — whether we’re fly fishers, hunters, hikers, photographers, or mountain-bikers.

Necessary Fear

Granite Park Chalet sits just below timberline at the hub of several back-country trails. It provides a breath-taking panoramic view of ice-capped mountains. But in the mid-1960s, hikers trekked to the chalet to view grizzly bears. The grizzlies were nightly visitors due to a long-standing practice by chalet staff members. They dumped garbage and leftover food at a site about two-hundred yards from the building.

Granite Park Chalet was full at sunset on Saturday, August, 12. So hikers Roy Ducat, 18, and Julie Helgeson, 19, headed to a spot about five-hundred yards from the building. Shortly after midnight, Roy heard Julie whisper, “Play dead.” Suddenly, a blow from a grizzly bear paw knocked him five feet away. The bear began biting into his right shoulder. Then it left him and began tearing away at Julie’s body, eventually dragging her down the dark flank of the mountain where rescuers later found her.

They carried her to Granite Park Chalet, but she died after doctors staying at the chalet tried to save her life.

Eight crow-flight miles to the southwest on the other side of a majestic mountain peak, Trout Lake had its own garbage problem. Hikers left behind their trash and unused food, so bears treated the area like a feeding ground. In the summer of 1967, one underfed, underweight grizzly in the area had been terrorizing campers–including a girl scout troop.

When Michelle Koons, 19, and four other friends arrived at Trout Lake late in the afternoon of Saturday, August 12, it did not take the grizzly long to appear. The bear walked into camp and stole food as the campers ran along the lake shore to get out of its way. The group debated hiking out, but it was late in the day. So they pitched a new campsite along the lake shore, built a bonfire, and tried to settle in for the night. The bear returned briefly around 2:00 a.m. and snatched a package of cookies left on a log. Then shortly after 4:30 a.m., it returned and attacked the campers. Four of them escaped to climb nearby trees.

Michelle Koons did not. She screamed when the bear approached her. She struggled to unzip her sleeping bag, but the zipper stuck. The bear dragged her away and mutilated her.

“The incidents that night were the catalyst for the move into a whole new era of grizzly bear management,” recalls Jack Potter, Chief of Science and Resources Management in Glacier National Park.

“We could no longer stand by and either actively feed or allow garbage to be left out for grizzly bears.”

Bert Gildart, a former park ranger in Glacier, remembers flying into Trout Lake a few weeks after the fatal attack to pick up garbage. He and another ranger loaded about seventeen burlap sacks of garbage onto a Huey helicopter. It was garbage campers had left behind.

Thankfully, the policies implemented in both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks following the “night of the grizzlies” have limited grizzly attacks mainly to surprise encounters rather than predatory aggression. No longer do grizzlies scavenge food out of garbage dumps. Gone are the grizzles that became habituated and lost their fear of human beings.

Role of Humans

In 1975, grizzly bears were classified as a “threatened species” under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. The most recent estimates from the National Park Service show a population increase among grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from 136 in 1975 to 757 in 2014. This has been followed by a decline to 690 bears in 2016. However, the stable number of females producing cubs in Yellowstone suggests that the park may have reached the “ecological carrying capacity” for grizzlies.

So what should outdoor enthusiasts do to help manage grizzly bears and their habitat? Packing out trash and keeping clean campsites is a great place to start. Giving grizzlies their space is another. They are crowded as it is.

“The most distant place in the lower 48 states from the nearest road is 23 miles,” says Douglas Chadwick, a Wildlife Biologist and Conservationist, “which would take a bear a morning to walk out of. There is no big wild left out there. These guys are going to have to learn to live with us, which I think they are doing.”

We need to learn to live with grizzlies, too.

I still shudder when I recall a group of tourists in Yellowstone a few years ago standing outside their vehicles — with their young children — about sixty yards from a grizzly. My children were not happy when I refused to let them get out and join the crowd of onlookers. I still remember making eye contact with a park ranger who was on patrol. He returned my glance with a shrug and a look which seemed to communicate, “I’m not happy about this either, but there’s not much I can do.”

This kind of behavior puts grizzlies at risk just as much as it puts humans at risk.

According to the National Park Service, “There were 58 known and probable grizzly bear mortalities in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2016. Thirty-eight were attributed to human causes. Four were of undetermined cause, 4 were natural deaths, and 14 [are] still under investigation.”

There are, of course, more complex issues related to grizzly bear management. Within the last few weeks, the Yellowstone grizzly bear has been delisted from its status as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act. Some outdoor enthusiasts celebrate this. Others are outraged. There are good people (and arguments) on both sides. We must continue to listen to each other and work together to insure management practices which will allow grizzlies and humans to co-exist.

No Danger Free Zone

On June 29, 2016, in Glacier National Park, Brad Treat, a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer, rounded a blind curve on his mountain bike at about 20-25 miles per hour and ran into a grizzly. The surprise encounter resulted in the grizzly mauling and killing Treat.

No amount of management can make the wilds a danger-free zone.

Last fall, my podcast partner, Dave Goetz, and I fly fished a couple days in Yellowstone National Park. One morning, we came across a fresh set of grizzly bear tracks. Thankfully, we had no bear encounter. But a week later, two fly fishers a few miles from where we were was fishing stumbled into a grizzly bear and narrowly escaped when it charged them.

Whenever I fly fish in grizzly bear country in Montana and Wyoming, I follow the standard safety protocol. I make noise, pack out my garbage, avoid going alone, and always carry bear spray. I did the same when I lived in Montana for two decades and hiked and bow-hunted elk in the mountains north of Yellowstone National Park.

Mountain bikers are, perhaps, more vulnerable to surprise encounters due to the high rate of speed at which they can approach a grizzly. Chris Servheen, who served on the board that reviewed the tragic death of Brad Treat, cautions mountain bikers to take it slow when their sight-distance is limited. He offers this advice to mountain bikers in grizzly country:

    When the trail is thick with vegetation or has curves, we recommend you slow down and shout when approaching blind curves. Speed and noise are the factors that get people when they’re out on their bikes. They’re moving faster and quieter.”

Some outdoor enthusiasts prefer carrying a .44 magnum to a canister of bear spray. Of course, firearm use is prohibited in Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks. But even in national forests or private land where firearm use is legal, I’ll take a canister of bear spray over a sidearm every time.

