Archive for the ‘trout’ Tag

Plea for questions….   3 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

Well, the season is about to get cranking.  I’ve been guiding some, but most of my winter work has been in the form of traveling across the country presenting at shows, expos, and Trout Unlimited groups.  Been from Cleveland to Coeur d’alane, and a ton of points in between.

The real fun I find with  speaking are the myriad questions I receive before, during, and after the presentation.  I really learn from those questions. They make me think, and dig deeper into my knowledge and experience.  The level of the question doesn’t matter as all questions are viable and relevant.  The more I’m queried, the more I learn, and in turn, the more I eventually teach.  It’s a neat cycle.

I realize some questions are never asked in a public or private setting because it makes folks (me included) feel vulnerable.  I wish that wasn’t the case because I am confident someone along with the questioner would reap some sort of benefit.  So, I come to you folks that read my blog to selfishly ask for fly fishing questions.  I’m in the process of writing another book, and the more questions I have the better the book will be!

I really don’t care what you ask.   The level or depth of the question doesn’t matter, as each question will open dialogue into other areas.  So be specific or general, and remember there aren’t any stupid questions.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone that does.  Think of any discipline within fly fishing, except salt water (not for this book).  Casting, drift, bug choices, knots, fly lines, landing fish, reading the water, it’s all game.

If you don’t feel comfy asking on this forum, shoot me an email at:

I really appreciate everyone’s help!  Thanks, and Fear No Water!

Idaho beauty.

Idaho beauty.


Nom Nom

Head for the Hills!   2 comments

I feel sorry for them, I really do.  Just finished guiding the South Platte near Denver over the Memorial Day weekend.  It was cold and rainy, but that didn’t stop the multitudes of anglers and “recreationalists” from enjoying time on the water.  I don’t have any ill feelings to folks getting out and using Mama Nature, I just feel a bit sorry for the fish.

Right now, the South Platte near Deckers, Colorado is one of the few games in town.  Because of our epic snow pack, and a very wet spring on top of that, the rivers are pissed and dangerous.  More water than I’ve seen in a long time.  The South Platte is a tailwater tucked close to Denver.  Certainly, she is going to feel the brunt of traffic, because amazingly, she is still below normal flows.  Oh, the water will come, but for now, she’s “it”.

I watched the fishing success dwindle in the last 3 days leading up to Memorial Day.  Oh, we were still catching fish, but it became more and more technical.  Drifts had to be more precise, mends more complete, and sets were on anything that looked suspect.  You just had to work much harder than usual.  I got to thinking, “How many times has this fish been hooked this week?” “Today?”

Where the fish would usually hold in a particular seam in a particular run in days prior, they just weren’t there.  You may think, well they just went deeper in the column and you can’t see them.  Nope, not in this case.  The flow is only a little over 100cfs, meaning, you could see a quarter underwater in most of the runs we fished.

No, these fish headed for the hills.  By noon on Monday, we were catching fish on skinny rigs (check the archives for more info), along the edges.  One big brown comes to mind.  He ate my Brachy Pupa, on the far bank, in about a half foot of water, on the first drift.  We didn’t know he was there, but assumed the fish had moved because they weren’t in the usual haunts. I know this fish, where he usually holds, and how he likes to eat.  He broke the rules, and he lunged out of my net before photos.  Salty bastard.

Have a few other thoughts as well.  One thought  centered around how grateful I am that fly fishers are so diligent when it comes to releasing fish unharmed.  The fish in this area are for the most part, clean, fat, healthy, and pound for pound will fight with any in the state.  My other thought is how grateful I am to be able to work on a resource such as this so close to home.  Shouldn’t feel sorry for them I guess, they’re doing fine.  When the fishing gets technical, the technical go fishing………….

Fear No Water!


Don’t forget FATHERS DAY is coming up.  Pick up a copy of the Fly Fishers Playbook for your favorite father, or son, or brother, or son-in-law or…….!


Skinny Rig   3 comments

Hidy Ho Neighbors!

I had an absolute blast at the Fly Fishing Show.  Presentations were packed, met a bunch of super people, and sold some books.  My presentation was centered around mastering technical water and one of the rigs I discussed is the “Skinny Rig”.  I refer to it as that because it has no weight, and is designed to be fished in skinny/shallow water, or at a skinny depth just below the surface.  It’s great for picking off fish in shallow holds or for catching fish feeding on emergers, duns, spents, or pupa just below the surface, in the film, or on top.  I mentioned at the show for folks to come to the blog and search thru the archives for the original skinny rig explanation.  That proved to be a pain, so I am going to re-post about it.

