Tips

How to Cook Trout – The Right Way

Time
By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
February 7, 2018

If you know how to cook trout — the right way — a night on the river turns into a trip to the grocery store.

I’m a big fan of hunting. Always have been, always will be. It’s a great conservation tool, and it’s the best way to put healthy meat on your dinner table. Done right, it can be cheaper than buying a year’s worth of meat at the store.

A lot of anglers hunt, both big and small game, but it’s surprising how few know how to cook trout, let alone catch, keep, and kill them on a regular basis.

how to cook trout hero image

Even more surprising is that anglers don’t grasp the ecological benefits of responsible, selective trout harvest (much in the same manner that big game harvest is permitted in most of the world).

Consider these words from Tom Hazelton from Hatch Magazine:

Fish are good food. No, not the grocery store’s dry-skinned bug-eyed farm-plumped rainbow trout, or the translucent, tasteless tilapia fillets, or the ethically-risky origin-unknown salmon. Instead consider these eight-to-ten-inch wild brown trout, lean and cold, delicious and nutritious, legally and ecologically sustainable. More than sustainable. On some streams, taking a few home is arguably ecologically beneficial.

On some streams, of course. It’s probably too obvious to mention, but not all fisheries can sustain catch-and-keep and not every angler can keep every fish they catch. Moderation in all things.

Because while food is the point, it’s not necessary to fill the freezer.

Now that the requisite ethical debate of killing trout is over, let’s dig into the meat of this post: how to cook trout.

Fillet

99% of the trout I keep for food are big enough to fillet, but not so big that a standard pocket knife can’t do the job. I only make an exception here for kokanee salmon and lake trout.

Filleting fish is less work than gutting, and if your significant other doesn’t love the idea of a fish sans head and tail in the oven, fillets are the way to go.

I also feel they’re easier to season, marinade, and serve alongside other food than a gutted fish.

Seasoning and Marinade

Telling someone how to cook trout only works to a point; seasoning and marinade is that point.

Given that I’m a perennially broke trout bum, I eat a ton of fish. On the rare occasion I share, folks usually make some comment about, “not liking that fishy taste.”

So if you want to mitigate the fishy taste, the following seasoning recipe is one I’ve used for years to convince folks who think they don’t like fish that they actually do:

  • Garlic powder
  • Chopped onions
  • McCormick Grillmates Chipolte Bacon seasoning
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Sprinkle a fair amount of garlic powder on the fillets. This helps pull the fishy taste from the meat. Then use the rest to balance out what sort of flavor you want. I tend to go heavy on the chipotle bacon, but that’s just me.

If you’re less concerned about the fishy taste and want a good marinade, I suggest:

  • Sawtooth Skyline Red Wine
  • Crushed garlic
  • Chopped onions

Fill a bowl with a fair amount of Sawtooth Red (this wine has a fly fisherman on the label, and an Adams embossed on the stopper. While I don’t drink, I’d say this is a must-have wine for anglers who like wine-based meat marinades), and the crushed garlic and onions to the desired taste. Fewer onions and less garlic means more of the wine’s natural flavors come through.

Cooking

I’m a fan of the grill. Who isn’t? If you’re planning on grilling your fish, I’d suggest wrapping the fillets in tin foil before throwing them on the grill. Trout fillets tend to be a bit too thin and flaky to go right on the grill.

If you don’t have a grill, lay the fillets on tin foil spread across a cookie sheet (you won’t have to wash the sheet!). I put a bit of olive oil beneath the fillets to help reduce how much of the meat sticks. Preheat your oven to 450, cook for about 10 minutes, and enjoy!


Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, TROUT Magazine, Sporting Classics Daily, and other national publications. He’s also the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant. 

brown trout caught streamer fishing
Tips

How to Get Better at Streamer Fishing

Time
By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor | Featured Image by Ryan Kelly
November 14, 2017

 

For the longest time I wasn’t a big fan of streamer fishing.

