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 the specie, 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?y 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:

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!

Know Your Pattern: H and L Variant

H and L Variant is a new fly. At least to me. I picked up the fly several weeks ago 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 $250,000 worth of $2 flies to buy even a small piece 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 is it 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

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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!

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

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!

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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Casting Across

Be sure to follow Matthew on his blog, Casting Across.

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!

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

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.

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!

A River Runs Through It

Listen now to “Fly Fishing Lies and Half Truths”

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 some of the fly fishing lies or half truths that you’ve identified? We’d love to hear them! Please post your comments below.

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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.

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!

Deeper Nymphs, Better Results

The next time the trout ignore your nymphs, try another adjustment before switching patterns. Go deeper. The trout may not be ignoring the Zebra Midge or Hare’s Ear. Rather, the nymph may be ignoring the trout. It might be drifting several inches above them.

deeper nymphs

Trout will dart upwards to track down an emerger. They will make a trip to the surface for a big attractor pattern or a hopper. But they normally will not expend energy to snatch a tiny meal with a small amount of calories unless it is in their zone. If your fly is not deep enough to drift by their noses, the trout may ignore it.

So how do you get your fly deeper? Here are five strategies.

1. Add a split shot.

This is the most obvious solution.

Yet it’s easy to be too lazy to reach into the pocket of your fly vest to put on another split shot. So don’t be lazy!

I usually start with one split shot. Then, if I’m not bumping the bottom, I’ll add a second one. I carry both size “B” and the slightly larger “BB” split shot.

Also, I prefer removable split shot which have the little “ears” you can squeeze to remove it quickly if you’re getting snagged too often on the bottom or if you decide to switch to a dry fly. I also use something environmentally friendly (non-lead). Water Gremlin’s tin sinkers work well for both purposes.

2. Use beadhead patterns.

Ninety percent of the nymphs I buy and tie are beadheads.

I use non-beadhead patterns only when I want my fly to stay in the film just beneath the surface. The beadhead patterns do not make split shot expendable, but they do add a bit of weight.

They also give the nymph some action as it drifts or tumbles through the current.

3. Start your drift earlier.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I have talked about this before on our podcast. Casting a few yards further upstream will give your nymph(s) a few more yards to sink as they drift down the stream or river. This worked well last fall on the Gardner River in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park. Starting the drift about ten feet earlier enabled the nymphs to drop low enough to where the trout were located in the “hot zone.”

Conversely, if you are fly fishing from a drift boat, you may not need as much weight. You might go with two “B” size split shot or only one “BB” size since a long drift gives your nymphs a lot of time to sink.

4. Move your strike indicator.

This is not an issue if you put your strike indicator at the top of your leader. But often, on small creeks, I place it only five feet or so above my fly. This is ideal for runs where the depth is only a foot or two.

However, I’ve had to remind myself to move my strike indicator closer to the top of my leader when I come to deeper runs. Remember that the placement of your strike indicator determines the length of leader that will actually sink. A couple of split shot will not come close to pulling your strike indicator under the water to take your nymph(s) deeper. So you might need a longer length of leader to get to the bottom of some runs.

5. Switch to a sink-tip line.

I rarely use a sink-tip line when nymph fishing.

However, there are some stretches on Montana’s Missouri River where this might be advisable. Usually, adding more split shot will do. I typically use sink-tip line for stripping streamers. But some fly fishers like them for nymph fishing larger rivers.

So the next time your nymphs do not produce strikes, figure out a way to get your nymphs down to the level of the trout. Try that before you switch patterns.

I don’t always fish with nymphs. But when I do, I go deeper.

S2:E50 Our Top 7 Lessons from Hiring Fly Fishing Guides

Hiring fly fishing guides is core to how we improve our craft. It’s not cheap, and we do it sparingly (about once a year), but we have found great value in learning from the experts. Click now to listen to “Our Top 7 Lessons from Hiring Fly Fishing Guides.”

fly fishing guides

Listen now to “Our Top 7 Lessons from Hiring Fly Fishing Guides”

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 some of the best lessons you’ve learned from hiring fly fishing guides? Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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!

Finding the Hot Zone in the Run

The “hot zone” is an expression that refers to the exact spot or stretch in the run where trout will hit your nymph. It’s a common-enough phrase, but I began using it after a wade trip with a guide on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. If you locate the hot zone, you’ve discovered the Holy Grail.

fly fishing hot zone

We all know that fish have lies.

They hang in opportunistic or safe places in the river, such as prime lies, feeding lies, and/or sheltering lies. But on a more practical level, many runs, especially the deeper ones, seem to hold large pods of trout. Especially in the spring (rainbows) or fall (browns), fish stack up in some of the deeper pools. Some are spawning, others chase the spawners upriver and feed off the eggs.

Here are several quasi-truths of the so-called hot zone:

1. The hot zone is a narrow window.

Last fall, Steve (my podcast partner) and I fished a river with several deep runs. Near the end of the day, we walked back to a run that Steve had fished earlier in the day. I had not yet fished it. Steve started casting and immediately began catching fish.

It took me a good 15 minutes of casting, even with Steve’s instructions, to begin catching fish. Hitting the hot zone is easier to write about than to do in real time.

2. It’s easy to miss the hot zone entirely.

If you’re fishing a new stretch of river, it’s quite possible that you will miss the hot zone on any given run, especially if you’re moving too fast upriver.

Just a caveat: Too often new fly fishers will camp on one good run and cast for hours in the same place. I’m not advocating that. But if you’re fishing new waters, then patiently working the run is important to cover the possible lies of the fish.

Steve and I have a honey hole on the Lower Madison River that often gets passed by. It’s a ways up the trail into the back country from the access point. The more persistent fly fishers hike upriver, however, and often wade through our honey hole, but they never seem to linger. My guess is that they may catch one brown on the way through but have never had the kinds of afternoons that Steve and I have had.

3. Subtle takes can prevent you from identifying the hot zone.

This is the challenge of all nymph fishing, but reading what is a “take” and what is simply your nymph catching rocks or debris on the bottom of the river is not as easy as ordering black coffee at Starbucks: “I’ll have a grande Pike, please.”

The rule of thumb is to pay close attention to your indicator and then strike at every possible sign. What does it hurt if you strike and nothing is there? Nada. Just let your indicator continue to drift downstream. It’s better to react too often than to wait until you’re certain you have a real take.

4. Fly depth may be the biggest issue when searching for the hot zone.

Whether a smaller creek or bigger river, the depth of the runs change from run to run. So if you’re not adding split shot – or lengthening your indicator – you may not be deep enough.

The bigger issue, though, may be that you are not casting far enough upriver, giving your nymph time to bounce along the bottom in the hot zone. This is especially true in deeper pools. The right depth is key to the hot zone. While the typical solution is to add split shot to your rig, the better solution may be to cast farther upriver (if you can), so the nymph can sink to the perfect depth in the hot zone. The nymph should be at the right depth before it enters the hot zone.

5. After all your persistence and finesse, there may not be a hot zone.

Or there may be one, but the fish are not in the mood. So how do you really know?

If you’ve had one of those days where you’ve caught more than several fish from one run, then you obviously have hit the hot zone. You know it when you hit it. Keep searching!

S2:E49 Our Favorite Two Fly Combos

Two-fly combos are a staple for many fly fishers. Whether fishing nymphs or dries, rigging up with two flies (the top fly and the dropper or trailer) often increases the odds of success. This is especially true when fishing nymphs in the spring or fall spawning season. We often will tie on an egg pattern as our top fly and then drop a nymph, such as a beadhead Copper John or beadhead pheasant tail. Click now to listen to “Our Favorite Two Fly Combos”

fly fishing guides

Listen now to “Our Favorite Two Fly Combos”

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.

What are your two-fly combos? Obviously, everything depends on when and where you’re fishing, but what are some of your go-to rigs?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

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Related Episodes

    Fishing Emergers During a Hatch

    Nymph Fishing Tactics for Beginners

    Top Nymph and Wet Fly Patterns

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!

Making the Most of Your Next Fly Fishing Trip

Until a decade ago, I never took a fly fishing trip. It wasn’t necessary. I lived in the northern reaches of Montana’s Gallatin Valley. My favorite spot on the East Gallatin River was a half mile from my house. My favorite spots on the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers were less than an hour away.

next fly fishing trip

Then I moved to the north suburbs of Chicago. Suddenly, the East Gallatin was 1,450 miles from my house. Even the spring creeks in the Driftless – southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota – take three to six hours to reach. So now I do trips—from two to five days.

Over the past decade, I’ve learned what it takes to have a fantastic experience. Here are four best practices for making the most of your next fly fishing trip.

1. Plan for Prime Time

If your schedule allows, plan your trips during “prime time.”

In the Driftless, this is April and May. The creeks are full of water, and the dry fly fishing can be terrific. When I plan for a trip to Montana or Wyoming, I set my sights on April (when the rainbows are spawning), August (when trout feed on hoppers), or on October (when the browns are spawning).

I love July. But so does everybody else.

Also, as much as possible, I like to fish during the week rather than the weekend. This requires me to use some vacation days. But this allows me to avoid the weekends when the rivers get pounded.

2. Hire a Guide for a Day

Go ahead and splurge. Find ways to set aside the cash you need to make this happen.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I split the cost to make it more affordable. The benefits really outweigh the cost. You’ll sharpen your fly fishing skills, but you’ll also gain “intel.” We’ve often returned a couple days later to wade stretches we’ve floated or waded with a guide. Last fall, we hired a guide to take us on a small river in Wyoming we had never fished. Dave and I each caught twenty plus fish in a half a day. Two days later, we went back on our own and each caught thirty plus fish in the same amount of time.

Besides, unless you have access to a drift boat (and have the skills needed to row one), it’s the only way to float some of the notable stretches of the blue ribbon waters in the western states.

3. Build in Margins

I learned this one the hard way. On some of my early trips, I treated every day like the remaining drops of a chocolate milkshake. I needed to suck out and savor every last bit. But the more I tried to squeeze the most out of every day, the more I felt drained by day four or five.

Now, I’ll plan for a lighter day after a long day of driving and/or hiking. Whenever Dave and I make a six-mile round trip to a remote spot of the Yellowstone River, we try to get a later start the following day. Or we will quit earlier.

The point is, take time for a nice meal, or an afternoon nap, or browsing in a fly shop, or a visit to a historic site. Sometimes, fishing a little bit less results in more satisfaction.

4. Create Backup Options

The windows for superb fishing open and close without much advance notice. You can have great fishing one day, and then the barometric pressure drops overnight or the river rises or a heavy spring storm dumps a foot of snow.

You never know when you need another option.

Last fall, we weren’t sure we were going to be able to fish a fine river in Wyoming. The river had been a bit off-color. But it was crystal clear the day we wanted to fly fish. Still, we had a backup plan — a high mountain lake nearby that had been fishing well. We were ready to go with “Plan B” if our original plans were thwarted by weather or crowded conditions.

S2:E48 One Fine Day on Canfield Creek

Canfield Creek is a gorgeous spring creek fishery in southeastern Minnesota. We love fly fishing in the area, because there seems to be less pressure on the creeks than there is in southwestern Wisconsin, which is also part of what is called the Driftless. We live in the Chicago area, so it’s a bit of a drive to Canfield Creek (5 hours), but recently we took a two-day trip to southeastern Minnesota. Because of the swollen creeks, we were able to fish only one day out of the two, but it was a great one. Click now to listen to “One Fine Day on Canfield Creek.”

fly fishing guides

Listen now to “One Fine Day on Canfield 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 enjoying hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Have you had a great day recently on the river? We’d love to hear about it! Please post the highlights of your day below.

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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!

5 Tactics for Deep Trout

Every stream or river has its bottomless pit. Or so it seems. After fishing in a foot or two of water, you suddenly come to a hole that looks to be six feet in depth. Maybe you can’t even see the bottom. Maybe the hole is actually a long run.

deep trout

These deep holes or runs used to frustrate me as much as they tantalized me. I knew large trout lurked in the depths. But I had a hard time catching them.

Lately, I’ve been more successful whenever I encounter a deep stretch of river or stream. I still get skunked occasionally, but I practice some tactics that increase my chances to catch deep trout.

Here are five tactics, one of which or a combination of a couple, may work for you:

1. Start your drift sooner.

If you’re fishing nymphs or even streamers, casting your fly an extra five or ten yards upstream may make all the difference. That will give your fly some extra time to sink to the depth of the trout you’re trying to catch.

I had success with this tactic last fall on a deep run in the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. I was catching fall browns at the tail end of a deep pool. But the ones in the prime lie in the middle of the run ignored my stone fly.

At the suggestion of a friend, I lengthened my cast. Suddenly, the fish in the middle of the run started hitting my fly because the longer drift gave it more time to sink to their level.

2. Add more weight.

This is obvious, of course, but needs to said.

I’ve sometimes been too stubborn or lazy to find the packet of split shot in my fly vest and add another one to my leader. But if the run is deep enough, it is imperative to add more weight. Starting your drift sooner is still a good idea, but it may not be enough.

If you are fishing a large river, you might even consider switching to a spool with sink-tip line when you come to a run that is considerably deeper than the ones you’ve been fly fishing. Yes, it takes time to make the switch. But it might make a difference.

3. Switch to a streamer.

I learned this tactic on Montana’s Gallatin River. It was early in the fall, and the water levels were low.

My friend Jerry insisted that we go from big hole to big hole with a streamer. We had a great afternoon landing one trout after another. These holes or short runs did not provide the opportunity to get a long drift with a nymph. All we could do was cast a weighted streamer into the center of the pool, let it sink, and then retrieve it.

This can work with nymphs provided you have enough weight. Let them sink to the bottom, and then retrieve them to imitate an emerger.

4. Dangle instead of cast.

There is a time to retrieve your bait-fishing skills, assuming you grew up dunking worms to catch panfish or even trout.

Some deep holes are in tight places.

I remember one in a log jam on a superb little creek last spring in southeast Minnesota. Casting was going to be impossible. So I snuck up on the hole, dangled my Woolly Bugger over it like a bait fisherman, and then dropped in the bugger. On my second strip, a large trout attacked my fly. I ended up losing the fish, but not before I enjoyed the thrill of the battle.

5. Go with a big attractor.

This is a bit counter-intuitive.

I’ve suggested going deep where the big fish lurk. But at certain times of the year, you might be able to coax a big trout from its lair. I’m thinking of a hatch or a sunny August day when hoppers are hopping along the shore.

A couple weeks ago, I fished nymphs in a small spring creek when I saw a large trout dart out of the deep to grab a mayfly struggling on the surface. It reminded me of my success in deep pools with a Spruce Moth, a Red Humpy, or an Elk Hair Caddis pattern. It doesn’t work in every deep run. But it works in some of them.

So don’t let the deep runs or holes intimidate you. Vary your approach and try a different tactic.

S2:E47 Fly Fishing Net Gains and Losses

Trying to net your son’s first big brown – and causing him to lose the fish – may require psychotherapy for him later in life. We all have a fly fishing net, and we probably use it more or less, depending on the size of fish or where we fish. In this episode on how and when to use a fly fishing net, Steve confesses how his patchy netting skills ruined a father-son moment on the river.

fly fishing guides

Listen now to Fly Fishing Net Gains and Losses

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.

How often do you use a net when you fly fish? And what kind of net do you use? We’d love to hear about your gear and why you chose your fly fishing net.

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.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. 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 Weather and Water Conditions that Affect Your Fly Fishing

A couple weeks ago, I fished Montana’s Madison River three days in a row. The first day was stellar. The second day was not. The third day was a combination of fantastic and frustrating. All of this was due to the weather and water conditions. Such conditions force fly fishers to make adjustments.

Here are five weather-and-water conditions that affect fly fishing:

1. Water Level and Color

My first day on the Madison consisted of only two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon.

I spent the prime fly fishing hours on a Delta flight to Bozeman. Yet I still caught eight healthy rainbows (and lost several more). The next day, after some good rainbow fishing at dawn on the Missouri River near Helena, I drove back to the same spot I fished on the Madison the previous day. I arrived during a prime time window.

But I noticed that the water level was slightly higher and that the color was a bit murkier. As I feared, the fishing was slow. I caught nothing the first two hours even though I tried different patterns and presentations. The adjustments eventually yielded a couple small rainbows. But nothing like the previous day.

Sometimes, no adjustment with my rig makes a difference on days with higher water levels and more color. Sometimes, though, switching to a San Juan Worm or throwing a big streamer gives me a better chance.

2. Sky

If you’re new to fly fishing, you might be surprised to know that the sky has as much effect on fly fishing as the water conditions.

An old John Denver song says, “Sunshine on the water looks so lovely.” Yes, but not to a fly fisher. A cloudy, gloomy day will often trigger insect hatches, which in turn give trout something to feed on. So whenever I see grey skies, I expect to have some decent dry fly fishing. I look for Blue-Winged Olives or whatever else might be hatching at that time of year on that particular stretch of river.