The skinny rig is nothing more than giving you the opportunity to put your flies exactly where the fish are feeding.  Once you determine what they are feeding on, and where in the column they are feeding, half the battle is won.  Let’s say that you see fish feeding slightly below the surface, with their backs breaking the water, but their heads are not.  Maybe there’s a Blue Wing hatch occurring simultaneously.  Bingo, they are probably eating the emergent phase of the BW.  This is where the skinny rigs shine, and can be used for any emerging or pupating insects.

Using my normal nymph rig (pictured), simply move the indicator up the leader so it’s about 5 feet from the first dropper.  Take off any and all split shot weight, apply floatant to the San Juan Worm (SJW), and you’re ready to go.  If you’re not using an SJW just make sure the fly you have in that position is NOT weighted.


I use monofilament leader in all of my nymph rigs because mono floats better than flourocarbon, and I want something that helps buoyancy of the rig.  The tippets are flouro, but that doesn’t seem to hurt the drift because most drifts are only 5 or so feet and the mono is carrying the heavy load. Sliding the indicator away from the flies just helps to ensure you’re not spooking fish with indicator “slap”, and that the fish only see the presented flies.

Once you find feeding fish as I explained, the set-up is critical.  Most of the time, you’ll set up slightly downstream of the fish.  Occasionally you’ll set up above the fish, but that’s for special occasions when it’s the only way you can get to them.  Pick out one feeding fish when possible, and cast accordingly.  You’re probably screaming, “According to what!” According to the speed of the water and the depth of the fish.  It’s your job to try to place your offering at or above the fishes level.  You do that by practicing casting angles, reading water, and reading fish depths and feeding behavior.  It’s not as tough as it sounds, but does take practice.

Most drifts are much less that 5′, so once you learn the sink rate of your particular rig, you’re almost there.  I have beginners use this method a lot, so it can be perfected quickly,IF, you have a working idea as to how quickly your rig sinks.  Experiment.

The “set” on the skinny rig is more of a full “lift”  Too rigorous a set, and you’ll snap everything off, especially after nymphing with the same rig for a period of time.  I could carry a second rig set-up with a dry-drop rig to use for the same reason, but I’d rather capitalize on the versatility of the nymph rig.  Plus, it’s really fun to set on a “swirl” around your fly, or to watch the indicator scream across the river without warning.

Here’s a quick video showing casting angles.  Go to:  (click on)

Hope this explains the rig.  The best way to learn it is to use it, so Fear No Water!



A picture says……   Leave a comment

Grip and grin, hero shot, whatever you call it, pictures preserve memories.  Maybe not so much of the fish you caught as much as the day itself.  I get a kick out of looking back through pictures remembering who I was with, where I was, and just the general tone of the day.  Like most of you, I’ve literally thousands of fly fishing pictures.  There’s only so much refrigerator space, so most of them end up in some box or on some thumbdrive, never to be seen again. For my latest book work, I have taken hundreds of pictures of which only a select few will make it into the next book.  I am no great shakes as a photographer, so I rely on those that are accomplished to lend a hand.  However, out on the water, I’m it.  Net-man, fly extractor and photographer.  Kind of a pressurized position if you ask me.  I am certainly not going to take you on a “how-to” in this post, this is more of a celebration of what I get to do with folks from all over the world, and pictures preserve it.  Pretty dang cool if you ask me.  Here are a few pictures from last year………

This is what I call the insurance shot.  Take a picture like this when folks land their first fish on a fly rod.  After this shot we attempt to have the client hold the fish if time and fish stress permit.  Nonetheless, picture preserved.     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s the old” guide in the shot to help hold big fish”  (also an insurance shot). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There are also “signature shots”.  This is one of my best clients and good friend John.  I have dozens of fish pics with him.  They all look like this.  Not sure I even know what he looks like….. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The next 2 shots are my favorite kind.  “Fish shots”.  Just taken to honor a beautiful fish.  Left to right, “the cradle” and “the spoon”. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


All shots aren’t hero shots, some fall short.  Some are my fault, some the clients fault, most are just caused by the fish not following the script.

