5 Unlikely Places to Catch Trout

A few years ago I caught a 12-pound salmon while fly fishing a few minutes from an NBA arena. The tree-lined river gave no hint of its urban surroundings. You might be surprised at some of the unlikely places where you can catch trout on your fly rod. Here are five places you might not want to overlook.

1. In town

The salmon I landed on a Woolly Bugger a few years ago was within the city limits of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was fly fishing the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park—about nine minutes north of the Bradley Center where the Milwaukee Bucks play basketball.

Recently, I was eating in a little restaurant in downtown Estes Park, Colorado. One of my sons and I were seated on a patio a few yards from the Fall River. As we ate, we watched a rainbow rise to the surface to to take a fly. Later, I chatted with a fly shop owner who confirmed that there is decent fishing in town. The reason is not surprising. Nobody fishes it. Don’t ignore the city limits if a river runs through it.

2. In shallow water

This will come as no surprise to veteran fly fishers. Trout will make their way into shallow waters to sip flies. But I shake my head when I think of how many times I’ve overlooked the shallows.

Once I was sneaking up to a small run in the West Gallatin River not far from my home near Manhattan, Montana. The run was about six feet from the bank. As I approached, I suddenly saw a nice trout cruising the shallows. The sight startled me, and I froze. About thirty seconds later, I tossed my streamer just beyond it. On the second strip, I hooked it. The fish turned out to be an 18-inch brown.

On another occasion, I was concentrating on a long run in the Owyhee River and turned to the side to wade a few yards up river. As I turned, I happened to see a couple feeding trout in extremely shallow water near the bank. I never expected to see trout feeding at that spot. My son ended up catching one of them — a 15-inch rainbow — on a size #18 Pale Morning Dun.

So pay attention to what is going on in shallow water before you neglect it or wade through it.

3. Near a fishing access

It seems like a waste of time to fish within a hundred yards or so of a fishing access because everybody else does. But the truth is, they don’t. They assume everyone else has fished these spots. So no one does.

Plus, the fly fishers in the drift boats are putting away their gear or getting it ready. This means the fifty yards up or down the river might be a prime place to cast your fly.

4. Where someone else has just fished

I like to fish untouched water. If someone else has fished a run a few minutes before, I’m tempted to skip it. But I know a few runs which are so good that they are worth fishing shortly after the previous fly fisher leaves them.

Even if you’re not as skilled as the fly fisher who preceded you, the different look you provide might turn out to be the right magic. Perhaps the fly pattern you use or the different depth at which you fish will coax a trout to take your offering.

Keep in mind that your chances increase with the size of the river. If someone else has fished a run on a small stream, the trout will generally need more time to get back into their feeding patterns. The disturbance factor is simply greater than in a run on a large river.

5. In the grass

Yes, this works – but only if we’re talking about a side channel that runs through the grass. Admittedly, this venue can be frustrating. These channels are narrow, and the blades of grass that flank them love to grab your fly if you don’t get it exactly in the center of the channel.

I’ve caught some big brookies, though, in these grass channels in meadows where rivers flow. Beaver dams often create this phenomenon, but so does high water.

Keep your options open

I’m not ready to abandon the wild places. A trip to downtown Milwaukee is not at the top of my list of trips for this next year. Nor am I planning a trip to fish all the great fishing accesses on Montana’s Yellowstone River.

Quite frankly, my favorite places to fly fish are the most likely ones. But there is a thrill of catching a trout in an irrigation ditch or in a run right along the highway. I’ve learned to keep my options open.

S2:E20 Sustaining Your Fly Fishing Passion

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Fly fishing passion can ebb and flow throughout life. If you’re in your twenties, with no or few family obligations, then your days on the river may be unlimited. As your life accumulates obligations, it’s more difficult to sustain your fly fishing passion. But often life opens up again for some in their fifties and sixties. In this episode, we take the long view and advocate for ways to sustain your fly fishing passion

Listen to our episode “Sustaining Your Fly Fishing Passion”

At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

How do you sustain your passion for the sport? Has there been a time when it waned? What were the circumstances? Please post your comments below.

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Why I Don’t Tie My Own Flies

Steve does. I don’t. I do not tie my own flies. In this post, I make a case for why some fly fishers should not tie their own flies.

Steve, the other half of “2 Guys and a River” and I are life-long friends. In college, we hung out so much the haters called us “Bo and Luke” after the lead characters on the silly TV show “Dukes of Hazard.” We even went on double dates together, though neither of us married our dates, much to the appreciation (on some days) of our wives.