First, while its effects are temporary, bear spray usually incapacitates a grizzly instantly. Even a bear shot in the vital organs can keep coming.

Second, bear spray is the only safe way to get a grizzly off of a human being during an attack. Several years ago, I bow-hunted elk with a friend in Taylor Fork, a grizzly-dense drainage just north of Yellowstone National Park. We saw a lot of grizzly sign—both scat and overturned logs and rocks—but never encountered a bear.

The following fall, my friend was hunting the same area with an orthopedic surgeon when a grizzly charged them. The bear attacked the surgeon, eventually breaking his fibula, ripping gashes in his thigh and arm, and tearing off his ear. My friend charged the bear and shot it with a cloud of bear spray. Thankfully, the sow and her cubs took off running.

There was no way my friend could have attempted a shot at the grizzly without the risk of shooting the surgeon he was trying to protect.

Finally, the goal is to rescue a human from being mauled — not to destroy a bear.

There is no reason to eliminate a grizzly that attacks in self-defense. Defensive attacks, unlike predatory attacks, like those on the night of the grizzlies do not increase the likelihood that the bear will attack again. The grizzly which killed Brad Treat a year ago did not consume any part of its victim’s body. Nor did it attempt to cache the body by covering it with dirt or rocks. Unlike the “garbage bears” of the 1960s, this grizzly disappeared and has not been developed a pattern of bothering hikers or mountain bikers.

Life after the Night of the Grizzlies

Today, about 1500 grizzly bears roam in the lower 48 states. Well, they don’t actually roam any longer. They are confined to particular areas in the intermountain west. About 800 grizzlies live in Montana, including 300 or so in Glacier National Park. Another 600 members of the Ursus arctos horribilis subspecies live in Wyoming in the Yellowstone-Teton area. The combined number of grizzlies in Montana and Wyoming includes the 690 in Yellowstone National Park. An additional 100 grizzlies live in northern and eastern Idaho.

Over forty years after the “night of the grizzlies” in Glacier National Park, the father of victim Michelle Koons expressed no ill will towards grizzly bears. In fact, he expressed sympathy for them. In an interview, he said: “I always would think about what civilization has done to bears, forcing them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”

Survival of both grizzlies and humans means learning to adapt and keep at a healthy distance from the other species. The grizzlies are learning to do this. Humans must continue to do so as well.

S3:E9 Fishing the Colorado High Country

Colorado high country makes for an amazing backdrop for a day on the river. We each take at least one trip to Colorado each year to fly fish, and the creeks and lakes we fish typically are in the Colorado high country. Most recently Dave was in Colorado fishing with one of Steve’s brothers, and besides the two yearling moose that wouldn’t leave them alone, they had a terrific day. Click now to listen to “Fishing the Colorado High Country.”

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fishing the Colorado High Country”

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 portion 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 experience.

Any favorite places to fish in Colorado? Or elsewhere? We’d love to hear about your great days on the water.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

7 Basic Facts about Mayflies

I don’t always think about mayflies. But when I do, I usually catch more trout.

mayflies

Here are 7 things you need to know about Ephemeroptera — the insect order popularly known as mayflies. I’ve learned these from my friend, Bob Granger, and from the writings of Dave Hughes and Jim Schollmeyer. The insights have made me a better fly fisher:

1. All but one or two days of a mayfly’s 365-day life span is spent underwater.

This is the nymph stage. No wonder 85% of a trout’s diet comes from beneath the surface. It’s why fishing nymphs is almost always a sure bet.

2. Most mayflies hatch at mid-day.

This means that 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. is prime time — depending, of course, on wind and water temperature. Overcast, cool days are ideal, especially for Baetis flies and Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs).

3. Mayfly duns ride the surface until their upright wings are dry and hardened for flight.

Duns are the first of two adult forms of the mayfly. Their ride through the current typically lasts for ten to twenty feet. Obviously, this makes the duns vulnerable to rising trout. And these rising trout are vulnerable to your mayfly imitation.

4. If rising trout ignore the mayfly duns on the surface, they are feeding on emergers.

The emerger stage is the brief transition between the nymph stage and the dun stage. The child becomes an adult when the skin splits along the back of the nymph and the winged dun escapes. Wise anglers will put on an emerger pattern in these moments.

5. Once duns turn into spinners, they mate in the air and the females deposit their eggs.

At this point, the females are spent and fall to the water. This creates a “spinner fall” — another opportunity for a trout feeding frenzy. Anglers who see mayflies with flat wings like an airplane rather than with wings sticking up should switch to a spinner pattern.

6. Mayflies vary in size and in the time of year they appear.

In the western rivers, BWOs generally hatch from mid-March through May. Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) are more prominent from May through August. Then BWOs show up in force again in September. Typical sizes range from 14 through 18. But the brown and green Drakes in Henry’s Fork of the Snake River tend to be larger — from size 10 to 12.

7. Mayflies need cold, clean water.

Water pollution makes mayflies disappear. When mayflies disappear, the trout do too. So water conservation is vital to trout fishing.

S3:E8 One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

Wisel Creek is a gorgeous spring creek fishery with a tragic past. On August 6, 1866, a flash flood destroyed a community, killing 16 men, women and children in Preble Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota. Today, it’s hard to imagine that this quiet creek could flood anything. On a whim, after a no-fish day on another stream, we decided to fish the evening rise on Wisel Creek, which we had never fished before. And what an evening it was! Listen now to this episode.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek”

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 portion 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 experience.

We’d love to hear about a recent “one fine day” that you’ve had on the river. Please tell us your story below. What surprised you about the fishing?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

The Scoop on Fishing Nets

When I first started fly fishing, I gave little thought to using fishing nets. We always had a long-handled net in the drift boat. But I did not realize the value of a net for wade fishing until a friend gave me a small net made by Brodin — a company near Logan, Montana less than ten miles from my home.

fishing nets

It did not take me long to get hooked on using a net to land the 14-20 inch trout I caught. I lost fewer fish, and it was less stressful for the trout I landed. If you’re new to fly fishing, here is the scoop on fly fishing nets:

1. Do pay attention to the net frame materials.

There are two basic net frame materials.

Some frames are made out of wood. This is the case with my Brodin net. Wood is fine, but you will need to varnish it occasionally depending on how much use it gets. Other frames are made out of composite materials—carbon fiber and fiberglass. This is the case with the Fishpond net another friend gave me.