I didn’t get the appeal. I watched videos of guys nailing huge trout on streamers, but it never looked fun enough to actually do. Those giant rods and huge flies made my shoulder hurt just looking at them.

Then I spent a day with two of the best streamer fishermen I’ve ever seen, let alone met, and my attitude changed.

streamer fishing for brown trout

What I learned from that day on the water has changed everything about how I fly fish. I always have a few streamers along now, and some thicker fluorocarbon tippet and sinking line. When my usual favorites aren’t hitting, I’ll pull out the streamers and get to work. Hell, sometimes they’re my first choice now.

I’m far from an expert at streamer fishing, and I still have a ton to learn. What I’ve learned so far, though, has made me better a streamer fishing, and none of the tips or techniques I’m just starting to get the hang of are advanced. I’m a decidedly middle-of-the-pack angler skill-wise, which means if I can feel confident with these tips, an average fisherman should see his streamer fishing success skyrocket.

Use the right gear

I’m a big gear nerd. I have more fly rods than most folks do house plants. That being said, I’m fully aware great gear can’t turn an average fisherman into a good one; I’m living proof of that.

Just as dry fly fishing is a specialized niche within fly fishing, so is streamer fishing. You wouldn’t use an 8wt to chuck size 24 midge patterns at rising trout; you likewise wouldn’t use a 2wt to throw articulated streamers.

My go-to setup is a Winston Nexus 9′ 7wt paired with a Hardy Ultralite ASR 7000 reel and Orvis Hydros HD Power Taper WF line. It’s a great rig to throw streamers from a drift boat or from shore.

streamer fishing on the green river

Get deep

Something I learned from watching my two buddies – Ryan Kelly and Charley Card – fish streamers is how important it is to get your fly down to the fish. It feels a lot like nymphing in the sense that you want your fly to go to the fish, as opposed to dry fly fishing where you get the fish to come to your fly.

I use about a 5-foot length of sinking line I just looped onto the end of my floating line, with another 3-4 feet of fluorocarbon line. I don’t use tippet; just a level piece of 8 or 10-pound test. Ryan fishes that way and it’s rubbed off on me.

Go slow

The first few times I went streamer fishing on a river, I made the classic mistake of stripping line in way too fast. Yes, it’s important to keep a tight line between your streamer and your reel, but ripping the fly at twice the speed of the current isn’t going to catch you many fish.

Ryan and Charley, master anglers they are, would throw their flies into the seams, pockets, and pools along the Green River and just . . . well, casually retrieve them. While they stripped line in the way you might take a walk with your significant other (slowly and deliberately) I stood in the bow of the drift boat trying to see how fast I could wear out my shoulder.

As soon as I slowed down my retrieve, I hooked into a fish.

ryan holding a fish he caught streamer fishingRyan Kelly (@greenriverflyfisher) with a nice Green River brown caught on a streamer.

Don’t trout set

This is hands-down the most important tip I learned from Ryan and Charley. A traditional trout set is performed by holding slack line in your non-casting hand (usually the left) tight and lifting up with the rod.

That doesn’t work with streamers.

You’ll need to strip-set if you want to hook and land any of the fish that swipe at your fly.

The guys from Gink & Gasoline know their stuff, and this is a great example of how to strip-set versus a traditional “trout set.”

I’m far from any kind of expert streamer fisherman. I still have a ton to learn, and as Ryan and Charley can attest, it’ll take me some time.

But if you’re thinking about swinging streamers throughout the rest of fall and into whatever winter we end up with this year, these tips are a pretty good starting point.



Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer and outdoors columnist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, TROUT Magazine, Hatch Magazine, and other national publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

fly tying tips october caddis
Tips

Fly Tying Tuesday: October Caddis Nymph

Time
By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
September 26, 2017

Fall is finally here.

As any trout bum knows, with fall’s arrival comes fly tying season. During the peak months of angling I often tie just to replace what I’ve lost over the course of a week’s fishing.

