It’s the future of content consumption! Americans are devouring podcasts in record numbers, and the fly fishing community is no different! The ability to get our fishing fix, or learn about fly fishing, at the gym or on our morning commute changes the game entirely. There are plenty of worthy “pods” out there but below are a few favorites that anglers should download and try out. One of the best out there is The Drake magazine’s podcast with host Elliot Adler. It’s part fly fishing, part conservation, and part culture in nature as they take listeners around the country in pursuit of fish and the stories that come with them. Episodes featuring Hank Patterson, updates on forest fires, and life on bonefish flats ensure that there’s something for everyone on this hit podcast. A dose of live, from-the-boat interviews give The DrakeCast an edge and uniqueness not found many places elsewhere. Host Tom Rosenbauer is a legend in the fly fishing world and he brings some serious star power to The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast. Most episodes are broken up into multiple segments, one featuring interviews with leading industry professionals, and another with listener questions answered with informative responses. It’s a great mix of entertainment and learning for anglers of all skill levels. Sadly, this podcast ended in October. The good news is there are over 70 past episodes still in the hopper and available to download! Host Tim Evans, a native of Casper, Wyoming, covers fly fishing for smallmouth, tarpon, trout, and everything in between. Pepper in interviews with Team USA Fly Fishing members, prominent artists, and expert guides and Fish On The Brain easily becomes a podcast listeners can churn through in no time! April Vokey is one of the most well-known and respected individuals in the fly fishing community. On Anchored, she has conversations with folks like Eva Shockey and Les Stroud discussing fishing but also larger outdoor issues like public land access and wild salmon returns. There isn’t much “how-to” in this one, but the entertaining interviews allow listeners the chance to learn more about professionals in the outdoor industry. Being multifaceted enough to have a conversation with Donald Trump, Jr. as well as Roland Martin makes Anchored a captivating listen. Interviews with guides, fantasizing about New Zealand brown trout, the art of tying flies, and gear reviews make up this up and coming pod. Mark Hopley, host extraordinaire, says “I started the podcast because I couldn’t find enough detailed information on fly tying, stillwater strategies, conversations with passionate people in the industry, and I was always looking for more to make my time on the water more productive and enjoyable.” He achieves these goals and then some in a show designed to share knowledge with listeners in a way that is inclusive to all while instilling a passion that is sure to grow the sport of fly fishing. Give these shows a listen, and it’ll be easy to understand why they are some of the hottest podcasts in the fly fishing world. There’s plenty of knowledge to gained, laughs to be had, and fish to be dreamed about. All that’s needed is a download for a morning commute or a jog at the gym!
Forget about going to the gym or eating better; let's talk about some New Year's resolutions that really matter. That's right, we are talking resolutions of the fishing variety! There's always room to improve as an angler and expand the scope of your fishing prowess, so follow these 5 resolutions and fish your way to a better you in 2019!
1.) Fish MoreDuh, right? It's true though! Often times throughout the year we will look at the stream gauges, weather, or recent trip reports and decide to stay at home. Change that habit with the ringing in of the New Year! If the water is high, go fish! Ask yourself this, would you rather write the fishing report or read the fishing report? It's amazing how productive the days have been when going out or staying home was a coin flip. Spend more days on the water this year; you'll be glad you did!
2.) Target a New SpeciesLast year I made the effort to target musky and pike on the fly rod. Was it an excuse to buy cool flies and a boat? Who can know, but man was it fun! Going after a new species of fish in 2019 will broaden your horizons and expand your fishing opportunities. It's a great way to be versatile and ensure that there is always something fishing well whenever you have the itch to go out.
3.) Learn a New SkillFly fishing is ever evolving, and as new techniques and methods come out our skill set must improve! A lot of times those new skills will either help us catch more fish, or help us catch fish in different water conditions. For example, learning to fish streamers will open up a whole world of opportunities for the fly angler, and will probably yield a few larger fish than the typical nymph angler is used to. The skill doesn't necessarily have to be on the water, though. Perhaps your 2019 skill to learn is tying your own flies, or learning new knots!
4.) Explore New WaterThis is one of my favorites! Taking the time to scout a new piece of water is very exciting. While these excursions are sometimes a bust, other trips to new water produce some real gems that become regulars in your fishing location rotation. If your new water is in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has some excellent map resources to help narrow the search. Here's a link!
5.) Teach Someone NewCatching a fish on a fly rod is one of the most rewarding feelings. One of the few things better than that is watching someone you've taught catch a fish! Whether it's a friend, relative, spouse, or significant other take the time to show someone the merits and joys of fly fishing. The gratification felt upon seeing their interest in the sport is reason enough to have this one on the list of resolutions for 2019!