When the sun shines bright in a cloudless sky, I anticipate nymph fishing. This is exactly what I did on the Madison on day one. I saw a few mayflies on the surface, but there were no trout rising. The trout were happy to take nymphs.

However, dry fly fishing can be productive on a sunny day later in the summer when hoppers are active. A hopper pattern — or even a big attractor like a Red Humpy or a Spruce Moth — may coax a large trout from its lair.

3. Moisture

Related to the sky is the moisture in the air.

The most ideal conditions for fly fishing are not the most ideal conditions for fly fishers. Rain and snow trigger insect hatches. I had light rain throughout my third day on the Madison, and the trout were quite active.

The only adjustment to make here is to invest in a good rain jacket. If you’re new to fly fishing, never quit because it’s a rainy or snowy day! That’s a prime condition for catching trout.

4. Water Temperature

Water temperature matters, too. I used to carry a thermometer in my fly vest to check the temperature of the rivers I fished.

Honestly, it was more interesting than helpful.

But I’m keenly aware that trout are more active in colder water and more sluggish in warmer water. A guide in a fly shop in Ennis told me that the Upper Madison had incredible dry fly fishing the previous year because most of the water released from Hebgen Dam was through the pipeline at the bottom of the dam. The water at the bottom is, of course, colder than the water closer to the surface.

The stretch of the Madison I fished on day one tends to be good in the spring but one to avoid in the summer. Or, if I fish it in the summer, I fish it in the cool of the early morning — before the warmer temperatures make the trout more sluggish (and susceptible to danger if played too long).

Besides, the warmer summer days trigger the “inner tube hatch” (dozens and dozens of people and their coolers floating down the river)!

5. Wind

I can put up with moisture (which makes the fly fishing better). But nothing frustrates me more than a day where the wind whips like it does on Mount Everest. I hate wind.

My third and final day on the Madison was almost thwarted by wind. I was floating the Upper Madison with a couple of buddies, and the oarsman (a veteran rower) struggled to keep us from slamming into the bank.

Still, the fishing was fantastic — between the gusts.

Some adjustments made the difference. While I saw rising fish (due to the clouds and moisture I already mentioned), the wind made it impossible to keep a dry fly from plowing through the surface film. So I switched to nymphs. I also shortened my casts and waited to make them between gusts of wind.

Weather and water conditions are unpredictable. But that’s why it’s called “fishing”!

S2:E46 The Limits of Unlimited Fly Fishing

Unlimited fly fishing sounds too good to be true. No doubt, most of us would love an extra couple days each year on the river. But if you had the chance to do unlimited fly fishing would you? The topic raises some great questions about the role of leisure and when it moves from joy to just plain old work. Click now for “The Limits of Unlimited Fly Fishing.”

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Listen now to The Limits of Unlimited 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 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.

How many days do you fly fish each year? How many would you like to fly fish? How does fly fishing fit into the larger purpose of your life? Have we gone whacko with this episode?

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Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists.

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

Trout Flies and Color

Whenever I fish Montana’s Madison River in the spring, I use a tiny red nymph as a dropper. It may be a Copper John or a Dave’s Emerger (a pattern developed by Montana fly fisher Dave McKee). But the body always has red wire. I insist on it because I have had great success with tiny red nymphs. But does color really matter?

Does red work any better than black or copper? Or is it simply, uh, a pigment of my imagination?

The truth is, the color may attract me — the fly fisher — more than it does the trout. Here are a few insights about color:

1. Trout see colors, yet water changes their perception.

Gary Borger observes that “water absorbs and scatters light.” In fresh water, red is absorbed completely by six feet down. Trout see it as a shade of gray. Perhaps the red wire on my nymphs makes a subtle difference since I’m typically fishing it one to two feet below the surface on my favorite runs in the Madison.

According to Borger, orange, yellow, and green get to ten feet before turning to gray. Blue only makes it to four feet.

2. Fluorescent materials retain their colors as long as there is light.

Borger makes this point and adds that “black is always black, and flash is always flash.” Surprisingly, black may be the most “visible” color due to its contrast. Perhaps that explains why a black Copper John or a Zebra Midge can work so well.

3. Trout are more perceptive to the violet side of the color spectrum.

Kirk Deeter made this point in a recent issue of TROUT magazine. Now I know why I’m seeing a rise (no pun intended) in purple Beadhead Prince Nymphs and in the Purple Haze patterns (essentially a Parachute Adams with a purple body) in the bins in fly shops.

4. Use something bright or translucent in your attractor patterns on the surface.

It’s always good to match the hatch. As Kirk Deeter says, go “as natural as possible.” But when you are using an attractor pattern on the river’s surface, red or orange will appear bright. It’s why I like a Red Humpy or the trusted Royal Wulff (with its band of red).

5. The amount of variables determining the way trout see color can make a fly fisher crazy.

The way trout see color depends on several variables – the clarity of the water, the light conditions (cloudy vs. sunny, evening light vs. mid-day light), and the depth of the fly.

So, the best advice may be to keep it simple: The size of your fly and the pattern may matter more than color.

S2:E45 Our 5 Most Dangerous Moments on the River

Dangerous moments are not always recognized fully in the moment. Several years ago while we fished the Wyoming Bighorn, the temperature dropped 25 degrees in a two-hour period. We drifted the Bighorn while stopping to wet-wade periodically. At the mid-point of the drift, however, we were shivering, unprepared for precipitous drop in temperature. In addition to the rain and wind was lightning, and we had to get out of the drift boat to wait out the weather. Fortunately, the squall passed, and we took out an hour or so later. We lived to fish another day. Some moments on the river are more dangerous than you realize at the time.

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Listen now to “Our 5 Most Dangerous Moments 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 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.

We’d love to hear at least one story from your “most dangerous moments on the river” archive. Please post your most-dangerous-moments story below!

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Know Your Pattern: The San Juan Worm

When I was a boy, I caught trout with a bobber and a worm. I gave up bait fishing long ago. Now I use a fly rod. But I still catch a lot of trout with a bobber and a worm.

The bobber is a strike indicator. Yes, I like the little round plastic bobbers because they never get water-logged like the indicators I’ve tied with strands of nylon.

The worm is a San Juan Worm — a controversial “fly pattern.” Some fly fishers scoff at it. When they do, I simply smile, nod, and go back to catching fish. Here is the scoop on this beloved and maligned non-fly fly.

1. How it originated

There are as many accounts of this pattern’s origin as there are variations of it in the fly bins at your local fly flop.

What we know for sure (I think) is that a fly fisher developed this fly to imitate the red worms in the silt-coated channels of New Mexico’s San Juan River. The fly fisher is unknown to us, although I’ve heard several suggested names. The time period was likely the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The pattern is so simple that it is silly. It consists of a two-inch length of red chenille tied onto a scud hook — that is, a hook with a curved shank. That’s all. It’s the easiest fly in the world to tie. So it’s a great place for beginners to start.

2. How it has been modified

You might get dizzy when you think about all the colors and styles of chenille with which the San Juan worm has been tied.

I even experimented (at the suggestion of a friend) with putting a beadhead in the middle of the hook’s shank and then tying a one-inch piece of chenille on the front and then a one-inch piece of chenille on the back. This takes a lot of extra time and effort. It looks impressive, but I haven’t found it any more effective.

In the last six weeks, I’ve caught several trout in both Wisconsin and Montana on an odd assortment of San Juan Worm patterns. I’ve meant to tie some new ones, but I didn’t get to it. So I ended up using the left over patterns in my fly box — that is, some of the ugly ones I tied when I was experimenting with different sizes and colors (red, crimson, tan). The good news is that all of them worked.

There’s no need, then, to get hung up on size or color. Whatever you use will likely be “the only thing that’s working on the river today.”

3. Why it works

You don’t need a PhD in zoology to figure out why the San Juan Worm is so trusty. It imitates a worm — the kind which resides in a silty river bottom. Enough said.

4. When to use it

The San Juan Worm is a great go-to pattern in most conditions.

But it works especially well after it rains or when a river rises a bit. This results in churn that can loosen up the earth along a bank or the silt at the bottom. Worms get displaced by this churn. It’s hard for a trout to pass up such a large dose of protein for the little effort it takes to grab the worm as it drifts through the current or bobs along the bottom.

If a purist asks you later what you were using, tell him or her you were simply matching the hatch — imitating the aquatic life below the surface. You’ll be telling the truth.

S2:E44 10 Fly Fishing Proverbs for the Soul

Fly fishing proverbs are everywhere. In conversations at the fly shop. In stories after a big day on the river. And in books from our sport’s great fly fishing legends. In this fun episode, we lift ten fly fishing proverbs from the sayings of some of our great fly fishers and regale each other with stories about their truths. Proverbs are aphorisms, short statements packed with wisdom and, sometimes, humor. Steve even adds one of his own fly fishing proverbs at the end of the episode for the cherry on top!

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “10 Fly Fishing Proverbs for the Soul”

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.

We’d love to hear fly fishing proverbs that makes you smile – or groan. Have you heard any great proverbs recently? Please share your sayings below.

Related Fly Fishing Proverbs Episodes and Articles

    “6 Fly Fishing Personalities You’ll Meet”

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Our Sponsor

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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!

Holy Fly Fishing Distraction, Batman!

Recently I was invited to a retreat of executives. The facilitator ask us to introduce ourselves, and I was one of the first to do so. We were mostly in our 50s, with a few in their 60s. I ended my introduction with “And the great joy in my life is fly fishing.”

The woman next to me introduced herself and then concluded by saying her great joy was golf.

The next person, however, said that only grandchildren could bring joy to his life. Then every person in the room with a grandchild or two said, definitively, “Grandchildren.” Once grandchildren were mentioned, the two losers (who had mentioned fly fishing and golf) shrunk back in their chairs in shame.

With no grandchildren, I have no idea whether they bring joy. Steve, my podcast partner, has six. And another on the way. He says grandchildren bring joy. I’ll have to take him at his word. My laconic and grumpy 16-year-old teenager did not bring me large amounts of joy when I dropped him off at school this morning.

I’ve decided I need a better word or phrase to express how I feel about fly fishing. I’ve come up with “holy distraction.” Fly fishing is not so much my great joy as it is my holy distraction.

Fly Fishing Holiness

I had just started my second business when the Great Recession hit. Within a year it was clear the business would not succeed, and it took another five years before I finally was able to unwind and unload it – for about 25 cents on the dollar. Then the recession began to drag down what I had taken for granted – my other stable business.

Never before had I felt such acute fear for such a prolonged period of time. Almost two years.

One year during the latter part of the Great Recession, Steve and I took two trips to Montana, when both of us could barely afford one. I don’t remember how I justified two fly fishing trips or how I paid for them. Or why my wife Jana didn’t put her foot down. Steve and I did both trips on the cheap, like we always do, but it was still a chunk of money in a year when my family’s financial future was in flux.

Upon reflection, I can see that the two fly fishing trips (in addition to our regular trips to the Driftless) helped refocus me during the worst days of those years. The discipline of fly fishing, even in one of the most stress-filled stretches of my life, distracted me just enough to refresh me. Fly fishing was a holy distraction.

I’ve poached the word holy from my faith tradition. The word actually means “to set apart” or “sacred.” I definitely don’t want to be a lightning rod, so I need to be careful what I call sacred.

Fly fishing, however, was the chance to set apart some time from the grind of life, a distraction from the unsolvable parts of my life. Fly fishing offered me long stretches on the river with nary a thought, only the futile struggle to cast between gusts of wind or to warm my fingers while tying on an egg pattern in an early April snowstorm.

If only for a few hours at a time, I was liberated from my mind’s machinations, which had ground me to exhaustion.

I can’t explain it. Something transformative happened to me during the rhythms of casting and mending. It wasn’t like I returned home after a week in Montana with my life and business back to normal. I always returned to uncertainty, and it took several years for my business to stabilize fully.

Somehow, though, the time set apart for fly fishing was a kind of holiness, even sacred.

I haven’t yet had the courage to use the phrase holy distraction yet in a public setting. Maybe I’ll keep using the word joy. For sure I don’t want any grandchildren joy while my oldest is still in college!

S2:E43 Casting Upstream or Downstream?

Casting upstream is the default mode for newer fly fishers. It’s how we are taught: stand in the river or on the bank near the bottom of the run, and cast upstream. And then mend your line as it drifts in the current. That’s certainly one approach. But there are other ways to catch fish than just casting upstream.

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Listen now to “Casting Upstream or Downstream?”

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.

Do you default to casting upstream when you fly fish? What are some situations in which you like to cast downstream?

Here is a related article to this week’s episode:

    Fly Fishing Streamers on Smaller Creeks

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Fly Fishing Crowded Waters

A few months ago I introduced my brother-in-law to the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon. We had a summer afternoon to fly fish. I warned him that we might run into a couple of other anglers in my favorite spot.

I was wrong. The number was much higher. I counted seven pairs of waders—filled with bodies — in the run I like to fly fish (pictured above). So what is a fly fisher to do?

Here are seven tips for fly fishing crowded waters.

1. Remain calm.

When I’m feeling annoyed, I have to remind myself that other anglers have every bit as much right to fish in my spot as I do. I am as responsible for the crowded conditions as they are. My kids’ advice is good in these moments: “Take a chill pill.”

What ruins a good day are not the fly fishers who beat me to my spot. It’s my response. If I relax, I can usually figure out a solution.

In fact, one of the best days I’ve ever had on Montana’s Madison River (I landed 25 browns on the last day of March) was the result of finding every one of my favorite spots on the Gallatin River filled with fly fishers. I’m glad I calmed down enough to formulate Plan B and drive to the Madison.

2. Arrive early (or late).

I’m fishing with a friend in a few days on the Missouri River near Helena, Montana. My friend has a favorite spot where he catches large rainbows in the spring. But he gets there at dawn.

Last week, he landed seven big trout in an hour and a half of fishing. Then he left as the crowds started rolling in about 9 a.m. The evening can be productive, too. I’ve found great solitude (and fishing!) on the Yellowstone River in Montana’s Paradise Valley in the spring and summer after 5 p.m.

3. Avoid the weekend.

Yes, I know that you may only have weekends to fly fish. But if you have any flexibility in your schedule, try Tuesday or Wednesday, and then work on Saturday. Or leave work early if you live near a river.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I like to fly from Chicago to Bozeman, Montana, on Sunday night or Monday morning. Then, we fly home on Friday as the weekend frenzy begins. It’s worth our vacation days to fish mid week.

4. Wait for your spot.

Don’t crowd the fly fishers in the run you want to fish. That is simply bad fly fishing etiquette.

But you can hover (at a distance) in the run below them. You’ll find out soon if they are moving or planning on staying put. The twenty minutes you think you are wasting, waiting for them, might turn out to be a good investment of time. You may be using a different pattern or approach, so don’t assume that the run needs to rest for two hours before you fish it.

5. Look for an opening.

Sometime we give up too quickly and assume the river is too crowded when there are spots open.

My youngest son, Luke, is working in Madison, Wisconsin, at the moment. He had day off on a Friday, so I suggested he try the Blue River about an hour west of him. I told him to get there early, and he did. But he saw cars parked in both access spots. So he called me and asked where else he could fish. I told him to try to find an open spot on the river (well, it’s really a small spring creek). It turned out that a couple guys were leaving, and there was a long stretch of open stream to fish. He ended up catching several nice brown trout.

6. Walk the extra mile.

Dave and I have talked about this before. If you’re willing to walk farther than the other fly fishers on the river, you might get into some fine fishing. I realize this doesn’t work everywhere. You may walk a ways only to come to another fishing access with more fly fishers! I had this happen last year on the Provo River in Utah. But if you keep walking, you may find a golden spot.

7. Research other options.

If you keep encountering crowds on your favorite stretch of river, start exploring some other options.

A couple years ago, we noticed more fly fishers on a lesser known stream in southwest Wisconsin. So Dave did some research and found a beautiful creek a couple hours west in southeast Minnesota. We rarely see crowds (as long as we avoid weekends), and it fishes well. It reminded me that there are other fine waters out there waiting to be discovered.

S2:E42 Fishing Emergers During a Hatch

Fishing emergers during a hatch is not the first thing to come to mind for newer fly fishers. Yet, it can be productive. In this episode, we discuss four reasons to throw on an emerger pattern when a hatch is in full swing.

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Listen now to “Fishing Emergers During a Hatch”

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.

What have you discovered when fishing emergers during a hatch? What do you recommend for the best results?

Here is a related article to this week’s episode:

    3 Truths about the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch

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

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.

S2:E41 Better Fly Fishing Photos

Taking great fly fishing photos is much easier in an age of Instagram and Snapchat. No matter the apps and technology, though, there are a few principles that can help you up your game. We are not professional photographers, for sure, but in this episode, we offer nine commandments for better fly fishing photos. Through the years, we’ve collected some basic skills that have improved our fly fishing photos. In the pic below, while being mauled by a grizzly, Steve demonstrates for us the proper use of bear spray.