But Steve and I could not be more different.

Steve is a first child. I am not. Steve is so much of a first child that when we take fly fishing trips, Steve will make the bed every morning at the place we’re staying, even if it’s the last day we’re there. Yes, he makes the bed. Let’s just say that I don’t make my bed (though I will pull off the dirty sheets on the morning I leave).

We also differ on many aspects of fly fishing. We use different rods. We wear different waders. How we think about fly fishing brands, even, is so different. I tend to be practical and cheap; he is more brand conscious.

And we also differ on the topic of tying flies. Steve does. I don’t. There are consequences to my decision, such as not having the ability to tie a pattern at the river’s edge and feel the surge of emotion as I hook a brown with a woolly bugger that I tied. I don’t get to feel one with nature because I caught a fish with something I created.

However, I’d rather buy than tie, and here’s why:

1. We had too many kids.

We ended up with four, and with all their sports and school activities, I can barely get out on the river as it is. A lousy excuse, I know. But given the dizzying number of places to buy flies, I’d rather watch my sons play football or my daughters play soccer or attend one of my sons’ wrestling meets.

I can’t do it all, so I’ve made the choice to eliminate, among other things, tying flies.

2. I also love to hunt.

I’ve limited my sports to two – fly fishing and hunting. I’d rather fly fish and hunt upland game and waterfowl than spend time in a damp basement under a bright lamp with tiny hooks and peacock herl. Just sayin’.

Obviously, when I hunt is not generally in the evenings and in the winter, but even so, life is a series of trade-offs. And I’ve traded tying my own flies for other opportunities.

3. I’d rather write than tie.

In my free time, outside of fly fishing and hunting, I like to write. I’ve written two books, with another on fly fishing (with Steve, my podcast partner). I’ve written thousands of blog posts, it seems, and another hundred or so articles.

Writing is another choice I’ve made.

4. I’d rather work more than tie.

I’ve started a couple small businesses, so I’d probably rather throw my shoulder into landing one more client than spend an evening staring at a vise.

Again, it’s another choice. It’s probably more like a kind of illness, but I enjoy throwing my shoulder into what I feel I’ve been called to do.

5. The patterns on the market are legion.

I’m grateful for all those who tie flies, and the artistry that I can purchase amazes me.

Yes, I may be paying more per fly than I should, but you can’t have it all in this world. I’m happy to pay for flies. I just am. And I’m thankful for the talent that ties the flies that I can buy.

6. We have too much clutter in our house.

Until the kids all leave (and it looks like it will be a while, even though the two oldest are in college), we need every square inch of our house for kid stuff. I don’t have space for a bench and a corner for more boxes.

7. I can live with the ambiguity of who ties my flies.

Someone recently taunted me for my decision by saying that I’m contributing to slave labor, that most flies are tied in China (or Thailand) in a sweat factory, and that it is the dirty little secret of the fly fishing industry.


Just for starters, none of the flies I purchase are from big box retail stores. I generally buy from local fly shops. I know for a fact that at least some of the fly shops where Steve and I fish regularly purchase flies from local tiers. For example, one fly shop in Montana has this on their web site: “We stock only flies & gear useful within fifty miles of our door, we designed and/or tie around half the flies we stock …”

However, no doubt that many of the ties sold in both fly shops and big box retail stores are tied by, as a fly shop monkey said to me the other day, “a little old lady in Thailand.”

So do individuals who tie flies in bulk for that fly shop make a live-able wage for their work?

I have no idea.

Do the folks at the factory who make your nets and leaders and tippet and vests make enough money to live on? I don’t know.

Are the mutual funds that you invest in for your retirement comprised only of investments in companies with vetted labor practices? Do you know how your investments are used?

I have no angst about who ties my flies. I just don’t.

8. I still catch fish.

Steve and I have fished together for years and years. I will admit that he is a much better fly fisher than I am – for a variety of reasons.

But somehow, I still seem to catch fish. I’ve never had a day where I think, “Man, if I just had some hand-crafted flies, I’d catch more fish.” Just today, Steve and I each caught 20 browns before 10:30 AM. We fished different runs. We each caught a 20-incher. I guess he did catch two whitefish, and I caught none. So, there again, he is the better fly fisher!

Has there ever been a moment when I thought, “I sure wish I could run back to my truck and tie a fly that matches the hatch?”

