Archive for the ‘fly fishing’ Tag

I Just Don’t Know….   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

Once again, the speaking circuit is up and running.  Just got back from Atlanta, and getting ready to head to Texas for the GRTU Troutfest.  In between, I will have a couple chances to get on the water, tie a few bugs, and tighten up my speaking game. It’s a whole different world this time of year.

Buzzing around the country talking with so many anglers is quite humbling and extra enjoyable.  I sat with Lincoln Westby (look him up if you don’t know who he is) for two full days last week at the Atlanta show, just picking his brain.  At seventy plus years of age he is still incredibly passionate about this sport. I was humbled and truly thankful for that opportunity, plus I picked up more than a few tips. I bump into all kinds of people that teach me loads simply by the questions they ask. Many times, I have to stop and think on their question, which forces me to make ask them questions, make choices, clarify, or quantify a stance on a particular subject. Doing this tends to sharpen ones focus, and steel ones opinions.

@rodcuffs releasing a South Platte Brownie

Once I begin to sharpen focus on a subject then I begin to dig into my reasoning for believing one way or another, and every now and then, I change my stance on a previously held thought. Sometimes, however, I stop, cock my head to one side and think, “Nope, not going to believe that.”

At a show last year, I was walking by the casting pool as someone was presenting to a group of anglers.  This presenter was talking about setting the hook techniques, and had the fly rod pointing down to the opposite end of the pool as the point was made. With line out in the pool, and a large management loop formed from the index finger on the cork, this person proceeded to explain a dry fly set. “Reach up here with your left hand, grab the fly line up here above the cork, and pull hard to the side as fast as possible.” I stopped in mid stride at the edge of the pool just to confirm what I thought I heard. Yup, that’s what I heard.

So, in front of your management loop, you reach up with your off-hand grabbing the fly line and pulling to the side for the set.  This alignment renders your loop worthless.  What if you happen to hook the fish? Then, you’d have to take the line in your off hand and put it back under your index finger on the cork, just to begin to fight the fish. This is as hard to explain as it is to be believe. So, imagine you’re holding the fly rod in your right hand, and the management loop is created between your index finger on the cork and the fly reel. See it? Now, a fish eats so you need to set. Take your left hand and reach above your cork hand (toward the fly rod tip), and grab the fly line between the first line guide and the cork, above your hand. Pull it tight, out to the side, quickly.

Nice winter fish for this sweet lady

I don’t get it.  Usually when I hear something like that I can find some merit, or reasoning.  I am still stumped many months after hearing this, and have shared this story with many in hopes someone could enlighten me.  Not being a jerk here, but honestly trying to figure out what I am missing, because I just might learn something. Shoot me a note with any theories.  You can’t ask a stupid question here, or give a stupid response, it’s all about learning.

The Eagle River has some shelf ice up high, and downstream you’ll find smaller amounts.  The lower river has been checking in at about 38 degrees at ten in the morning, and warms up to about 41 degree on full sun days.  Midges are coming off, and I (and the fish) are already beginning to look for Blue-Winged Olives. Not a bad idea to throw a pink San Juan, Black Soft Hackled PT, and a Buttcrack Baetis in that order, if you’re so inclined. Other combinations will work equally as well as long as depth and speed are dialed in.  Go low and slow.

The latest book (Hidden in Plain View) is still doing well.  Thanks again everyone.

Sweet release times two….

Fear No Water!


Beer and a Bagel   2 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

Folks insinuate all of the time that as a fly fishing guide, all I do is stand in the water and bark orders.  Couldn’t be further from the truth.  I often will count my steps on my phone app, and I’m regularly in the six mile range when I guide six continuous hours or more. More often than that, by 9am in the morning, I’ve already sweated through my hat.  Not all days are like that but those of us that wade guide hustle a bit more than folks think.

Guiding is a lifestyle and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I enjoy zipping back and forth between clients, landing fish, teaching, and yes, even untangling leader and tippet explosions. I enjoy the outdoors, sights and sounds, driving to the river with expectations, tying bugs the night before, and battling Mother Nature everyday anew. I enjoy the grind, dipping my hat in the drink because it’s so damn hot, dodging thunder storms, sunscreen burning my eyes, freezing my finger tips, the physical exertion, and the challenge. I like sitting on my tailgate behind the fly shop, guzzling a well-earned beer and smoking my pipe at the end of a long day on the river.