Listen to “Better Fly Fishing Photos” now.

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.

What elementary principles for taking pictures have we missed? Please post your additions to our podcast below.

Here is a related article to this week’s episode:

    Keeping Track of Your Fly Fishing Adventures

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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.

8 Tips for Fly Fishing Grasshoppers

There is no such thing as a grasshopper hatch, of course. Grasshoppers live and die in the riparian zones along rivers and streams. They’re not mayflies, which roll around as nymphs underwater for a year or two only to emerge as adults for a few minutes or hours. And then die. Did you know that the mayfly with the shortest lifespan lives less than five minutes as an adult? And my teenager thinks his life is hard!

The life of a hopper is, too, quite short, of course, but that’s where the similarities between mayflies and hoppers end. Soon enough, it will be that time of year (mid to late summer) to fish hoppers.

Here are a few tips to help beginners enjoy what is one of my favorite seasons of fly fishing:

1. Let the river warm up.

Several years ago, Steve (my podcast partner) and I fished a gorgeous stream on private property in southwestern Montana in late July. We arrived at the creek about 8:30 or 9 AM, and we rigged up with hoppers. Nothing rose to our casts. I became a bit grumpy.

A Trico hatch was on, but I didn’t have the patience to fish a size #20 Trico imitation. I switched to nymphs for an hour or so, and then I walked upriver where Steve was hauling in his second or third brown on a hopper imitation.

It was like the bell rang some time between 10 and 11 AM, and the trout started feeding on hoppers. It was nonstop until late afternoon. Often, the trout won’t start hitting hoppers until mid to late morning, when the vegatation along the banks warms up.

2. Big is not bad.

I learned to fly fish in Montana and Colorado, but in recent years, I’ve spent more days on smaller creeks than I have the big rivers of the West. My spring-creek-to-western-river ratio is probably four or five days on a spring creek to one day on a western river.

I’ve grown acclimated to the spring-creek requirements of finer tackle and smaller flies. Consequently, I also reach for smaller grasshopper imitations. But if you’re fishing out West, select a bigger hopper just because you can. Go for a size #4 or #6. Make sure you have 3X or 4X tippet to handle the bigger bug.

And then see what happens.

3. Don’t forget the relaxed sip.

I love the aggressive strikes that hoppers provoke. But not all hopper strikes are aggressive. Some fish prefer to mouth or toy with the hopper. Crazy, I know. I’ve caught some large cutthroat in Yellowstone National Park simply by being more patient with my hook set. In general, fly fishers, especially those new to the sport, tend to rip the hook out of the mouth of fish. Certainly, trout love to slash at grasshoppers, but there are often more subtle takes as well.

That means being vigilant when you feel or see a take. Some fly fishers repeat a mantra or phrase when they feel a take, such as “God save the Queen” or “The Cubs finally won a World Series,” depending on your country of origin – and then they set the hook.

4. Give it some action.

Real grasshoppers don’t float passively on the water, unless they are already dead.

If the wind has blown a hopper into the water, then likely it is kicking for shore. If you’re fishing a swift-moving river like the Yellowstone, then you may not need to twitch or skate the hopper. But in more flat stretches, you may want to give the hopper some action by twitching it or skating it across the surface.

5. Drop another terrestrial.

Several years ago while fishing in Yellowstone Park, I dropped a fat foam flying ant off my top hopper pattern, and I caught more cuttthroat off the ant than I did the hopper. I tied the foam ant about nine to twelve inches below the grasshopper, and it worked beautifully.

The Yellowstone River was swift, and with the current, the ant seemed to float just beneath the film. Several times, I watched the shadow of a cutthroat appear from the depths of the river and grab the ant.

6. Pay attention to color.

When I was young, I used to catch grasshoppers and stick them on a naked hook and cast them into the streams. There’s nothing like the action of a real grasshopper in the throes of death on the water. I learned, though, that not all grasshoppers are the same (other than they all seem to have the dark liquid that squirts of their abdomen when you insert the hook). There are a million variety of hoppers, and a host of different earth-tone hues from green to yellow and to brown.

I’ve made the mistake of buying hoppers from a fly shop in Montana and wondering why they don’t work as well in the spring creeks of the Driftless (southwestern Wisconsin, for example). Dumb, I know, but I can be a little slow.

You’ll want to do a little research at your local fly shop. Size and color are important, and every fly is local.

7. Throw one on when nothing is rising.

It always strikes me as odd that when there is nothing rising, I can throw on a hopper in late summer, and an aggressive trout takes the imitation.

Through the years, I can’t remember a time when I’ve noticed trout rising to hoppers, and then decided to throw on a hopper. It’s just that time a year. The creeks runs through a meadow. There are hoppers. And I decide to throw on a hopper. And voila! I catch trout on hoppers. Again, there is no hatch, where you can see the trout rising to mayflies.

Hoppers promise a gob of calories, and during mid to late summer, trout want the gob.

8. Start with foam.

Most hopper patterns come in three styles: foam, natural, and parachute. I tend to start with foam, though I will use more natural patterns when fishing slower water. The parachute hopper always is a win in riffles – I can see it!

Grasshopper season is like the Christmas season. It comes once a year. And if you can have even one great day fly fishing grasshoppers, you’ve received the best present of the year.

S2:E40 Clues of Trout Feeding Behavior

Trout feeding behavior is not an exact science. And yet there are some signals that can help you select which flies to use. In this episode we discuss the four responses of trout when feeding on or near the surface. Listen to The Clues of Trout Feeding Behavior now.

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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.

What trout feeding behavior have you observed? Any nuance or exceptions you’d add to the conversation?

Here are other articles or podcasts that we’ve published that are related to this topic:

    My 6 Favorite Dry Fly Attractor Patterns

    3 Truths about the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch

    Interpreting the 4 Feeding Behaviors of Trout

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.

Fun Facts about the Movie “A River Runs Through It”

A River Runs Through It premiered on October 9, 1992 – 25 years ago. Based on the novella by Norman Maclean, “A River Runs Through It” launched the career of Brad Pitt and boosted interest in fly fishing. Even as it celebrates its 25-year anniversary, the movie continues to captivate viewers who resonate with its story of tragedy, family, the American West, and fishing.

A River Runs Through It

The movie is set in Missoula, Montana, though most fans know that it was filmed 200-plus miles east of Missoula in Livingston, Montana. Livingston served as Missoula, and the Gallatin River served as the Big Blackfoot River.

But there are some fun facts about its filming which you won’t find in most reviews or articles. This information comes from two primary sources. First, I lived in the very area where the filming took place. I could take you to the exact spots on the Gallatin and Boulder Rivers (and Mill Creek in Paradise Valley) where the scenes were shot.

Second, my podcast partner, Dave, and I had an extensive conversation with Gary Borger about his role as a consultant. Even Gary’s son Jason was part of the movie.

So if you’re curious about some of the details, keep reading.

The House

The “Maclean house” is across the road from the Springhill Presbyterian church, fourteen miles north of downtown Bozeman, Montana. The porch was built specifically for the scene where the Maclean brothers climb out of their bedroom window.

Then, when they drive away in the dark with their cronies, the church is visible, and it looks as much like a schoolhouse as it does a church.

Fly “Pole”

In the scene where the father teaches his young sons the art of fly casting, Tom Skerritt (the actor who played the role of Rev. Maclean) originally said: “Go get the fly poles.”

This happened to be Gary Borger’s first day on the set, and he told the line producer that a fly fisher never would have referred to a fly rod as a “fly pole.” So the line producer got producer Robert Redford’s attention.

“Go get the book,” Redford said.

He found the passage that says that “it is always supposed to be called a rod” — not a pole. And rod it was.

Fly Casting

Most of the fly fishing scenes were filmed on the Gallatin River in the Gallatin Canyon south of Bozeman.

In these scenes, Gary Borger’s son, Jason, did almost all the fly casting for the actors in the movie. This includes the memorable “shadow-casting” that Paul Maclean performed while standing on a big rock in the middle of the river. When Jason did that particular cast, an elderly, long-time friend of the Maclean brothers was on the set. After the scene was filmed, he approached Jason and said, “You are Paul.” The friend was stunned that Jason had captured the essence of Paul’s artistry with a fly rod.

While Jason did most of the fly casting in the movie, the actors picked it up rather quickly. Tom Skerritt (the elder Maclean) had done some fly fishing previously. Both Craig Sheffer (Norman) and Brad Pitt (Paul) were quite athletic. Jason made sure that Skerritt and Sheffer used the traditional forearm style, while Pitt used the more open freearm style that Paul Maclean would have used.

Fighting Trout

The “trout” the Maclean brothers hooked into and fought were mostly non-fish.

In several scenes, the fish on the end of their line was actually a half gallon milk jug with rocks in it. In the scene where Paul fights a fish hidden from view behind a large boulder, the fish is actually John Bailey of Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop in Livingston, Montana. John was behind the rock, pulling on the line!

In the final scene of “A River Runs Through It,” when Paul is fighting a monster trout, the producers filmed the water flying off of his fly reel in a city park rather than in the river. The city park was Lindley Park in Livingston, Montana, and the producers created this effect by dipping the fly reel in a bucket of water. Then, after an actor lifted it out of the bucket, someone on the end of the line immediately started pulling it to get the spool spinning and flinging off beads of water.

Riding the Rails

The scene where Norman’s girlfriend, Jesse, pulls her car onto the railroad tracks and drives through a tunnel was filmed on the CA Ranch forty miles or so north of Bozeman. The exact location is the Eagle’s Nest tunnel on an old railroad grade that the Ringling brothers used to haul their circus equipment to Ringling, Montana, for off-season storage. The railroad trestle leading into the tunnel towers over Sixteen Mile Creek. There is a brief view of the creek in the movie.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I have both caught trout underneath that trestle (pictured above – Dave, in fact, took the picture). In the movie, Jesse and Norman actually enter and exit the same end of the tunnel. Today, there are no railroad tracks; it’s a one-lane gravel-and-dirt road.

A Final Thought

Sometimes, knowing insider information on how a movie was filmed can spoil it. But both the cinematography and the story itself prevent his from happening. If you’ve never watched the move “A River Runs Through It,” you simply must. Even if you watched it years ago, it’s worth revisiting. I’m convinced that after watching it, you, too, will be haunted by waters. And haunted by one of the underlying themes: sometimes it’s the ones you love most that are hardest to understand.

If you want to listen to our podcast episode with Gary Borger on the movie, visit Gary Borger on the Making of “A River Runs Through It”

S2:E39 Gearing Up for a New Fly Fishing Season

A new fly fishing season brings new expenses. It may be finally time to buy a new pair of waders. Or a new duffle bag or a pair of wading sandals. Too bad you didn’t purchase them last fall when some gear went on sale! In this episode, we discuss the new fly fishing season and the new gear that we hope to purchase. Listen to “Gearing Up for a New Fly Fishing Season.”

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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.

What gear do you plan to purchase this year? New waders? Wading boots? A new fly rod? Please post your comments below.

Here are some other episodes on fly fishing gear that we’ve published:

    Soothing Words for the Fly Rod Owner’s Soul

    Go-to Gear for All Kinds of Weather

    Your Next Pair of Fly Fishing Waders

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.

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.

S2:E38 One Fine Day on the Blue River

The Wisconsin Driftless region is known for its small spring creeks and bucolic, dairy-cows-and-old-barns setting. Recently, we escaped from the Chicago ‘burbs for a day to fish one of those creeks called the Blue River, a small stream just west of Madison, Wisconsin. Technically, it was winter, but it felt like spring. The day couldn’t have been better, except, perhaps, for the overly friendly dairy cows. Click now to listen to “One Fine Day on the Blue River.”

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Listen to our episode “One Fine Day on the Blue 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 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.

Have you recently had a fine day on the river? What made it exceptional? Any funny moments? Please post your comments below!

Here are some other One Fine Day episodes that we’ve published:

    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 “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Fly Fishing Conversations

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

So true. Sure, I go to the river to catch trout—and hopefully lots of them. But I go to relax. I go to experience the great outdoors. I go to get lost in my thoughts.

I also go for the conversations.

Words and Silence

My podcast partner, Dave, and I are close friends. That might even be an understatement. When I think of Dave, there’s a proverb in the Bible that says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” So when we are together, we engage in a lot of conversation. We debunk the stereotype of men who simply grunt at each other. Real men do more than grunt. They talk.

Now this doesn’t mean our time on the river is a constant barrage of words. We do our share of grunting. But the sound of silence is frequent. There can be long stretches of hiking or fishing or even driving with no words.

When we do talk, though, the conversations seem to run much deeper than they do when we are eating lunch in a café in one of the towns where we live. Certainly the longer stretch of time we spend on the river or on the road to the river (compared to a booth in a café) makes this possible. But I suspect that the environment has something to do with it too.

Conversational Themes

So what do we talk about?

Well, fly fishing, of course.

We talk about the day ahead and what we hope it will be. We talk strategy, and we trade information on patterns that might work in the stretch of river we’re going to fish. We discuss the pros and cons of the gear we want to purchase. I suppose all the talk about fly fishing is a diversion from the stress points of life.

But I like to think it is a parallel challenge which keeps our minds sharp and our spirits refreshed.

We also talk about people — how they fascinate us, frustrate us, and inspire us. We talk about our wives and how we both married up. We’re grateful for how supportive they are of our friendship and our fly fishing habit.

We trade stories about our children — their challenges, their futures, and their dreams. We talk about our friend, Dennis, and the journey he and his wife are taking into the darkness as her memory loss becomes an increasing reality. We talk about Marty, a college friend, who has shockingly been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We talk about the career of Don Henley, the drummer and co-lead singer for the Eagles. We talk as well about fly fishing guides and shop owners we know.

Then, we gossip about ideas.

That’s preferable to gossiping about people. We talk business strategy and political philosophy, though we quickly tire of politics. We discuss the big ideas we encounter in literature. On our last fly fishing day trip, we talked about some great lines from Wallace Stegner’s novels. Dave shared a quote from Remembering Laughter, while I brought up a poignant statement in Crossing to Safety.

Our faith is always a topic of conversation. Our worldview springs from this and provides our lives with ballast. Occasionally, we’ll circle back to the how the river is such a key metaphor in the Bible. Rivers figure prominently in both its opening and closing chapters. But lest you think our conversation is always deep and reflective, we spend a lot of time laughing (often at each other) and debating whether we should find a steakhouse or a pizza place for dinner.

On a recent fly fishing trip, we drove out of our way on the way home to eat at a supper club, only to wind up disappointed with the Friday night fish fare. We left the establishment graciously but chuckled about the third-rate experience on the drive home.

Laugh Kills Lonesome

When I lived in Helena, Montana, I would frequently go to the Montana Historical Society so I could gaze at C. M. Russell’s painting, “Laugh Kills Lonesome.” He actually painted himself in this picture. He is standing by a prairie campfire with a group of his cowboy friends. The scene evokes solitude. Yet, as the title of his oil-on-canvas suggests, the laughter effectively killed the loneliness.

I suspect that Charlie Russell liked riding the range for some of the same reasons I love to fly fish — the solitude, the scenery, the feel of freedom, the wind in his face, and the scent of sage. But he also loved the conversations and the laughter. That’s a side of fly fishing I treasure. I’m after more than trout when I pick up my fly rod and head to the river. I’m after some rich conversations.

S2:E37 How to Plan Your Next Fly Fishing Trip

If you haven’t yet made plans for a fly fishing trip this year, you’ll want to listen to this episode. Our fishing year is typically comprised of a series of short trips and at least one longer trip. We are do-it-your-selfers, so planning is essential. One important element is contingency plans: making sure you have options in the event of weather changes or a crowded river. Click now to listen to “How to Plan Your Next Fly Fishing Trip.”

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Listen to our episode “How to Plan Your Next Fly Fishing Trip”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last 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.

What tips would you add to our preparations? What are we missing? Here are some related podcasts and articles on planning your next fly fishing trip:

    Fly Fishing Trip Preparations

    Planning Your Next Fly Fishing Trip

    6 Tips for Planning a Memorable Fly Fishing Trip

    6 Ways to Spoil Your Guide Trip

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.

Know Your Pattern – The Royal Coachman

Not everyone likes the Royal Coachman. According to Paul Schullery, one angler called it “an act of aesthetic vandalism, a grotesque violence perpetrated on a fly box.”

But I am rather fond of this fly. Actually, I am rather fond of couple of its modifications — the Royal Wulff and the Royal Trude. The following profile will help you appreciate this dry fly pattern and use it more effectively:

1. How it originated

Paul Schullery’s essay, “Royal Coachman and Friends” (found in his book, Royal Coachman: The Lore and Legends of Fly-Fishing), tells the story of this magnificent pattern. John Haily, a professional fly tyer in New York, first tied this pattern in 1878. He simply created a more flashy version of an older British pattern, the Coachman. He added some red silk in the middle and a little sprig of wood duck feathers for a tail. Then, he mailed his sample fly to L.C. Orvis, the brother of Charles Orvis, who founded The Orvis Company.