This fly tying tutorial, from Tim Flagler at Tight Line Videos, is a great way to kick off both the fall fly tying and fishing season. These European-style nymphs work miracles when fished on a Euro rig, and are nearly as effective with the traditional bobber-and-fly setup.

Tie a few of these up, head out to your local bit of water, and see what kind of trout you can scare up with this fly. If you want to give European nymphing a try, then I suggest starting with this film from Lance Egan, Devin Olsen, and Gilbert Rowley. The film is an in-depth look at the techniques Lance and Devin use while competing for Team USA Fly Fishing. This fishing style is effective enough to have helped Lance earn a silver medal a couple of years ago at the International Fly Fishing Championships.

If you’re looking for good deals on fly tying materials, check out the selection of feathers, fur, and assorted accoutrements available at Fly Fish Food. I spend a lot of time at the shop, looking at hackle and hooks. In fact, Fly Fish Food has one of the best selections of hackle I’ve ever seen.

Tight lines, and happy tying, everyone!


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Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, sports writer, and novelist from Utah. He’s also the Managing Editor for The Modern Trout Bum. He contributes regularly to nationally-renowned fly fishing publications. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

Tips

The 5 Basic Rules of Fly Fishing Etiquette

Time
By Spencer Durrrant | TMTB Managing Editor | Featured Image by Hyrum Weaver
July 15, 2017

 

Yes, fly fishing etiquette is a thing.

It may seem like a dead-in-the-water topic anymore, what with how crowded rivers are these days, but fly fishing etiquette is almost more important now than it was 20 years ago. With the influx of anglers in the fly fishing world, all of us – myself included – have had to better learn how to share the water.

“You can never tell how someone is going to act until they are on the water,” Sean Johnson, of Always A Good Day, wrote recently.

Truer words have rarely been written about fly fishermen.

While some of us act like five-year-olds and others remain aloof and unapproachable, the majority of us are on the water to have a good time. These 5 basic rules of fly fishing etiquette will help us all have better days on the river.

horse and fly fishing etiquetteImage by Hyrum Weaver

1. Give each other space

I use the photo of the horse to illustrate a point. That horse – while completely benign – invaded the personal space of my buddy Hyrum’s car as we drove off a private ranch in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.

More often than not, feeling like other anglers are crowding you on a river is a result of those other fishermen acting like this horse. They’re harmless, and they don’t know how close is too close.

As a general rule of thumb, I try my best to stay 50 – 100 yards away from the nearest angler. Each river is different, though. On the Lower Provo River, for example, fishing twenty feet from another angler isn’t uncommon. Rivers have their own rules and unwritten codes. But do your best to give other anglers as much room as you’d like to have while on the water.

2. Land your fish quickly

This is a bit subjective, since trout, for all we think we know of them, remain largely unpredictable. However, on most Western rivers where fly fishing etiquette is a hot topic, you want to land your fish as quickly as possible. This should be common practice in the first place, as it increases the likelihood of the trout surviving, but it’s even more important when you have anglers with lines in the water on either side of you.

fly fishing etiquette brown troutPhoto by Hyrum Weaver

3. Never be too busy to take a photo/help net a fish

In today’s world, if you catch a fish but don’t have photographic proof, did you even go fishing?

Seriously. It’s a legitimate question.

Depressingly true sarcasm aside, how often have you been out by yourself when you hooked into a fish worth remembering? Whether from the fight or the size, some fish stick in the mind. A photo helps it stick around longer. If you see an angler with a good fish, don’t hesitate to offer to take a photo. Who knows? You may even make a new friend out of the deal.

On top of that, if someone else needs help netting a fish and you don’t have one on your line, lend a net.

4. Watch the noise

Contrary to what our dads told us when they took us fishing back when we were fingerlings, talking doesn’t spook fish. But, quiet solitude is often a big reason why anglers head to the river. A couple of too-buzzed smartass loudmouths can quickly ruin a quiet afternoon.