Couple years ago in July, and I remember it as if it were yesterday, I began the day with 3 clients from Ohio. We fished near Wolcott on the Eagle River for about six hours, and had a pretty successful outing with many fish hitting the bottom of the net.  On my way back to the shop, toting my clients, I get a call from one of our managers.  “Hey D, this is so-and-so, got one of your regulars in the shop, he just hit town unexpectantly and wants to know if you can give him four hours this afternoon on the river.” “Ah, sure” I reply, trying to not get my clients involved in the conversation.  “Good, ok”, says my manager and he squeezes in the next words without taking a breath, “Can you hoof it?” “He has late dinner plans for tonight.”  “I’m about twenty minutes out”, I say.

I love doing “doubles”, but I’m rarely prepared for that call.  If I know they’re booked, it’s much easier to transition from trip to trip than finding out last minute.  I had plans, like a nap, maybe go fish a bit, or hang out with my colleagues. No worries, I’ll make this happen, but I have a routine that I like to follow.  I like to re-rig all of my rigs with fresh bugs and tippet the night before my next day trip. I like to go through a physical and mental checklist, I hate to be hurried prior to a trip, and I like to be at least an hour early before a guide trip. In this circumstance, I had none of those. Not only am I a creature of habit, but I’m a bit superstitious…..I have learned to not let this kind of stuff bump me off my game.

I dropped my clients off at the municipal lot down the street from the shop. Knowing my client was waiting for me at the shop, I decided to take a five minute break right where I was, and try to find something to eat and drink.  My cooler revealed I had 4 waters left, one warm beer,and I was out of snacks.  That’s the other thing I was going to do, hit the supermarket for drinks and goodies.  Oh well, I needed to save the water for sure, but I’m thirsty as heck, “Guess I’ll pound the warm beer”, I thought out loud. I dropped the tailgate and took a good guzzle of warm suds. Just then it dawned on me, yesterday I bought a bagel at the supermarket before my trip, “Where did I leave that?”.  I started rummaging through the backseat looking for that blueberry bagel. I reached under the front seat and found pay dirt. Yes, warm beer and a blueberry bagel for lunch!  One of the best lunches I ever had.

Winter spoils

I went out with my client that afternoon and we threw dry flies for about four hours.  Can’t get much better than that. No, guiding is not the toughest job in the world, but it does have its challenges.  Now when someone asks me how my day went, I usually reply, “I was outstanding in the river.”  Ya, I know, guide humor ain’t much, but it’s better than a beer and a bagel.

The Eagle River has been fishing well this winter.  Little shelf ice, clear water and active fish has made for a good start to 2018.  We desperately need snow though, so if you live within 1000 miles of us, send some our way.

Butt Crack Midge for winter.

Humbled to say the book is doing well.  Thanks to all of you who has purchased a copy of Hidden in Plain View.  Review it on Amazon if you’re so inclined, or shoot me a note letting me know your thoughts.  Thanks again!

Fear No Water!!!

Thank you!

Long learner.   4 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

I’ve heard it said, “If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. I certainly not only subscribe to that notion, but find it easy to not be the smartest guy in the room.

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a featured author at a book signing at the Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen Colorado.  This was not your normal book signing, not when you’re elbow to elbow with John Gierach, Pat Dorsey, Ed Engle, Landon Mayer, Marty Bartholomew, Steve Schweitzer, David McElwain, and Terry Grosz. Nope, this was something special for me and I was humbled and excited to be counted in the fold.

There are many ways to learn new skills, tactics, techniques, or perceptions about any endeavor.  Most folks learn

Wasn’t the smartest in the room this day….Lightening and hail in the high country and it’s me and my 6’5″ client…..

best by seeing or doing, while the rest learn by reading or study, and it’s always easier to learn from someone that already knows what you want to learn (think back to 7th grade Spanish class).  Therefore, when I’m in the situation where I am surrounded by tons of knowledge, I keep my mouth shut and listen, listen, listen.  I still have so much to learn about fly fishing.

I’ve been guiding a long time, before that, I taught school for 22 years, and I feel as if I have a pretty good handle on how to break things down, present them in bite-sized pieces and feed them to hungry learners.  I had great mentors that taught me the “teaching ropes” and that hastened the process.  Still, after 22 years, I wasn’t the smartest in the room, but was still the hungriest.  Hungry to learn, learning by listening and watching, followed by a healthy dose of “go do”.