Yes, the Orvis rod or waders or vest you may use comes from that company.

The rest is history.

2. How it has been modified

Legendary fly fisher Lee Wulff famously modified the Royal Coachman in the 1930s by replacing its wings and tail with white calf hair. Dan Bailey promoted this fly to western anglers in his fly shop in Livingston, Montana, and through his mail-order business. He gets the credit for suggesting the name “Royal Wulff.” The calf hair makes this fly float well in rough water of western rivers.

According to The Orvis Company, the Royal Trude originated even earlier in Island Park, Idaho (near Henry’s Fork of the Snake River). Apparently an angler in the early 1900s tied it as a joke. But it turned into a serious pattern.

The Royal Trude has a long wing of white calf hair which runs the length of the fly. A friend swears by this pattern on the Yellowstone River. He is a one-fly kind of guy, and he has used it successfully during the salmon fly hatch and during hopper season.

3. Why it works

Who knows?

It is definitely an attractor pattern. Paul Schullery notes that fly fishers “want to believe it looks like something — a dragonfly, a moth, a crippled hummingbird, a lightening bug; there is a desperation in these efforts to label the fly. And it’s unnecessary. Trout take flies for lots of reason we know and for some we’ll never understand.”

4. When to use it

The Royal Wulff or Royal Trude is a great pattern to use when you are trying to coax a trout to the surface when there is no obvious hatch in play.

For awhile I stopped using The Royal Coachman and its derivatives because they were so popular. I feared the trout would get tired of seeing them. So I gravitated more towards Humpy patterns and even an Elk Hair Caddis for those times when I wanted an attractor pattern that would stay afloat in choppy water.

But I have a hunch that the “Royals” have a lot of life left in them. Trout may see fewer Royals these days due to the myriad of other patterns available. So I’m predicting they will make a comeback as they give new generations of trout a fresh look.

I do hope the comeback happens. After all, as Schullery points out, “the Royal Coachman is the first great American fly pattern.”

S2:E36 Fly Fishing Physics 101

Fly fishing physics are always at work if you’re at work on the river. From casting to striking to reeling to mending – the laws of physics won’t be denied. And the better you understand fly fishing physics, the more fish you might catch. Click now to listen to “Fly Fishing Physics 101.”

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Physics 101”

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.

Which laws of fly fishing physics do you violate most often? Which laws did we miss? 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.

7 Streamside Habits of Highly Generous Fly Fishers

In 2015, an estimated 4.5 million folks over the age of 16 fly fished at least once during the year. That’s slightly more than one percent of the population of the United States. The industry growth roughly tracks the net population growth of the U.S. Though not exploding in popularity, the fly fishing community is growing. And it’s important that new fly fishers carry on the great traditions of our sport.

One legacy is what can only be described as the generosity mindset, illustrated by the catch-and-release movement of the last fifty years, stream restoration efforts, the advocacy for public lands, and the extensive volunteerism of Trout Unlimited chapter members.

Another layer of this generosity mindset is the sport’s streamside etiquette. To oversimplify for a moment: There are takers in this world, and there are givers. The fly fishing community is a “giver community,” and I’ve assembled seven streamside habits that characterize the highly generous fly fisher:

1. They defer to others on the river.

This seems patently obvious, but it needs to be said again and again. This is a way of thinking more than anything. It is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of strength. This mindset believes there’s always better fishing elsewhere, if something or someone is blocking access to his or her favorite spot.

Just to be practical for a moment: If you’re not first to your spot on the river, you’re not the first. Move on. Defer to the person who got there first. Find another run. Move to another river.

By the way, this also applies to fly fishing guides. Just because someone paid you for a great day of fly fishing doesn’t mean the generosity mindset doesn’t apply to you. If you can’t be a generous fly fishing guide to others (those who not your clients), then get out of the business and into a different sport.

2. They give others a wide berth.

This is a corollary to the first point, of course, but we’ve all had days when we’ve come around the bend to see another fly fisher stalled on our favorite run. My first thought is often a prayer: I sure hope she is on her way upriver. My next is, “I sure hope there’s not another fly fisher ahead of her.”

The highly generous fly fisher doesn’t just go up to the next run. He or she goes up two or three runs farther – or another mile. Or leaves to find a different river.

Back to the initial point: There’s always more, not less.

3. They dole out information freely.

I love running into a fly fisher who says, “I switched to a size 18 BWO pattern this afternoon, and I finally started catching a few.” Or, “I fished an olive woolly bugger for a couple hours, but when I switched to nymphs, it was game on.”

No, I don’t think you have to tell someone your secret run. At least I won’t. But the highly generous fly fisher sees the next fly fisher not so much as a competitor but as a colleague.

I once invited a friend to hunt with my family in North Dakota. Once. I never invited him again. He was so obsessed with shooting pheasants, he wanted to hunt the ditches on the way to the cornfield we planned for the hunt – 15 minutes before the 10 AM opener! He was so fiercely competitive, he annoyed the rest of us the entire day.

4. They slow down to teach young fly fishers.

Young does not mean young in age, necessarily. Young means “new to the sport.” I have found so much joy in helping my twenty-something nephew get started in the sport. When he initially engaged me, I had a fleeting thought that I might not be able to fish much, because I’d be so focused on helping him tie on flies, untangle knots, and identify the best runs to fish.

Instead, the common interest created a nascent friendship, and it won’t be long and he’ll be much better than I. I can’t wait.

What I love most about helping younger fly fishers is that they ask questions. They want my opinion. Yea! No one wants my opinion on anything these days (not my wife, not my kids, and not even my dog!).

5. They keep their dogs in the truck or at home.

Speaking of dogs, I don’t believe they belong on the river. I’ve hunted with dogs my entire life, and even the best hunting dogs go AWOL some days. If you are in the wilderness and sure you’re ten miles from the nearest fly fisher, then yes, take along your dog.

But the highly generous fly fisher would never spoil the day of another fly fisher by allowing his or her unleashed dog to walk through runs or startle the fly fisher coming up the river. It’s crazy that this even needs to be mentioned.

If you want a dog with you, go back to the suburbs and walk your dog around the neighborhood.

By the way, did you know that the fly fisher moving up the river has priority over the fly fisher moving downstream? The person moving upstream has the right of way. So if you’re walking downstream with your dog, and it lopes ahead of you in the stream, you are in the wrong.

6. They slough off the slights.

Several years ago, an intense fly fisher (who looked like a Navy Seal) stomped past Steve and me (we don’t look like Navy Seals) while we were hiking a narrow trail to a stretch of river in Yellowstone National Park. He brushed past us with not so much as a grunt. It was clear he had a spot in mind. And he got it.

We were a little miffed. And after we said some unflattering things about him to each other, we laughed it off, spied him on the river later, and moved ahead of him about a mile. We never saw him again.

If you fly fish long enough, you’ll have the chance to be annoyed at someone. Just walk away. No need to get in the last word.

7. They share their gear.

A few years ago, Steve, my podcast partner, arrived at his favorite run on the Madison River to find another fly fisher sitting along the bank. The guy had broken his rod. After catching a couple rainbows, Steve handed his rod to the other fly fisher fisher and told him to give the run a try.

In case, you think Steve is the most generous guy on the planet, you should know that Steve was acquainted with this guy. They had worked together in the past.

That said, however, I’ve broken my rod several times while fly fishing with Steve and he has never offered me his rod. Maybe that’s because one day on the Yellowstone, with a broken rod tip, I outfished him. My eight-and-a-half foot five weight rod became an eight-foot rod when I snapped off the last guide about three miles into the backcountry. Fortunately, the runs were right along the bank, and I could sling the hopper pattern with a modicum of precision.

But wouldn’t it be great to make this a habit if the opportunity arises?

Generosity begins with the idea that there is more, not less – more river, more opportunity, more fish. And so there is no need to horde. No need to compete. No need to be a grump. Just move on and find the more.

S2:E35 Organizing Your Fly Box

Organizing your fly box is generally not a top priority until you’re on the river, scrounging for a size #20 BWO in your fly box, and realize you lost the last one on the previous trip. There are several ways to organize your fly box, depending on the number of flies you have, the different kinds of rivers you fish, and even the number of days you fish a year. Click now to listen to “Organizing Your Fly Box.” Hats off to Quinn, a faithful listener and great fly fisher who recommended this topic – this one’s for you!

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Listen to our episode “Organizing Your Fly Box”

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.

How do you organize your fly box? How many flies do you think you have? How many days a year do you fly fish? Please post your comments below!

Here are some related podcasts and articles on fly fishing gear:

    Assessing Our Fly Fishing Gear

    Fly Fishing Gear We Use

    Fly Fishing Brands and Your Next Purchase

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.

My Love-Hate Relationship with January Fly Fishing

Baby, it’s cold outside!” This celebrated song title popped into my head when my podcast partner, Dave, texted me about fly fishing on a recent January day. For better or worse, I had work commitments that kept me from spending a few hours mid-day on the Blue River in Wisconsin.

The truth is, I have mixed feelings about fly fishing north of the Mason-Dixon line in January or even February. I’ve spent enough January days on the Madison and Gallatin Rivers in Montana to form an opinion.

What I Hate

Let’s get this side of the relationship out of the way. To be frank, I hate the cold, the ice, and the slow. Yes, the slow. I don’t mind snow. It often helps the fishing. But the slow is a different story.

First, what is there not to hate about the cold? I don’t mind mid-30s and above. But fly fishing ceases to be fun when the chill stings my fingers. Nimble fingers turn into fumble fingers. Tying a fly onto my tippet becomes nearly impossible. Any moisture at all makes it worse.

The ice is also a problem. It clings to the guides on my fly rod and seems to freeze (pun intended) my casts. Then there is the ice at the river’s edge. Do I walk on it or not? Even if it is solid, it can be slick.

Then there is the slow. The trout move and feed more slowly, so the action on most days is predictably slow. I’ve caught a few trout in January, but I have never even come close to a banner day.

What I Love

But lest I come across as a grumpy old man, I want to affirm what I love about fishing the northern rivers on January days. I love the solitude, the rhythm, and the moments of success.

What is there not to love about having the river all to yourself? I love solitude, and I don’t have to hike very far to find it on a typical January day. It’s usually as close as the river’s edge a few steps from my parking spot at a fishing access. I rarely encounter other fly fishers on a January day.

Then there is the rhythm of casting and mending and stripping line. It feels good to pick up on rod again after the holiday season and weeks without fly fishing. Even if the fishing is slow (see above), there is something hopeful about getting back into the rhythm of fly fishing. January will soon give way to February. Then February — the shortest month of the year — will give way to March and the glories of fly fishing in the spring.

Finally, there are occasional moments of success. Hooking into a nice rainbow makes my day. In July, landing only one rainbow may disappoint me. But in January, it makes me ecstatic.

A Final Thought

Occasionally, the Chinook winds along the eastern slopes of the Rockies will warm January temperatures into the 50s and 60s.

For the most part, though, the temperatures will rise at most to the mid or high 30s. I hate those kind of conditions for fly fishing. But my love of fly fishing usually trumps my desire to stay warm and comfortable. So I venture out into the cold. My fingers may get numb, but at least the hot chocolate in my thermos tastes better than ever.

S2:E34 Fly Fishing Spring Creeks

Fly fishing spring creeks is a snap for those of you who cut your fly fishing teeth on the gorgeous eastern or midwestern creeks of the United States. We didn’t. We learned to fly fish on the freestone rivers in the West. You can imagine the shock to our system when we started fly fishing spring creeks. In this episode, we offer four hard-earned lessons from our learning curve to catch trout in spring creeks.

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Spring Creeks”

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.

What kinds of rivers do you fish most often? Did you learn to fly fish on spring creeks? What did we miss in this episode? We’d love to hear from you.

Here are some related podcasts and articles that we’ve published on fishing the wild places:

    Fly Fishing Streamers on Smaller Creeks

    Fly Fishing the Wisconsin Driftless

    Gary Borger on Fly Fishing Spring Creeks

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

When You’re in a Fly Fishing Slump

Fly fishers and baseball players share a common struggle. They sometimes find themselves in a prolonged slump. Anglers whiff on strikes just like batters, and one frustrating day without landing a fish can lead to another. Especially, if you’re a beginner fly fisher – and you have a string of days on the river with no stories to tell – you may wonder if the sport is for you.

So if you ended last season on a frustrating note, you may want to take heart from some of these lessons from baseball:

1. Just keep fishing

Often, this is all it takes.

Follow the lead of baseball players who hit their way out of a slump. Sometimes they can’t explain why they are struggling. They just keep taking good swings, and invariably their luck begins to change. Hard-hit balls start to go between fielders rather than to them.

Sometimes, the best solution is to keep casting, mending, and floating your fly down the foam line. Eventually, you will start catching fish. When the slump is over, you may not be able to explain “why,” and that’s okay.

2. Work with a coach

Mechanics can make a difference. Baseball players know this, and they turn to their batting coaches — as well as hours of video—to help them find a flaw in their swing. Fly fishers can do the same. Okay, you probably do not have video of the casts on your latest trip to the river. But you can engage a coach.

Where can you find a fly fishing coach?

Hire a guide for a day. Or simply invite a friend who is ridiculously good at fly fishing. Even a friend at your skill level may be able to identify a bad casting habit or the fact that you are not properly mending your line.

3. Go back to school

Maybe a fly casting seminar or a fly tying class will re-energize you. Perhaps you’re not doing anything wrong. But learning a new cast or a new dry fly pattern might give you an edge. At least it will keep you engaged with fly fishing until the trout stop boycotting your flies. Even something as reading a good fly fishing book or watching a good instructional video might lead to an adjustment which makes a difference.

4. Try something new

After all, baseball players try new bats when they are slumping. Now this is not a fool-proof way to fix your fly fishing flaws. But a little adjustment might change your luck.

Fish new water. Experiment with flies you do not ordinarily use. You might even try a different fly rod. I may just start a slump simply to buy a new fly rod!

The good news: Slumps don’t last forever.

S2:E33 Fishing the Wild Places

Fishing the wild places is one of the great thrills of the sport. Yes, it’s a lollipop if you are well off enough to fly fish Patagonia, Russia, and New Zealand, but there are many wild places near where you fly fish. Something about the chance of fishing the wild places gives us hope. There is more river in front of you. There’s more opportunity. There’s experiencing nature in its most pristine form. Click now to listen to “Fishing the Wild Places.”

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Listen to our episode “Fishing the Wild Places”

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.

What experiences have you had fly fishing the wild places? Have you had a fly fishing encounter with “wild”? We’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments below.

Here are some related podcasts and articles that we’ve published on fishing the wild places:

    Fly Fishing’s Wilder Side

    The Trail Less Traveled

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

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:E32 Fly Fishing Myths of “More”

More money, more vacations, more fly fishing – who doesn’t want more of the good life? In this episode, we deconstruct the fly fishing myths of more – more days on the water, more fish, and more bigger fish. Don’t get us wrong: we both want to fly fish more this year. But the mindset of “more” is something that can steal the joy and satisfaction from the fly fishing life that you currently have. Click now to listen to “The Fly Fishing Myths of More.”

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Myths of ‘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 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.

What “fly fishing myths of more” did we miss? Do you agree with our basic thesis that more is not always better? We’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments below.

Here are some related podcasts and articles that we’ve published on fly fishing satisfaction:

    The Markers of Fly Fishing Satisfaction

    Sustaining Your Fly Fishing Passion

    What Makes a Satisfying Day on the River

    Resisting the Urge to Fly Fish Until Dark Thirty

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.”

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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.

Interpreting the 4 Feeding Behaviors of Trout

Look at that! Those trout are feeding on duns.”

My buddy Nolan pointed over the starboard bow of our drift boat: “Do you see those fish rising near the bank about forty yards away?”

We were floating the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, south of Livingston Montana. It took me a few moments to spot the three trout whose noses kept poking up from the surface. But I didn’t see any tiny mayflies in their dun stage. I thought Nolan was arrogant to make such a claim.

How could he have the 30x vision of a spotting scope?

After I scoffed at him, Nolan explained that he couldn’t see those insects any more than I could. Rather, he made the call by watching how the trout were feeding. While it is not an exact science, you can generally figure out what trout are feeding on by watching their behavior.

1. Noses mean duns

If you see noses poking through the surface, the trout are feeding on mayflies in their dun stage. Sometimes, these trout appear to be standing on their fins, up to their eyeballs in water.

