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.

The Reel Truth about Fighting Trout

A little mistake cost me a big fish. I was fishing Montana’s Madison River several years ago when I hooked into a large trout. It began running down the river, and I could not get it to stop. So I started running after it — well, as much as one can run in knee-deep water.

About one-hundred yards downriver, the trout circled around a large boulder near the river’s edge. Suddenly, the line went limp. I felt disgusted. I had seen how big the trout was when it leaped out of the water before it started its escape route. I had made a few mistakes trying to land the trout. But one costly little mistake was failing to set the drag properly on my reel.

How many fish are lost as the result of reel-related mistakes?

It’s hard to say, but I suspect it is more than we think. A reel is not simply an apparatus for line storage. It is an integral tool for fighting fish. If you are new to fly fishing, here are four ideas to help you use your reel more effectively so that you land fish rather than losing them.

1. Retrieve the slack line so the fish is pulling against your reel.

The first tip has to do with that awkward moment right after the trout takes your fly. The thrill of setting the hook is replaced by the realization that you have a wad of line at your feet — or on the surface of the water. The loops of line you need to retrieve may add up to as much as twenty feet! So you have to retrieve it so that fish is pulling against your reel.

It sounds simple. But it is not. How do you multi-task and retrieve the line while fighting the fish? Very carefully.

While reeling in the slack line, use the index finger of the hand holding your rod to keep the right tension on the line. You can tighten the tension as the line runs through the groove in your index finger by pressing the line against your rod handle or by simply tightening the crease in your finger. Too little pressure means the fish can throw the hook or run into a place you don’t want it to go (usually there is brush involved). Too much pressure means the fish can snap your tippet when it surges.

I have even figured out how to use the little finger on my rod hand to guide the slack line and create the right amount of tension as it is being retrieved. Yes, I can do that even as my index finger on the same hand is controlling the section of line against which the fish is fighting.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and the slack is gone.

2. Adjust the drag as needed.

Once the slack is gone and the fish is pulling line from your reel, it’s time to think about the drag. This is the amount of pressure a fish must exert to pull the line out of the reel. Your fly reel has an adjustable drag—a lever or a dial which will adjust the tension.

The basic rule is to set the drag on the light side. 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.

You may even need to tighten and lighten your drag as you retrieve your fish. With a larger fish, I will typically tighten my drag as the fish tires.

3. Alternate between reeling in your line and letting the trout take it out.

There is a lot of give and take when you fight a trout. You want to land it as quickly as possible to enable the fish to survive. So retrieve the line when the trout takes a break. But when it wants to run, let it do so within reason.

Some fly fishers like to fight trout by palming the reel. That is, they press their cupped hand into the side of spool where the little handle is spinning around. This stops or slows down the spool from releasing line. It looks fun, and it can work with smaller fish. But expect a bruised palm if you try to do it with larger fish.

4. Develop the feel for your reel.

Some experts will give you formulas for how many pounds of tension to use when setting your drag. Newer fly lines even change in color to help you gauge how many feet of line you have in the water. But I still think you have to get a feel for this rather than relying on a particular formula or guideline.

Working on Your Fly Fishing Swing

If you want to get more hits, you need to work on your swing. This truism is just as true in fly fishing as it is in baseball. It is particularly critical for fishing streamers, although it can also work for nymphs.

The “swing” is that moment when the current begins to drag (swing) your fly back across the stream so that it suspends in the current directly downstream from you. At this point, you will begin to strip in your streamer (or pick up your nymph).

I have had a lot of trout hit my streamer or nymph as it swings across the current, so it pays to perfect the art of your swing. What initiates the swing is drag. Ordinarily, drag is the kiss of death. This is always true for dry fly fishing, and it’s true for nymph fishing – until you reach the end of the run.

Here are couple different approaches.

The Drift and Swing

Four years ago, I landed ten rainbows and a Dolly Varden — all fifteen to twenty inches—in Clear Creek, upstream a hundred yards or so from where it empties into Alaska’s Talkeetna River. I caught all but one on the swing.

My approach was to drift my streamer, a Dalai Lama pattern, down the run like a nymph. Then, when it reached the area where I knew the trout were waiting, I let the line go taut. This tightening of the line resulted in the current dragging the fly so it swung downriver from me. I quickly realized I needed to be ready for a strike as soon as the fly started to swing.

After I caught several trout, I decided to tie on a big attractor dry fly pattern. I had no action on the first two casts. But on the third, my fly got water-logged and disappeared beneath the surface. When the fly reached the end of the drift, I prepared to haul it in to dry it. But as soon as the submerged fly started to swing, an eighteen-inch rainbow attacked it.

I used this same technique whenever I fished nymphs in Montana’s Gallatin River south of Four Corners. I found a couple long runs, and invariably, I caught the most trout when my nymph reached the end of my drift and started to swing across the current. That’s not the norm for nymph fishing. But in certain situations, it works.

So be ready when your nymph reaches the end of the drift.

The Cast and Swing

The most common technique is to bypass the drift and simply cast downstream at a forty-five degree (or so) angle. Veteran angler Gary Borger likes this tactic in smaller streams where he can cast his fly as tight as possible to the other bank. It might take a strip or two to pull it into the current. But be ready when the swing begins! Trout on the opposite bank will chase it to keep it from escaping. If it makes it across the current and into the slower water along your bank, be ready for trout to dart out and grab it — even before you begin stripping it.