While winter might not seem like the best time to be standing in water in pursuit of trout, our finned friends brave the cold and are there for taking to those hardy few willing to brave the elements. Tactics change with the season, however, and nowhere is that more apparent than in winter fly fishing pursuits.
STAYING WARMGoing after trout in winter is all about angler comfort. This is the one time of year where it’s more important to think about ourselves first, and the fish second. If the fisher isn’t warm (a relative term in the frigid months) then he/she won’t be able to fish productively. Hand warmers, layers, wool gloves, a good hat, and a quality rain/winter jacket all go a long way in making a day on the water more enjoyable. Once the thought process turns away from “holy smokes this is the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” efforts can be turned more towards the fish.
TROUT HAVE HABITSTrout are basic creatures with basic functions. When it comes to eating, they must consume more calories than they expend. There are exceptions to rules, but typically a fish won’t move several feet to chase down a streamer or move far out of their holding lie for a nymph. The caloric equation just doesn’t make sense. During cold winter months when the water is borderline ice, trout (like some humans) hunker down and try to ride things out until warmer weather returns.
ICE: PRO OR CON?One of the more advantageous times to trout fish is when streams start to ice over, which seems strange. The truth is conditions like that tend to congregate fish together, typically in the deepest of pools. That means if we catch one fish, or even if we see a fish, more are sure to be present. Fly anglers who locate fish should drop anchor and prepare to spend some time methodically probing the area before moving on.
SLEEP IN“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” is a familiar phrase, but perhaps it should read, “it’s always darkest and coldest before the dawn.” Early winter mornings are bitingly frigid and ice on the streams becomes commonplace. Don’t wake up early in the name of duty only to find a favorite winter pool entombed under a sheet of ice, and the trout underneath untouchable. Sleep in a bit, take the dogs for a walk, have a hearty breakfast, and then go fishing. Starting the day at 10 AM instead of 7 AM can make all the difference in the world both to us and the fish. Allowing the sun’s rays to shine down even for an extra few hours can stimulate bug activity, and in turn feeding trout.
CHOOSING FLIES“Match the hatch” is a phrase known by even the most novice of anglers, and it holds merit. It only makes sense to match our fly selection to the natural insects hatching. Despite the bugs being smaller when the weather is colder, it sometimes doesn’t hurt to throw larger flies. Remember a trout's life is all about consuming vs. expending calories, and after all their brain is the size of a pea. Throwing large prince nymphs in a #12 or bright colored San Juans should never work in relation to what natural bugs are present, but the fish will respond to them!
Considering how cold the Lake Erie tributaries can get, “fever” is an interesting word to use to describe steelhead fishing. It’s an accurate description, however, as the insatiable urge to pursue these great fish grips anglers tight and refuses to relent. The trouble is that with each changing leaf and incoming autumn cold front, about 200,000 other fishers catch this same sickness, and it seems like they all descend upon the tributaries at the same time. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that fever doesn’t turn into a nightmare. Steelhead, much like all migratory fish, are either there or they aren’t. While that may seem fairly obvious, it’s important to remember when fishing for chromers. The tributaries (particularly the ones in PA) often run very low and gin clear, which can make for some difficult fishing conditions, but it can also do us a great service when locating the fish. It’s easy to tell whether the fish are holding in the riffles, runs, or pools you’re peering into. That isn’t to say the fish are always incredibly easy to spot, but it’s worth the extra few minutes observing the water to see if a fish shows itself before blindly throwing casts. Considering how cold the Lake Erie tributaries can get, “fever” is an interesting word to use to describe steelhead fishing. It’s an accurate description, however, as the insatiable urge to pursue these great fish grips anglers tight and refuses to relent. The trouble is that with each changing leaf and incoming autumn cold front, about 200,000 other fishers catch this same sickness, and it seems like they all descend upon the tributaries at the same time. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that fever doesn’t turn into a nightmare. Steelhead, much like all migratory fish, are either there or they aren’t. While that may seem fairly obvious, it’s important to remember when fishing for chromers. The tributaries (particularly the ones in PA) often run very low and gin clear, which can make for some difficult fishing conditions, but it can also do us a great service when locating the fish. It’s easy to tell whether the fish are holding in the riffles, runs, or pools you’re peering into. That isn’t to say the fish are always incredibly easy to spot, but it’s worth the extra few minutes observing the water to see if a fish shows itself before blindly throwing casts. Nothing can be more frustrating than fishing a location for a half hour only to find there isn’t a single fish present to be intrigued by our offerings. If finding fish is half the battle, the other half is fly selection. There are many anglers who will contend that an excellent presentation is far more important than the actual fly choice, and that’s almost always true. One of the times when it might not be is fishing for steelhead. The low and clear water mentioned above creates for some exciting sight fishing opportunities, and also a great chance to observe how the fish react to flies. Countless fish have watched well-presented flies drift within an inch of their nose only to shy away at the last moment. Then, after a quick fly change, that same fish will move several feet out of its holding lie to ferociously attack the new pattern. Eggs reign supreme and it’s advised to have a healthy selection of orange, pink, cream, and chartreuse in both single egg and sucker spawn patterns.