The dun stage is the first of two adult stages of mayflies. A Parachute Adams may work fine. But in some cases — slow, clear water or a specific hatch — it might pay to use a Comparadun or Sparkle Dun pattern. Some kind of cripple pattern may work, too, given that most aquatic insects do not make the transition from nymph to adult stage and remain stuck in the surface film.

2. Fins mean nymphs

If you see only a dorsal fin or tail (and not the trout’s note), then the trout is feeding on something just below the surface.

This is a good time to use unweighted nymph, which floats just beneath the surface. Or, you can use an emerger pattern which sits low and protrudes into the film beneath it. A pattern which rides high, like a Parachute Adams, will not work well unless it gets water-logged and disappears from your sight.

3. Dimples mean midges or spinners

If you see a small dimple in the water, chances are are the trout are feeding on midges or spent mayfly spinners. You may or may not see the trout’s nose. Sometimes you will even see the trout gently roll through the surface with the grace of a dolphin.

Aside from specific midge patterns, a size #20 Parachute Adams works well for midges. Mayfly spinner patterns have light bodies and wings which lay out to the side (like airplane wings) rather than shooting up from the body at a forty-five degree angle.

4. Splashes mean caddis

If you see rising trout making splashes, they are likely feeding on caddis flies. The reason for the splash is that these flies are fluttering on the surface, and the trout go into attack mode. Some kind of elk hair caddis pattern will do the trick.

Final Thought

Of course, watching surface behavior is only one part of your knowledge base. Knowing which hatches happen in the river you’re fishing at particular times of the year and even specific times of the day is critical to making the correct visual assessment. As always, talk to the experts at your local fly shop or read their reports online. Then keep your eyes open to watch what is happening on the river’s surface.

S2:E31 Nymph Fishing Tactics for Beginners

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.

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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.

9 Fly Fishing Moments Requiring Different Speeds

Movies tend to romanticize the fly fishing experience. The natural beauty, the sound of the rushing river, and the rhythmic motion of the cast – all conspire to create an image of tranquility. The entire experience appears to be one speed: slow motion.

The reality, though, is that there are at least three speeds to fly fishing: go, slow, and stop. In the spirit of the stoplight, green means go, yellow means slow, and red means stop! In this post, I identify nine fly fishing moments that require one or more of these three speeds.

1. Before you step into the river to flyfish – RED

As you approach the river, stop a few yards before the river’s edge. Observe. Even if you’re wading into the river at a public access area, don’t simply traipse into the water and move upstream (or downstream). Wait a few minutes. Do you see any fish rising? Is the stream or river lower? Higher? Do you see any insects in the air or on the water?

Start your fly fishing with a modicum of observation.

2. After you fish for 15 minutes – GREEN

Beginner fly fishers tend to find a decent run and cast in the same spot for hours. Unless you are working a steelhead run in a larger river, most likely you need to move to the next run more quickly than you are.

After ten to fifteen minutes, move to the next run. Truly. Don’t keep flailing the pool or run. Just move on. If there is another fly fisher in the run in front of you, go around him or her – perhaps to a stretch of river that is several runs ahead of him or her. There are exceptions to every rule, but in general, green means go when you are fly fishing in smaller streams and rivers.

3. Approaching your next run – YELLOW

This is a corollary to #1 and #2. Most stretches of rivers do not have unlimited runs – ergo, places where the trout lie. Treat each run like the treasure that it is. Don’t just step into the river and begin slinging.

Slow down to look for rising trout. Check to see if you are casting a shadow over the run you’re trying to fish. Don’t waste the opportunity that is in front of you. Be methodical as you fish. Act as if every run is the last run of the day.

4. Tying knots – YELLOW

It’s tempting to cave in to your excitement (or anxiety) to get back to fly fishing after you have snapped off your fly. Don’t. Slow down and tie a good knot. Make sure you haven’t weakened the monofilament when you tightened the knot.

5. Reeling in fish – GREEN and YELLOW

This requires two speeds. The time you hook the fish to the time you release it is crucial to its survival. Never should you “play” the fish. It’s green all the way. The goal is always to release the fish as fast as you can.

However, if you hook a large fish, you will suddenly realize the impossibility of simply cranking in the fish. You’ll need to slow down to work your drag, pull the fish from side to side to wear it out, and move downstream to a shallow part of the river to net it.

If you want to catch a large brown trout on your three-pound tippet, you’ll need to slow down.

6. Wading – YELLOW

Nothing good comes from trying to move through the river quickly, even in slower moving streams. Speed increases your risk of falling. Slow down to enjoy the experience and to preserve your life.

7. After you see lightning or hear thunder – RED and GREEN

This is patently obvious, but you’ll want to stop (“red”) fly fishing and run (“green”) to find a low spot (not under a tree!). Make sure you leave your fly rod in a safe place but a good many yards away from you. Or your Winston rod may become a lightning rod!

8. When you encounter a bison or moose or grizzly – RED

It’s never a good idea to saunter up to any wild animal or even to run away from a startling encounter. Stop. Maybe even curl up into the fetal position if the wild encounter is a grizzly bear. Hopefully, you have a canister of bear spray around your waist. Some say it works on even on other wild animals.

9. After a great day on the river – GREEN

Green means go to the nearest supper club or rib and chop house. Go with a cold beverage, and go with the largest rib-eye on the menu.

S2:E30 Fly Fishing Expectations for the New Year

Fly fishing expectations for the new year are in the air (or they should be!). We’re ready to make this next year our best ever, as we seek to find ways to get more days on the water. We’re not professional fly fishers or guides, so our days fly fishing will not be legion (we have day jobs), but we hope to claw and scratch for as many fly fishing days as we can. Click now to listen to our episode on fly fishing expectations for the new year.

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Expectations for the New Year”

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.

Any plans for the new year? Do you hope to get more days on the water? Any plans for a bigger fly fishing trip? Any books you plan to read or skills you hope to acquire? Please post your comments below!

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

My 3 Most Humbling Fly Fishing Moments

Humility is not something I necessarily seek out. But this past year, I had three moments while fly fishing that put me in my place. I don’t fancy myself an expert. Far from it. But I have fly fished for a lot of years. Doesn’t that count for something? Apparently not.

Here are my three most humbling moments while fly fishing this past year.

1. Nymph fishing with a guide in Yellowstone National Park

This past year, we (Steve, my podcast partner, and I) hired a guide for a half day. We needed some intel on the Gardner River. We didn’t want to waste an entire day exploring the two- or three-mile stretch of river that we had planned to fish.

The guide (as most are) was terrific. Young. Energetic. Specific in his instructions. And dead right.

About mid morning, we hit the trail, moving from a spectacular run to another upriver. While on the trail, he said, “Let’s stop and hit this little run for a few minutes.” The run was against the far side of the bank and flowed towards us at a quirky angle. I had to cast my two-nymph rig from left to right, almost an over-the-shoulder toss. And to hit the hot zone required a modicum of precision.

I tried six or seven times. Nope. Couldn’t make the cast. I even moved closer to the run, almost on top of the spawning browns. It wasn’t more than a 15-foot cast. Not even close. The one time I hit the general vicinity of the hot zone, I couldn’t get a decent dead drift to save my life.

Finally, in disgust, the guide said, “Let’s just move on.” I felt the sting of his non-verbal rebuke the rest of the day.

2.Mentoring a newbie fly fisher at 12,000 feet

I took a friend on a long day hike into the Colorado’s Collegiate Wilderness. We hiked four miles into the lake, the last mile a lung-bursting climb.

This was his first time fly fishing. I had coached him in buying his first rod, reel, and the rest of the paraphernalia. As soon as we arrived at the high mountain lake, just several hundred yards from the Continental Divide, I began setting up his rod and reel. I tried out his new rig first, made a cast or two, and immediately caught a rising cutthroat.

I handed him the rod, made a few suggestions, and within minutes he had caught a nice cutthroat. And then another. And another.

He was one of those natural athletes. I saw no difference between how far out I was able to cast (and I had just purchased a new Sage rod!) and how far he was able to cast. At the end of the day, we caught about the same number of cutts. I was reminded that for some, fly fishing isn’t all that challenging. At least not for him. On his first day. I truly felt excited for him.

I had, though, a simultaneous emotion – a touch of grumpiness. I wanted to warn him that fly fishing can only go downhill from here, that this kind of day was an aberration. But I didn’t. I swallowed my sense of importance as the veteran fly fisher and cheered him on.

3. Hiking (er, sliding) down an avalanche chute

It was stupid when I was 34. And irresponsible at 54 years old.

On the way back from the high mountain lake mentioned in the previous point, I called an audible that could have been a disaster. I remembered that there was shortcut down the mountain, an old avalanche chute now overgrown with brush and young (25-year-old) pine trees.

I had taken the shortcut twenty years earlier and forgot (or had suppressed) how steep it was.

As soon as we began to wind down the chute, sliding a few steps and then stopping, often by grabbing small trees, I felt the fear that registers deep in your soul. I snaked my way down slowly and deliberately, occasionally glancing over my shoulder to make sure my friend was making progress. About an hour later, emotionally and physically exhausted, we arrived at the bottom of the chute. We still had another couple hours of hiking left before we reached our truck.

Nothing is more humbling than stupidity in midlife. Maybe the male brain never fully matures.

S2: E29 This Past Year’s Fly Fishing Lessons

Fly fishing lessons do not necessarily involve expense. They’re all about learning, growth, and becoming better at the sport. In this episode, we look back on 2016 and discuss what we learned most from our days on the water. Click now to listen to “This Past Year’s Fly Fishing Lessons” in your browser.

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Listen to our episode “This Past Year’s Fly Fishing Lessons”

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.

What fly fishing lessons did you learn (or relearn) this past year? What made the year great (or a challenge)?

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Winter Fly Fishing without Losing It

Winter fly flshing is not my favorite. But there is a mystique to fishing the big rivers of Montana or the spring creeks in Minnesota a few days before Christmas or a couple weeks into the new year.

If you fly fish in winter, be careful to do so without losing it. I’m using the pronoun “it” to refer to everything from your sanity to the feeling in your fingers to life itself. The frustration and the dangers intensify in the winter.

Here are seven strategies for keeping your sanity and your life intact:

1. Lower your expectations

Don’t expect a twenty-fish day. Trout feed, but not as aggressively as they will when winter gives way to spring. Don’t expect that your hands will stay warm. Don’t expect the guides on your fly rod to remain ice-free.

2. Wait for mid-day and early afternoon

Trout respond better in these brief periods of warmth. You may, too. So sleep in and quit early. While we’re on the topic of warmth, wait for a warmer day. Tie flies or read a fly fishing book when the weather is in the teens.

3. Focus on shallow water, not deep pools

Bud Lilly, one of the deans of western fly fishing, assumes the fish in deep pools are not feeding as actively as fish in shallow riffles. Deep pools do not get enough sunlight, while the sun can trigger insect activity or even the metabolism of a sluggish trout in a shallow riffle.

4. Try nymphs first

I’ve had some good midge fishing in January on Montana’s Madison River. But unless you get into rising fish, nymphs may be your best bet. Trout do not chase streamers as aggressively (if they chase them at all) as they will when the water temperatures get warmer.

5. Avoid wading in deep water

Slipping and falling into the river on a thirty degree day is much different than on an eighty degree day in July. In July, a bath might cost you your dignity. In January, it might cost you your life.

6. Go with a buddy

This is always the safest approach to fly fishing, but it’s even more critical in the winter. A sprained knee a quarter mile from your vehicle could be a disaster in cold temperatures if you are alone.

7. Dress for warmth

It goes without saying, but pile on those layers. Put on waterproof gloves. Cover your face with a neck gator or a face mask. Double up on socks, too. Wear a wool or fur or polyester fleece hat. The folks at Harvard Medical School say that without a hat you can lose up to fifty percent of your body heat in certain cold-weather conditions even if the rest of your body is bundled up.

Final Thought

Alright, I promised seven strategies, so I won’t add an eighth one about bringing a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee. Also, the jury is out on whether you want clouds or sun. A friend and veteran fly fisher in Montana used to say, “The worst day for fly fishing is a sunny day in February.” My experience suggests he is right. Yet, as noted earlier, Bud Lilly observes that sunlight can trigger certain insect hatches, particularly the big “snowflies” that appear on many big rivers beginning in February.

For now, I’d suggest worrying less about the presence or absence of cloud cover than whether or not you remembered to bring that thermos filled with warm liquid.

S2:E28 One Fine Day on Willow Creek

Willow Creek is a gorgeous tailwater stream that flows out of Harrison Reservoir about an hour west of Bozeman, Montana. The willow-thick creek makes its way to the Jefferson River, which eventually flows in the Missouri. This fall, we spent a day fishing streamers on Willow Creek, and it became one of several highlights of our fly fishing year. Click on One Fine Day on Willow Creek now to listen to the podcast in your browser.

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Listen to our episode “One Fine Day on Willow Creek”

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.

Describe a recent fine day on the water? What make it a terrific day? What made the experience more than simply a day of catching lots of fish?

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Witty Fly Fishing Sayings for the Ages

Proverbs are little sayings that condense a volume of insight into a pithy sentence. A few years ago, I picked up a book of Haitian proverbs in a bookstore in Port-au-Prince. One of my favorites is: “Pretty teeth are not the heart.” I am also fond of Savvy Sayin’s, a little book of proverbs from the old west. One of the gems it contains is: “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.”

I’m a big fan of proverbs and aphorisms. By far, my favorite collection is in the Book of Proverbs (in the Bible). One of its well-known aphorisms is: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15.1) Another blunt-but-true proverb is “If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit” (25:16).

Fishing One Liners for the Ages

So far, I haven’t found a book of fly fishing proverbs. But I’ve discovered some great one-liners as I’ve read fly fishing books and listened to wise fly fishers. Here are some of my favorites. These sayings drip with wisdom. They challenge me, stop me in my tracks, and make me think. You might find a few of these useful, too:

    You don’t learn fly fishing as much as you survive it. [Tom Davis]

    There are lots of ways to catch a trout. Maybe that’s why there are so many experts. [Bud Lilly]

    There’s no taking trout with dry breeches. [Miguel de Cervantes, about 400 years ago]

    The more you fly fish, the less flies you will use. [Bob Granger]

    Rivers and their inhabitants are made for the wise to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration. [Izaak Walton]

    The deepest satisfaction comes from letting go. [Tom Davis, on catch-and-release fishing]

    There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm. [Patrick McManus]

    Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip. [John Gierach]

    No hatch is good enough for you to risk waving a nine-foot graphite rod around during a lightning storm. [Bud Lilly]

    There’s a fine line between fly fishing and waving your rod like an idiot. [adapted from a proverb by Steven Wright]

    Accepting advice makes you no less a fisherman. [Peter Kaminsky]

    What a tourist terms a plague of insects, the fly fisher calls a great hatch. [Patrick McManus]

    Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. [Henry David Thoreau]

These pearls are words to live by as well as to fish by. Here’s one last fly fishing proverb: Blessed is the fly fisher who has nothing to say and doesn’t say it.

S2:E27 The Myths and Truths of Catching Big Fish

Catching big fish is no doubt a signal of skill. Then again, it may not be. A 10-year-old on a guided fly fishing trip can hook and crank in the largest rainbow that the guide has ever seen on that stretch of river. That’s not really skill. Or maybe it is: It’s the skill of the guide, not the young fly fisher. Click now to listen to our episode on “The Myths and Truths of Catching Big Fish.”

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Listen to our episode “The Myths and Truths of Catching Big Fish”

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.

What is the biggest fish you’ve caught? Did you “hunt” the fish? What did you catch it on? A streamer, dry fly, nymph?

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Trouble with the Cast

If Hollywood made a fly fishing movie about you, what title would they choose?

Since A River Runs Through It has already been taken, I’d adapt the title of a recent Clint Eastwood film. At least I’d do this if I was honest. The movie is Trouble with the Curve. It’s the story of a baseball scout with the Atlanta Braves (played by Clint Eastwood) who tells the front office not to draft a particular prospect. The kid looks like a future star, but he has trouble hitting a curve ball.

If Hollywood made a fly fishing movie about me, a fitting title would be Trouble with the Cast. At least, that would fit the early decade of my fly fishing career. But with the help of my fly fishing friends, I’ve been able to overcome some of the struggles that are common to novice fly fishers.

Are you a candidate for a lead role in Trouble with the Cast?

Here are five common struggles and a couple solutions for each one:

1. Your casts lack distance.

There are two quick fixes if your casts come up short of your target.

First, flick your wrist. Practice this before you pick up your fly rod. Make a handgun out of your casting hand (index finger extended, thumb up, bottom three fingers pointing back at you). Now snap forward, then back, then forward, then back. That’s the action you want when casting your rod.

Too many fly fishers try to be graceful and end up waving their arms forward and backward. But a graceful cast is the product of snapping the wrists (like a baseball pitcher throwing that curve which troubles hitters).

The second quick fix is to make sure that your rod is parallel with the ground on your final forward cast.