Side note: It’s nice to have friends who give you fishing nets as gifts!

2. Do not buy a net unless it has a fish-friendly bag.

Most nets sold today have a rubber or nylon bag—that is, webbing.

This has more flex than the traditional twine (string) bags. It is less stressful for a trout when scooped into the next. The difference between the two kinds of material resembles how you feel when you fall on mattress versus a kitchen table.

3. Do give some thought to the handle and frame size of your fishing nets.

You want a net with a large enough hoop (opening) to land large trout but small enough so it is not cumbersome to carry. Handle size is important, too.

My Brodin had net has a short handle. This makes it ideal for longer hikes up the river. But my Fishpond Nomad Emerger net has a longer handle, which allows me to land trout further away from my body. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to land a trout that is two feet way than a foot away.

4. Do not fail to purchase a magnetic clip with a retractor.

The magnetic clip (actually, two magnets) allows you to reach behind your head where your net is clipped to your fly vest and have it snap into place. The retractor allows you to drop your net in the water without fear of it drifting away.

5. Do exercise caution when walking through brush.

If you are wondering why I mention this, you have never caught your net on buckbrush, walked a few feet, and then had your net snap back and whack you!

6. Do not stab at a fish with your net.

When trying to land a fish with your net, keep the net under the fish and lift it up. If you try to stab or jab or flick with your net, it won’t work. You can’t move it through the water quickly enough. So no “net flicks.” Did you see what I did there? Sorry!

Of course, you do not always have to use a net. You can head for shallow water, and then “beach” your fish as long as the bank is soft.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I did this last fall on a particular run in the Gardner River. We were catching brown after brown in the same deep run. We didn’t want to get too close to the run to spook the other fish. So we would pull the trout onto the soft, muddy beach. But under most conditions, you’ll do well to bring along the right net and use it properly.

S3:E7 Fly Fishing Persistence and When to Quit

Fly fishing persistence is necessary if you want to catch fish. Wind, rain, cold, snow – fly fishers know the truism that the worst weather is often the best for fishing. There are times to persist. Make another cast. Walk another mile. Change up your rig one more time. And then there are times to call it quits. In this episode, we attempt to ballpark the times when persistence pays off – and when it’s time to go home.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Fly Fishing Persistence and When to Quit”

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 portion 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 experience.

When did you stick it out – and have a banner day? What principles do you have for making a decision about when to fish and when to go home? We’d love to hear your stories and how you made decisions.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Make Your Dry Fly Irresistible

It happened again last week. I felt that familiar rush of adrenalin. The mild shock happened again and again as trout after trout attacked the Parachute Adams I drifted down a little stream. I had made my dry fly irresistible.

dry fly irresistible

Dry fly fishing can be unpredictable. When it’s hot, it’s not. When it’s not, well, it’s not. But there are some tactics you can use to make your dry fly irresistible to the trout lurking beneath it:

Dry it

Dry flies, uh, get wet.

Even the heartiest among them (think: Elk Hair Caddis) can get water-logged. Never mind that I always put some kind of fly dressing on my dry flies before I cast them into the current.

Sure, I’ve had trout strike my submerged fly. But dry flies perform best when riding the surface.

A few false casts will help dry out your dry fly. Yet it’s not enough.

Over the years, I’ve grown fond of water-removing powder or crystals. I always keep a small bottle in my fly vest. I like both Orvis Hy-Flote (Shake-N-Flote Renew) or Umpqua Bug Dust. Simply open the bottle lid, put your soggy fly inside (still attached to your leader), and shake the bottle a couple of times.

Presto! Your fly is dry.

The white powder makes it look like a ghost. But a couple of false casts will remove the dust. There are some liquid products available too. These are quite effective, but I generally find them messy and sticky. So go with the powder!

Twitch it

Another effective tactic is to give your dry fly a twitch. This works especially well with Caddis.

I talked to a guide in a fly shop last week who was having luck in the evenings when he skated his Caddis fly across the surface. I used this technique many times when float-tubing Hyalite Reservoir in the mountains south of Bozeman, Montana. I skated a Madam X pattern on the lake’s surface and got a positive response from several large cutthroat trout.

Of course, twitching or skating a hopper pattern is always a good bet.

The art of twitching or skating is rather simple. For a twitch, pretend the fly rod in your hand is a hammer and that you’re tapping in a small nail into soft wood. For the skating effect, I simply strip line like I would with a streamer—only more gently.

Don’t overdo your twitch or skate. If the current is fairly fast, don’t bother. But if it’s slow, a little twitch or skating motion might make your fly irresistible.

Re-size it

My brother, Dave, was fly fishing a stream in the high country of Colorado last week. He tried the standard patterns and even an emerger or two. The fishing was slow until he tied on a large stimulator. I’m pretty sure that it was the larger size rather than the color (orange) that mattered.

As Bob Granger, one of my fly fishing mentors often said, “When the trout aren’t rising for your fly, try a different size before you try a different pattern.”

In general, if I’m fishing a Blue-Winged Olive (BWO) hatch and not having success, I’ll go smaller. I can’t remember how many times the switch from a size #18 to a size #20 Parachute Adams made all the difference. If I’m struggling to get strikes with attractor patterns when there is no hatch, I’ll typically go larger.

I’ll switch from a size #18 to a size #14. Often it works.

Reverse it

Another tactic is to reverse the direction of your cast.

Obviously, you can’t reverse the direction of your fly. It’s never going to float upstream—always downstream! Typically, fly fishers work their way upstream. This keeps us behind the trout. The idea is that we will be less visible to the trout when we cast. However, there are times when it’s advisable to approach the trout from upstream. This might be due to the current or to an overhanging branch.

More stealth is required when we are in front of the trout and casting downstream. But if that gets a better drift, or if it’s the only possible way to drift a fly through a promising run, then do it.

Crowd it

There’s a good reason not to crowd your fly against an undercut bank. You’re likely to snag it on the brush on the side of the bank. It’s safer to aim for a foot or two short of the bank. It’s also less effective.

If you want to catch trout, however, you have to get close to an undercut bank. That’s where the trout hide. So take the risk.

Last weekend, I fished a run and drifted my fly about eight inches from an undercut bank. It was a decent cast. But nothing happened. On the next cast, I crowded the bank. You guessed it, my cast was about six inches too long, and it ended up in the grass on the bank. I gently tugged at it, and my fly landed in the current, about one inch from the bank.