Keep the noise to a respectful level, and avoid, if at all possible, yelling “Hambone,” “Monkey Junk,” or “Clam Bake” in your best Hank Patterson impersonation.

5. Watch where you walk

It’s really easy to inadvertently walk through someone’s hole. Whether you’re crossing at the head of a run that wraps around a tight bank and you don’t see the angler until you’re halfway across, or you’re just not paying attention, this is an easy mistake to make.

It’s also easy to avoid. If you know the river’s crowded, watch where you’re walking. Give other anglers a good deal of space so you don’t move any fish that they’re targeting.

Fly fishing etiquette isn’t arcane and high-browed, like joining the Freemasons. It’s really just simple common courtesy with a side of common sense.


Spencer is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, novelist, and sports writer from Utah. He’s also the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant. 

green river fishing
Tips

Your Summer Guide to Green River Fishing

Time

Three sweet words – Green River Fishing

I’ve been lucky enough to live with the Green River just a few hours away from my home here in Utah. The first seven miles of the river below Flaming Gorge Dam is some of the most scenic, achingly beautiful trout water I’ve ever fished.

With summer in full swing here in the West, and anglers looking to explore new water, I put this guide together to point you in the right direction for the best Green River fishing experience of your life. I look at the Green as a little slice of heaven, and it’s hard to beat the amount of good-sized fish you’ll catch here on a given day. High or low water, the Green is a singularly spectacular fishery.

Where to fish

The A-Section is the most popular stretch of the river. This is the first 7 miles of water extending from the Flaming Gorge Dam to Little Hole.

green river fishing map

The two black lines are the put-in and take-out. During the summer, the A-Section sees incredible caddis, yellow sally, mayfly, and cicada hatches, in addition to other stoneflies and terrestrials.

Since the Green is a tailwater, it can be finicky, to the point of utter frustration. Like any other tailwater, though, once you figure out the Green you won’t be able to stop coming back for more.

Now, the A-Section is the most-fished area of the river for a few reasons:

– You’ll catch more fish per day in the A-Section

– The fish average 15 inches in length, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

– The A-Section is the prettiest part of the entire river

Along with the popularity in fishing, though, comes popularity in rafting. Scout groups, youth groups, and families love to float this section of the river. The rapids aren’t terrible, even in high water, in the A-Section. However, the Green is a large river and you won’t have a hard time finding your own slice of water to work while other people float past.

B and C Sections

The lower stretches of the river, from the Little Hole take-out to the Colorado State Line, are a completely different fishery than the A-Section. While A-Section has crystal clear water and 12,000 fish per mile, B and C Sections sport fewer fish, less clear water, and fewer people.

The upside? Both B and C sections regularly produce the river’s largest trout.

green river fishing photo
Image by Ryan Kelly

For streamer junkies, the lower parts of the river are a gift from the fishing gods. Long, slow moving flats and deep pools populate these areas of the river, and the trout which live there don’t grow as big as they do for no good reason. Pike, smallmouth bass, burbot, and the endangered Colorado Pikeminnow call this stretch of river home as well.

When to go

Green River fishing in the summer is best from late June to mid-August. These months provide great opportunities for fish on big dries. In addition, they’re the best weather months of the year (unless you’re crazy like me and enjoy fishing in the snow).

The Green does see crowds on the weekends. Again, though, feeling “crowded” on the Green is a hard thing to accomplish. If I had to pick, though, I’d say the best time to fish the Green would be from Tuesday – Thursday. The river sees less traffic on those days and you’ll have the first run on the best holes.

green river fishing rowing pic
Image by Ryan Kelly

September brings back the smaller mayflies and their accompanying hatches, but there’s something unique about the Green in the summer. I think it’s the fact that you don’t have to wear waders all day that makes the difference.

Who to fish with

When planning your Green River fishing trip, you’ll likely ask as many of your friends you know who the best guide is. I have my own personal opinions, but I can say this at the very least: the outfitters on the Green River are some of the most competent oarsmen, guides, and teachers I’ve met in fly fishing. A float down the river from any of the Dutch John, UT-based guides won’t disappoint.