In 35 years of fly fishing, maybe a handful of moments. And given what I am able to do because of my other choices, I am more than happy to concede the moment to another fly fisher who can.

7 Tips for Better Fly Fishing Photos

The only things you want to leave behind when you fly fish are the trout you caught. The only things you want to take with you are photos. In this post, I offer seven ways to improve your fly fishing photos.

With social media, particularly Instagram and its filters, any photo can be touched up, altered, and manipulated. If you follow fly fishing guides, outfitters, or other fly fishers on Instagram, you know the deep colors and tints and shadows used to re-do photos. In addition to those on Instagram, there are many photo filter apps, such as Snapseed and Prism.

But engaging photos begin with, well, taking a great photo. Filters can only do so much. Most fly fishers will opt for a cell phone camera rather than, say, a Nikon single-lens-reflex camera with a zoom lens. Today’s phones take great photos, if you pay attention to these seven basic tips:

Keep the sun out of the background.

If the sun is behind the fly fisher you intend to photograph, your camera lens will do the same thing your eye does when it looks into the sun. It will squint. This allows less light into the picture, making it dark. So keep the sun beside you or behind you. If you’re taking a photo at high noon, this will not be an issue.

Similarly, if your subject is in the shade, make sure that the background is not lit up by the sun. Shade can be your friend because it lessens the shadows that hide your subject’s face. But a sunlit patch behind the shade will turn your photo dark.

Put a red hat or bandana on your fly fisher.

A red hat or bandana or shirt might spook a trout. But it sure adds a lot to your photo! Red provides a vivid, pleasing contrast to all the earthtones — the greens, browns, and blues.

Get some close up shots.

Skilled photographers move in close. If you’re photographing a fish, fill the frame. Similarly, zoom in on your fly fisher friend. Or take a couple steps closer. Yes, there is a place for a shot in the distance. But close-up shots are more interesting and generally exude more life.

Photograph scenery in the early morning and early evening.

Look at the scenery shots on your favorite calendar or book cover.

The reason for the vivid colors is not the $2000 lens (although that does not hurt). It’s all about time of day. The light in the early morning and early evening brings scenery to life. The shadows add a striking contrast that flattens out during mid-day.

Include an object the foreground.

This gives depth to your photos and can even provide a kind of frame which accents them.

A tree branch or a bush or a rock in the foreground can do wonders to the picture you are trying to compose. You can also use the bottom half of your fly rod with the reel.

Think in thirds.

If you’re photographing a stretch of river with the sky in the background, it’s easy to get the horizontal dividing line (between land and sky) in the middle of the photo. This breaks the photo into equal halves — an upper and lower section. Don’t do this. It results in a bland photo.

Instead, devote either the top third or the top two-thirds to the sky. This disproportion makes your photo more arresting.

Also, when you include a fly fisher in a landscape-shaped photo, keep them out of the middle.

Again, this is boring. The photography police may issue a warrant for your arrest. Instead, imagine that your landscape-shaped photo has been divided into three vertical panels. Put the fly fisher in either the panel to the left or the panel to the right. If your fly fisher is facing left, place her in the right panel. If your fly fisher is facing right, place him in the left panel. Why, you say? Take a photo which breaks this rule and you’ll see how silly it looks.

Keep your camera (cell phone) in a zip-lock bag.

You can’t take photos if your cell phone or camera is water-logged. So make sure you have some zip-lock bags. You never know when you’ll drop your phone into the river. Or you might slip and soak the section of your fly vest with the pouch containing your phone.

The Fly Fishing Wit and Wisdom of Bud Lilly

Fly fishing wit and wisdom – you need both to truly enjoy the sport. If you’re planning on fly fishing in the western United States, do yourself a favor and find a copy of Bud Lilly’s Guide to Fly Fishing the New West. Read it. Then read it again.

This volume, co-authored with Paul Schullery, was published in 2000. But it’s still relevant a decade and a half into the new millennium. You’ll want to read and re-read it for two reasons: its wit and wisdom. Lilly’s dry sense of humor and his story-telling skills will keep you entertained.

But he will teach you a lot about fly fishing in the land where the buffalo once roamed and the deer and the antelope still play. Here is a sample of what Lilly has to offer.

Time of Day

Lilly says that the cool nights in the west mean you do not have to get up as early to fish as you do when you’re fishing lower-elevation waters on either coast. Nor can you count on the evening rise when fishing the big rivers in the western mountain valleys.