Here are a few….oops




Like I said, i’m not the best photographer, but please remember to wet your hands before handling fish, pinch barbs, get them back to the water quickly, and keep em off rocks, grass, dirt, and snow.   Watch them swim away folks.

Thanks for following along.  Enjoyed it.

Fear No Water!


AAaaahctober…..   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

I’m lovin’ me some October.  Dawg days of guiding are over, leaves are changing, nip in the air, tricos and fall caddis are popping, and pheasant hunting starts for me and the pooches later this week.  Yessir, life is good.

I’m not going to spend much time in the pheasant fields til November, still plenty of fly fishing to do, but I am getting the dogs out for a tune-up soon.  Been six months since they cruised the bluffs.  In the meantime on the river, the fishing’s been good.  Although a large portion of our watershed suffered from the floods, we were basically spared from damage.  Being so close to the dam and the fact we didn’t get half of the rain others got, we made it out with some higher than normal flows and off-color water.

Of course, I guided through it, we all did.  Whenever I run into conditions such as these (high off color water), I employ a strategy that has worked for me over the years.  Quite simply, I will run bigger, darker bugs, and approach the river “blindly” with a grid approach.  I’ve talked about the grid before, but this time I posted a video at   , so you can get an idea of what I mean.

As for the bugs, I throw basically what the river offers, which in this case was bigger dislodged bugs like Stone Fly nymphs, worms,  Crane Fly nymphs and leeches.  All dead drifted under an indicator.  My theory is the darker the water, the darker and bigger the bugs.  I will also throw truly fluorescent colors, not just bright colors, but fluorescent. A size 16 black pheasant tail was the bug of choice during those conditions with the red San Juan Worm a close second.

Get the right speed and depth, run bigger darker bugs, and pick the runs apart systematically.  Makes for productive off color fishing. As a side note, be careful when wading in conditions such as these.  If you can’t see your feet, and aren’t familiar with the run, not a good idea to get too deep.

Thanks for tuning in, and Fear No Water!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My boy Johnny with a super fish!



Present and Set   8 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

Been a while since my last post, but glad to get a minute to slap some words down.  T’was a great summer (I know it’s not officially over), caught a bunch of fish, met some super people, worked nearly everyday, remodeled 2 bathrooms in my house, AND got the house up for sale.  Pretty productive.

The Fly Fishers Playbook revision is going well.  The addition of around 10,000 words is fairly easy, it’s the pictures and illustrations that are proving difficult.  Hopefully, I can find some time to fish on my own to get more pictures.  Should be done in a couple months, I hope.

I learn something every time out on a guided trip.  The prevailing theme this summer has been set, set, set.  I am dedicating a large portion of the chapter in the book about hooking fish to the simple yet all important set.  Trying to impress upon folks to set the hook quickly, firmly, yet not too hard as to snap off, isn’t really as easy as it seems.

Most folks new to the game expect to feel the fish eat.  Those folks are easy to work with and fix because you can just keep practicing the set over and over again.  They will eventually figure it out, but usually remain just a bit slow.  That’s also simple to work on by decreasing indicator to weight distance, and finding faster moving water for them to put in some time.  The less distance increases their reaction time allowance and faster water will help fish hook themselves.

Intermediate folks are tougher to deal with because they tend to not set because they invision the bugs simply bumping on the bottom.   Oft times I will call for a set and the response will be something along the lines of “That was just the bottom”.  Drives me crazy.  How do they know that?  Can’t possibly be able to tell.  Those of you that fish under an indicator a lot know that fish will often eat without the indicator even pausing.  They eat and spit stuff all day, and our flies are no different.  Set on everything.

Advanced nymph fly fishers have learned to set on every bump, twitch and pause.  Advanced nymph fishers rarely make it through an entire drift without a set.  Advanced nymphers also have learned to set on movement , flashes or subtle changes within four feet of the indicator.  Simply put, they set, and don’t question the indicator.

I think that’s how beginners work toward advanced status, fish one rig consistently so you know it very well, and don’t question the indicator.  Jeremy Hyatt will ask his clients, “Why are you arguing with the indicator?”.   That is the main point, react to the indicator when you can’t see the target fish.  If you are sight nymphing and can clearly see the target fish, then try to watch the fish and your flies while keeping the indicator in your peripheral vision.  This way you can set on fish movement as it eats, and your indicator becomes a safety valve in case you don’t recognize the eat.