With that said, some of the guides to contact are:

Trout Creek Flies

Flaming Gorge Resort

Spinnerfall Guide Service

Old Moe

Red Canyon Lodge

Dutch John Resort

Trout Creek, Flaming Gorge Resort, Red Canyon, and Dutch John Resort all provide lodging options as well.

green river fishing pic two
Image by Ryan Kelly

Lodging

As mentioned above, a handful of the outfitters on the Green offer lodging. If you’d rather camp, the Forest Service maintains plenty of campgrounds in the area as well.

The town of Dutch John is your one-stop shop for food, gas, and drinks when on the Green. The nearest supermarket is in Vernal, UT, about an hour south. With that being said, Dutch John is home to some of my favorite restaurants in the fly fishing world. I travel quite a bit across the West and make it a point to try as many of the hole-in-the-wall joints as I possibly can.

With that said, your Green River fishing trip needs to include a visit to Browning’s (located inside the Trout Creek Flies building on the east end of Dutch John) for their breakfast burritos. I’m not sure what all goes into one of those burritos, but they’re packed with enough of something to keep me going for most of the morning before I ask my guide for a snack.

The restaurant at the Flaming Gorge Resort does a great steak, but their blackberry cobbler is to die for. It’s worth the extra five pounds you’ll gain eating it. The next day you’ll burn it all off anyways, since fishing from a boat is such a physical activity.

The Green River is a truly unique place and we’re lucky to have it here in Utah. I hope you can make a trip out here and share in the beauty and wonder I call my backyard.

For help with planning your Green River fishing trip, head over here to explore what the area has to offer.

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, novelist, and sports writer from Utah. He’s the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum, author of the Amazon Bestseller, Learning to Fly, and a regular contributor to national fly fishing publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instragram, @Spencer_Durrant. 

fly tying tips
Tips

Fly Tying Tips: The Rowley Stone

Time

Welcome to another day of fly tying tips from all of us here at TMTB.

Today we’re looking at one of my new favorite flies – the Rowley Stone.

This thing plain catches fish. It’s a simple, easy-to-tie pattern that works wonders.

Gilbert Rowley, who’s a local Utah filmmaker and responsible for the “Wide Open” and “Jungle’s Edge” IF4 films (in addition to Modern Nymphing) came up with this pattern. While he uses turkey biot for the legs, you can substitute rubber silly legs as well. That’s how I’ve tied most of mine, and they work spectacularly well.

related content cta

Spencer Durrant is the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum. He’s also a regular outdoors, fly fishing, and sports columnist for local and national publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant. 

fly fishing in bad weather
Tips

20 Tips from a Fly Fishing Guide

Time

Now that my 2017 guiding season is underway,

and about to seriously ramp up, I find myself both excited and reflective. The 2016 was great. I met a pile of great new folks, reconnected with clients who have become old friends, had some great fishing and didn’t get hit by lightning (every guide I know has a good lightning story).

fly fishing in bad weather

Anyway, as I’ve thought back on past outings I find myself thinking about the advice most commonly offered to clients, and perhaps this is an indication these are all things we could use a friendly reminder on. With that in mind I would like to offer you…

A Fly Fishing Guide’s Random Advice (for whatever it’s worth)

1. Wear sun screen, drink water, take 15 and eat a good lunch. The time to reflect and recharge is worth it.

2. When fishing nymphs under an indicator, get the indicator-to-shot distance about right for most of the water you will be on. It’s rarely a game of inches. Then start light and keep adding weight until you catch fish.

3. It’s almost never the pattern that’s the problem. It’s the presentation. Change stuff if it’s not working – where you are standing, the leader length, the angle. Take a moment to move your indicator shallower or deeper as needed. But do something new instead of making the same presentation 40 times. Give it 10, then make a change. Only change flies after you have done a bunch of other stuff.