A few seconds later, a plump brown trout darted out from under the bank and attacked my fly.

To make your dry fly irresistible, cast it as tight

Free it

Finally, keep your dry fly free of drag.

Drag happens when the center of your fly line moves through the current more quickly than your fly does. This results in your fly line pulling or dragging your fly through the current. As a result, your fly will resemble a water skier. It will leave a cool-looking wake.

But is not cool if you’re trying to catch trout!

The trick is to create a bend in your line do that the center of the line on the water is upstream from your fly. In other words, you want the fly to lead the rest of the line. You can do this either by mending your line (flipping the center section upstream after it lands) or by quickly “writing” the letter “C” with your rod tip shortly before your fly lands on the surface.

If the current is moving from right to left, you’ll “write” a backwards “C.” If it’s moving from left, you’ll write a normal “C.” This gets the center of the line upstream from your fly.

Drag will not make your dry fly irresistible!

Dry Fly Irresistible

I came across a beautiful undercut bank and made a perfect cast. My dry fly was riding high a couple inches from the bank, and there was no drag. It was the perfect presentation, and then … nothing happened.

The lesson is that you can do everything perfectly and still fail to get a trout to rise. There are no guarantees when it comes to dry fly fishing. But using one or more of these tactics just might make your dry fly irresistible to that big rainbow around the next bend.

S3:E6 Getting Ready to Fly Fish

Getting ready to fly fish is slower for some than it is for others. Some of you jump out of the truck, don your waders in an instant, rig up, and are on your way. Others are more methodical (read: slow) as they get ready to fly fish. Steve is slow. Dave is slow but not quite as slow as Steve. In this episode on “Getting Ready to Fly Fish,” we describe some of our habits before we step into the river.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Getting Ready to Fly Fish”

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 portion 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 experience.

What are your habits as you get ready to fly fish? How to you make the transition from the truck to the river? We’d like to hear about your disciplines and quirks!

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

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We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Know Your Pattern: the Parachute Adams

If I had to fish with a single dry fly pattern, I’d definitely choose the Parachute Adams. It’s worked well for me on rivers ranging from Oregon to Michigan. Last weekend, I did well with it on the Little Jordan, a small creek in southeastern Minnesota.

Parachute Adams

I suspect I’ve caught more trout on the Parachute Adams than on any other dry fly pattern, though the Elk Hair Caddis is a close second. Here is a profile of this remarkably effective pattern:

1. How it originated

The Parachute Adams is a modification of the Adams.

According to Paul Schullery, the Adams originated in 1922 in Michigan. Leonard Halladay developed it as a general mayfly imitation, and his friend, Charles Adams, used it successfully on the Boardman River near Traverse City, Michigan. As a result, Halladay decided to name it after his friend.

The Adams is a relatively simply pattern to tie. It consists of dark gray dubbing for the body, brown and grizzly hackle, grizzly hackle tips for the wings, and a mixture of brown and grizzly hackle fibers for the tail.

Bud Lilly observed that the Adams grew lighter when it went east. But when it went west, fly tiers used extra hackle—presumably to keep it floating longer in the swift currents of western rivers.

2. How it has been modified

The Parachute Adams uses the same hackle, dubbing, and tail as the Adams.

However, the modification comes in the hackle (front) section of the fly. An Adams pattern wraps the hackle around the hook vertically—up and down. However, the Parachute Adams contains a vertical post of white calf hair at the front or head of the fly. Then, hackle gets wrapped horizontally around the base of the post. Tiers refer to this as “parachute style”—hence the name Parachute Adams.

There is no wing added as in the traditional Adams pattern.

The Catch and the Hatch has produced a helpful instructional video for tying this pattern. Even if you are not a fly tier, it’s worth watching so you can see what makes this fly work.

One of the more recent modifications to the Parachute Adams is the Purple Haze. This is the exact same pattern with a purple body instead of a dark gray one. It gives trout a bit different look, and I’ve had success with it.

However, I keep reverting back to the time-tested Parachute Adams — especially on rivers where the Purple Haze has become a craze so that trout are seeing nothing but purple.

3. Why it works

Like the standard Adams pattern, the Parachute Adams works well because it is a general mayfly imitation. It is versatile enough to serve as an attractor pattern when nothing specific is happening on the surface. Yet I have done quite well with it during specific hatches like Blue-Winged Olive (BWO) hatch. Some fly fishers even swear by it as an option for the Caddis hatch.

Perhaps it works well, too, because it is a low-riding fly. This gives trout a good look at it as it remains suspended in the surface film where mayflies typically emerge.

One of the most important factors in its success is its visibility to fly fishers. I can see its white post, or parachute, even in low light.

4. When to use it

You can use the Parachute Adams, well, whenever you want to catch trout on a dry fly. I’ve caught trout on it in every season of the year—even in the winter when a size #18 or #20 can imitate a midge cluster.

Unless I suspect that trout are keying in on Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) or on Caddis flies, I’ll tie on a Parachute Adams when I see rising trout. Typically, I like a size #18 or even a size #20 when a hatch is on.

I’ll tie it on, too, when no hatch is happening and I’m trying to coax a trout to the surface. In these cases, I typically use a bit larger size—either a size #14 or #16.

The Parachute Adams is a terrific choice for your number one go-to fly. Don’t leave home without it.

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series

    The Royal Coachman

    The San Juan Worm

S3:E5 Blogger Matthew Lourdeau on Fly Fishing Culture

Fly fishing culture is what you experience every time you walk into a fly shop. The shop monkey speaks a different language – mending, nymphs, attractors, hare’s ear, streamers, mid-flex, and thousands of other strange words. Fly fishing culture also creates a wonderful esprit de corp among others who have taken up the sport. In this episode, we interview Matthew Lourdeau, a fly fishing blogger, who writes Casting Across, a delightful blog that takes a wide perspective at the sport, all the stuff on the periphery that adds to the experience of getting after the fish.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Matthew Lourdeau on Fly Fishing Culture”

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 portion 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 experience.

What is your connection to the fly fishing culture? How did the culture help you grow in the sport? What did you read? What media helped you most? Also, what funny stories can you tell of learning to become a fly fisher?

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To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Casting Across

Be sure to follow Matthew on his blog, Casting Across.