Lilly writes: “Over the years, lots of my clients said ‘We really want to get the best fishing of the day, and so we’ll meet you here at the shop at 6:00 tomorrow morning.’ And I’d say, ‘Well fine, I’ll put the coffee on tonight, and I’ll be over about 8:00.’ It’s just too cold at the hour for much to be happening. Only in the hottest dog days of August do you have an advantage in fishing really early and late.”


Bud Lilly is a big fan of streamers. Large streamers. He fishes them any time of year and argues they give you the best chance to catch really large trout.

Lilly writes: “A study a few years ago in Yellowstone Park showed that large cutthroat trout tended to prey most heavily on fish that were 25-30 percent of their size. Twenty-inch trout commonly ate chubs of five or six inches.”


According to Lilly, rain can be your friend: “Many times a nice rain in the middle of the day has brought a stream to life for me or my clients. It can drop the water temperature just enough to cool the water and trigger a hatch or get the fish into a more active mood. A hard enough cloudburst can loosen bank materials, including worms and insects, also getting fish out on the prowl.”

I’ve experienced this myself. Recently, a ten-minute rain shower on the Boulder River (south of Big Timber, Montana) brought a sleepy run to life. I landed two sixteen inch rainbows on back-to-back casts in the same run where nothing was happening before it rained.

But let the fly fisher beware: “No hatch is good enough for you to risk waving a nine-foot graphite rod around during a lightning storm.”

Sunk Hoppers

If my hopper gets waterlogged and sinks, I tend to pull it out and dry it.

However, Lilly challenges that practice: “If your hopper sinks, don’t immediately yank it out of the water; hoppers drown, and fish take them just as avidly then. The fish are often looking for the drowned ones.”


Understandably, you’ll want to make the most of your fly fishing trip to the west. It might be the trip of a lifetime.

So listen close to this next pearl of wisdom from Bud Lilly: “If I could offer the visiting fisherman only one piece of advice it would be this: relax. You’re out here to have fun. You wouldn’t fish 16 hours a day back home, and you don’t have to do it here.”

As the old saying goes, there’s more where that came from. Yes, you’ll find a lot more wit and wisdom in Bud Lilly’s Guide to Fly Fishing the New West.

By the way, if you don’t heed Lilly’s advice, he won’t be offended. He readily admits: “There are lots of ways to catch a trout. Maybe that’s why there are so many experts.”

4 Fly Fishing Retirement Myths

I retired in my late thirties. I left a job with no upward mobility and started a business. I told myself, “Retirement is doing what I want to do.” It was harder than I ever imagined. About the time I gave notice to the company, my wife told me she was pregnant with our third child. Since then, we added a fourth.

And no, I am not on a trust fund.

The first three years was a white-knuckling affair. It took about a thousand days before I knew whether the business was viable. More than 20 years later, I’m still retired (working 60-hour weeks).

Part of my retirement plan was fly fishing. I decided that I didn’t want to wait until that magical day at 65 (or, now, 68 or 70). I wanted to fly fish and work, not fly fish after I stop working. I’ve had to debunk several fly fishing retirement myths in my mind as I’ve struggled to sustain a small business and integrate fly fishing into my schedule:

“I am not going to die.”

Up until my 40s, I was blinded by the thick veil of permanence. I thought I’d live forever. Now that a few of my friends are gone, the veil is slowly lifting. I’ve also been involved in two car crashes, both of which could have taken my life. In one, I was hit from behind by a semi-tractor trailer (the big kind).

Maybe there is no other way to escape this world other than by dying.

No one says this out loud, of course, but we often live as if we have forever to do what we love. We don’t.

“I will be healthy enough to fly fish when I retire.”

Maybe. Depends somewhat on my genes (my grandmother lived until she was 103); my father and mother are now in their mid-eighties. And somewhat on my eating and exercise habits. Oh, no!

No matter what, though, you won’t be able to wade as deep when you’re 65 as you could when you were 35. For sure. You won’t be able to scramble up the steep incline that takes you to the best fly fishing run. You won’t want to hike four miles to fish for cutthroat for three hours and then turn around and head back down the mountain before dark.

You just won’t. I know you’re a great athlete (in your mind), but your days are numbered. This is one of the most pernicious fly fishing retirement myths, simply because we all assume good health.

“I will, finally, have more money to fly fish.”