I’ve watched a lot of fly fishers keep their rods pointing up at a 45-degree angle as their line shoots towards its target. But as legendary fly fisher Gary Borger observes, this creates “all sorts of shoot-shortening friction.” He even suggests lifting the rod butt as a way of keeping your rod parallel to the surface of the ground (or water).

2. Your casts lack accuracy.

Here are two solutions to inaccurate casting. They seem too simple to be true.

First, keep your eyes on the target. Yes, some folks have better hand-eye coordination than others. But it is remarkable how this simple tip enhances accuracy.

Second, point your tip at the target. It seems silly to make such an obvious point. But I’m often surprised how my casts go astray when I get lazy about this. As soon as I make a conscious effort to point the eye of my rod tip towards the spot where I want my fly to land (even as my rod is parallel to the ground as discussed in #1 above), my accuracy improves.

3. Your casts result in tangled line.

Once again, here are two adjustments you can make. First, stop false casting so much. The more you false cast, the more opportunity you give your line to tangle.

Second, make sure you allow your backcast to unfurl. A lot of tangles happen because fly fishers hurry from backcast to forward cast. This is a recipe for either snapping off the fly (the bullwhip effect) or for tangling line that has not had time to unfurl.

4. Your casts spook the fish.

One problem is that the shadow of your fly line spooks the fish. This is an easy fix. Stop false casting so much! That’s all.

If the problem is that you’re slapping the line on the water, then there is a simple trick to help your line land softly.

The trick is to pull your rod tip up at the last moment. Ideally, your rod tip is pointed at your target (#2) and that your rod is parallel to the ground (#3). At the last moment, make a slight upward pull on your rod. I like to think of it as a gentle hiccup. What this does is to stop the forward momentum of the line. It goes limp and falls gently to the surface of the water. This takes some practice, but it really does work.

5. Your casts get wrecked by the wind.

I have a sure-fire solution for this problem. Quit. Yes, just quit. Call it a day. Head for the truck and drive to your favorite restaurant. I’ve had some days on Montana’s Lower Madison where this has been the best option.

But there are some other alternatives to quitting for the day:

First, stop false casting. Yes, that’s a solution to a lot of problems, including wind.

Second, move in closer and shorten up your casts. If the wind is howling enough to make casting difficult, it’s also creating ripples on the surface which will keep trout from seeing your movements.

Third, a guide once told me to make a strong backcast and a softer forward cast. That’s the opposite of my instincts, so it takes some practice. But it really does work.

Now, when Hollywood shows up to make a fly fishing movie about you, your prowess at casting might lead them to title it Star Casts: The Force Awakens. At least you’ll put yourself in a better position to catch more fish.

S2:E26 The Markers of Fly Fishing Satisfaction

Fly fishing satisfaction is situational. And personal. Folks fly fish for many reasons. There’s no single marker of fly fishing satisfaction, with the exception of “catching lots of and big trout.” Click now to listen to “The Markers of Fly Fishing Satisfaction.”

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Listen to our episode “The Markers Fly Fishing Satisfaction”

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.

What are the markers of true fly fishing satisfaction? Please post your ideas below!

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

Fly Fishing Language for Parents and Teens

Communicating with my teenage boys was no small challenge. But fly fishing provided a language that made it easier. Last weekend, I hung out with my 29-year-old son, Ben. I left amazed at all the wisdom I picked up from him. He offered insights about financial planning and about my workout regimen (which needs to be ramped up a bit).

This weekend, my wife and I will travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota to watch the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks play their first ever football playoff game since moving up to Division 1 (FCS) a decade ago. They are ranked 8th nationally. Our 23-year old son, Luke, is a senior tight end and a team captain. He has blossomed into a fine leader and is heavily involved in community service in Grand Forks.

I am grateful for the way my sons have emerged from those challenging teen years. This is due primarily to the grace of God. Seriously. It covered a multitude of my parenting blunders. But I also have to give credit to one of God’s gifts which enabled communication during the tough patches.

That gift is fly fishing.

The Language of Life

My boys and I laugh about some tense moments during their teen years. A lot of them involved over-reactions on the part of their dad. Uh, that would be me. We laugh, for example, about scathing note I left for Ben when he didn’t make it home from gopher hunting in time to go with us to his sister’s high school graduation. My purple prose expressed bitter disappointment in Ben and outlined a long list of consequences. I was still seething when I reached the front of the high school auditorium and saw Ben waiting for us. He had his friend drop him off so he wouldn’t be late.

So how did we manage to communicate through the teen years? Fly fishing provided a language which made it possible. We found our voice in the laughter that fly fishers share. Conversation flowed like the river itself, moodiness evaporated like the morning fog. In this setting, my sons were quite willing to listen to my advice — at least about fly fishing. Fly fishing together even created a bond which led to some rather deep conversations about life.

Something else happened too. The conversations we began on the river followed us home. So did the ease with which we communicated. It seemed like our shared experiences on the river nurtured conversations marked by transparency, respect, honesty, and kindness.

By the way, both of my boys still love to fly fish — especially when we can do it together.

Fly fishing is not a magic pill that solves problems between parents and their teens. But time together on the river may yield much more than fish. It may provide a common language, which takes communication to a more productive level.

S2:E25 Benefits of a Fly Fishing Buddy

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.

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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.

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Fishing Streamers on Smaller Creeks

Fishing streamers is one of the most consistent ways to catch bigger fish. Trout that gobble up bait fish and larger aquatic insects like helgrammites get more bang for their caloric buck. More calories with less effort. A sure way to gain some heft. Pretty much how I would love to live my life, though I can’t because I’m a middle-aged guy with a slight paunch already. Some would say not so slight.

Steve, my podcast partner and I, recently fished streamers on two different-sized rivers in Montana. One day we each caught twenty browns and rainbows on a smaller stream called Willow Creek, ranging from 12 to 18 inches. Two days later, we each caught one big rainbow on the Missouri River just below Hauser Dam, after four hours of slinging.

Two days of fishing streamers. Two completely different rivers. I realize this may be patently obvious, but it needs to be said: Fishing streamers in smaller trout streams is simply different than slinging a rig in larger waters like the Missouri. Here are three adjustments that fly fishers need to make when fishing streamers on smaller creeks:

Cast Downstream When Fishing Streamers

For starters, you tend to get only one or two shots at the pocket of water in a smaller stream, so your cast needs to be precise. Most likely you’re not going to rip out four or five fish from one small run.

On Willow Creek, with the stream as low as it was this year, more often than not I got above the run, cast downstream, and then made three or four strips. Sometimes, I crawled to the bank near the middle of the run and then cast downstream and then stripped back the streamer.

On the Mighty Mo (Missouri), I cast as far as I could sling the streamer, slightly upstream, with a nine foot, eight weight fly rod. I mended my line once after the cast and then let the streamer drift until it began to swing. Then I stripped back the line. There were three of us fly fishing, and we cycled through about a 200-yard stretch of river.

Big river, big open spaces, big casts.

Quicker Retrieves

In the smaller creek, of course, there isn’t a lot of time to retrieve the line. Casts are shorter, and the distance from the end of the swing back to your fly rod is short. Sometimes, shorter, one- to three-inch strips seem to work best. Other times, six-inch strips seem to work.

In tight spaces, you may get only three or four strips, and then it’s time to cast again. On the Missouri, stripping the line was less frenetic. I had lots of time to retrieve the streamer.

There’s a rule of thumb that I am not sure works all the time. It goes something like this: If you’re fishing slower water, then make your strips faster, and if the river is faster, make your strips slower.

The more precise rule of thumb is: Try several ways to retrieve your line, and go with one that works.

Weight Forward Works Well When Fly Fishing Streamers

Our day on Willow Creek, I used my nine foot, six weight fly rod with weight forward line. No sink tip line. The runs were not that deep, maybe mid-thigh at most. Occasionally deeper, especially in the beaver ponds. But the runs were short and shallow.

However, on the Might Mo, I switch to a nine foot, eight weight rod. With sink tip line. Later in the morning, after I had caught a fat rainbow, I switched to my six weight rod with weight forward line. I simply couldn’t get the streamer down fast enough and deep enough. I gave up trying to streamer fish without a sink tip line and switched to nymphs.

The point is that it’s okay to use a weight forward line on smaller creeks, but on the larger rivers, its essential to have a spare reel with sink tip line in your truck.

S2:E24 Assessing Our Fly Fishing Gear

Fly fishing gear matters. It just does. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive or the brand of choice of the fly fishing literati, but the right fly fishing gear can make a good trip great. In this episode, we discuss our fly fishing gear and how it performed during our most recent trip to Montana. Click now to listen to the episode.

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Listen to our episode “Assessing Our 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.” 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.

What kind of fly fishing gear do you need next? How do you budget for new gear throughout the year?

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

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

4 Notes on Fly Fishing Knots

Here are some notes on knots to give you some knot know-how.

The only thing trickier than reading that sentence is trying to tie a tiny tippet (the size of a human hair) to the eye of a tiny hook. If you’re new to fly fishing, tying your tippet to your fly or (worse) tying your tippet to a leader can seem daunting. And time-consuming. And frustrating.

Here a few notes that will simplify the process and get you fly fishing.

1. Try this at home

Don’t wait until you’re on the bank of the Lochsa or the Hoosic for your inaugural attempt at securing your fly to a tippet with a knot. Try this at home.

If you’re trying to learn a brand new knot, use a small rope or piece of yarn or string. Tie the knot onto a key ring or an eye bolt. Then, you can graduate to tying actual monofilament (which has a mind of its own) onto an actual eye of a hook.

Practice may not make perfect, but practice does make progress.

2. Learn two or three basic knots.

There is a downside to buying a booklet of fly fishing knots. The sheer number of knots you can tie will overwhelm and discourage you. But relax. You can get away with two knots—one for tying your fly to your tippet, and the other for tying tippet to your leader.

The first knot to learn is the improved clinch knot. You will use this to tie your tippet (or the end of your leader) to your fly. This is a tried and true pattern which I use whether the hook size is a #20 (tiny) or a #6 (large). I will not drive you crazy by trying to describe how to tie it. Instead, watch this video. For the record, I prefer eight turns rather than five—especially if I’m using small (in diameter) tippet.

That’s really the only knot you ever need to tie a fly to a tippet or leader. But here’s another one I started using a few years ago because it is so simple. It’s the surgeon’s loop. It’s quicker to tie than an improved clinch knot, so it’s a bit easier when your hands are cold. You’ll waste a bit more tippet material, but that’s really the only drawback. I’ve used this with small flies and large flies. Here’s a video to show you how it is done.

Finally, to tie a piece of tippet to a leader, I recommend the double surgeon’s knot. It’s easy to tie after a few practice times. Just watch this video and learn it!.

Yes, there are other knots. But you can’t go wrong with these. I’ve used them for years and have landed a lot of large trout on small flies and tiny tippets. So I know these work.

3. Use the river as background.

One of the frustrations you’ll face when you try to tie a knot is seeing the tiny loop(s) you’ve created and seeing the tiny tag end you’re trying to push through the loop(s). I tried all kinds of background — my waders, the sky, green leaves. Then a friend pointed out the obvious. Use the river as a backdrop. It works surprisingly well.

4. Moisten your knot.

Last, but not least, moisten your knot with a bit of saliva. When monofilament is tightened, the friction generates enough heat to weaken the monofilament. That’s why you want to wet your knot. If you forget, the next big trout you hook might snap off.

Alright, you now have the know-how you need to tie knots without being fit to be tied (sorry!).

S2:E23 One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 2)

The Gardner River gave us two days of memorable fly fishing last month. During our second day on the river, we had even a better day than the first, and we learned more about the art of nymph fishing. Every time we spend a couple days on the river, we are either reminded about something we forgot or learn something new. Click now to listen to this episode.

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Listen to our episode “One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 2)”

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.

Have you ever had two straight days of unbelievable fly fishing on the same stretch of river? We’d love to hear your stories.

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

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

10 Ways to Cope with the Fly Fishing Off Season

I am three weeks removed from my last fly fishing trip. Winter looms. I may not pick up my fly rod again until spring. Now the coping begins. It wasn’t always this way.

When I lived in Montana, I fished into November. Then, I ventured out at least once a month in December, January, and February. This satisfied my fly fishing urge until a new season began in March.

But how do you cope if you live in the city or the suburbs? How do you manage if you live far away from prime trout fisheries? I’ve figured out a few coping strategies since I moved a decade ago to the north suburbs of Chicago.

1. Go through the photos of your last trip.

Thumb through the photos on your cell phone. This brings back good memories and helps you re-live the best moments. Warning: Your photos might result in you laughing out loud or shouting “Yes!”

2. Make a list of the year’s best memories.

After you’ve thumbed through your photos, write down your favorite memories from the last year of fly fishing. For me, the list from last year includes:

  • Catching browns at dusk in Rocky Mountain National Park;
  • Hauling in fish after fish on streamers in Willow Creek (near Three Forks, Montana);
  • Landing a big rainbow on the Missouri River (near Helena, Montana); and
  • Catching a ridiculous number of browns in October on the Gardner River (in Yellowstone National Park).

Making a list will preserve your memories and maybe even remind you of a detail you had forgotten.

3. Take inventory of your gear.

This is an act of hope. It’s a reminder that you will fly fish again. Besides, it really does prepare you for your next trip.

4. Shop for something new.

This is the benefit—or liability—of the previous strategy. When you take inventory of your gear, you may discover your need for a new reel, new gloves, a new fly box, or a new net. This sends you on a mission to research options and prices. It keeps your mind off the reality that you are not able to fish.

5. Visit the trout at your local Bass Pro Shop.

A couple times during the winter, I visit our local Bass Pro Shop (nine miles from my house) and stand on a little bridge and look wistfully at the twenty-inch rainbows that swim in the little creek on the edge of the aisle with coffee mugs and pocket knives. Seriously!

Now I’m trying to muster the courage to ask the store manager if I can fly fish the stream since I’m a catch-and-release fly fisher. Seeing me catch these rainbows might get more people interested in fly fishing, and then they would spend more money at Bass Pro.

It’s a win-win, right?

6. Watch fly fishing videos.

The internet is loaded with videos of fly fishers catching trout. Start with websites like Orvis or Winston. Then, go to YouTube and search for about any river or species of trout which piques your interest.

7. Tie a few flies.

This only works if you are a fly tyer. If you’re not, the off-season is a good time to take your first class.

8. Read a good fly fishing book.

Read about the areas you want to fly fish. For example, if you’re headed to Montana or Wyoming, get a copy of Bud Lilly’s Guide to Fly Fishing the West. It’s an entertaining read with humor and history woven into it.

Read for skill-development. Gary Borger’s “Fly Fishing” series is ideal for this. His fourth book in the series, The Angler as Predator, helped me a lot.

You might even educate yourself on the flies you’re trying to imitate with a book like Pocketguide to Western Hatches by Dave Hughes or Matching Major Eastern Hatches: New Patterns for Selective Trout by Henry Ramsay.

Don’t forget to read through the lists you compiled from previous years (see #2 above).

9. Plan your next trip.

There’s nothing like planning your next trip to get the juices flowing! The off-season is a great time to do some research on new places or to plan for a visit to some good old places.

10. Watch “A River Runs Through It.”

You owe it to yourself to watch this at least once a year. The cinematography alone makes it worthwhile. The story is gripping, too. Real men might even shed a tear or two at the last scene.

Alright, something in the above list is guaranteed to help you cope with the fly fishing off-season. If not, watch college football and college basketball. Go hunting. Remodel your kitchen.

Oh yes, you might even consider a few hours on the water in the dead of winter if you’re within a day’s drive of a river or stream. Whatever you do to pass the time, winter will lift and the rivers will come to life in the spring.

Let a new season begin!

S2:E22 One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 1)

The Gardner River near the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park is a gorgeous fishery – with the added bonus of deer, bison, elk, and grizzly bears. In this episode, the first of a two-part series, we describe in detail one of the best days we’ve had fly fishing. We caught lots of fish (browns, mostly), got freaked out by a grizzly track along the trail, and was reminded of several key nymph fishing tactics. Click now to listen to this episode.

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Listen to our episode “One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Part I)”

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.

We’d love to hear your stories of a fine day this past year on the river. Please post your stories 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.

4 Benefits of Fly Fishing with a Buddy

I enjoy solitude when I fly fish. Yet I rarely fly fish alone. I like to fly fish with a buddy, if only because there’s someone to take pics of my big fish (or buffalo bone).

The truth is, it is better to fly fish with a buddy or a brother or a sister or a spouse. In the past year of fly fishing, I have been on the water eighteen days (I know, it doesn’t seem like enough). On every one of those days, I have fished with someone else — either my podcast partner Dave, my brother, my sons, or another close friend.

Why is a fishing partner such a big deal? Here are four benefits of fly fishing with a buddy or someone else.

Safety

This is at top of the list for a reason. Your life might depend on it.