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For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

The Lure of Fly Fishing Creeks

Fly fishing creeks – that’s what I plan to do this weekend. My podcast partner, Dave, and I will make a five-hour drive and spend a couple of days on the water. But where will we go? A five-hour drive to the northwest will take us to several creeks loaded with 8-14 inch browns. A five hour drive to the northeast will take us to a river where we have a chance of landing 18-22 inch browns.

fly fishing creeks

I hear the creek calling.

Why am I so fond of fly fishing creeks — or “cricks” as my friends and family in both Montana and Pennsylvania call them? I have been pondering that question the past few days:

Nostalgia

One of the first places I learned to fish for trout was on Cole Grove Brook near Smethport, Pennsylvania.

I was eight years old, and my Uncle Ivan taught me the art of dropping a worm in this tiny, brush-lined creek to catch brookies. A few years later, I threw Mepps spinners in the Big Thompson River (trust me, it’s a small creek) in Rocky Mountain National Park. That’s also where I got my first taste of fly fishing and caught my first brookie.

Then there is the little creek near Orville National Forest campground in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

I was in high school when my brother and I stumbled across some kind of mayfly hatch (I’m guessing) one evening and pulled out trout after trout on a Royal Coachman. There is also the mystique of Elk Creek near Augusta, Montana. During our college years, Dave and I had some terrific days on a little stretch of this creek not far from where if flowed out of the Scapegoat Wilderness area.

Whenever I’m on a small stream, I get nostalgic. I revisit these creeks and spend some time on them in my mind.

Into the Wild

Fishing creeks tends to get me into more wild places than fishing the larger rivers. That’s not always the case. My favorite stretch of the Madison River in Montana is in the Beartrap Canyon, and my favorite stretch of the Yellowstone River is in a remote place in Yellowstone National Park. They are big rivers. But they are the exceptions.

It seems like more often than not, fishing creeks gets me off the beaten paths and deeper into the timber or further into the mountains.

I remember running into a coyote in the thick forest surrounding Cole Grove Brook in northern Pennsylvania. I also remember catching a 12-inch brookie out of a beaver pond in the Bondurant National Forest south of Jackson, Wyoming, while a cow moose grazed about 75 yards away.

When Dave and I fish a creek in the Driftless region of southeastern Minnesota this weekend, we’ll fish until we come to a rock cliff where the creek flows out of the mouth of a cave.

If you like wild places, make the creeks your destination.

Less Pressure

This is a corollary to the previous point.

Wild places can mean less pressure.

One July day, when the drift boats seemed to be bumper-to-bumper on the Yellowstone River in Montana’s Paradise Valley, I drove up the West Fork of Mill Creek — several miles above where main Mill Creek emptied into the Yellowstone. I fished a stretch in the Absarokee-Beartooth Wilderness Area a couple hundred yards from where I shot my first bull elk. I used a Red Humpy, and every cast resulted in a fierce strike by a plump 8-10 inch Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

I doubt that anyone had fished this stretch of creek in years. It was a couple hundred yards down a steep ravine off of the trail.

As a general rule, expect that bigger rivers that hold bigger fish will attract bigger crowds. The streams that flow into them will receive a lot less pressure. So head to the creek to get away from the crowd.

More Action

Generally, smaller creeks mean smaller fish but more action.

Last summer, I fished the Fall River in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Don’t let the word “river” fool you. It’s a small stream that winds through a meadow after emerging from a canyon. It seemed like every cast resulted in a strike on the Elk Hair Caddis I was drifting along the undercut banks. I didn’t catch anything over eleven inches. But the two dozen trout I caught were all fighters.

Finesse

Part of the appeal of a creek is the finesse required to fish it.

Perhaps that comes from the days when I used an ultralight spinning rod and sneaked up through the weeds to peek into the hole where I was going to cast my offering (that sounds better than “cast my worm”).

As much as I love my nine-foot, six-weight rod, I find joy in taking my eight-and-a-half, four-weight rod and crawling up to a bank where I will make a short cast to fish an six-foot run along a bank. Fishing the small creeks require more stealth, smaller leaders, and softer landings on the surface. Even streamer fishing in a creek is more delicate. It’s not the same as lobbing a weighted Woolly Bugger on a mighty river.

I’ve lived a few minutes from the Yellowstone, the Madison, and the Missouri in Montana. I’ve had some terrific days on them. But, the creeks still call me. The “cricks” do too. I simply can’t resist their lure, and I hope that never changes.

S3:E4 The Art of Fly Fishing Alone

Fly fishing alone may be the norm for many fly fishers. Not everyone has a buddy. And even if you do, you’ll want, on some days, to head to the river by yourself. In this episode, we discuss the solitude that goes with fly fishing alone, its benefits, and some of its challenges. Click now to listen to “The Art of Fly Fishing Alone

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “The Art of Fly Fishing Alone”

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 portion 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 experience.

Do you fish mostly by yourself? What do you like about fly fishing alone? What are its benefits? Any recommendations on what has helped you stay safe?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    Why I Fly Fish

    “Bad Weather, Great Day”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Safety Devices for Fly Fishers

Fly fishing is not an extreme sport. But it can be a dangerous one. Every year, fly fishers drown, break bones, and hook themselves. They get lost. Caught in storms. And stung by insects and bitten by snakes.

safety devices

So the next time you head for the river, consider taking along some of all of these safety devices:

1. A first-aid kit

This is critical if you plan to fish very far up the river. I prefer a first-aid kit the size of a small fly box. You only need the basics—band-aids, antiseptic cream, pain reliever, and a couple larger bandages or gauze dressings.

You might include moleskin for blisters. In fact, this may be the most important element in your first aid kid.

2. Your smartphone

No, you don’t need your smartphone to check email or Twitter.

But you might be surprised at the places you have cell service — like on certain spots on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. Well, I should say I do, but Dave (my podcast partner) doesn’t. We use different carriers.

I have a flashlight app on my phone that I’ve used when hiking in or out of my fishing spot in the dark. The GPS might allow someone to track you if you break a leg and simply can’t move.

3. Bear spray

This is an absolute must in grizzly country.

Last fall, a couple was scouting fishing spots on the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park when they spotted a grizzly feeding on carcass. The bear was in no mood for competition, so it charged. It came within nine feet before their bear spray turned it away. It charged again, but retreated and ran away when it encountered the cloud of bear spray a second time.