No. All the research indicates that Americans will be working longer than they expect. So if you have no money now to fly fish, most likely you’ll have no money to fly fish at retirement.

Figure out a way to create a line item for fly fishing (along with college tuition savings).

“I will have more time.”

Another big no. I don’t know a single person who is retired after a life of work and who sits at home watching Fox News or ESPN all day every day. There may be few folks like that, but most I know seem to be as busy as they were before. This is another of the fly fishing retirement myths.

If you have no time to fly fish now, most likely you won’t make time for it after you retire. Make time to fly fish now. Retire now. That doesn’t mean quitting your job. It means doing what you love.

And since fly fishing is what I love, I am fully retired.

S2:E5 The Five Traits of a Successful Fly Fisher

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The successful fly fisher – what does success really mean? At minimum, success requires a persistence to stay at it during the slow and frustrating days. Like any pursuit, fly fishing demands a certain mindset of those committed to the sport for the long haul. In this fifth episode of Season 2, we identify the five mindsets of the successful fly fisher.

Listen to our latest episode:”The Five Mindsets of a Successful Fly Fisher”

At the end of each episode, we have a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience. Please add your ideas to the creative mix.

What mindset did we miss? Which mindset helps you catch the most fish?

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View some of our most recent podcast episodes on iTunes or on Stitcher, if you have an Android.

Rate the 2 Guys Podcast

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The Gift Every Fly Fisher Needs

There is a gift every fly fisher needs in order to experience success.

I’m grateful for a couple of folks who have provided it for me over the years. One is a farmer near Coon Valley, Wisconsin, and I don’t even know his name. The other is a well-known media mogul and philanthropist — Ted Turner. Both have allowed me to fly fish on their property.

It’s not that I’m well connected with friends in high places. Both Turner and the unknown farmer offer this gift to all fly fishers. It’s the gift of public access.

Technically, public access is not a gift.

Some say it’s a right. I don’t know about that. No doubt I pay for public access through license fees. The landowner sometimes benefits too. But I’m grateful that the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) in Montana and Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have provided a generous amount of access points for fly fishers on some fine rivers and streams.

One of my favorite stretches on Montana’s Gallatin River is Ted Turner’s property south of Bozeman. I understand that he is responsible for the ample parking area at Williams Bridge. It’s a gift to park there and then walk up or down the river to some fine runs.

Here are a few tips for protecting and making the most of the gift of public access.

1. Don’t trash these sites!

There should be no need to say this.

But there are always a handful of folks who are too lazy to pick up their trash—water bottles, beer cans, cookie containers, candy wrappers, leader packets, etc. We can help protect this gift if we make the effort to pick up after others. And pick up after ourselves, including used leaders and tippet.

2. Leave the gates as you found them

If you’ve been around farms or ranches, this is rather obvious. Shut the gates you open so you don’t let the cows out! Or, if a gate is open, it’s open for a reason. There’s no need to try to be polite and close it.

3. Give livestock a wide berth

Again, this is common sense.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I often fly fish in a spring creek where the Coon Valley farmer (mentioned above) runs some cattle. We have nothing to worry about, because there are no bulls in the herd. Still there’s no need to agitate the cattle by getting too close to them.

Our unknown friend would not appreciate it. Besides, we don’t want to push the herd through the stream before we fish it!

4. Know your legal rights and limits

The Montana FWP website says:

    Under the Montana Stream Access Law, the public may use rivers and streams for recreational purposes up to the ordinary high-water mark. Although the law gives recreationists the right to use rivers and streams for water-related recreation, it does not allow them to enter posted lands bordering those streams or to cross private lands to gain access to streams.

I’ve rarely run into any problems, but I’ve had a couple occasions on the Boulder River in the mountains south of Big Timber, Montana, where landowners have tried (unsuccessfully) to get me to stop fishing the river as it ran through their property. On both occasions, I had entered the river at a legal access and stayed below the high-water mark.

Knowing the law kept the discussion civil and brief. I respected the landowners, and they ended up respecting my rights.

5. Know how to find access sites

Thankfully, this is not difficult. They are well-marked — at least in Montana and in Wisconsin — by highway and streamside signs. You can also purchase maps that show the location of these sites, but I’ve never needed to buy one.

6. Walk farther than anyone else

For Dave and me, this has become our mantra. If the run just around the bend from the access site looks terrific to you, then it looks terrific to every other fly fisher who spots it. So keep walking. Go an extra mile or two, if possible.