Present and set.  That is all it takes.  Doesn’t matter to me what it looks like getting to that point, but presentation and the set are crucial to all types of fly fishing.   Yea, there are certainly more effective methods of presentation than others, but really, it doesn’t matter how pretty your 20 foot roll cast is.  The key is that it gets into the slot you want to drift.  As for mending, it’s the same thing.  What you can’t lift off the water, you can’t mend, so high stick as often as possible.  It isn’t pretty, but it presents the bugs, AND sets you up for an efficient set.  Present and  set.

That’s plenty for now.  Thanks for tuning in again, and I’ll try to get  more regular entries as summer wanes.

Fear No Water,


Some summer pictures……….


























July? What?   10 comments

Hidy Ho, good neighbors,

Wow, where the heck does the time go? Last post was before fathers’ Day, I look up, and it’s after the 4th. Been working my tail off. Not complaining, mind you, but flat out burnin’ daylight.
Had the distinct pleasure of guiding some great folks from Tomahawk (Middle Fork of the South Platte), to the Dream Stream, to the South Platte below Deckers. Some excellent fish hit the bottom of the net on diverse rigs and diverse bugs.





Mustache fish or wearing a disguise…….?





Pale Morning Duns (PMD’s) have been popping pretty well for the last 2 weeks. I love this big mayfly because it’s easy to fish and the fish really dial into the emergent and adult stages. Several fish were hooked on throwing a size 16 dry followed by a Barrs PMD emerger about 18 inches behind it. Just tie some tippet (6x) off of the bend of the big dry and tie the dropper to it.
I watch for classic fish eating behavior to dial in on what phase of what bug their eating. In most cases, early in the hatch, when the PMD’s are really coming off, the fish will be eating the emergers just below the surface. You’ll see their backs roll out of the water as they eat bugs, but rarely will see their mouth out of the water. Telltale sign of emerger eating. When you begin to see their noses or mouths break water, then that means they are beginning to eat the duns. The beauty of the dry-drop rig is simply being able to fish to emerger and dun eating fish. Like I’ve said before, just stay ahead of the hatch by reading the fish, the river, and the bugs.
Another rig I have been throwing a bunch recently is the “mini rig”. This rig is so versatile and effective. I will throw this in low to high water conditions and from bank to bank. You can effectively fish different bug species, bug phases, and water columns with one rig. Usually, the top bug is a good floater like Amy’s Ant, Fat Albert, or the Foamulator. I will follow that with a soft hackled pheasant tail, and finally the emerger of choice as a point fly. The fish will readily eat the big dry, but most of the action is sub-surface and the big bug acts as a strike indicator. My favorite rig is an Amy’s Ant, tied to a soft hackled pheasant tail, followed by a brown RSII.













Really starting to get into Trico season. Starting to see big columns of mating Tricos over the river, won’t be long before the fish are really onto the spinner fall. More on this later.
As for other business, I have been producing a new powerpoint presentation, giving presentations, and have inked a deal to begin writing the first revision of The Fly Fishers’ Playbook. It’s gonna have a bunch new information, new pictures and diagrams, and a ton of new text. Probably will have it done by November….I hope. Hopefully, folks will like it as much as the first.
I’ll try not to be absent for so long this next stretch, and until then, Fear No Water!









“I am the obstruction”   2 comments













Hidy Ho good neighbors!  Obstructions, obstructions, fish the obstructions.  First off, what are obstructions, and secondly, how should I fish them?

Looking at the picture above, gives a clear impression of what an obstruction is.  To me, it’s any thing (or person, in this case) that affords a respite for fish from current in moving water.   Be it natural, or man-made, it provides protection, safety, comfort, food, and sometimes additional oxygen.  If an obstruction protrudes beyond the water surface, and the flow is strong, it can actually mix oxygen into the water.

So we have a cursory idea of obstructions. Now, how should we fish them?  Countless times I’ll set a client in a run slot, and watch as the indicator bumps or stops in the same place  drift after drift.  The first couple of bumps and the angler usually will set, and typically after that I’ll hear, “There must be something down there I keep snagging on”.  Exactly!  It’s an obstruction!  Use it to your advantage!