Dave and I were fly fishing just a few miles away one week earlier, and we saw grizzly tracks along the river. Yes, we were carrying bear spray.

4. A wading staff

I’m a big believer in wading staffs. Their most obvious use is staying on your feet in the current. A wading can also help you walk if you sprain an ankle. And also serves as a means to ward off a rattlesnake.

5. Two-way radios

These are great for those spots where you don’t have cell phone service.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I regularly carry two-way radios when we’re fishing in the backcountry. Yes, we admit sharing fishing info (“Hey, they’re starting to take Caddis flies over here!”). But we take them along in case one of spots a bear or falls and twists an ankle. Even some of the places we fish in the Driftless (southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin) have limited cell coverage.

Must Have vs Nice to Have

The five items above fall into the “must have” category. But there are some “nice to have” items you might want to consider:

    A change of socks can help prevent blisters;

    A rain jacket can provide warmth as well as protection if you get caught in a fierce rainstorm;

    A fire-starter is an extra measure of caution if I’m hiking a few miles up river in the mountains of Wyoming or Montana. I’ll also thrown in a small lighter and some folded newspaper (in a plastic bag); and

    Water purification tablets might even be must-have if your destination is a lake or stream a few miles from the trailhead.

The next time you hit the river, don’t forget the devices that can help you avoid or deal with dangers. And of course, you always need to carry a good amount of water.

S3:E3 Summer Fly Fishing Joys and Woes

Summer fly fishing can be hit or miss. Summer is here, and in this episode, we list the joys and woes of summer fly fishing. One joy of summer fishing is wet wading – less clothes. One woe is the family vacation. Click now to listen to “Summer Fly Fishing Joys and Woes.”

A River Runs Through It

Listen now to “Summer Fly Fishing Joys and Woes”

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 portion 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 experience.

What do you love about summer fly fishing? When have you had the most success during the summer? What tips would you offer summer fly fishing warriors to improve their time on the water?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    “Summer Fly Fishing without Losing It”

    “Winter Fly Fishing without Losing It”

    “The Promise of Fall Fly Fishing”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Summer Fly Fishing without Losing It

Summer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for fly fishers. Well, it’s one of three. Spring and fall are great too. But it’s hard not to love the season of the year when the days are longer, when the warmth allows you to wet wade, and when the trout dart to the surface to take a terrestrial.

I’ve shared before about how to fly fish in the winter without losing everything from your sanity to your life. That may not seem to be an issue in the summer, but it is. Here are seven strategies to keep you safe and sane as you fly fish during the summer months.

1. Watch for lightening and venomous snakes.

Your chances of encountering both are higher during the summer months. Remember that a graphite fly rod makes an effective lightening rod. So don’t cast when you see lightening or hear thunder. Keep your eyes peeled for rattlers or copperheads or whatever venomous snakes inhabit your fly fishing spots. A wading staff can help you ward off a snake you surprise.

2. Dry fly action will typically not happen until mid-morning.

If you’re a beginner, this may not evident.

But if you hit the river at dawn, you’ll want to fish nymphs or streamers. Some of my favorite rivers for grasshoppers don’t see hopper action until 11 a.m. or so. It’s always a good idea to get intel from the guides at the fly shop. They can tell you what hatches happen on when they happen on the river you plan to fish.

3. Make sure your fly box has plenty of terrestrials.

Summer is a great time for ants, beetles, and grasshoppers—although trout generally don’t start taking hoppers consistently until August.

Make sure you have plenty of attractor patterns, too.

My brother, Dave, did well the other day on a stream near Morrison, Colorado, with a size #14 Royal Coachman. I like a Royal Wulff or a Red (or Yellow) Humpy pattern. Even an Elk Hair Caddis or a Spruce Moth seems to work well about any time in the summer when a fish will rise for something big and buggy.

4. Carry plenty of water.

You can get dehydrated any time of year. But it happens more quickly in the heat of the summer. So don’t forget to stuff a water bottle or two in your vest or satchel.

5. Hire a guide for new water.

I talked to a friend yesterday who returned from a trip to Arizona to visit family. Greg had only one day to fly fish in an area he had never fished before. Thankfully, he did the right thing and hired a guide.

She took Greg to a spot where he caught several Apache trout — one of the rarest, most endangered trout species in the world. There’s nothing like a day with a guide to help you figure out where to fish and how to fish when you’re dealing with new water.

6. Avoid the busy times and places.

Everyone loves summer.

So expect your favorite spots to be more crowded. If possible, fish during the middle of the week instead of the weekend. Plan to walk or hike a bit further to avoid the crowds. It’s better to walk an hour each way and fish a less-pressured stretch for two hours than to spend four hours on the great-looking spot beside the road where there are already four fly fishers in ahead of you.

7. Avoid unnecessary wading risks.

This is a polite way of saying, “Don’t be stupid.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m more inclined to push the safety margins in the summer. I know that I’m not going to get hypothermia if I fall into the Yellowstone River on a hot July afternoon. But that means I might wade into a deeper or swifter run than I might otherwise. I have to tell myself, “No!” It’s not worth it. Also, if you’re going to wet wade, don’t forget that the weather (especially in the intermountain west) can change in a heartbeat. So be prepared.

Have a great summer of fly fishing. The rivers in Montana and Wyoming are clearing and dropping to optimum levels. The hex hatch is about to happen on the rivers in northern Michigan. Anglers in Vermont are seeing trout key in on Caddis, Sulfers, and Drakes. Enjoy the summer. Make sure to do everything you can to stay safe and sane.

S3:E2 7 Tips for Better Fly Casting

Fly casting is the first skill that newbies learn. Every Trout Unlimited chapter and every fly shop offers classes. Yet, until a fly fisher hits the river, it’s all academic. There it gets messy. There may be precious little room for one’s back cast or the only approach to the run is at an awkward angle. In this episode on fly casting, we scare up seven tips to help fly fishers improve their cast.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “7 Tips for Better Fly Casting”

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 portion 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 experience.

Do you have a quick tip to help aspiring and beginner fly fishers with their casting? We’d love to hear it. Please post your comments below.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    “Trouble with the Cast”

    “Casting Upstream or Downstream?”

