S4:E19 Catching More and Bigger Fish with Streamers

fly fishing

Bigger fish on streamers is common promise. Often you hear, “If you want to catch bigger fish, throw on a streamer. Yet fly fishing with streamers is not popular among many fly fishers. In this episode, we interview Dave Kumlien, who has been a fly fishing guide for forty years, owned a successful fly shop in Bozeman, and now works for Trout Unlimited. One key part of this episode is what Dave Kumlien calls the “twitch” – a technique for stripping in the streamer. For more information on the twitch, see the link below to an article by Tom Morgan on the twitch technique. Catching bigger fish with streamers is not just a promise; it’s a fact.

LISTEN NOW TO Catching More and Bigger Fish with Streamers

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

Do you fish streamers? What’s the biggest fish you’ve caught with a streamer? Have you found that you catch bigger fish with streamers? Please post your comments below.

In the podcast, we reference something called The Morgan Twitch. Here is the article by the legendary Tom Morgan, who at one time owned R.L. Winston, the fly rod company, and also co-founded Tom Morgan Rodsmiths. Tom has passed away, but his legacy lives on in his fly rods and in his contribution to the larger fly fishing community.

You can find the article here.

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The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists – A “Cliffsnotes for Fly Fishers”

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

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

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Fly Fishing and Thanksgiving

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.

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!

Is the 5 Weight Fly Rod the Best All Around?

5 Weight Fly Rod

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?”

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:E2 7 Tips for Better Fly Casting

fly fishing

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.

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.

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Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    “Trouble with the Cast”

    “Casting Upstream or Downstream?”

    “Fly Fishing Physics 101”

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

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5 Ways to Be a Conservationist While Fly Fishing

conservationist while fly fishing

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.

Episode 25: TU’s Dave Kumlien on Fly Fishing and Conservation

A River Runs Through It

Conservation and fly fishing are like an old married couple. They’ve been together so long that it’s hard to remember their life before. Yet it’s critical to educate younger generations on the fragile ecosystems of our cold water fisheries. And there are simple, practical things fly fishers can do to step up and join the global conservation efforts. In this interview with Trout Unlimited’s Dave Kumlien, Steve and Dave explore the current state of fly fishing and conservation.

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Episode 10: How Fly Fishing Restores Wounded Warriors

fly fishing guides

What truly restores wounded warriors, the folks who have sacrificed so much for our country? In this episode, we interview Dave Kumlien, who is the Western Coordinator for the Veterans Service Partnership and Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator at Trout Unlimited. Dave’s work with Warriors and Quiet Waters in Bozeman, MT, helps restore our country’s wounded veterans through fly fishing. Listen to Episode 10: How Fly Fishing Restores Wounded Warriors.

Listen to our latest episode:”How Fly Fishing Restores Wounded Warriors.”

Do you have any friends who have been wounded while serving our country? Would any like to fly fish? We’d be happy to put them in contact with Dave Kumlien, who heads up the fly fishing program that restores wounded warriors.

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