4. Move those flies a bit if you’re not getting hits. Twitch ‘em, pop ‘em, swing ‘em … but don’t dead drift them all the time. This includes dry flies.

5. If fish are refusing your dries, make your tippet longer and change your angle. Usually that’s all it takes. Again its usually not the pattern.

6. Keep your voice low, walk very quietly, and for the sake of all that’s good and holy don’t slap the water with false casts or rip your line off the surface. You’re spooking the crap out of fish. In a boat the same thing applies, don’t bang around. Sound scares fish as it does any other wild critter.

7. If you like to play music in your boat while you float, stay away from me. I’ll double haul a #2 cone head double bunny into your MP3 player hard enough to destroy it. That shit has no place on the river.

8. When searching a riffle or other fishy looking spot, never make exactly the same drift twice. Make little changes (even a few inches left or right) to where you land your flies so you are potentially getting them into strike zones of active fish.

9. Don’t false cast over holding water. Ever.

10. Take pictures of things other than just fish. It’s more fun to look at later.

fly fishing marsh

11. Pinch down those barbs. You don’t need them.

12. Start stripping your streamers fast, like really fast. Slow down only if that doesn’t work. Generally, you can’t strip a fly in faster than a trout can grab it.

13. Strip set streamers. You may need to say it out loud several times to get it into the reactive parts of your brain. If the fish grabs but misses it, stop and let it drift dead for a bit before you move it again. Sometimes they come back looking for a stunned prey item.

related content cta

14. Streamer pattern does matter sometimes. Don’t throw the same thing all day if it’s not working. Sometimes you have to crack the code on what trips their trigger. I know I said its rarely the pattern but some streamer guys will chuck and duck the same sex dungeon all day while another guy figured out all they wanted was a big black bugger. It pays to experiment sometimes.

15. Don’t stand where you should fish. If its deeper than a foot, fish it before you walk there. Don’t set foot in the water unless you really need to. You might want to start casting 10 feet away from the water’s edge sometimes.

fly fishing set the hook

16. With big foam attractor type flies, cut off the stupid dropper nymph if they are not eating it. You’ll get more of those epic takes we all dream about on the big bug if you do. The dropper screws with the drift sometimes.

17. Fish soft hackles. Just do it. Swing them, drift them under big dries and indicators. Put them as a dropper behind a streamer.

18. Fish more mice. Try them at all times of the day. Wait a full 2 seconds before setting the hook when it gets crashed. If the fish misses it leave it dead still for as long as you can take it before moving it again. Honestly if you do this all day you might only get one or two takes, but they are worth the effort.

19. Start fishing close to your position. Like a rod length or less. Just because you can cast far doesn’t mean you should. In fact, you shouldn’t most of the time.

20. The river doesn’t belong to you. You belong to her. Like your mother, you should listen to her. She knows things.


Dan Parson is a fly fishing guide, school teacher, and adviser to the phenomenally talented Green River High School Speech and Debate Team. Contact him through Solitary Angler or look for his boat on the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge.

san juan worm fish
Tips

Tying Tips – The Squirmy Wormy

Time

The rivers here in the West are outrageously high, and just about every piece of water is blown out in some fashion or another. That obviously makes fishing difficult, but there’s one fly that’s chronically overlooked when fishing high water – the San Juan Worm.

Yeah, yeah, it’s not a fly. But guess what? It catches fish. It caught the fish in the photo at the top of this post.

I was raised a dry-fly purist like Norman MacLean (my grandfather tied commercially for 27 years) and even I’m fully on board the worm train.

Now, the squirmy wormy is an improvement on the San Juan in many different ways and it’s widely used on the competitive fly fishing circuit. In this video, Devin Olsen of Tactical Fly Fisher and Fly Fishing Team USA shows us how to tie this incredibly effective fly.