Four years ago, my sons I and hiked into a high mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail took us up the side of a waterfall. On our way back from fly fishing the lake, we came across a hiker who had broken her ankle. She was in a group, and one of them had hiked out to find a park ranger. By the time we made it down the waterfall, we heard and saw the helicopter that came to rescue her.

The buddy system results in a timely rescue.

A couple weeks ago, I slipped at the edge of a small stream I was fishing and fell forward in some shallow water. The only casualty was a cracked fly box. But I reflected later on how I could have hit my head on a nearby boulder and passed out. If I had been alone, that could have been disastrous even in shallow water. I was glad that my podcast partner, Dave, was only thirty yards away. It was a win-win situation.

Since I wasn’t hurt, he got a good laugh. But had I been hurt, he was there to help.

Dave and I regularly fish in grizzly bear country, so having two fly fishers — each armed with bear spray — is critical. Sometimes a bear can attack you so fast that there is no time to unleash the contents of your canister. But a friend can. One of my bow-hunting partners saved the life of his friend a few years when a grizzly attacked faster than his friend could get to his bear spray. Then, he was able to help his friend back to their SUV before the bear returned and before his friend bled to death. The recovery required a couple surgeries. But the attack might have led to death if my friend’s friend had been hunting alone.

Problem-Solving

Another benefit of fly fishing with a buddy is having another brain.

Recently, Dave and I were fishing for fall browns in the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. We took turns drifting our nymphs through the same run. We were catching fish, but Dave pointed out to me that I was missing some strikes. He suggested that the almost imperceptible hesitation of my strike indicator was a subtle strike. So I started setting the hook every time my strike indicator made a slight bump. Every time, taking Dave’s suggestion resulted in hooking a fish.

Later in the day, I returned the favor on another run that I had fished a couple days before. After watching Dave’s casts, I suggested that he cast about 10 feet further upstream so the nymphs he was using would be deeper when they reached the hot zone. It worked. Sometimes it takes a friend to spot the obvious or not-so-obvious solution to those times when the fish are not biting.

Sharing the Joy

There’s something satisfying about sharing the moment with someone else. When Dave and I catch fish, we whoop it up together. I can honestly say I enjoy watching Dave catch big trout (okay, as long as I’m catching them too!). Then there are the hilarious moments. I was glad Dave witnessed the 20-inch buffalo bone (the picture above) I landed when we fished the Gardner together!

Like any other joy in life, fly fishing is meant to be shared. This goes beyond catching trout, though. It extends to seeing the sun flood a beautiful meadow, watching a couple of wolves saunter along the bank of the Yellowstone River, or hearing the piercing bugle of a bull elk on a September morning.

Remembering

As much as I try to slow down in the moment and take in the experience, I find that I forget certain aspects of a day on the river. That’s why I force myself to share dinner at the end of the day with my fly fishing buddies. Well, okay, I really don’t have to force myself to do this! Dinner is the capstone of a great day. Often, the dinner conversation I have with Dave or my brother or one of my sons will remind me of moments or experiences I had forgotten.

Sometimes, even years later, I’ll be talking about a certain trip with one of them, and they will remind me of some moment or experience that had vanished from my memory.

As a wise writer once said, “Two is better than one. . . . if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. . . . Though they may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” (Eccl. 4:9-10, 12). While that applies to all of live, it certainly relates directly to your next fly fishing adventure.

S2:E21 The Art of Fly Fishing Mentoring

Fly fishing mentoring is a lot of work. For starters, it takes patience. A lot of patience. And many of us are not wired to watch someone else fly fish. In this episode, we discuss the importance of fly fishing mentoring and discuss some basic ideas to keep both parties sane, especially if one party is your spouse. Or your brother-in-law. Click here to learn more about the art of fly fishing mentoring.

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Listen to our episode “The Art of Fly Fishing Mentoring”

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.

Have you ever mentored someone in fly fishing? What did you learn about yourself when you did? What went well? What was most frustrating? Any recommendations for those who want to help teach others?

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

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5 Reasons You Need a Fly Fishing Wading Staff

A year ago, I bought a wading staff for use on the big rivers of the American West — particularly the Yellowstone and the Missouri. I had visions of strapping it to my side only for use in thigh-deep or even waist-deep water. But last week, I discovered that it’s worth wearing on small streams when I’m only wading ankle-deep water.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I were getting ready to fish Willow Creek south of Three Forks, Montana, with a good friend. I was mildly surprised to see our friend strap on his collapsible wading staff. But when he explained to me why he always wears it, I decided to take mine out of my duffel bag and give it a try.

Now I’m a believer. Here are the reasons why it makes sense to use a wading staff even when you’re on a small stream in shallow water.

1. Traction

This is one of the two reasons my friend cited. Even with state-of-the-art wading boots (we both wore Patagonia Foot Tractor boots that day), moss-covered rocks can be slick. I was pleased how my wading staff helped me stay upright when one of my boots slipped.

2. Stability

I’m in reasonably good shape at 54. But my legs are not as strong as they were at 44 or at 34. I found that a “third leg” gave me more stability when I walked on the rock banks as well as the boulders in shallow water.

3. Stamina

I was also surprised how my “third leg” took pressure off of my two legs. We fished three miles up Willow Creek in a canyon which lacked any trails or gentle banks. Then we walked three miles down in and along the creek. My legs were not nearly as tired as I expected after the six-mile trek.

4. Snakes

This is the second reason my friend always carries his wading staff. We were in rattlesnake country, and even though it was mid-October, some fishing buddies of his encountered a rattler a few days before on the stretch of creek we were fishing. I’m no advocate of killing snakes. But I like the idea of packing something that can ward off a rattler when a surprise encounter happens.

5. Climbing

Again, I’m writing as a 54-year old. I found that my wading staff made it easier to scramble up steep banks and rocky inclines. Now I understand why another friend of mine raved about the walking staff he carried in the Swiss Alps a few months ago.

If you’re in the market for a wading staff, check out the ones made by Simms and Orvis. I tried them both, and I give the nod to the Orvis model because it snaps into place almost instantly. Both of these staffs are collapsible, although I kept mine assembled most of the day. It didn’t get in my way when I let it drag behind me (the staff was connected to its sheath via a retractor).

There are more affordable alternatives, too. I know fly fishers who use an old ski pole or even a mountaineer’s staff.

When King David composed the twenty-third psalm, he was not referring to a fly rod nor a wading staff when he wrote, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” But still, I find comfort in taking both a rod and staff with me – even when I walk through quiet waters.

S2:E20 Sustaining Your Fly Fishing Passion

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

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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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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

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

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.

Whewda!

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.

S2:E19 Differences between Native and Wild Trout

Wild trout – those two words together make no sense. Aren’t all trout wild? We all know the story of hatchery trout, but what about wild and native trout? What are the differences between the two? Understanding the category of trout that you catch may not necessarily help you catch more of them. But it will round out your fly fishing acumen, and give you a better grasp of what’s at stake in the rivers you fish. Listen to our episode now.

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Listen to our episode “Native vs. Wild Trout”

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.

Anything you would add to our discussion on native vs. wild trout? What is your favorite kind of fish to catch?

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.

5 Questions to Determine If You Should Tie Your Own Flies

Tie your own flies – that idea might seem far-fetched to a beginner fly fisher. If you’re new to the sport, you might wonder if fly tying is something to pursue.

To tie or not to tie? That is the question. To help you answer the question, here are a few more questions to consider:

Can I tie flies even if I’m not an artistic type?

Absolutely! I am living proof of this.

I do not have an artistic bone in my body. Or perhaps I do, and it is badly broken. While I can color between the lines, I cannot draw anything more complex than a stick figure. Yet I can tie the basic patterns and catch trout on them.

If your goal is to win a “most beautiful fly” contests, then a lack of artistic talent is an issue. If your goal is to catch trout, then being artistically challenged is not a concern. To tie your own flies has little to do with your artistic gene.

How do I learn?

The best approach is to sign up for a fly-tying class at your local fly shop. I learned to tie flies two decades ago in an eight-week class that met Saturday mornings at a fly shop in Bozeman, Montana.

The second best approach is to watch fly-tying videos. There are some great instructional videos that you can access for free. I like the “Beginner Fly Fishing Tips” series on YouTube by scflytying. You might also check the videos by Tightline Productions that Orvis shares on its website.

In my experience, books have limited value. I need to watch someone tying a fly in order to make sense of it. I simply can’t visualize the process when reading a book — even if it contains clear instructions and sharp diagrams. Having a live person to help you figure out what you’re doing wrong is the best way to learn.

What do I need to get started?

To tie your own flies, you need tools and materials.

The first tool you need is a vise. Any fly vise that holds a hook tight will do. Don’t overthink this.

Next, you need fly tying scissors. I recommend two pairs. Spend more on one that you reserve for hair and thread. Buy a cheaper pair to cut thicker items, which tend to dull the scissor blades more quickly. You’ll also need a bobbin (for your spool of thread) and a pair of hackle pliers. Neither item will break the bank.

I’d suggest two or three bobbins so you don’t have to re-thread your bobbin every time you switch spools of thread. Finally, get a whip finisher. Save yourself the hassle of a cheaper one and buy the one sold by Orvis.

The materials you need depend on what flies you plan to tie. Typically, the minimum materials include hackle capes, thread, dubbing material, head cement, and wire. A good fly shop or an online video can help you figure out exactly what you need for the flies you plan to tie.

Will the first fly I tie be worth fishing?

Yes! Sometimes, a clumsy looking fly might look a bit more “buggy” to the trout than something that looks perfect.

Besides, I suspect that a lot of flies are designed to catch fly fishers rather than fish. I’ve caught trout on some gnarly looking patterns. Of course, I’ve gotten better over the years. But trout key in on size and color more than on perfect proportions (though the exceptions increase as the fly size gets smaller!).

Sure, some patterns require more precision than others. But if your first fly is a San Juan Worm or a Brassie or a Woolly Bugger, it does not need to be perfect. To tie your own flies does not require flawless wonders.

What is the financial payoff for learning to tie flies?

The expected answer is, “You will save money.” After all, the materials for a $2 fly may amount to 20 cents.

But that math is too simplistic.

The initial investment in tools will likely reach $100. Then there are the materials themselves. A good hackle cape or neck may cost $50. Even the inexpensive materials – spools of thread, various kinds of feathers, peacock herl, etc – add up. You may not begin saving money until you tie your three-hundredth fly!

So, unless you tie a high volume of flies, it might be as cost effective to buy flies at your local fly shop.

In my opinion, the real benefit of fly tying is becoming a better fly fisher. When I started tying, I learned a lot about the feeding habits of trout, which insects my flies were trying to imitate, and when certain patterns worked (and when they didn’t).

It’s Your Decision

If you decide not to tie your own flies, fine. There are other ways to accomplish what fly tying will do for you.

My podcast partner, Dave, is proof of this. He doesn’t tie his flies. Contrary to my ribbing, he is every bit as good a fly fisher as I am.

But if you’re leaning towards trying, go for it. Like playing the saxophone, fly tying is easy to do poorly. But even a poor imitation can catch a trout.

S2:E18 Fly Fishing Trip Preparations

Fly fishing trip preparations are necessary to make the outing memorable. But a little planning also creates anticipation, which is part of the entire experience. We are about to take our yearly trip to Montana for several days on the Missouri, Yellowstone, and several smaller creeks. We selected mid fall because we wanted to see if we could catch a few browns as they move up river to spawn. Click to listen to our episode on fly fishing trip preparations, and we hope you find some nuggets to help you plan your next trip.

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Trip Preparations”

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.

What did we miss in our fly fishing trip preparations? How do you prepare for your fly fishing trips?

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.

Tactics for Fly Fishing a Lake

I’m a river guy. That should be obvious from the name of our podcast. Yes, I love fly fishing rivers and streams. I find moving water fascinating and energizing. But I’m captivated too by the lakes I fly fish. In this post, I offer several tactical ideas for more success when fly fishing a lake:

While I’m not ready to rename our podcast “2 Guys and a Lake,” I am always happy to match wits with the trout in a high mountain lake. If you’re new to fly fishing lakes, here are few insights to help you succeed:

Do your homework

Yeah, yeah – this seems so obvious. But unlike most rivers and unlike all small streams, you can’t see the bottom of a lake when you get there. This means you can’t figure out where the fish will lie in wait for food to drift by.

You can sight-read a river you’ve never seen before. But it doesn’t work so well for lakes.

So read a book or a blog to discover where the deepest sections might be. Talk to someone at a local fly shop to find out if there are any shelves – that is, places where a lake suddenly drops in depth. The trout often hang out near these drop-offs There might even be other obstacles, particularly if you are fly fishing a reservoir. Large rocks or trees or even the original stream bed might be places where trout are located.

Also, you need to know what patterns work best at different times during the year. Can you count on any insect hatches that will send trout to feed off of the surface? Do certain sizes or colors or patterns work better than others?

Just recently Dave, my podcast partner, trekked four miles in to a high mountain lake in Colorado. He had called and then visited the local fly shop, purchasing some stone fly attractor patterns that the shop monkey recommended. But when he got to the lake, Dave saw some midges and tried fishing on the surface with a dry fly that was small and black. No luck. He immediately put on a size #14 attractor pattern, which he had just purchased, and for the next three hours was in cutthroat heaven.

It pays to do a little homework.

Bring the right gear and tackle

The right gear is important. Make sure you bring your lake split shot, lake waders, lake fly vest, and lake wading boots. No, no. Just kidding!

You’ll use most of the same gear you use on the river. Seriously, though, there are a few differences.

The key is to think long. You will want a nine-foot fly rod. Some experts even go with a ten-foot rod. Honestly, I’ve never felt the need to go that long. But I definitely want a nine-foot rod rather than an eight-and-a-half foot rod. The extra length helps you handle more line so you can make longer casts. Longer leaders are often important, too. A nine-foot leader may be fine, but I’ll sometimes go with a leader as long as twelve feet.

There is also a lot of overlap when it comes to fly selection. The same dry fly patterns I use on a river will often work on a lake, and that same is true for streamer patterns. I will even use some nymphs—particularly those which imitate emerging insects. But I tend to use streamers unless there is action on the surface. So toss in more streamers than usual and go a little lighter on nymphs.

Start at the shore

Lakes can be so intimidating because the “good water” seems to be out fifty to a hundred feet.

But what is true of the current along the river’s edge is true about the water along the lake shore. It can be a prime place to catch trout. At certain times of day, trout will cruise the shallow water along the bank. Or, some lakes have a deep drop-off just a few feet from the shore line. Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park has a shelf like this. I’ve often caught trout by casting my fly a couple feet beyond the shelf—that is, the place where there is a sudden, steep drop-off.

In some lakes, you can wade out far enough to cast into some deeper water. But don’t let the lack of current give you a sense of false confidence so that you get out too deep.

Go deep

If nothing is happening on the surface, and if nothing is happening in the shallow water near the shoreline, you need to go deep. If the fish are twenty feet below the surface, it will do you no good to fish ten feel below it. There are two considerations here.

First, you’ll need to put on extra split shot or use a heavily weighted fly. A beadhead or conehead pattern can give you extra weight.

If you are going to fish lakes regularly, I encourage you to invest in a sink-tip line. This is the best way to get your fly down to the trout. You will need to purchase an additional spool for your reel in addition to the line and the sink tip. The folks at a fly shop can connect you to the right sink-tip for the kind of lakes you will be fishing. Basically, these sink-tips drop a certain number of feet per second so that you can count out the seconds until your fly has reached the desire depth. Then, you’ll begin retrieving it.

Second, if the deep water is in the middle of the lake or further out than you can wade, you’ll need a means to get there. A simple, inexpensive way to do this is a float tube. That’s a discussion for another time. But most fly fishers I know who are serious about lake fishing end up with a float tube. Of course, access to a canoe or raft or boat can solve the distance problem too.

Head for the entrance and exit

Finally, don’t forget to check out the inlet and the outlet to the lake you’re fly fishing. Trout often congregate near an inlet because the current brings food. It can work the same way with the outlet. Sometimes, the best fishing may be in the inlet or outlet itself.

I’m still a river guy at heart. But I’ll never pass up the opportunity to fly fish for trout in lake. There are too many big trout waiting to nab the fly you strip by their noses.

S2:E17 Finding Fly Fishing Solitude

Fly fishing solitude is not something you’ll find during vacation season and most weekends. In today’s climate, with growing pressure on the rivers, it takes some work to find a stretch with no other fly fishers. Yet, it is still doable. Click here to listen to how you can discover more fly fishing solitude.

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Listen to our episode “Finding Fly Fishing Solitude”

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.

What do you do to get away from the fly fishing crowds? Post your ideas 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.