    “Fly Fishing Physics 101”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

5 Tips for New Fly Tyers

Learning to tie flies can be as bewildering as learning to fly fish. There are a lot of concepts to grasp and skills to master. New fly tyers might get ten different sets of answers if they asked ten veteran fly tyers to give them five helpful hints.

new fly tyer

But here the first five tips that come to mind. I’ve found them quite helpful over the years as a fly tyer.

1. Beware of using too much material.

My fly tying mentor, Bob Granger, talked about this a lot. The temptation is to apply too many wraps of thread or to put the dubbing on too thick.

You can get away with this (sort of) when you’re tying larger flies. But with smaller flies, you’ll crowd the hook and have difficulty finding a place near the eye to tie off your thread when you’re finished. If you look at real Blue-Winged Olives or Caddis flies, you’ll notice how sparse they are. So there’s no reason to apply too much material unless you want your Caddis fly to look like it is on steroids.

2. Don’t misuse your sharp scissors.

Buy two pairs of scissors.

Spend a bit more on the one that you’ll use to trim deer or elk hair, thread, and tiny feathers. Use a cheaper pair to cut the stuff that can dull your more expensive pair. This includes the stem of larger feathers, copper wire, and elk or deer hide.

3. Tie larger sizes and easy patterns first.

It makes sense to begin learning to tie a San Juan Worm or a Woolly Bugger.

Even a size #18 (tiny!) nymph like a beadhead brassie is a good “starter” pattern. While it’s small, it’s ridiculously simple to tie. Wait to try your hand at tying an Elk Hair Caddis or a Royal Wulff or a Muddler Minnow.

You can learn to use a hair stacker, to work with calf hair, and to spin and stack hair after you’ve mastered some of the easier patterns.

4. Watch online videos for help.

I wish these were available when I started tying.

You can search YouTube for about any pattern you want to tie and find some terrific videos. Fly shop websites often produce their own. Major brands like Orvis also have excellent instructional videos, including some on fly tying. Here are just three:

    Tying a San Juan worm

    Tying a Woolly Bugger

    Tying a Brassie

5. Don’t fret over imperfection.

Your fly does not have to look catalog-ready to be effective.

What appears sloppy to you may appear “buggy” to a trout. So don’t worry about uneven hackle or a piece of hair or sticks out a bit longer than the others. Your fledgling attempt may not catch fly fishers like a commercially tied fly does. But it will do just as well at catching fish. And that’s what matters!

S3:E1 Fly Fishing, Fathers and a Love for the Outdoors

Fathers and a love for the outdoors – a few of us had fathers who opened our eyes to the big world of the outdoors. In this episode, we recall the role our fathers played in giving us a love for fly fishing and hunting. Steve’s father, who has been gone for many years, instilled in Steve the drive to give the outdoors a “full pursuit.” Dave’s dad is alive and well at 83-years-old, and plans to hunt deer this fall in North Dakota. We think you’ll enjoy this episode on Fly Fishing, Fathers and a Love for the Outdoors.

fly fishing guides

Listen now to “Fly Fishing, Fathers and a Love for the Outdoors”

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 portion 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 experience.

Did you have a Dad who gave you a love for the outdoors? If not, and if you have any children, how are you instilling in them a love for the outdoors? And have you mentored anyone – a niece or nephew or friend?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

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Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Father’s Day Memories

    “Fly Fishing and the End of Days”

    “Three Lessons My Father Taught Me about Fly Fishing”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

10 Questions to Ask Your Fly Fishing Friends

We’d like to have some fun as we wrap up our second season of podcasting and blogging. Below we’ve assembled ten questions you can ask your fly fishing friends. You can use these as conversation starters. Or, simply post them on Facebook to see if they go viral. Here are the questions as well as our answers.

fly fishing friends

We’d love to have you post your answers in the “comments” section below:

1. What is your “go to” fly rod—the one you use most?

DAVE: Now that I live in the Midwest, it’s my eight-and-a-half, four-weight Redington. When I’m on bigger rivers, it is my Sage One nine foot six weight (or at least it was until I lost the rod). I plan to purchase a nine-foot, six-weight Sage X sometime soon – in between college tuition payments. Maybe.

STEVE: My “go to” is a Winston Boron II-X. It’s a nine-foot, six-weight that’s made in Montana. If I’m on a smaller creek, I’ll switch to my Orvis eight-and-a-half-foot, four weight.

2. What river that you’ve never fished is at the top of your bucket list?

DAVE: There are so many rivers that I’d like to fish – the many in Oregon (including the McKenzie River), Washington State, and British Columbia. I’d love to fish as many rivers as I could in Alaska. I don’t have a yearning to fish a particular one – just all that I haven’t fished. Plus, I’d love to fish all the great rivers in the northeastern United States. Basically, every river I haven’t fished is one I want to fish.

STEVE: I suppose it would be the Bighorn River in Montana. I’ve fished all the other major rivers in Montana. But since I had so many other superb rivers to fish when I lived in the Bozeman, Montana, area, I never ventured east to experience it.

3. What is the oldest piece of gear you use when fly fishing?

DAVE: A pair of Dan Bailey Waders. They are going on 10 years.

STEVE: I have an Orvis fly vest that is twenty-years old. It has a ripped pocket. But it’s like an old friend! I plan to keep using it until it falls apart.

4. What is the newest piece of gear you use when fly fishing?

DAVE: I just bought a pair of Patagonia Foot Tractors (wading boots). It was time. I wore a pair of Simms boots for way too long. The soles were worn, and last fall on the Gardner in Yellowstone National Park, I struggled to wade more than up to my knees.

STEVE: A Fishpond Nomad Emerger net. A friend gave it to me as a gift. It has a slightly longer handle than my Brodin hand net, but it’s not too bulky when it’s clipped on my vest and I’m hiking in a couple of miles to fish. The composite material makes it light, as well as strong.

5. What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done on the river?

DAVE: I locked my car keys in the trunk of my 1971 Chevy Nova. Steve and I had to wait for a rancher to drive by. We were on a road that dead-ended at the trail head of a wilderness area. We used the rancher’s hammer and screwdriver to punch a hole through the lock. Sure enough, I had left the keys in my fly fishing vest.

STEVE: I dropped the top two pieces of my four-piece Orvis eight-and-a-half, four-weight rod into the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon. The pieces floated away. Thankfully, the good folks at Orvis treated it like a broken rod and replaced the two missing pieces. Actually, they gave me a new rod.