In a larger river, like the Missouri, I will even cast streamers straight ahead or slightly upriver. As soon as the fly hits the water, I will wait a couple seconds to allow it to sink. Then, I start stripping it. This results in a long, sustained swing.

Gary Borger also reminds fly fishers to give their streamers plenty of time to swing across the current. He even suggests letting the fly hang in the current for a few seconds before beginning the strip or picking it up to cast again.

Work on perfecting your swing so you can get more hits. Yes, it’s just as true in fly fishing as it is in baseball.

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:E31 Nymph Fishing Tactics for Beginners

fly fishing guides

Nymph fishing tactics can confound beginner fly fishers. If you’re just starting out, you may ask: How many split shot should I use? How far up should the strike indicator be? Why am I snagging on the bottom all the time? Click on “Nymph Fishing Tactics for Beginners and listen to our episode for beginner fly fishers now.

Listen to our episode “Nymph Fishing Tactics for Beginners”

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 enjoying hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

If you’re a veteran fly fisher, what tactics would you add to our episode? And if you’re a new fly fisher, what questions do you still have about nymph fishing?

Here are some other podcasts and articles that we’ve publishing on nymph fishing:

    Nymph Fishing’s 7 Nagging Questions

    Our Top Nymph and Wet Fly Patterns

    The Basics of Nymph 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.

S2:E25 Benefits of a Fly Fishing Buddy

fly fishing guides

A fly fishing buddy (if you can find a good one) can improve your game. You’ll catch more fish. You’ll have to work through the dreary competitive stage, but eventually, you’ll have a partner to shoot the pic of your humongous brown and regale you at dinner about the ones you hooked but lost. Click now to listen to “Benefits of a Fly Fishing Buddy” in your browser.

Listen to our episode “The Benefits of a Fly Fishing Buddy”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. 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.

Do you have a fly fishing buddy? Or do you prefer to fish alone? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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

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

Rate the 2 Guys Podcast

We’d love for you to rate our podcast on iTunes.

That helps fellow fly fishers decide whether the podcast is a good fit for them.

S2:E20 Sustaining Your Fly Fishing Passion

fly fishing guides

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.

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

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

Rate the 2 Guys Podcast

We’d love for you to rate our podcast on iTunes.

That helps fellow fly fishers decide whether the podcast is a good fit for them.

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.

Three Half Truths about Fly Rods

Over the years, I have learned three truths about fly rods. These truths have become mantras. I stand by them and share them with new fly fishers. I also insist that these three truths are half-truths. Each has its exceptions:

You get what you pay for.

My family tires of my repeating this little proverb. I say it about everything from shoes to soap to SUVs: “You get what you pay for.” It’s true for fly rods as well. You generally get a higher quality and performance from an $800 rod than from a $400 rod. You can also feel the difference in quality between a $150 fly rod and a $400 rod.


There are exceptions. Sometimes the feel of a rod when you cast it trumps the difference in quality. A cheaper-but-quality rod may work as well or better for you than one which costs a couple more Benjamin Franklin bills. I may be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a $350 rod and a $600 rod if I did a double-blind test.

Also, there are cases when the extra $200 gets you a particular brand name and not necessarily more quality.

You don’t need more than one fly rod.

For trout, give me a nine-foot, six-weight rod, and I feel confident in just about any situation on the river. I’ve used my nine-foot, six-weight to catch selective rainbows in Nelson’s Spring Creek (in Montana’s Paradise Valley) on size 20 flies.

My son, Luke, even out-fished me a time or two on a small spring creek in Timber Coulee (in Wisconsin’s Driftless area) with a nine-foot, six-weight while I used the more appropriate eight-foot, four weight.

Yet there are times when you need more than one fly rod.

An eight-foot, four-weight might give you the only chance you have at the delicate cast required for a wary trout. Besides, this lighter weight rod makes a sixteen-inch rainbow feel like a twenty-inch rainbow.

Then there is the King salmon I hooked while fly fishing with a nine-foot, six-weight on the Willow River near Wasilla, Alaska. I thought I might defy conventional wisdom and have a chance at hauling in this monster. But I soon realized that I would break my rod if I tried to net it. I needed my eight weight to have a fighting chance.

Sure, you only need one rod. But there are times when you really do need to go a size up or down to get either distance or delicacy — not to mention the strength you need to haul in one of the big ones.

You don’t need to worry about breakage when your rod has a generous replacement policy

My two Orvis rods have 25-year guarantees. Orvis “will repair or replace it no matter what the reason. . . . Step on it, close the door on it, run over it with the car-it doesn’t matter, we’ll fix it.”

This is no lie. I’ve had my two rods fixed twice and replaced once. I stepped on one in the dark and broke a tip off of it a couple years later. Orvis even replaced another rod after I dropped the tip section in the Owyhee River and it drifted away!

My Winston rod has a lifetime guarantee, although it does not cover “lost rod sections, intentional breakage, misuse,” etc. But when accidents happen, you don’t have to kiss your $800 investment goodbye.

No need to worry, right?

Not so fast. You will be without your rod for a few weeks. Also, there is some money out of pocket. With Orvis, there is “a nominal handling charge,” which is now $60.

And you really should take care of your fly rod even if the manufacturer has a generous replacement policy. But then again, slamming your car door on it is not the end of the world when sixty bucks gets the world back to spinning happily on its axis.

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.”