I consider myself a life-long learner, and I realize I have a long way to go when it comes to mastering what I do, but that doesn’t stop the journey.  This year, I’ll be presenting to folks all across this country, a brand new fly fishing presentation.  I try to create a new one each year, to keep things fresh for me and my audiences.  Do I know everything? Not in the least, but I do know this, the more I teach, the more I learn.  More often than not, I come away from an evening presentation with more questions bouncing around in my head.  Stuff I can only answer by getting on the river.

During the slower months of winter, when I guide sparingly, I often look to put a bit of time into fishing.  Funny thing is, I never go just to catch fish.  I’m always working on or testing something.  I may be testing a rig wrinkle, bug stage modification, a specific drift mechanic, or a modified piece of equipment, but I always fish with a purpose other than trying to just put fish in the net. Often, I am fishing with folks that are nailing fish, but I keep testing, pushing the envelope, and trying to learn, while watching fish after fish hit the bottoms of their nets. It takes discipline and a pile of hard-headed stubbornness to not just blow-off what I’m doing and simply fish, but I remain steadfast in my mission.

I’m always looking for a new perspective, or a subject that receives too little attention, maybe a newly recognized (to me) cause and effect, or something that I consider obscure by the standards that I guide and fish to. Ultimately, I try to pass what I learn onto the folks that I guide, that read my books, or that see my presentations.  It’s worth it.

This years’ presentation is titled: The Dance, Landing Trout on a Fly Rod.  I’ve been thinking about this presentation for years, because everyone talks about everything from the cast to the drift, and the set, even how to take photos, but actual discussion of fish landing techniques and rod physics is rarely broached.  Gonna’ change that.  I truly hope folks will like it.

The Dance

Hidden in Plain View is doing great.  Thanks to those of you that have purchased the book. Proud to say it’s still in the top 10 of new fishing releases through Amazon after 3 weeks in.  Pretty humbling for sure.

So, you see, that extra work, the little touch of stubbornness (depends on whom you talk to), and the ability to listen while realizing you’re not the smartest in the room, is worth it in the long run.  Hopefully, at the next show, event, or club gathering, you and I get a chance to talk, I always welcome the opportunity to learn new things.

Fear No Water!

ps. the new speaking schedule is up.

Pss. There’s still time to purchase a copy of the book before Christmas (Amazon/Barnes and Noble)

Still time!

I like big Buggs, and I can not lie…….   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

Angry August…..That’s fly fishing guide code for “I have to really earn my money for about three weeks”.  Water flows are coming down as the air and water temperatures go up, you have a high sky, little shade and the bugs are getting smaller. It’s not terrible, but the river is a bit angry after a summer of countless boots, bugs and boats.

So, it’s a good idea to pull the staff together for some beers and brats and to recharge the staff morale a bit and go over a few late season housekeeping items.  Out behind the shop, sitting on trucks and ice coolers, we assembled to go over a few tidbits and blow off a little steam that angry august can conceive.

After we went over a few items like “make sure you clean the waders”, to “if you’re gonna park here, move all the way up” to “is that my beer or yours?”, I decided to ask the guides to shout out their best current bugs. Their “crushing it” bugs like the flat-brimmers say.

T- with a fine trout that ate a brown size 18 bug….

As I sit there, my head snaps side to side as many guides bark out their current besties, and I am amazed.  I hear, “size 24 thattabug” and  ”size 22 everfly” ,followed by, “ a size 26 thisabug”.  “What size tippet ya’ll throwin’?”, I humbly ask.  “Mostly 6x flouro, nothing bigger than 5x”, many concur.  Once again, I am the odd man out unless some of the other guides were feeling like me and just haven’t written it down for all to read.

I’m glad one of the crew didn’t ask me what my besties are and what size tippet I’m throwing, I would have been forced to say, “Inch a half Tan San Juan, a size 16 Partridge and Orange soft hackle, followed by size 18 Chocolate Thunder or Butt Crack”. “Uh, all on 4x,” as my voice would trail off.

I like big bugs, always have, always will, and I think if you fish them right you can maybe not hook as many fish as the small fly guys, but the ones you hook tend to stay hooked.  And with bigger tippet, I don’t experience many snap-offs no matter how hard folks pinch cork. I still think the most important part of the drift isn’t always about the flies, it’s still about the drift and putting the right bugs, in the right slot, to the right fish in a stealthy manner.  Are the right bugs always smaller? I don’t think so, but I must confess when the going gets tough I drop a size down to 20.