Do you like the worm? Do you have a favorite pattern? Let us know below in the comments.

adams dry fly fly tying
Tips

Tying Flies: An Angler’s Rabbit Hole

Time

I recently posted pictures of several flies I tied to a Facebook group that I belong to, partly because I enjoy sharing what I’ve recently tied and partly to dilute the never-ending ice fishing posts that overwhelm this particular page in the dead of winter. Unsurprisingly, the first comment that was posted questioned if tying flies of my own was less expensive than buying them from the local fly shop. My immediate response: good heavens, no.

tying flies mayfly emerger

When I first started fly tying two years ago, I was under the same delusion as my Facebook commentator – surely tying flies would be beneficial to my wallet, in the manner that buying individual ingredients at the grocery store for a family dinner is far less expensive than taking your clan out to the local Olive Garden. But two vises, eight bobbin holders, feathers from seemingly every known bird species, and countless packages of hooks and dubbing later, and I’ve come to realize that I will never save a single penny on this venture.

Why Bother Tying Flies?

So why exactly should one decide to take up tying flies when pre-tied flies are so readily available? If I could sum it up in one word it would be this: winter. If you’re anything like me and the prospect of braving snowy mountain pass roads to be able to stand thigh-deep in a surprisingly crowded tailwater when it’s 18°F with ice rapidly building on the guides of your fly rod isn’t your idea of a good time, tying flies is a great way to pass the time until that first 45° day comes along.

I imagine there comes a time in everyone’s fly fishing career when they contemplate getting into fly tying. For some, it might just be a rapidly passing fancy, an idea quickly dismissed for lack of time or perceived inability. Others may heed the call by acquiring a starter kit and tying a few flies, but the passion never develops and the tying kit recedes to the dark recesses of a closet alongside those handmade father’s day gifts from your kids and that jump rope you swore you were going to use every morning.

tying flies

Then there are those of us who decide to compliment a fly fishing major with a minor in fly tying. A visit to the fly shop no longer limits us to the bins of pre-tied flies. We’re now on a first name basis with the guy in charge of stocking fly tying materials (Kigen, Sam, Cheech, and Curtis – I’m talking about you). We now come in to the fly shop with a list of materials needed to tie the pattern we watched so-and-so create on the most recent YouTube video they released. And like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach, you’re guaranteed to walk out of the shop with far more than you intended to purchase. Our vocabulary has expanded beyond dries, nymphs, and emergers to include words like cree, biot, herl, and coq de leon, not to mention bodkin, denier, whip finish, and peccary hair.

I think you can start calling yourself a serious fly tyer when you start looking at roadkill differently, or wondering what kind of dubbing you could create from the family pet. Before you started tying, the thought of a visit to the local craft store with your spouse would send shivers down your spine. But now, you find yourself spending an hour just in the bead section alone.

So if you’re a fly angler who is sitting on the fence about whether or not to take up making your own flies from feathers and fluff, I would encourage you to take the leap, not only to add another dimension to your fly fishing lifestyle, but to be able to stay connected to the sport even when your favorite streams are inaccessible during those cold winter months. But don’t get into fly tying as a means of saving money on flies, because that’s nonsense. Think of it as a new hobby that could bring years of enjoyment but will likely cost you many thousands of dollars in the long run. And that doesn’t even factor in the cost of bourbon.

Peter Steen is currently pursuing a major in fly fishing with a minor in tying flies from the state of Utah. He lives in Cottonwood Heights with his wife and three children. Follow his fishing adventures on Instagram @fly_fishing_pete.

Tips

Too Many Freakin’ People

Time

Let’s face it, there are no secrets in fishing anymore – no go-to fly fishing tips or hot flies. Don’t get me wrong, we try. Heck, friends I guide with have been known to black out the backgrounds of grip and grin shots before posting on Facebook. I have chosen to turn down filming with a couple outdoor TV shows because I was worried an area would get hot spotted and overrun by hordes of long rodders. However, all these efforts have been in vain and one way or another word gets out. Even a particular section of my home river I have been floating for 20 years had, to my knowledge, never seen another boat other than a few “in the know” friends of mine. This year, thanks I suspect to Google Earth, I saw two out of state dudes floating down what was once my private playground. Oh well, it was bound to happen.