The farther you walk, the more you’ll enjoy less-fished water where the trout have not seen every kind of beadhead prince nymph known to fly fishers.

7. Don’t forget the water near the access point

No, I did not have a brain freeze after #6.

I’m talking here about access points on rivers which fly fishers commonly float. Most folks in a drift boat are getting ready to take out (when they are up river from the access point) or are still getting adjusted the first hundred yards or so into the float. My parents lived about a hundred yards from a fishing access site on the Yellowstone River in Montana’s Paradise Valley. I used to cross their fence to the access and then walk up about a hundred yards and fish under a bridge along a pylon, and I caught a number trout there over the years.

So thanks, Ted. Thanks, Coon Valley farmer. Thanks, Wisconsin DNR. Thanks, Montana FWP. Thanks for the gift of access to the charming spring creeks and stunning rivers. And thanks to all of you who buy fishing licenses and use these access sites with respect.

The future of fly fishing depends on this gift.

Episode 40: The Inconsiderate Fly Fisher

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An inconsiderate fly fisher – you’ve probably met one. They are not legion, since fly fishing is the sport of thoughtful conservationists, but we’ve all groaned inwardly when we run across this species of fly fisher on the river.

Listen to Episode 40: The Inconsiderate Fly Fisher Now

We’ve not met a lot of slobs on the river, but every so often we run into one. Would love to hear your definition of “inconsiderate” and any encounters on the river.

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5 Ways to Be a Conservationist While Fly Fishing

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Whenever you set out for the river with fly rod in hand, don’t forget to bring along your conservation hat. It’s important to be think and act like a conservationist while fly fishing.

Here are five ways to be a conservationist while fly fishing:

1. Pick up after others (and yourself).

Not long ago, I fly fished the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon. It was a gorgeous October morning, with a light fog hanging over the surface of the river. I could see ducks gliding in the water as well as the glow of the morning sun trying to burn through the mist.

It was perfect, except for the crushed Miller Lite cans and the empty Oreo package along the river’s edge.

Before I left the area, I stuffed the aluminum cans and the plastic package into my fly vest. I don’t expect a conservation medal, but a thousand little acts like this (if we can all do this on a regular basis) can help beautify and protect the rivers in which we fish.

It goes without saying that you should pack out your own trash—wrappers, beverage containers, even the old leaders you’ve removed.

Don’t be that gal or that guy.

2. Land your fish quickly and release it slowly.

My friends complain that it takes me forever to get ready to fly fish. I suppose that’s true. There is a fly rod to assemble, waders to don, fly boxes to arrange, and so on. But when it comes to landing fish, I try to get down to business and haul them in as quickly as possible. The longer a fly fisher plays a fish, the less chance it has to survive. So make quick work of it.

But once you have the fish in your net or hand, slow down. Gently hold the fish in the water, letting it recover and get its bearings. Take whatever time is needed. When the fish is ready to go, you’ll know it!

3. Obey every fishing regulation.

Personally, I’m not big on barbless hooks. But when I’m in Yellowstone National Park, I follow the regulations which require me to use barbless hooks. The reason I carry a small pair of pliers to crimp the barbs on my hooks is not because I’m afraid of getting caught. It’s just that we can’t afford to have every angler doing what is right in their eyes.

So to be a conservationist while fly fishing, use lead-free flies and non-toxic split shot when the regulations require them. Don’t fish in closed areas. And read the regulations before you cast a line on the water.

4. Stay off the redds.

When you fish in the spring when the rainbows and cutthroats are spawning, keep off of the redds — that is, the spawning beds. The same is true for fall fishing when the brown trout are spawning. The females create these redds, or nests, by using their tails to turn over rocks. A typical nest is often the size of a couple throw rugs placed end to end. You’ll be able to spot a redd by its clean, shiny gravel.

I’m not opposed to fishing near a redd (although some fly fishers are). But I’m careful to avoid wading where I see or even suspect a spawn bed.

5. Give fish a break during low water and high temps.

This is typically an issue in the ‘dog days’ of August.

The combination of low water and high temperatures on rivers like the Lower Madison in Montana can make it stressful for trout. If you happen to land one in such conditions, you put its survival at great risk. So pay attention to river flows and water temperature. In some cases, it’s “safe” to fish early mornings as long as you’re off the water by 11 a.m. I use trusted fly shops as my source when I’m trying to decide whether or not to fish a particular river or stretch of it.

Conservation happens one fly fisher at a time.