If you’re blind nymphing, meaning nymphing a run where you can’t spot fish, and can’t see bottom, then finding an obstruction is a gift from the fly fishing gods.  We know that fish will sit in front, behind, or to either side of an obstruction according to river flow dynamics.  Again, armed with this information, attack the obstruction.  But how?

Move your feet.  If you know where your bumping the obstuction, the amount of line you have out, and the general angle of your casts, then simply move your feet to change attack angles.  A step back usually allows you to fish the near side of the obstruction. Stepping upstream with a quarter step in, usually gets you to the front of the obstruction.  So forth and so on.

I harp all of the time about miniscule changes in positioning, and continue to this day to be amazed at the BIG differences caused by subtle position changes.  I harp on this so much during trips that last week, a great guy named Bill was releasing a fish from his knees.  After release, the trout slid tight downstream of him to sit in the soft water and recuperate.  Bill looked up at me and said, “I am an obstruction”.

Fish those obstructions, buy The Flyfishers Playbook for Father’s Day, and Fear No Water!


You’re fishing.   3 comments

Hidy ho good flyfishers.

A River Runs Through  It was a great movie, no doubt.  It did wonderful marketing and spurred the fly fishing industry.  Fantastic acting, scenery, and of course the epic fly casting.  Ah, the fly casting.  Proved to be the strike point or brand of the film.  However, I think it has scared away many would be fly fishers.

I have folks come into the fly shop and tell me that they would love to learn to fly fish but aren’t capable of the rod handling that they saw in the movie.  Had a nice lady ask me last year if she should book back to back days on the water, because she figured we would work the entire first day on casting. My clients today said I better think about just tying on one fly (instead of three) because they aren’t capable of casting three fly rigs.  I told them that if you can say “three bug rig” you can certainly cast it.

I admire good casting skills as much as the next dude, but all an nymph angler needs is the ability to utilize a water loaded roll cast.    Stick your elbow in the slot, get your thumb as high as your hat, pick a spot, and put your thumb on it.  It really is that simple, and I find folks pick it up rapidly.  And yup, you guessed it, the minute you roll cast you are officially fly fishing.  I have a video or two on youtube dealing with casting.  They are easy to find, if you want a refresher.  Just type my name and youtube for a search.

The South Platte is fishing great.  Blue Wings are coming off any time of the day depending on conditions, and the fish are on them.  Trips have been very productive nymphing in the morning and looking for noses to cast dry flies and dry-drops to in the late morning, early afternoon.  Pheasant tails and baetis emergers are the ticket.

I am busy working on a new technique, nothing earth shattering, but it works.  I’m having clients utilize it in certain conditions, and it is proving to be effective and fun.  Think I’ll keep R&Ding it and maybe include it in my next book. Time will tell.

Probably going to post every other week, because I’m getting very busy.  If something happens that just needs to be shared, I’ll certainly post it.  Please feel free to contact me, and comment.   Until then, Fear No Water! Duane



Twice pricked…..   Leave a comment

So, I’m trying to get some sight fishing video last weekend before a guiding trip and I run into this nutty fish.  I watch this trout slide up the edge of the rock-to- sand line, witness him stage-up and proceeded to prepare the attempt. 

The South Platte below Deckers, Colorado is unique, in that, it has an inordinate amount of sand. Decompossing granite actually, left over from erosion deposits after the Hayman Fire.   Those that fish it regularly know that when fish set up on the rock to sand edge, they are there to eat. 

I get the camera set on a tripod, strip out the line I need, and the rest is history.  I rolled that fish.  He ate hard, I set, and on his intial move the bug came unbuttoned.  Usually, at that point the fish will disolve over the rocks, or slide downstream to the nearest pool to pout.  After watching this fish react for an instant it became obvious the he was not going to flush. 

If you watch closely, I change my angle slightly, to change the drift characteristics a bit.  A subtle change in angles can make the difference.  I also move closer to this fish, and a bit more behind him.  Make the appropriate moves and fish with confidence. 

Once the depth and speed are dialed in, little changes in angles can illicit even pricked fish to eat again.  It’s unusual, but like I have said before, trout are funny people.


Here’s a nice rainbow that ate for my client later that day.  Only had to prick her once!

To see the video of the twice-pricked fish, go to:

 Hope you enjoy, and Fear No Water!