Imagine a scene not unlike a Norman Rockwell painting, where anglers take turns going around the table (maybe our table can be swapped for a Yeti cooler) sharing what we are thankful for. Admittedly, the topics of discussion would probably be a bit less powerful than world peace and ending childhood hunger, but they would be sincere and true enough. This Thanksgiving, take a minute or two and think about the people, organizations, and places that make fly fishing so special and give thanks. Here are a few of the things worth thinking about this year. Public lands are everything for anglers, for without them we would be stuck just dreaming about fishing or paying exuberant prices for access. Forests and streams existing for the use and enjoyment of the masses has made America a sportsman's paradise, and it’s important that we never forget it or take it for granted. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of wild trout: where would we be without them? Those lucky enough to pursue and interact with wild trout should give thanks, for not everyone is so blessed. In fact, it’s good to remember each time one of these beautiful creatures finds its way into the webbing of our nets, we should reflect upon the insurmountable odds that fish faced to allow us to meet him. A husband, wife, friend, dad, mom, son, or daughter can all also have an equally special title: fishing partner. It’s not always about the fish we catch, but who we catch them with. Most trips are brought out of the memory bank by remembering the endless walk through thorn bushes and stinging nettle to get to the stream, or how someone forgot to bring the box of Cheezits to snack on in the middle of a long day on the water. Of course, taking that grip-and-grin picture with your favorite fishing buddy certainly makes it easier to recall! Making cherished memories with the people closest to you is a huge reason folks go outdoors in the first place, and thus worthy of gratitude this holiday season. Sometimes the work of a few benefits many. Trout Unlimited, as well as other conservation groups, perfectly exemplify these words through their tireless efforts on our behalf. Most of the water access points and stream improvements have roots in the advocacy work of TU. Fly fishers across the country should be extremely thankful for the hard work these talented men and women put into the conservation of wild trout and the places they call home. So, pass the cranberry sauce, put an extra dollop of whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, and give thanks for the plethora of blessings bestowed upon fly anglers. Take the time to think back to that beautiful 10-inch native brookie from the perfect plunge pool, thank your trusty fishing partner for being everything from a cameraman to a fish netter, and let’s all join in being grateful for the opportunity to explore wild places and pursue the fish we care about so much.
The gear, and acquisition of gear, is part of what makes fly fishing so fun. While there’s something to be said for the minimalist who takes a pocket full of stuff for the entire day, most of us cram trinkets and tools into every possible nook of our pack or vest. Furthermore, it seems as though we need a new net, reel, tool, and fly box for every different fish we go after. Steelhead are no different, and here are the top 5 gear essentials for chasing the silver bullets of the Great Lakes.
1. A Net Worthy of the FishWhen it comes to a good steelhead net, there are three things to consider. The first is a long handle that makes it possible to corral a fish from a few feet away. Steelhead are notorious for their long runs and cartwheeling acts while hooked, so getting one into the net is no easy task. Many a fish are lost right at the net, and if a longer handle from our hand to the net basket allows us to net that fish a split second sooner, then it’s worth it. After that we should be looking at the size of the net basket. A larger net basket is absolutely essential for serious steelheaders. While it’s possible to beach the fish or keep them contained in small nets, a bigger basket makes life a lot easier when landing and handling fish. The last thing to keep in mind about a steelhead net is the webbing itself. Rubber webbing makes for very easy hook removal and it ensures the fish stays safe.
2. Fingerless GlovesIt’s an anglers hands that take the biggest beating from the frigid conditions on the steelhead stream. Wool gloves, mittens, flip-over mittens, and waterproof gloves have all been tested but it’s the finger-less gloves that win out. They offer enough warmth to keep your hands comfortable but aren’t so overwhelming with material that flies get caught in them. It’s also very convenient to be able to adjust weight, indicator, or flies without having to take gloves off and stow them somewhere.
3. A Reel with a Good DragThere are times in a fight with a steelhead where the angler just stands there helpless and line screams out of the reel while the fish bullrushes back towards the lake. What’s important here is that the reel is still applying some amount of resistance to slowly tire the fish out. That’s where a good drag system can help catch more fish. These fish have exponentially more energy than trout, so even when they are making a run we’ve got to work on wearing them down.
Money is well spent on a reel with a smooth and powerful drag setup.