6. Which brother do you most resemble in the movie A River Runs Through It – Norman or Paul?

DAVE: Definitely Paul. I was not quite the hell-raiser that he was but I always saw myself as a kind of rebel against the system (whatever that meant – authority, status quo, etc.). I was a rebel without a cause, in many ways. Fortunately, I had to grow up (finally and reluctantly). I’m not perfect like Steve!

STEVE: Definitely Norman! I’m the oldest child who is more serious-minded than free-spirit. I’ve worked hard to be a good fly fisher, but I’m not a natural like Paul was.

7. What was your most satisfying moment on the river?

DAVE: Probably last fall catching browns, cutts, and rainbows on the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. It was an unbelievable two days of unlimited catching (and releasing). The second best may be the year previously on 16 Mile Creek in Montana when Steve and I had a banner day fishing hoppers.

STEVE: It was either catching rainbows on the Yellowstone with an elk hair caddis fly I tied with elk hair from a bull elk I shot during archer season or else watching my boys land trout after trout one spring day on Montana’s Madison River.

8. What is your most embarrassing moment on the river?

DAVE: Snapping a rod while on a guided fishing trip down the Lower Madison. I had just grabbed the guide’s rod to give it a try. It was an Orvis H2 (an expensive rod!). I had hooked a large rainbow, and it darted under the boat because of my poor ability to reel it in.

STEVE: It’s probably the time when a friend told me to be ready to fish a great run as we floated by it in his drift boat. He emphasized that I’d only get one chance, so I needed to make a solid cast. Well, I promptly cast my fly into a bush on the bank above the run. He just shook his head.

9. What is your favorite book about fly fishing (besides A River Runs Through It and The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists)?

DAVE: Probably Gary Borger’s book Nymphing which I picked up in the 1990s.

STEVE: This one is easy for me. It’s Bud Lilly’s Guide to Fly Fishing the New West by Bud Lilly and Paul Schullery. It has great stories and a lot of helpful information.

10. Who convinced you to take up fly fishing?

DAVE: It was Steve, back when we were 18. Another friend inspired me to try nymph fishing and that took my fly fishing to an entirely different level.

STEVE: It was Jerry Williams, a seasonal Ranger-Naturalist in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was in high school at the time, and he led a weekly fly fishing demonstration in Moraine Park. He was an enthusiastic teacher who had a knack for simplifying and teaching what can be a complex sport.

Alright, it’s your turn to answer these questions! Ask your fly fishing friends to do the same.

S2:E52 Lessons from 104 Fly Fishing Podcast Episodes

It has been two years. We’re now at 104 fly fishing podcast episodes. In this 104th episode, the finale of our second year, we reflect on the past year and tease out some insights and lessons from the journey. This is not our day job. It’s our avocation, and we are looking forward to another year of podcasting. We think the best is yet to come.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Lessons from 104 Fly Fishing Podcast Episodes”

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 portion 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 experience.

What have you learned from fly fishing the past year? And which topics would you like us to address in Season Three?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. 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 River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even 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!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

What Idaho Biologists Found in Brown Trout Bellies

Several years ago, I spent a day on the South Fork of the Snake River in eastern Idaho. I floated it on a September day with a friend from Idaho Falls. We had a fine day, catching cutthroats and browns.

brown trout bellies

But the South Fork is a Yellowstone cutthroat fishery, and lately the brown trout population seems to be increasing. So Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists have been shocking fish in the river and taking the brown trout back to a lab to analyze the contents of their stomachs. What these biologists hope to find is whether or not these browns are eating the natives.

What they found in these brown trout bellies matters to fly fishers. It’s the next best thing to an interview with the trout themselves to find out what they feed on. When you know what they feed on, you know what flies to use.

For starters, you do not need to develop a long streamer that resembles a young cutthroat.

Hatch Magazine published an article on May 4, 2017, which revealed the findings of the Idaho biologists. As it turns out, the biologists found only two cutthroat trout in the 75 brown trout bellies they dissected. The good news, then, is that browns are ostensibly not decimating the cutthroat population.

However, it’s apparent that brown trout are butting in front of cutthroat trout in the feeding lanes. So what did they find in these brown trout bellies? Why does it matter to fly fishers like you and me?

Fill Your Fly Box with Stone Flies

One significant find is that more than half of the browns were digesting stone flies. This is not a stunning development or a shocking surprise. But it’s a good reminder to keep your fly box full of stonefly patterns. Last fall, Dave (my podcast partner) and I had a lot of success catching brown trout on stonefly patterns in the Gardner River in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park.

Stonefly patterns are legion.

One of my favorite, go-to patterns is a brown Pat’s Rubberleg Stonefly. As the name suggests, it has a brown body with brown rubber legs. Size will depend on the particular river you are fishing. But I like these in a size 8-10. Other long-time favorites of fly fishers include Girdle Bug (black with white legs) and the Bitch Creek (black body with orange yarn woven into it plus white or brown rubber legs).

Don’t Forget Caddis Patterns

Another important find by the Idaho biologists is that out of the 998 items found in the 75 brown trout bellies, 444 (just less than half) were Caddis flies.

In fact, one brown had 140 Caddis flies in its gut!

Again, this is hardly a surprise. But it’s a timely reminder for fly fishers to keep Caddis flies in their box all summer along — at least in the American West. A good friend has done well over the years fishing the Madison River (just inside Yellowstone National Park) on summer evenings when the trout are rising to Caddis flies.

Streamers Are a Sure Bet

In other expected news, the Idaho biologists found sculpins and snails, along with mayflies, and some whitefish.

As the Hatch Magzine article pointed out, brown trout are river sharks. So wise fly fishers will keep their fly boxes stocked with streamers – particularly Woolly Buggers. I’m grateful for the work of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists. They have disputed what we feared and have confirmed what we already know.

The question now is, what’s in your fly box? The proper answer, if you’re fishing for browns, is an ample supply of Stone flies, Caddis flies, and Streamers.

S2:E51 Fly Fishing Lies and Half Truths

Fly fishing lies are everywhere. Well, maybe not downright lies. Maybe half truths. And maybe they’re not everywhere. In this episode, we identify five fly fishing lies (or half truths) and then wax eloquently about what we think the real truth is. One of the fly fishing categories that we discuss is “Biggest Gear Lie.” Another is “Biggest Fly Pattern Lie.” This is a fun episode. Click on this link to listen now!