What about color?  This time of year, for me, it’s about orange and brown.  The fish are already looking for the big orange bodied Autumn Sedge like I am, and they have been “crushing” that size 16 softie.  Brown is just a great color (purple is next) for my tricos, blue quills, pseudo baetis, and PMD emergers that are zipping around.  Certainly could use other colors, but those work just fine.

Janet with a nice specimen that ate an 18 Butt Crack

I love angry August, I’ve the best job on the planet, meeting and guiding amazing people, and every now and again, I get to have a free beer and brat behind the fly shop, and that was my beer he drank out of…….

Fear No Water

Book update:  Into angry August on the book too.  Heavy editing begins soon, just finished illustration and photo placement.  Looking forward to moving it along!

Thanks to all that voted for a cover with the link I provided last post.  Hidden In Plain View reporting for duty!  Soon…..

It’s Hidden In Plain View…..

Sure is dry out today…..   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

“He ate”, I said. “Really, I never even saw it”, he replied.  Recognizing a fish taking your dry fly is not always the stuff that movies are made of.  Sometimes, it is so subtle that we miss the take. Fish typically don’t eat dries while you’re zoomed into the frame in super slow motion with music playing in the background. It’s typically a game of controlled speed, technique, and yep, luck.

It’s obvious we don’t know what we’re missing while nymphing because stuff is going down sub-surface.   I imagine there are several fish we “miss” and don’t even know they ate. Same holds true for surface fishing, but actually seeing the misses is much easier and certainly more frustrating.  Just last week I had a client set up doing some quarter upstream double dry work.  He was rolling an Elk Hair Caddis 18” ahead of a Yellow Sally.  The fish were gorging on both.  He surmised that for every 10 fish that ate his offerings, he may turn 3, and for every 3 he turned he may solidly hook 1.  And this guy is a good stick, honest too.

Last week, it was easy to tell when a fish ate the dries as most takes were splashy.  That’s the telltale sign fish are eating caddis, stones, or terrestrials.  Not a hard and fast rule, like all in fly fishing, but when you’re seeing aggressive, splashy takes, good bet they’re eating something that skitters, flutters, or bounces on the water.  When you see those easy, simple rises, fish are usually secure, calm, and eating duns, spents, or cripples.  In all cases you need to read the fish, the bugs, as well as the river to dial in the correct offerings.

Let’s talk more about reading fish as they eat dries.  There are basically, 3 types of rises; simple, compound, and complex.  In each case the fish have a staging spot, or a beginning holding area.  In a simple rise, the fish typically simply elevate to the surface, break the surface, and yawn in the bug.  A compound rise is a bit more detailed as the fish, starting in the same staging area, follows the bugs for a short distance before ingesting.  This is a tough rise to consistently hook fish because they are really inspecting your flies, and any wrong move means game over.  The last type of rise is a complex rise.  These fish do the same as a compound except they actually turn downstream and follow your bug downstream.  Usually, if you can maintain your drift, that fish will eat.

The key to dry fly presentation when it comes to how the fish are eating is observation.  Watch how the fish are feeding, where they are staging, and then cast 4 to 5 feet upstream of them. Show the flies only, no fly line allowed.  I see a lot of folks that have a surface feeding fish picked out and either cast way too far upstream, or cast directly on top of the fish.  If you take a nymphing cast approach and cast way upstream, you will have a terrible time keeping your drift as you near the fish strike zone.  Casting on top of the fish that is eating a full 4 feet downstream of where it’s staging causes issues too if you cast 4 feet above where you saw it eat.  I’ll let you digest this for a minute.

Couple things about the dry fly lift.  Not even gonna call it a set.  It’s a lift in the opposite direction that the fish ate.  Fish eats going downstream (complex rise), you lift upstream.  Simple rise upstream of you, you lift up and downstream.  Lift speed is not nearly as critical as lift direction and control, and this is how most fish are missed when dry fly fishing.

That’s enough for now.  Hey, if you don’t already, please like The Fly Fishers Playbook Facebook page.  Only fly fishing, and plenty of it.

Fear No water!


Dry fly fishing in beautiful places….

Size 18 Elk Hair caddis

Fashionably late…..   Leave a comment

Alright, let’s get on with 2016. Little late to the party, but I’ve been busy guiding pheasant hunters. The fly fishing juices are flowing strong as I embark on another year of trout tales. This time of year represents, in my mind anyway, time for learning and experimentation.

My speaking schedule is in full bloom, and between now and June I will hit six states yapping on about this great endeavor. I shake a lot of hands and I learn. Wish I had a twenty spot every time a stranger says to me, “You ever tried this?” More often than not the idea doesn’t fit my program, or appeal to me, but it always makes me think. However, there are a few ideas that come my way, and I think, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Long story even longer, I always listen.