Crowded fisheries are both relative and reality. What is considered crowded on an obscure stretch of water in Wyoming is not the same thing as crowded on one of the famous tailwaters in Montana. But all are seeing more anglers as we seek out the serenity and unpressured fish that were once far easier to find. What are we to do? Stand in line like we were at an amusement park and wait for a hole to open up? (I have actually seen this)

Nope. Follow these fly fishing tips when you run into too many freakin’ people on “your” water.

  1. Fish marginal water

    The good riffles and runs always have anglers pounding them. When an angler is done with the spot, it doesn’t take long for it to be occupied by someone else. Guess what those fish do? They move to water where they get left alone. Don’t ignore them, go catch them. Try water types you might normally walk on past but are just a little bit fishy. You may be surprised.
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  2. Fish at night

    Everyone talks about moussing at night, but damn few actually do it with any regularity. Be one of the few and get after it. It’s addictive as hell to hear what sounds like a cinderblock crashing where you think your Moorish mouse was. That said, mice are not your only approach. A bulky, water pushing, black streamer will often get more hits. Also, don’t fish all night unless there is a full moon (or you’re a vampire). Typically, your first couple hours after the sun goes down or before it comes up are best. Take a midday nap, a good dinner, and grab a headlamp, remind yourself there is no such thing as sasquatch, and hit a good piece of water when everyone else is asleep.
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  3. Fish in the winter

    I do this as much as I can and it often produces some of the most productive fishing I see all season. Honestly I can’t understand why I don’t have more winter bookings. I would love to guide more in the winter months. Sure it’s cold and you have to stop once in awhile to break ice out of the guides and warm up your hands, but big deal. You will have solitude, unpressured fish, and die hard stories of adventure to tell the next time you’re hanging in your local fly shop. A lot has been written about winter fishing so I won’t bother here (yet), but bundle up, grab a hot thermos, get a portable propane heater, watch your weather… but go give it a shot. With the right approach and on the right types of water it’s enormous fun, and your spouse will think you’re crazy (it is good to keep spouses guessing).
    fly fishing tips in the winter

  4. Take a hike

    It’s a fact most humans are lazy. Years ago I used to religiously fish a very crowded section of a famous tail water. I found a lot more solitude and willing trout by walking a mile or two before even stringing up.
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  5. Hit the less famous, low fish density water

    I mentioned google earth. It’s your friend. Just because you have never heard of a particular stream doesn’t mean there is not great adventure to be had. Even on famous fisheries, I find the further away from the well-known access points you go, the fewer people you see. High fish counts equal high angling pressure, but that doesn’t mean there are no fish 30 miles from the dam or on that little tributary you have never heard of. Have a little faith in your abilities, grab a map and a GPS unit, and go where others do not.
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  6. Lastly, give yourself permission to enjoy your fellow anglers

    No matter what we do sometimes things just don’t work out, we are in a crowd and its accept that or go home. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I love the company of fellow flyfishers. In these instances I chose to embrace the fellowship. No one wants to be that dude on the bank who talks everyone’s ear off, but if I find myself sharing trail with someone as I go from A to B or I happen to be breaking for lunch about the same time as someone else, I figure I might as well be friendly. If I find a bug that’s working and the guy 60 yards away is drawing blanks, Ill offer one to him. I have actually ended up meeting some totally cool people doing that and had a rewarding day because of it. In the end we are all members of the same tribe, with the same goals in mind; Catch a few fish, forget about the world for a bit, and feel the current against our legs.
    fly fishing tips and friendsDan Parson is a fly fishing guide, school teacher, and adviser to the phenomenally talented Green River High School Speech and Debate Team. Contact him through Solitary Angler or look for his boat on the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge.