Summer is over and fall is defiantly in the air. There is no question that winter is right around the corner and godspeed to that! We need the snow, we need the snow pack and we need the water (desperately) to bring the river and water levels back up to it glory.
The fact is, trout need water, period. So do your rain/snow/moisture dance to entice the weather gods to do their thing.
Enough about that, lets talk about me! LOL
This spring I was asked by Aspen Sojourner to be part of the summer issue featuring stories about fly fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley from a guides POV. Also included in the article was the legendary Tim Heng and the master “guidess” Shannon Outing.
It was a ton of fun to do, the photos are great and is so well written, click the link below!
Now that September has come and fall is very much in the air, it is time to catch a breath and reflect on what a crazy summer it has been.
First and foremost, the fishing has been great all summer long. Don’t believe what social media tells you… If you keep up with what’s happening in our little hamlet, the Roaring Fork Valley and the quaint town of Basalt, you may be aware of all the excitment that has happened here; we had the Lake Christine Fire that happened on the 4th of July and thereafter burned for over a month. I provided a link to the stats as well click here and it will direct you to the photos
We also had a terrible winter last year which in turn made our water levels in the Roaring Fork critically low which forced the DOW to regulate the times in which we could fish due to the water temperature. At 66 degrees and above, the stress on the trout can kill them (and we don’t want that) so all the valleys guides did their best to “keep’m wet”, honor the request of the experts and take great care. Bravo to all who did their part.
But we persevered!
From my POV, I had a great summer and a very interesting one to say the least. Due to the challenges the fish was great but different. What I found day in and day out was that it felt that all the hatches were somewhat off. It seemed to be a month ahead of schedule as well as thin. We didn’t get that chocking caddis hatch, nor the full on “steak and potato” Green Drake hatch in August like normal. But you know what? It still all worked out. The PMD’s were strong, the BWO’s were off the hook, Hoppers are falling in the river like candy and a prince nymph is always money…
Another super cool thing that happened is that I was featured in The Aspen Sojourner Magazine with a sweet photo spread about fly fishing. I will post more about the article but want to share some of the photos they used. Online
Now the part some of you have been waiting for, the 2018 season of badass photos of fish and awesome clients, so here we go!
Hello Trout Hunters, Anglers, and soon to be Hooked on fly fishing!
This is a great bit of great information about what you NEED to do before you show up for a guided fly fishing trip. We use this at my shop Taylor Creek in Basalt and it makes everyones life a bit easier as well as getting you on the water that much quicker!
Above is a picture of my Simms guide boots, number 14.
I don’t know about you but, I burn through gear. Boots, laces, fly boxes, sometimes waders, tippet (as I should), guide vehicles, the list goes on and on. The reason being, is that I use EVERYTHING everyday, so I am hard on things. It’s part of my routine every spring I take stock in what is needed, wanted or trashed for the upcoming summer fly fishing guide season.
But in this task, I get somewhat melancholy and reflective. I like new stuff but I get attached to things that have served me well. My trusty “Old School” Simms vest which I will only replace if falls off my back and it better be destroyed.
That Simms vest is equivalent to an office desk you work at everyday, a toolbox to a craftsman, a paint brush collection to a painter, it’s my domain: a place for everything.
It contains, in each specific pocket, a purpose…
Upper left-hand chest pocket; is strike indicators, yarn.
Right lower outside pocket; Nymph boxes: #1 Stoneflies, Caddis #2 Drake specific, PMD and midge
Left lower outside; Seasonal Dries. Drakes, Blue Wing Olives, PMD and emergers.
Inside left, top; Leaders and tippet
Inside right, top; Current fishing license, nail knot tool.
This hasn’t changed for ever. It works for me.
But Let’s talk about those boots I started with… yep, boots are expendable, costly and needed. I have no problem burning through boots, I feel I should be a factory sponsored boot tester, somebody needs my abusive nature for truly, the betterment of the world. But I always get sentimental about my boots. They have seen a lot of adventure, the met amazing people, trudged across riverbeds in some the most beautiful terrain the world has to offer.
Over time, with constant river water molding and forming the boot to fit only my foot, knowing that I drag my toes when I walk and when I wade, I walk completely flat-footed for stability. They have seen a lot in a relatively short amount of time. amazing if you thin about it.
So I have been through 14 pairs of Simms boots. each one of them allowed me to do what I love, what I’m good at and share my skills and knowledge with aspiring and gifted fly fishermen. Call me out on ridiculous sentimentality but as any real angler understands, pay close attention to the water, the environment, the birds, the bugs, the seams and in my view, all the trappings that gift me the ability to enjoy the sport I adore.
Many of you, myself included are captivated by shiny new things. The tempting glint of an anodized reel, this years new mid/tip flex darling of a rod, those spanking new gore-tex waders with a zipper….you know where I’m going with this, we have gotta have it. What is interesting to me is that I still fish with my very first RPL 590 2 piece sage rod and enjoy it very much. So why do I every year feel compelled to get the latest and greatest? Is it to keep up with the Jones’s? Do I think it will make me a better guide? Is it because The Drake is telling me that it is a must have and I won’t ever catch a fish again if I don’t have it? The truth is yes to all of the above.
Let’s first take a look at this from the manufactures point of view. They need to keep us wanting, needing, pining for their newest gear, if the don’t, its just bad business. All of these are “for profit” companies not non-profits trying to share the love of their passions. I get it, I’m a paid fishing guide I make my living by doing what people do for pleasure, but do you think that the average consumer would be able to tell the difference between a 10 year old rod and a new one? I bet not, does that matter? Not really, but the idea of having the newest tech helps. It helps because you believe in it. I used to race bicycles and became obsessed with my bike to an almost OCD level… $150 titanium seat clamp, a $90 water bottle cage for gawd sake! Was I any faster? Maybe, or was I faster because I trained harder because I spent a ridiculous amount of money and put more road miles on my bike? The fact could be I just plain got better fit, with nothing to do with the 310 grams I took off my ride. All the manufacturer did was just make the newest options available, thats it, it was totally my choice to dive in, with no regrets.
Next, let talk about those pesky Jones’s…. I have never been the one to covet, except a really nice Cafe racing motorcycle, a hand made watch and a truck without a broken windshield. I am a guy of simple needs. As any professional fishing guide will tell you, looks and presentation is/can be everything, even before you hit the water. The Jones’s in our case are other guides. Guides with the new trucks, double rod carriers loaded with the best of the best gear, a clean cooler. All of this can(?) make a difference. Hypothetically, If you drop a client in the middle of any fly shops parking lot without a single guide in sight and ask them to chose which guide they want to fish with by the appearance of the vehicle? You guessed it, it will not be the 1986 Nissan with the duck tape on the side window. But does it matter? No it does not! The gear is only good if the guide has talent. I have seen some very expensive rigs not catching a single fish. Point is this, Keeping up with the Jones’s is human nature, go for it, but don’t do because you have the cash to show off, nothing is more humbling than getting 1 up’d by an angler wearing neoprene waders.
Now the big one…will new gear make me a better fisherman? The answer is yes and no. I really like new things, I have more rods than anyone really should have. My fly boxes are the closest thing I have to a 401K. Again, This is all by my choice. I can tell the different nuances between a slow action 3 weight and a stiff 4 weight. I know the different supple feeling of different fly lines, and yes “mono” does knot differently than “fluorocarbon”. This information matters, and does make you a better fisherman, but there is no promise that you will catch more fish.
But what makes all of this really interesting, is that none of it is better or worse than the other, it is all YOUR preference, your likes and your wants. That is what make this sport so wonderful.
In Short, I can say with complete confidence the fish really doesn’t care what rod your casting or if that shiny, machined reel is a “palm” drag or resistance drag, that stuff only matters to you. The way I justify all of my gear is simple; all my light-weight rods take me to my favorite rivers and my “big” weight rods and reels take me everywhere else that is beautiful in the world.
Guide Glenn Smith
We, as humans, inherently are impatient. Remember the time while you were sitting at the stop light and the light turns green and the car in front of you didn’t move as quickly as you thought it should have? Or that time you were at Starbucks and the customer in front of you hadn’t made their drink decision by the time they reached the counter? How did you feel? Stressed? Angry?
What’s important in these examples is that, why were you getting bothered? More importantly, even before those incidences happened you were ALREADY preparing to be bothered. You were locked and loaded with frustration waiting for a reason to get rattled. You’re thinking, what does this have to do with fly fishing? In my opinion, everything.
It has to do with expectations, what you believe should happen. You hit the river with expectations about how many fish to catch, that your favorite hole will always be open, you’re only going to fish dry flies, so on and so fourth. Fact is, none of those things are in your control. What is in your control is that you know you’re going fishing, that’s it…unless there is a car in front of you refusing to drive fast enough, you may be late…
What I want to offer is simple 6 things that will make your day on the river perfect, before you wet a fly:
1) Be thorough; Just take the time to look at your stuff and take inventory. Look in the box and see what flies you have and what flies you need. Make sure you have everything you need for a day out on the water.
2) Ask questions and be open minded; Be the guy that comes in the fly shop that the shop guys are happy to see and the guides want to talk to. Leave the fishing ego and stories at home.
3) Don’t run to the water; I have seen it a million times, people race up the road and jump out of the car to be the first on the river. Staking out territory is, unfortunately, a residual effect of more anglers on the water, but it is unnecessary. There is always some place to fish, be open to new water, it might be a new great spot.
4) Look up; Every fisherman, I think, is to eager to start casting. Take time to watch for birds, Where they are? Are they high or low? Are they feeding? What there eating? This can tell you a lot and give you great information. If the birds are high, you are best nymphing. If they are low, a hatch is starting and that’s a great thing.
5) Make and take time; Notice everything…the trees, rocks, the weather, the weeds, the colors and the smells…all of this adds to your experience. Most importantly, it’s why we are out there.
6) Remember; Remember that you work hard, remember the chores you still have to complete, remember that we are lucky and that a fish eating our flies is a gift. So remember to remember.
If you add these tips to your day and learn to expect nothing, you may find that you will always have the best day ever.
The sport of fly fishing is always evolving; from the introduction of the newest materials, cutting-edge designs in reel development, different rod composites for casting speed, or lack thereof, and even high-tech strike indicators made out of space age polymers that also went to the moon. Evolution is just that; a continuous and never-ending change.
Does evolution really matter? Will it help me catch more fish? Will I gain rock star status and the inevitable cool factor that comes with it? Even more to the question; why exactly do I need any of this? Do I need it because I’m fishing with a $15 rod and reel setup from a big box retailer? Am I so experienced and savvy that I can tell the subtle nuances of the casting characteristics between two high-end rod company offerings? It makes you wonder…
In my youth, I started fly fishing with a very cheap rod and was very concerned that I was being ripped off because I spent the extra six bucks to upgrade to the $21 “top-of-the-line” kit. The best part of that story is that I didn’t even understand the difference, but yet it seemed to matter. So, just like anyone that discovers a new found passion, I started to do my homework.
I casted a new “real” fly rod at my newly discovered fly shop and actually felt the difference. It casts lightly, it loads slowly, is responsive and light in weight, complete with reel seats made of real silver and birdseye maple. Sold! After 21 years as a guide, my rod and reel collection is pretty nice. I’m sure you can understand that I’m just keeping up with the Jones’…the Jones’ with a bitchin’ fly rod collection!
Now, keeping in line with the evolution theme, I started looking into the latest rage in all the fly fishing and trade magazines; Tenkara! I like the whole idea of it; simple, clean, but with a doctrine. It goes back to the absolute basics of catching a fish with a line and a pole.
I like the marketing ploys of it. If I fish in the traditional tenkara way, I will become a wiser, enlightened, at-peace-with-the-world and in-touch-with-my-inner-Zen, kind of angler. Fantastic!
This spoke to me. I have been a student of Zen Buddhism ever since I read, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” back in high school during 1979. I like the idea of it. I have done this style of fishing off and on, but never in a full commitment kind of way. So begins my journey into the far eastern style of fly fishing. I picked up a Patagonia tenkara rod (which we sell at our shop) and all of the other things that I needed to become a simple, uncomplicated, unencumbered tenkara angler. I have to admit, I like the fact that all I really need is tippet, tenkara flies and a net. All that I had left to do is to dive head first into the depths of the internet. I read blogs, watched videos (including Japanese YouTube videos) and sorted through as much beta as possible. I had no clue what they were even saying in Japanese, but I’ve always been more of a visual learner anyhow. I did pick up some good tips, but not really anything that I couldn’t have figured out on my own.
Here comes the philosophical rub; I have spent a lot of time on the river fishing in this new/old way and have caught some fish using the Far Eastern methods that the Tenkara purist (sensai) would recommend, and I do enjoy that but…I also like to catch fish. Truth be told, tenkara may not be the best way to achieve that end result.
I found it funny that in most of the foreign YouTube videos I watched, all of the tenkara dudes were smoking cigarettes while fishing. This must be because they needed something to do between their lack of strikes! I love the origin of the tenkara technique but not so much the end game. I suppose that makes me a bad Buddhist.
Instead of counting the reasons to never do this again I wanted to share with you my love of this technique and why I will always keep a tenkara rod me. I believe them to be superb fishing tools. All that I had to do was evolve the method to my own personal needs. I wanted this to become that special tool I keep “in my bag”, like a 6 degree fairway wood is to a golfer or a custom plane is to a woodworker.
A tenkara rod is an absolutely fantastic dry fly rod. It casts the fly perfectly, effortlessly, and presents the dry fly gently with the line rarely ever seeing a tangle. They are built for “high-sticking” pocket-water and force you to become a precision caster. After all, you can’t false cast to be a hero with a wind knot in your line. In tenkara, you look, you cast, and that’s it. I had to give up exclusively using traditional, reverse-hackled tenkara flies with the traditional line setup and adapt it to my own personal line set up using Western flies. It may not be the purist approach, but my catch rate and action increased exponentially.
Another benefit to this discipline is that it teaches you how to manage a fish during the fight. Before you even start to fish tenkara style, you need to look closely at your surroundings and choose where you’re going to be able to land that big boy, making sure that you are in a good position to move. You need to plan which eddy you are going to lead that fish into. There is no reel and no drag to rely on. The length of line you have is all that you’ve got, and trust me, this is easily the most interesting challenge of tenkara; landing the fish. Thusly, you have to be aware of every rock and be in tune with the environment around you. Now that sounds Zen-like to me!
Where I found tenkara to be the most rewarding, was in the hands of a disabled veteran. I had the pleasure of being one the guides that took a group from the Wounded Warrior Project out for a day of fishing on the Fryingpan River this past summer. These heroes’s have sacrificed enough and needed some joy and some diversion. They have literally given life and limb to help secure our way of life and deserve the utmost of our respect.
One of the soldiers I fished with had very little movement in his arms and upper body. He could not stand on his own, so we brought a bar stool for him to sit on in the river. Though not the most conducive situation for traditional fly casting or fishing, but what he could do well was to hold and move a rod in a few workable positions. I decided to set him up with one of my tenkara rods that allowed him unencumbered casting and no fly line to strip or manage. He could easily roll cast the fly and simply lift the rod to set the hook. This guy nailed it! He set on every strike and we landed two really nice trout. He was thrilled. It was the essence of “fishing with a fly”. I could not have been happier helping others find some joy.
What is important to remember is that everything changes and evolves, or de-evolves over time. I am very pleased that I discovered tenkara and that I can now share it with others. I may not follow the idea of traditional Japanese fly fishing culture to the letter, but be it between technology and tradition, I always remember to ask the question, “What will make a difference to me or someone else?” Keep that tip up!
When you are out on the river fly fishing, casting, drifting and setting the hook are only a few of the things that need your undivided attention; but what is most important is to remember exactly where you are.