So, I invariably head home from these events and run either straight to the vise or straight to the river. It’s funny, folks on the river fly fishing are a tight-lipped group, but folks at shows spill their guts. Maybe they feel safe sharing in that environment knowing they won’t have to deal with it til spring, or maybe they wish to get involved in the circle of learning somehow. I don’t know, but I’ve picked up a few gems over the years, by simply stopping and listening.

I’ve happily shared most everything I’ve picked up at the shows over the years, I’ve a few new ideas this year that I won’t comment on until I put them to the test. One’s a simple in-line nymph rig adjustment, and the others deal with spinning bugs. Both are in the testing process, and to be frank, I haven’t noticed any appreciable difference in performance, but I need to try these ideas for at least winter, spring and run-off.   Will let you know. I’ve a feeling some of the ideas I hear aren’t as novel as we think.

Speaking of novel, I am considering another book. Really have the itch to spit one out, but having a difficult time refining my ideas. Seems like fly fishing books are all cut out of the same template. One hundred forty seven ways to put more fish in the net, or the twenty three essentials to catch fish, I don’t necessarily want to go there. I like to draw analogies, feed off experiences and data, and try to teach a little along the way. If you have an idea for books you’d like to see, please let me know. Insert the listening part here……

In January I’m in Ohio at the North Ohio Fly Fishing Expo. February is the Winter Fly Fishing Social in Taos, New Mexico.   March is Lewiston Idaho at the North Idaho Fly Fishing Expo. April is the Washington Fly Fishing Fair, and May is a 3 day extravaganza of presentations all over Arizona.

I’ll keep my ears open, and will share everything I learn!

Fear No Water,


Winter experimentation on the South Platte.

Winter experimentation on the South Platte.

Fly Fish Alaska   Leave a comment

Alaska. Unless you’ve been there you just can’t comprehend the beauty. Now, I live in arguably one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Colorado. But, Colorado is no match for the unbridled beauty of Alaska. It’s huge untamed landscape that thrusts up and out of the ocean, coupled with the colors, and vastness is not something that pictures can capture.

Unbridled beauty....

Unbridled beauty….

I was afforded the opportunity to fly fish Alaska because a couple of my long-time clients wanted to give it a whirl. Minturn Anglers offers a wonderful package for fly fishing for Steelheads, Silvers, Huge Rainbows and all of the Dolly Vardens you can catch. Next year, rumor has it, we are expanding our trip packages to cover five weeks. These are one week packages, and not only is the fishing stellar, but the accommodations are incredible. If you’re ever interested in a trip like this don’t hesitate to contact me. I still have an Alaska blush.

The gear we took was as important as the plane tickets themselves. Keeping everything dry was the top priority on my list. Aside from a good pair of waders and a raincoat, I needed something that would keep my other gear dry. Whether we floated or waded, I needed to be able to carry important items on my back the entire time. A place to carry a lunch, provide fire starter, a dry set of clothes, and any other stuff, in a dry venue were paramount. I settled on the Umqua Tongass backpack.

The pack.....

The pack…..

This 30 liter backpack, complete with padded shoulder and waist strap was more than up to the challenge. It has two water proof compartments that employ a simple roll-top closing system. The closing system was a huge bonus. Not only did it keep the pack water-tight, but it is very easy to quickly access the stuff you carry inside. It also has a hanging interior pocket that I quickly figured out carried my cell phone safely.

I really liked the exterior pockets (6) and used the two on each side for anything from rod tubes to adult beverage carriers. The pack has “cinch straps” to ensure everything rides compactly, balanced, and comfortably. Although we hiked through some pretty nasty willows, I never had the pack hang up because of the way it hugs your back.

I used my pack as carry-on and it fit nicely into the overhead compartments. One little trick I used was to fold the waist straps back over the pack itself, and hooked them in place. This way the pack had zero external straps to hang up while transporting, going through the xray machines, or riding in the trunk of the rental car. When fishing, the entire system of adjustable straps made for comfortable days. No shoulder or hip pinch was experienced at all, and the pack stayed put even while spey casting.

Cold steel....

Cold steel….

I strongly recommend this pack, and come fish Alaska while you’re at it.

Fear No Water,


p.s. Black Friday’s coming up, don’t forget the Fly Fishers Playbook 2nd Edition for your favorite angler!