S2:E16 Reasons You Are Not Catching Fish

Catching fish is not merely about pure skill. Many fishers buy their fly fishing experiences with guides and outfitters. With the latest fly fishing gear, access to a drift boat, and a great guide, any person can catch trout. But for the rank-and-file fly fisher, the one who can’t always buy a fly fishing experience and wants to grow in the art and skill of the sport, there are some problem-solving skills to acquire when not catching fish. In this episode, we discuss seven reasons you’re not catching fish – and what to do differently.

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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.

What have we missed? And where do you disagree with us? We’d love your comments to this episode!

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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.

Usually.

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 of $30.” With Winston, the handling charge jumps to $50.

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 all it takes is a few weeks and thirty bucks to get the world back to spinning happily on its axis.

S2:E15 Fly Fishing with Streamers

Fly fishing with streamers is no doubt the single best way to catch bigger fish. For the fly fisher just starting out, slinging bigger flies requires some adjustments. Fly fishing with streamers may mean a bigger rod and it definitely means making adjustments in leader size. In this episode, we discuss some of the basics of streamers.

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing with Streamers”

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.

For those of you who are experts in streamer fishing, what would you add? Any additional techniques?

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Links Related to This Week’s Episode

    How to Fly Fish with Streamers

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.”

Streamers

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.”

Rain

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.”

Relax

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.”

S2:E14 Lessons from the Yellowstone River Closure

The Yellowstone River closure late last month confirmed once again how fragile our rivers are. In one week, about 4,000 fish (mostly whitefish) died due to a parasite. Some sections that were closed have been reopened, but jury is still out on the source of the parasite. In this episode, we tell our stories of the rivers we love and how the Yellowstone River closure makes us appreciate each moment on the river.

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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.

What rivers hold a special place for you? How do the lessons the Yellowstone River closure apply to the rivers you fish?

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Links Related to This Week’s Episode

    More Sections of the Yellowstone Reopened

    Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Press Release

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. Almost 17 years later, I’m still retired (working 60- to 70-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, 67 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. Maybe there is no other way to escape this world other than death.

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). 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:E13 Fly Fishing Gear We Use

Fly fishing gear is like candy. Or better than candy. There’s no joy like the permission one gives himself or herself to buy a new fly rod or reel, or purchase a new pair of waders. Click now to listen to “Fly Fishing Gear We Use.” In this episode, we discuss our fly rods, waders, vests, and nets.

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Gear We Use” now

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.

What fly fishing gear do you recommend? What have you found works best for the rivers you fish?

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5 Life Lessons I Learned from Fly Fishing

Recently, it occurred to me that fly fishing has taught me a few life lessons. That shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose. But because I pursue fly fishing for the love and joy of it, I guess I had overlooked its lessons. Here are five life lessons I’ve learned over four decades of fly fishing.

1. You have to schedule time for what you love most.

I always thought I’d have to guard against fly fishing too much when I became an adult.

To my surprise, I found that I had to guard against not fly fishing enough. There are always meetings, chores, and scheduling conflicts that crowd out my time on the river. So I have to be intentional to make myself do what I love. That’s the way it is with life. It keeps you so busy with the day-to-day responsibilities of life that you have to make time for the people and pursuits you love most.

2. You only get lucky when you work hard.

Do you ever drool over the Facebook photos of friends cradling a monster rainbow trout?

Those lucky dogs, you think.

But they are lucky because they’ve made time to get out on the river, because they’ve taken “one more cast,” and because they’ve done their homework (which flies to use). Show me a “lucky” fly fisher, and I’ll show you a persistent, hardworking fly fisher. Luck is a result of hard work. That’s true with everything from product development to real estate sales to getting published.

3. Skill is most often made, not born.

Yes, some people have a knack for fly fishing. They remind me of my younger brother, Kevin, who got up on water skis on his first attempt — while the boat was still idling!

But there is no substitute for skill development. Read. Listen. Observe. Practice. Practice again. And again. Skill will only take you so far in fly fishing — and in basketball, in marketing, in web design, and in dentistry.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This is an especially hard lesson for the male species.

I once spent fifteen minutes looking for powdered sugar in a grocery store because I didn’t feel like asking a sales associate for help. But after years of picking the brains of folks behind the counter in a fly shop or fly fishing guides or friends who practice the craft with more skill than I do, I finally figured out that it’s less painful to ask for help than it is to keep bumbling along while making no progress.

Thanks to my fly fishing experiences, I’m more likely to ask for help with software, building a deck, and even locating the aisle with powdered sugar.

5. There is always someone better than you.

If you’re obsessed with being the best, you’re going to be a frustrated fly fisher. Or a frustrated basketball player. Or a frustrated heart surgeon. Or a frustrated writer.

Some folks operate on a different level. My brother, Dave, is like that. He has regularly out-fished me at a pace of about two fish for every one I catch. That has been the case ever since I was six and he was four. Once I made peace with that, it was a whole lot more enjoyable for me and everyone else around me. I can now take joy in the success of others, as well as in my own.

The tag line of our podcast says it all: “for the love of fly fishing.” Yes, that’s why I fly fish. I love it, and it brings me joy. But it’s taught me a lot about life, too. I’m grateful for that, and so are the others in my life.

S2:E12 The Promise of Fall Fly Fishing

Fall fly fishing – is there a better time of year to fish? The crowds are thinner. Many summer fly fishers replace their fly rods with bows, shotguns, and rifles. They become hunters. Yea! Fall fly fishing promises warm days and cool nights. Listen to Fall Fly Fishing now and expect great things this fall!

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Listen to our episode “Fall Fly Fishing” now

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.

Where are you planning to go for fall fly fishing? What do you love most about fly fishing in the fall?

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The Yellowstone River Killers

A killer is on the loose near one of my favorite stretches of the Yellowstone River. Its name is Ursus arctos horribilis. Every time I venture into the back country in Yellowstone National Park to fly fish the ‘Stone (below), I ready my hand to swipe the trigger guard off the bear spray holstered at my side. I’ve even practiced aiming from the hip; I might not have time to pull the canister from its holster if faced with a charging grizzly.

Now, however, there is another killer on the loose in the Yellowstone River. It too has a Latin name.

But you won’t see it lumbering alongside the river. Even if you’re a few feet or a few inches away, you still won’t see it. The name of this killer is Tetracalsula bryosalmonae. It is a microscopic parasite that causes kidney disease in fish. Within a week, it recently wiped out 4000 fish (whitefish and trout). Apparently, it poses no health threat to other animals or to human beings.

The situation is so serious that the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) closed a 183-mile stretch of the ‘Stone from the northern border of Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana, to the city of Laurel, Montana.

Parasite with a Vengeance

First discovered in Europe, the parasite was detected in some Idaho fish hatcheries as early as 1980. But it wasn’t until 2012 that the parasite was found in the Upper Snake River. Now it has attacked fish in the Yellowstone River with a vengeance.

Fisheries experts do not know if the parasite transferred via a human being or an animal. FWP biologists will study the situation and determine a strategy for managing and containing the parasite. Damage control is a more likely outcome than is eradication.

In the meantime, I am reminded of the importance of cleaning and drying our waders and boots before moving from one river to another. If you’re new to fly fishing, here are a few suggestions.

    Use a garden hose and vegetable brush to remove mud.

    Let the sun and heat dry out your waders.

    Don’t forget to turn up the gravel guards during the drying process to dry the underside of your waders.

    Use a blow dryer on felt soles and inside your wading boot.

Felt can hold moisture for a few days. Experts often recommend waiting between five to seven days before using a pair of boots with felt soles on another river. A few minutes with a blow dryer can, obviously, speed up the drying process.

Perhaps the move away from felt soles — which began five years ago but lost some steam – will emerge again. Maybe conscientious anglers will buy multiple pairs of boots, keeping a set for the Yellowstone, a set for the Madison, and so on. It’s too early to tell. Hopefully, biologists will figure out some strategies for anglers and other outdoor recreationists to avoid transporting the parasite.

Let’s do our best to pay attention to the problem and search for the best counter measures.

S2:E11 Fly Fishing Etiquette

Fly fishing etiquette – yes, there is such a thing. There are unwritten rules about how a fly fisher should behave while on the river. Listen now to our podcast on fly fishing etiquette and how the community views such things as bringing along your dog to fly fish and how to create space for the next fly fisher on the river.

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Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Etiquette” now

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.

What have we missed? What other rules of fly fishing etiquette should make the list. Please post your ideas below.

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Little Fly Fishing Hacks that Make a Big Difference

Fly fishing hacks – they are legion. In this short post I offer seven. A few years ago, I was struggling to thread a tiny (6x) tippet through the tiny eye of a tiny (#20) dry fly. My fly fishing friend — and I honestly can’t remember which friend— said, “Here’s a little trick I’ve learned. Use the river as a backdrop. This makes it a lot easier to see what you’re doing.” Presto! I had tried using the sky, the green grass, and even a light-colored branch as a backdrop. I had not considered the river.

It worked, and it’s been life-changing. Okay, it has not been life-changing. But it has certainly made it easier to tie tiny tippets to tiny flies.

Here are a few other fly fishing hacks I’ve learned over the years that have made my time on the river bit easier or a bit more effective:

Use a candle to wax your rod ferules

This prevents the end-of-the-day frustration of having sections of your rod stuck together. When this happens, the danger of breaking your rod increases as you try to pull it apart.

Keep a piece of carpet handy to stand on when you put on your waders

Make sure you always have a small piece in the back of your vehicle. It’s more comfortable to step on carpet instead of gravel when you are standing on the stocking feet of your waders. It’s even more helpful when there is mud or snow on the ground.

Wet your leader knots before you tighten them

If you don’t do this, you risk weakening the knot you’ve tied. When you pull it tight, the friction causes heat, which weakens monofilament. Yes, a little bit of saliva might be the difference between landing an 18-inch rainbow and losing it.

Stand at the river’s edge for a minute before you cast or set foot in it

Okay, this might not be so much a fly fishing hack as it is common sense. There might be a feeding fish right in front of you. Or, you might spot one feeding at a place you did not intend to fish.

On bigger rivers, take the time to fly fish up from where people take out

Fly fishers in a drift boat will often ignore the final hundred yards before they get out. They have rods to put away and gear to stow. So fish upstream to see if there is a run or two which has not been fished.

Use a larger dry fly as a strike indicator for a tiny dry fly

Do you have difficulty seeing size #20 PMD or BWO pattern?

Join the club.

One remedy is to carry a pair of binoculars. Just kidding. What works great is to tie on a larger fly first—something you can see like a size 12 or 14 tan elk hair caddis or Royal Trude (which has a tuft of white in it). Then, tie on about 10-12 inches of tippet and then the fly you’re going to fish. When the larger fly takes a nose dive into the water, you have a strike.

When fighting fish, pull them from side to side rather than up

Pulling fish to the side makes them use muscles which will tire them more quickly. This enables you to release them before they are too tired and stressed out to recover easily.

S2:E10 Colorado Fly Fishing High

Colorado fly fishing is legendary. It takes a little more effort to get away from the crowds in Colorado than, say, Montana, but Colorado fly fishing is amazing. We took separate trips to Colorado this summer, and in this episode we tell stories of catching cutthroat trout at 12,000 feet, and brookies and browns in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Listen to our episode “Colorado Fly Fishing High” now

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.

Post a story from your most recent fly fishing trip. Where did you go? What was your best memory? What did you learn?

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7 Spots to Cast Your Dry Fly

You’re standing at the river’s edge. The guys or gals at the fly shop have said that the dry fly fishing has been fabulous. So you’ve tied on the size #14 elk hair caddis they recommended. But where should you cast your fly?

If you are new to fly fishing, here are the best spots to cast your dry fly:

Where the trout are rising

This tip is not meant to insult your intelligence.

Rather, it reflects how easy it is to miss rising fish. Sure, the ones that jump halfway out of the water are obvious. But the largest trout often make the smallest ripple. Their snouts barely break the surface.

Spend a minute or two scanning the surface for the subtle rises that are easy to miss.

Where you are about to wade

Fly fishing legend Gary Borger says, “Fish it before you wade it.”

This is good advice. The trout are not always where you think they should be. The best spot might be the water through which you need to wade to get to the next best spot.

Where the drift boats fish

Fly fishers in drift boats do not cast to the middle of the river.

They typically cast to the banks — right where you are standing. If you’re fishing a large river, think of the first eight to ten feet from the bank as a small stream. You probably don’t need to make a twenty-yard cast. You’ve hit the jackpot if you see deeper water along the bank. This is where trout find shelter from predators and easy access to food.

The head of a pool or run

This is where fast moving water (a riffle) rushes into a slower, deeper section of current.

Sometimes, the riffle empties into a pool. I remember an afternoon on the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Montana where I fished nothing but a riffle. That’s where the rainbows were feeding on blue-winged olives.

In the foam line of a run

Sometimes, the trout are below the riffle in the current itself. These runs can be short or long. Watch for a moving foam and bubbles. This is the food line! I especially rely on the foam line when fishing in slower moving rivers like the East Gallatin in Montana or the Owyhee in eastern Oregon.

The shallow water at the side or the tail end of run

You won’t always find trout in these places, because they offer minimal protection from predators.

But these are great feeding spots for trout when the insect hatches are in full force. Often, the more gentle side of a “seam” (the imaginary dividing line between fast moving current and slow water) is a great place to cast a dry fly. Trout will sip flies there, knowing they can quickly retreat to a riffle if they see the shadow of a bird swooping down on them.

Near a rock

Some rivers – or stretches of rivers — do not have pronounced runs.

Rather, they have a steady flow and depth from one bank to another. If this is the case, look for big rocks. I’ve caught trout in front of, behind, and beside big rocks. Some of these rocks stick above the surface, others do not. One of my favorite stretches on the Gallatin River south of Big Sky, Montana, works like this.

When I find a decent-sized rock, I know I’ll find trout.

S2 E9 When Your Fly Fishing Trip Is a Dud

You plan the fly fishing trip. You carve out the time. And you finally make it to the river. And then nothing goes right, especially when it comes to catching trout. Listen now to “When Your Fly Fishing Trip Is a Dud” as we regale you with some fun stories from a recent fly fishing trip.

fly fishing guides

Listen to our episode “When Your Fly Fishing Trip Is a Dud” now

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.

How have you made time to fly fish? If you don’t live nearby blue-ribbon trout streams, how often do you get out? How many days do you fish a year?

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Here’s hoping that your next fly fishing trip is better than our last!

Fly Fishing after Dark

A while ago, I wrote “Resisting the Urge to Fly Fish Until ‘Dark Thirty,'” a short post with the simple point that sometimes, it’s wise to to quit before dark. That’s sound advice. Sometimes.

My point in the post was that if you’ve already had a great day catching trout and you’re expected home at a reasonable time (a time determined in consultation with your spouse and/or children), then peel yourself away from the river. Head home. There’s no reason to be greedy and fish until dark to catch a few more.

However, you need to resist the urge to quit before “dark thirty” if the best fishing of the day typically occurs when the sun goes down and darkness prevails.

A few days ago, I fly fished with my son, Luke, and my brother, Dave, on the Big Thompson River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, my flight to Denver was delayed, so we could not start fishing the first day until 7:00 p.m.

I figured we’d stop about 8:15 p.m. as the darkness began to settle in and head to the town of Estes Park to eat. But the brown trout in the Big Thompson convinced us otherwise. At about 8:15 p.m., they started rising. My brother Dave (pictured above) suggested that we keep fishing. Luke insisted on it. So we ended up fishing until 9:00 p.m. — well after dark. We caught trout after trout on a size #18 parachute Adams. Luke used a size #18 tan elk hair caddis with a black body and out-fished us all. We went back two more evenings, fished from 8:15 to 9:00 p.m., and caught quite a few nice-sized browns.

This experience provided some good reminders and a few lessons.

1. Browns like to feed in darkness.

This is common knowledge, but a good reminder: Brown trout come to life when the day is dying in the west.

Recently, I talked to the guides at the Old Au Sable Fly Shop in Grayling, Michigan, about booking a trip. They told me that their “day trips” in June and early July start at about 7:00 p.m. Then, they fish until midnight. That’s when the big browns come of their lairs to feed on the surface.

2. The white post on a tiny parachute Adams makes it stand out even in low light

If you’re afraid of not being able to see these tiny (size #18 or #20) flies, don’t be. You can see the white post easily enough as long as there is a little bit of light in the sky. The tan wing of an elk hair caddis is easy to spot too in waning light.

3. Assume that any rise in the vicinity of your fly is a strike.

Even after it was too dark to spot our flies as the floated down the current, we caught brown after brown simply by setting the hook any time we saw a fish rise where we thought our fly might be. I don’t have the scientific data to prove it, but I think we had fish on about three-quarters of the time we guessed and set the hook.

4. Go with shorter casts.

For one thing, it’s easier to see your fly and to control your line as the darkness takes over. Also, it will keep you from snagging a rock or a branch on the other side of the bank. The last thing you want to do is to tie a tiny fly onto your teeny tippet when it’s dark.

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